Tips for helping teams stay connected beyond the walls of the workplace

Anuj Chandarana / April 2020

These days, marketing leaders are being challenged to rethink their entire strategy. For some, this includes finding ways to maintain connection and culture with a displaced workforce now working from home.

During high-pressure times, it can be easy to overlook the things that help cultivate connection and keep people motivated. But I believe that investing in our people can foster a more inclusive, resilient workforce — and that can make it easier for your employees, and your business, to navigate uncertainty.

Here are three guiding principles we’re following at Google Canada to stay connected amidst the uncertainty.

3 guiding principles Google is using to stay connected

Illustrated icons represent 3 guiding principles Google is using to stay connected: 1) Focus on people first; 2) Lean into routines; 3) Make time for morale

Focus on people first

Be present for others, even when you’re not working in the same space. People adapt to working from home very differently. Some jump right in but others may feel isolated or have immense stress due to family being around, or no physical separation between work and life. Make it known that mental health and wellbeing is a priority, and that you are there to support them during the transition.

Recognize that these are stressful times and everyone’s situation is different. Giving your employees the space and flexibility they need to take care of themselves and their families is always important. Now, more than ever, this is critical.

Mindfulness and exercise can help your team cope with added stressors and stay focused, and that’s going to make it a lot easier for them to manage their workload or meet changing priorities.

Don’t be afraid to share what’s working for you. We can lean on one another for inspiration and strength right now and speaking from the heart goes a long way. If you’re taking time off to deliver groceries to a vulnerable friend or simply need some space to recharge, don’t just tell your team that you’ll be away for a couple of hours, share why you’ll be away.

Routines can add a much-needed sense of stability to people’s lives, and can help employees stay connected and informed.

Lean into routines

Routines can add a much-needed sense of stability to people’s lives, and can help employees stay connected and informed. During this transition phase, prioritization is key. Right now your main priority should be putting the structures in place that employees need to adapt to their new environment and stay focused, when human nature tempts them to become distracted or disengaged.

At Google, we’re challenging our leaders to create structure amidst the ambiguity by holding onto existing routines where possible. We’ve shifted regularly scheduled weekly events like team meetings, all-hands sales meetings, and office socials to Hangouts Meet.

Team leads are also doing morning check-ins to help set priorities for the day, check in on wellbeing, and share any notable progress on projects so teams can start the day feeling motivated and involved. Google is offering the Enterprise edition of G Suite at no additional cost until July 1, 2020, so companies can access collaborative tools like Docs and Sheets, and conduct large video conferencing meetings of up to 250 people over Hangouts.

Make time for morale

Take time to celebrate even small accomplishments with the team so work doesn’t feel like an endless stream of tasks. We’re seeing a lot more informal meetings in people’s calendars these days, whether it’s for a virtual coffee or an online work session with a buddy.

Over the years, Google’s people analytics team has conducted extensive research on team dynamics and how they contribute to team effectiveness. They found that how a team works together can be critical, with “psychological safety” (trusting they can take a risk or be vulnerable without being judged or looked down upon) a top consideration, whether they are in the same location or not.

They also looked specifically at teams working in distributed locations and found the most effective teams were the ones that prioritized getting connected, being connected and feeling connected. For this reason, we need to think more about how we're connecting. On video calls, address logistical considerations like timezones and video chat functionality, then refrain from jumping right in. Instead, kick-off discussions with a personal anecdote, like what it’s like to be at home with the kids or how you’re helping vulnerable people in your family or community. Recognize someone’s progress on a challenging project, or thank someone who went above and beyond. Be sure to stay present for others.

Working remotely may be changing the way we interact with our colleagues, but that doesn’t mean we need to operate in isolation. By putting your people first, maintaining a sense of structure, and carving out time to lift each other’s spirits, we can foster a more resilient workforce, which will make it easier for your employees, and your business, to navigate this uncertainty.


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