Working from home is no longer a privilege, rather the new normal. What does it mean to us if we no longer have the in-person casual and spontaneous office interactions, the water cooler conversations that over time help us nurture trusting relationships? How can we still inspire and motivate each other in virtual settings? Well, as a Communications Trainee at Siemens I have experienced first-hand how we can successfully tackle those crucial questions!
I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s all about creating energy, connection and inspiration across virtual teams!
But, how do we actually do that?
I am a trainee in the corporate communications team at Siemens. My traineeship allows me to get sneak peeks into different business units to see how teams across Siemens work. I was happy to spend the last five weeks with the Marketing, Communications and Sales Support team at Siemens Advanta. Due to the current situation, I had to work with the new team entirely virtually without knowing anyone in person upfront, and it taught me so much about virtual collaboration. Let me share my top learnings with you.
Create social cohesion
When teams move to a virtual collaboration model, they need to create room for socializing opportunities. This is where social cohesion comes into place – it means feeling comfortable enough to meet and have occasional coffee. Positive relationships at work encourage us to emotionally support each other, to share knowledge generously and to participate in discussions without being scared. But maintaining this “social glue” is challenging for virtual teams. What I enjoyed at the Siemens Advanta team meetings were the ice breakers, where team members would share something personal about themselves. It helps the team to get to know one another better and it makes you understand what’s happening in the lives of your team members. So, just dedicate some time every week to meet each other for an occasional virtual coffee. Simply connect and see how the others are doing.
Trust is pivotal for a positive work environment, and it is even more important in virtual teams. Trust creates an atmosphere where you can feel at ease sharing your ideas and thoughts or discussing sensitive topics with your leader. During my time with the team, I noticed they cultivated an atmosphere which invited everyone to be creative and to express their ideas without fearing judgement. Research also shows that trust boosts creativity and innovation. It is about doing something new and different, taking some risks while no one is sure about the outcome. Oxford University lecturer and trust expert Rachel Botsman explains it well – “Trust and risk are two sides of the same coin. If you want people to take risks, if you want people to be okay with not knowing the outcome, you need high-trust environments and high-trust teams.”
Care for your people
In my experience, the saying “People work for people, not organizations” definitely has truth to it. When I started working with the new team, they were all so welcoming and interested, which made me feel connected. It was so encouraging to see how they cared for each other. Research also reveals that people who have a supportive supervisor invest more energy and share more knowledge at work. Most people take the relationship they have with their supervisor as a proxy for the relationship they have with their employer. If a person’s relationship with their supervisor is weak, their relationship with the organization suffers too! So, don’t forget to focus on your people and really care for them!
To sum up, create social cohesion by socializing and getting to know one another; Create trust to encourage creativity, and last but not least – truly care for your people! It’s the only way to create a positive working atmosphere that will make team members comfortable and that will transcend the constraints of virtual communication.