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Dear Work Therapist - distributed team connections

Edited
Daniel Ebers Community Leader Jul 25, 2021

We have one team where one team member is permanently remote (in a city far away but in one of our office buildings). While collaboration works using Jira and Confluence pretty well, they feel a disconnect between the local team and the person sitting remote.
Team events and socializing they feel being a challenge.

Are there any good hints to improve the situation?

remote.png

9 comments

the only thing I have in mind is using video calls

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Hi Daniel! I second Alexander on the video calls - even for social events. For example, you could take the last hour of the work day periodically and do a semi-structured hang out. A format that I like is a round table where everyone gets to ask a question that everyone answers. Questions can be about anything, favorite food, something you learned recently, etc. This way everyone participates equally and you can learn lots of new things about people and find different ways you connect. 

Having infrequent on-site visits help too. Our field sales team has a big bash in the summer and our remote workers in other departments spend 2 weeks on site each quarter. 

Also, some of the best solutions are crowd sourced! - ask the team what they think would help everyone have the same opportunity to participate in social and team events. 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
Natalie Atlassian Team Jul 26, 2021

The Atlassian team has put together some fun ideas for virtual hang outs here! https://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/virtual-team-building-activities-remote-teams (Scroll down to see the list) smile

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
Hana Kučerová Community Leader Jul 26, 2021

Hi @Daniel Ebers ,

I don't know how far is "far away", but what about he visit your team from time to time? I worked for company, which main headquarters were in the city approx. 200 km far. I traveled there often to meet with my team at least on a monthly basis. I think it helped a little.

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Dear @Daniel Ebers ,

The most important thing I want you to know, is that I heart your drawing. The circle encloses the team but that separation is real. And the size of the distant team member really makes me resonate with that teammate more than the group that's collocated. Am I overanalyzing your picture? Perhaps. Does that make my appreciation for it any less valid? Nope.

From proprietary Atlassian research (hat tip to @Mahreen Khan running a lot of this research), we're learning that hybrid teams are having an especially hard time adjusting. One hypothesis for this is that remote and colocated teams alike use the same operating principles and rhythms, so it is known how teams should communicate, and in your case, socialize and engage with each other. If true, then it seems to me that the solve for engagement is to figure out what works for the team and then be commit to making those rituals happen.

But I think you already know that wink.

  • Variety for the win: One thing we've learned from companies who have recently transitioned to hybrid teamwork, is that not all rituals need to involve the whole team. Maybe having 1:1s with every team member twice monthly is the answer. Each 1:1 will look different for each pair, but it's still meaningfully creating connections. Or maybe those work from the same space can go out and eat together, but that shouldn't require involving the teammate who doesn't work with them (and I bet that person might go out to eat with people in their office location, which btw, does not include their teammates). So, my first note is that not all team cohesion activities must involve 100% attendance.
  • Ice breakers were a hit before the pandemic and continue to be today. It's a great way to start long meetings and get folks loose. It's also a great way to learn about team member personalities or what's going on in each other's lives. What's great, is that they can be silly (like, "what book would you live in if you had to live in one for the rest of your life?") or they can be intended to improve collaboration (like, "what's a work pet peeve or work phrase you wish would change?"). The flexibility is also great, because they can happen live in meetings or async in chat tools, emails, or other software.
  • @Tracy Bartella-Metell @Alexander Pappert , and @Natalie all plug the virtual hangout. If your team can settle on common times, I'm a fan of playing mad libs games via jackbox games, some of our software teams enjoy playing Among Us, and old fashioned taboo or other party game tends to be crowdpleasers. Of course, not everyone is in the mood for games. Some Atlassian teams have seen success in having weekly or twice weekly early morning coffee/breakfast chats. The intention is not necessarily to talk business, but simply to start the day seeing where everyone is at (tired, overwhelmed, excited, confused, ready for deep work, etc) and share those true feelings together. Whatever you choose to do, seeing faces in person or online can make a big difference.
  • Celebrations and recognition of team member efforts - whether it be for social reasons or just to better understand each other, there are many ways to increase member-to-member interactions. From research related to burnout, we've also learned that individuals need to know they're a part of a team. And to do that, you don't even have to create formal team interactions. For example, you can post a thread for weekly wins in a chat channel or call for nominations where you can shout out team members for good work in software. Even a team lead (which doesn't exclusively need to be your team lead) can shout out how a project from your entire team or even from one team member is a part of an important big picture strategy. So if you can, look for ways to highlight how your remote team member is a part of your team's and the great company's work. 

Curious to know what you've tried--what has and hasn't worked. And do let us know if you try anything from this discussion and whether that's helped your teammate out.

Can't wait to hear more!

Christine

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Bridget Community Manager Jul 26, 2021

Love these answers and your illustration!

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Liam Green Community Leader Jul 26, 2021

@Daniel Ebers I've just started a role which is around an hour away from my office.  The role only involves going to the office around once a month, so I'm trying to be as involved in video calls as possible

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

I have a recommendation that works quite well, meetings should be held separately even if people are in the same building, if some are not in the office they should each connect from their PC in a different room so you don't create "second class workers".

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

I second this! Remote workers should have the same seat at the table (with the same sized rectangle on a screen haha).

Actually, I'm very much like that person who works remotely. lol. The practice that has worked for us, it's to "have a coffee," with a daily stand-up approach, including informal chitty-chat.

Another good practice I've learned from some googlers is to include personals goals in the weekly team planning: it creates conversations within the team and gets them more aligned.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

I haven't seen the "personal goals" in weekly team planning. That sounds pretty neat actually! Not only holds each other accountable, but first and foremost it brings people together on a more personal level. We're more than just the titles next to our names. I love it!

Like Huwen Arnone -DEISER- likes this

Exactly, it creates conversation within the team collaborators. It was quite an interesting practice.

@Daniel Ebers - Thanks for posting.

I think the key of a successful team is they should be connected and have collective bonding and understanding. There are many successful teams which are located around the world but still professionally connected. 

For example - Try to have a Friday fun retrospective virtually or have a online coffee session("Bring your own coffee") etc.

Happy Friday!

Cheers

Suvradip

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Hi @Daniel Ebers 

Unfortunately, with covid we have had to live this situation forcibly, in my case, we have used the group video calls between all the members of the team once a day, in addition, we are in permanent contact during the whole working day, so in the end you feel accompanied. Meetings can be held (outside working hours) to play a video game, online yoga classes as a team, etc... anything that makes it possible to enjoy time together without the pressures of work on top of it. And also, if possible, and if the health situation allows it, it would be good to organise team meetings (outside working hours) to eat, talk, etc. face to face, in the case of people who are far away, to meet with the rest of the team as often as possible.

These events are the real team-builders!

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