The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we perceive the world, how we live, and how we work. It has disrupted our daily lives.
As many countries are in lockdown, people are staying indoors and working from home. Children are not allowed to go to school - they, too, are at home with us. In order to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, social distancing and self-isolation are the need of the hour. Hence, we are curbing our ability to engage physically with the world outside of our house for everybody’s sake. In these tumultuous times, we keep reading or hearing about the coming economic downturn and potential job losses, the only bridge between our place of work and our social life is virtual engagement.
While some people feel lonely working at home, many are worried about job cuts if the economy falters. Anxiousness coupled with stress and fear is playing with the minds of many employees who are working remotely. Emotions are important. And team performance is highly dependent on the emotional state of each and every team member. Being in a positive emotional state facilitates the highest levels of individual and team performance and engagement. It also enables better learning, sound decision-making, innovation and creativity. Being in a negative emotional state because one is stressed, apprehensive or fearful impedes all of the foregoing.
People who come to virtual team meetings in a negative emotional state are often not in the emotional state that will enable high-quality positive emotional connections with others. Here, team leaders need to step in to create that positive emotional environment in the virtual work setting.
Team leaders need to address the emotional state of each individual by having authentic, caring conversations that can enable people to become more emotionally positive. These authentic and caring conversations create trust, which enables positive emotions and this, in turn, guarantees high team-engagement and performance. A team leader has to be open, trustworthy and vulnerable and very human. One should be able to understand the insecurities, anxieties, fears and concerns of their team members. It is about being transparent and authentic and making sure each and everyone is in a good place emotionally.
Following this, the leaders should design daily practices to be used in every virtual team meeting that are intended to enable high positive emotional engagement. They need to spend time at the start of each virtual meeting making sure that everyone enters into the business conversations in a positive emotional state.
The current situation is a very emotional time for all. Team leaders, depending on the number of members involved in their various teams, should try and make calls each day to team members, checking in and showing them that they are there for them in all situations. Conversations as simple as “How are you doing? Family OK? What can I do to help you accomplish your goals?” can go a long way. The goal is to talk to every team member at least twice a week, demonstrating care.
It is a great idea to celebrate successes together as a team, even when members are spread all around. This is a motivator for employees apart from feedbacks and recognition. Any positive feedback from customers, fun, and exciting news can be shared to boost morale. Try to appreciate the members in front of the whole team via a call on Microsoft Teams or Zoom. When a team member receives an award, make sure they are featured in the internal company communications.
Of all the things, virtual employees need to know they are not alone. They need reassurance to feel that they are part of the team and that the leaders support them and understand their challenges. These practices will take some time, but the pay-off is huge. Putting practices like these in place increases the quality of human emotional engagement in teams. This pandemic will surely pass, but these practices will become second nature imbedded into the daily fabric of an organization. That is how a company can achieve excellent virtual team performance.