What we learned (and confirmed) working remotely as a team in 2020
Aintree Group was on the front foot when it came to COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne. In early March 2020, the entire team shifted the contents of their desks from our Camberwell office to their own homes. Here’s what we learned (or confirmed) from eight straight months of working remotely as a team.
1. Communication isn’t necessarily better when working in the same room.
We communicated better remotely because we knew we had to, and because we had the right software to keep us connected.
Knowing we weren’t all in the office together meant we worked extra hard to keep each other in the loop.
Team meetings moved to video calls, and detailed minutes with links to resources were on permanent record. Tips and tricks and updated procedures were sent via video or typed out. So it was easier to refer back to things if you forget what had been discussed yesterday, or last week.
Different departments scheduled regular times to video call and touch base, instead of relying on chatting to each other across the office. People were following up and checking in. There were less assumptions that people just knew things.
We stopped using email for smaller internal conversations and relied heavily on Microsoft Teams. This meant important client emails weren’t drowned out by long conversation threads between team members.
When you see the team in person every day, it’s easy to assume everyone is on the same page. But working remotely meant we had to confirm it.
2. Having business-wide processes and procedures is essential for all organisations.
Our dear Director Shane has been on this train of thought since Aintree Group began. He often brings it up at client meetings and industry events, because it is so important! And 2020 definitely showed us why.
Many businesses suddenly found their offices empty and all employees working from home, flung far across suburbs and cities. If your employees aren’t able to be relatively self-sufficient in their day-to-day work without needing constant guidance, managing remote working is going to be extremely difficult. That’s where procedures come in.
Obviously some procedures would have been written with face-to-face workplace conditions in mind. But they should always be scalable and adaptable to new situations. And making changes to existing policies is far easier than writing them from scratch in the heat of a crisis and expecting everyone to know exactly how to execute them.
We even brought on three new team members during lockdown, and they were all able to begin working effectively in a new workplace by following the procedures and guidelines.
Having a solid foundation of policies and procedures will make your business more efficient and more resilient. And that is especially important working remotely in a chaotic year.
3. Mental Wellness Matters
Mental wellness suffered for everyone in 2020. The enormity of the Coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty that followed weighed on all our minds.
Plus, work and home being the same place for so long means the line begins to blur. And in that situation it can be hard to “switch off” and transition properly between being “at work” and “at home”.
So, mental health became part of regular conversation for team members, and even for clients.
Management also encouraged team members to take leave for mental health days. Just because we couldn’t go anywhere didn’t mean it wasn’t worth taking a day to remove ourselves from work, sleep in, read a book or do some gardening.
The conversation of “mental wellness” and “mental health” was normalised and encouraged, and that’s something that should continue in every workplace beyond COVID-19.
4. We learned a lot about each other.
Having a regular video link to other people’s homes can be a very quick way to get to know them better.
In addition to our official team meetings, we also ran lots of social Zoom catch ups like team drinks, lunches, online challenges and games. So we learned that Whitney can do a headstand, Daniel can juggle, Joseph can do a lot of pushups, and Graham and Pip are really good at trivia.
Kids and partners dropped in on calls to say hi. We met each other’s pets, and shared TV show recommendations and recipes.
It provided a glimpse into the lives we all lead outside of the office and what brings each other joy.
5. It’s important to celebrate the little wins!
In a very bleak year, we decided to try and find the silver lining in everything.
We started awarding Gold Stars to team members for excellent work (and sometimes just for fun), and announcing it across Teams and in Zoom Meetings.
Every birthday, anniversary, achievement and significant family event was acknowledged and celebrated virtually. Including an ever-growing spreadsheet of all the cakes we’d missed out on in the office, which we’re going to make up for in 2021.
We dressed up for Christmas in July, Pyjama Day, Jeans for Genes Day, the AFL Grand Final and the End of Financial Year.
And as the year came to a close, we reflected on the year that was. And while it was most certainly a tough year for everyone, we had lots of little wonderful moments along the way.