Top tips for working together during ‘bubble time’

2 Apr 2020
Robert Perry, Manager, Sustainable Leadership, Sustainable Business Council

Image by ThePixelman from Pixabay

You’ve heard the expression ‘a week is a long time in politics’. If you’re anything like me, that pales into comparison with a week in business during lockdown. A decade, more like it.

In my last piece, I talked about how important it is for us to support and care for one another at a time of such uncertainty and disruption. I never fail to be amazed by the dedication, camaraderie and aroha shared across the SBC team and network when faced with confronting challenges. This week has been no different.

Like a number of our members, working remotely has been the norm for SBC for some time. But it’s quite different when new ways of working are ‘must do’ rather than ‘personal choice’ while juggling the demands of family and living in our bubbles.

Now that we are settling into new routines, SBC will be running webinars to provide techniques and coping mechanisms to build personal resilience.  We will also be hosting virtual ‘drop in’ sessions from 9 April, when members can catch up informally, to share and discuss the business and personal effects of COVID-19 and the things that can help you get through. (RSVP for the link)

I wanted to share my own experiences of working remotely, for maintaining productivity, a healthy work-life balance, and nurturing working relationships in this new environment.

Firstly, I love the flex and autonomy it brings, but it takes perseverance and smart strategies to pull it off successfully.  That’s all well and good when sitting at home with my fiancé and no pets, no kids, and daily annoyances limited to unwelcome Spotify adverts, and football withdrawal.

Be kind to yourself and others in managing expectations. Be realistic on what can actually be accomplished from home.  There will be times when performance, productivity and engagement may dip.

I’ve found working in sprints; before taking a quick break to recharge, really helpful in focusing on a specific issue, especially when there are so many daily distractions. Has anyone else found emptying the dishwasher has never been so appealing! Ok, just me then?!?

Keep talking with your colleagues, team members and stakeholders. Make sure you communicate clearly and deliberately. When team members are apart, good communication is even more critical. Even if there is nothing new to say, tell them that - it avoids stuff ups.

Setting some ground rules for team communication goes a long way in making sure your team is productive and happy. While I feel as though I’m sometimes drowning in a virtual sea of Tweets, Zoom meetings, and MS Team chats, I’ve reduced my reliance on email! So don’t just type, talk. Sometimes face-to-face communication is much easier for getting ideas across quickly.

Remember, 93% of communication is non-verbal. Depending on your living situation, it is possible to go days without seeing people in the flesh. Make sure you keep in touch, even if only by phone or online.

Schedule virtual calls with friends for an after-work drink. This will help add structure to your day and ensure that, just because you are now living in your workplace, you're not stuck in work-mode.

Let me leave you with my favourite whakatauki*, which we opened this week’s team meeting with:

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi. Engari, he toa takitini.

My strength is not the strength of one. It is the strength of many.

Which is a nice segue to next week’s piece - the art of leading and collaborating online.

Mā te wā


Useful resources:

  1. A Guide for Working (From Home) Parents (HBR)
  2. A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers (HBR)
  3. Catapult’s COVID-19 Leadership Playbook

* Whakatauki: a Māori proverb or saying.

Robert Perry, Manager, Sustainable Leadership.