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Dear Work Therapist - New team trying to find their groove

Dear Work Therapist,

Not long ago, I started at a new company on a brand new team.  The only member of the team who has been at the company for an significant period of time is our team lead.

Starting a new job remotely was a new experience, I have concerns/reservations about our team being able to find that our groove/chemistry when the only way we can really communicate with one another is over slack or zoom.

What would you suggest we do to help get to know one another better without it feeling forced?

Thanks!

-Just wanting to fit in

10 comments

Sajit Nair Community Leader Aug 08, 2021

Hey @Jimmy Seddon ,

I don't think virtual can ever bring the teams closer like being in the same space.
So for me, the first step was accepting that.
Once I did, I stopped trying to overdo planned 'coffee chats' and 'communal lunch hours' that I was doing and just let it flow.

Now, any person just start a teams call by putting a message on common channel to join if people are available. Its more random, like it used to be in office.. and more frequent too.

We still do monthly retro's with whole team.. and we are now starting to create a 'team Wishlist' of activities .. for whenever we all meet.
Hopefully soon.


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Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Aug 08, 2021

@Sajit Nair a team wish list is a great idea!  Thanks for the suggestion.  In fact, we will have our first company "in person" gathering on August 19th.  I'm looking forward to it but also a little nervous.  Even though I've been with the company going on 10 months now it's going to feel a little like the first day again.

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Dear @Jimmy Seddon ,

Your message sounds very human. We can all communicate remotely, but meeting for the first time in person is altogether a different type of communication. So when you meet in-person on August 19, it truly is like the first day (of work, or even school) as if it's a new work era (or school year).

However, while in-person experiences cannot be replaced fully (physical cues and energy from in-person shared experiences), I do think that the outcomes in-person experiences generate can still be generated by remote activities. In other words, in-person experiences create things like trust and understanding of people's communication styles. But, those two things for example can still be generated over time remotely. So your question is a good one, in that you're seeking to foster chemistry because you know it's important, but your team needs to find its own way to naturally develop it.

My suggestion is for your team to learn as much about itself as possible. Y'all will know way better than me, or anyone else, about what's going to feel right for your team. Because while I'd like to suggest playing an online game from Jackbox Games monthly or starting gif battles on messaging systems when celebrating each other, those types of activities are things I'm personally interested that may not be that interesting to y'all.

Have you ever heard of a User Manual for team members? Here are some questions that might help you get started in learning about what might work for your team.

  • What do your teammates like to do for fun when not working?
  • What has had the most engagement when group messaging?
  • Are there ice breaker questions or warm-up exercises that have been hits during meetings? If you don't already do this, can you start and see how people respond? 
  • Does your team prefer to chitchat during video/audio meetings or do they prefer to type written messages? Live or async?
  • Is there one group organizer or do different team members like to naturally suggest team activities?

Sometimes, getting this information is just a matter of teammates feeling like they have the permission to share their preferences. Like seeing a green light at a stoplight...it's an extra push to share. So I'm a big advocate of learning what teams are into, and over time, leaning into the things that the team enjoys until there's a steady ritual that increases team bonding and cohesion over time. And surveying, analyzing past written engagements, group chat polling, and holding workshops simply to learn about each other are all good ways to collect and apply that information. 

Let us know what you've tried, and once you get some data on your team preferences, maybe this group can suggest activities to try!

Good luck!

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Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Aug 09, 2021

This is extremely insightful @Christine P_ Dela Rosa!  Thank you very much!

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

@Jimmy Seddon  I have been in the same situation. What we do is virtual coffee and Virtual Teamplays like „using a Movie scene as Virtual background that you love“ of „pic of your pet“

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Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Aug 11, 2021

I like that @nina_schmidt!  Really great suggestion, it's one of the reasons I have all of my personality behind me and I don't use a virtual background :D

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Aug 11, 2021

@Jimmy Seddon  and there are some many awesome things to explore in your background :-) 

Hi @Jimmy Seddon , interesting topic...

I'm working mostly remotely for almost 7 years. In my case, the journey to the company's office takes about 3hours, so it is not on the other side of the earth, but it is not close enough to be onsite every single day. So I was visiting my colleagues 2-4 times a month. One year ago it was really rare to work remotely for 80-90% of time. But I learnt some hints I can share with you.

It is fair to say that I didn't study any theory, but I tried to behave extremely as a human being. I found out

  • frequent helping others helps building a relationship (when you are helping, you need to be really focused and people can feel it)
  • cooperation on complex tasks (reason is probably quite similar to the previous tip)
  • as a remote worker, you need to be stronger on the meetings, so you are seen (you just need to get the word out and it is more difficult to do it remotely)
  • if someone has a birthday/wedding/... try to organize the purchase of a gift (you will involve other people and they can feel you take care of them)
  • if you don't live far enough, try to join the team beer whenever possible (once a quarter is great)
  • when you're in the office, don't be effective but go to have good lunch with your team, join smaller groups of people in the kitchen etc. (in these days I personaly worked 2-3hours max :D)

I know I described slightly different situation (I was the only one who worked remotely), but in these days most of us work remotely, we try to meet in the office once a week and I can see that the hints described above are still valid.

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Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Sep 16, 2021

Thank you for the detailed response @Martin Bayer _MoroSystems_ s_r_o__ !

I believe I knew a number of these things were the right way to build that team culture and see you list them is great validation that our team is on the right track!

Fadoua Community Leader Sep 26, 2021

I hear you @Jimmy Seddon  I started my new job right when everything shutdown in the whole world.

I didn't meet with my team members yet. Our back to the office date has been changed until 2022.

I feel that some team members are bored being home just like myself when others don't really care.

Whenever I get a chance to chitchat I do it. So I get to know the person better.

We don't have any team activities, our team lead has been working on getting us together but unfortunately with this Corona it hasn't been an easy task for her.

Best,

Fadoua

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