Adapting To The New “Normal”
The nature of work has changed drastically in the past year. Whereas remote work was just starting to emerge as a distinct possibility–albeit on the margins–it is now the norm for many companies. The unique situation posed by the coronavirus has accelerated this shift, and its full effects on the future of work are as of yet unknown. Will this be the new normal forever? Will some sort of equilibrium be established, with some workers working in the office and some at home, or with workers working partly at home and partly in the office? Will offices themselves downsize or change in their layout? And how will all of this affect office/corporate culture, team integration, and individuals’ mental health and productivity?
There are certainly a lot of questions up in the air at the moment, and few clear answers. One thing is exceedingly apparent though: Adaptation is the only way forward. We have to decide what to carry forward, and what to change based on a reality that is beyond our control.
Invite Japan is facing these same issues. As a team-building company, we have to respond to the needs of our clients as they stand–which means adapting our programs and events to accommodate online, remote work, and teams that might not be in the same room, let alone the same country. At the same time though, we are also dealing with these extraordinary circumstances ourselves and as a company. We too have been working from home, separately, and grappling personally with keeping up our communication and productivity as a functioning team.
This has actually given us a lot of insight into what other companies and organizations are facing. And so we have been diligently creating, developing, and producing online team building activities, events, and content–with a greater emphasis on safety, technology, and using online and virtual resources.
Why? Because team-building activities are more essential than ever. Communication, trust, openness, connectivity–these essential elements of our online team building activities are also the keys to dealing as a team/organization with these unsettled times.
How can teams function effectively while separated physically? How can coworkers communicate with each and bond while working at home? And can seemingly impersonal teleconference technology really be used for teambuilding? In the following post, we will share our experiences and thoughts on the changing work and business environment, and how online team building activities can help create a smooth transition into the future.
Redefining Remote Work
Like anything, how we work is made up of habits–those shaped from our own experiences as well as those formed by our social and physical environments. Work ethic, office culture, the morning commute, the office space itself–all of these combine together to create our work habits. Of course, sometimes these habits need updating too. We can get stuck in a rut, where the inertia to just keep doing what we’ve been doing is stronger than the energy to change.
The shift to remote work, while stressful in many ways, offers a unique opportunity to change our work habits. Or, at the very least, to be more aware and conscious of them. By switching up the work environment, schedule, commute, and how colleagues interact, the shift to remote work has opened up a space in which to carefully consider questions related to how best we work.
Even with some of the “freshness” that comes with shifting to remote work, habits can still easily form very quickly. It’s simply human nature to construct a familiar framework as soon as possible, and to create routines for ourselves that make daily life a little more manageable.
However, it’s important to remember that habits can always be broken, and people can always learn and grow. Just because you’ve been doing work from home one way the whole time doesn’t mean you necessarily have to continue in the same way going forward.
We at Invite Japan have been thinking through some of the challenges and opportunities of remote work, with our personal experiences in mind. While working from home can give coworkers more flexibility and independence, naturally there are more difficulties when it comes to communication and working as a team. Motivation often comes from coworkers and the people around us, but in this pandemic, workers are isolated from each other. Usually, offices provide a space for collaboration where colleagues can meet, discuss, and think through problems easily.
Workplaces also provide spaces for “soft team building” to occur: spontaneous hallway conversations, chatting in the staff break room, the opportunity to laugh together, etc. Since this type of atmosphere is obviously much harder to recreate from home, having a more proactive, deliberate, and consistent team building plan is crucial.
As an example, at Invite Japan we have a daily meeting in the morning. Every morning. This starts the day out on a good, socially upbeat note. We see each other’s faces and are therefore able to get the motivation that comes from interacting with coworkers, albeit virtually instead of physically. We spend most of the morning meeting discussing important information about current or upcoming projects, which keeps everyone informed and updated. But we also take the time to have a little fun as well–we check in about what’s going on in our lives, and we do some morning exercises together (which adds some lighthearted fun and laughter to our interactions).
We feel it’s important to emphasize in our workshops and programs that remote work is still in its early stages, and that we all can take an active and conscious part in making it applicable to our needs.
Life/Work Balance and the Connectivity Challenge
It’s also important though, not to lose sight of the individual in all of this. Teams are being challenged when they go remote, but so are individual colleagues, who may be dealing with a lot, both at work and outside of it. Adapting to everything going on, including the shift to working from home, will vary from person to person, and acknowledging that strains do occur is crucial to moving forward as a team.
One of the hardest aspects of transitioning to remote work is dealing with the changes to life/work balance. Not having that physical and mental separation any more can be challenging psychologically, and can lead to frustrations among individuals. Colleagues may feel that they have to work longer hours since they are at home, or feel stressed by the distractions of home life while they work. Hopefully, this new age of work will allow us all to rethink some of our notions about work and life, and to reject some of the past policies that no longer work. In short, we all need to be a bit more flexible. However, for that to happen there needs to be connectivity and trust.
Individuals need to be able to trust one another and the organization they are working for. Of course this was true before, but now that teams are separated is more important than ever. Team building activities that foster more channels of communication and connectivity between individuals and their coworkers–so that they are able to share their thoughts, streeses, worries, and ideas–will help team members engage more optimistically and openly with creating a healthy work/life balance. In this way, team building will also take on a more diffuse, voluntary, and less top-down pattern, which is more fitting to work-from-home routines.
Invite Japan, for example, has a channel on slack devoted to social communication. People share photos of their lunch or just generally chat about fun things that happen to them. This allows us to create some of those missing social lines of communication that we used to get at work. Similarly, when we test our online team building activities with each other, even short ones, we create more opportunities for interaction and spaces for connectivity. This reverberates in our meetings and other work, where we are able to communicate more easily and trust each other with tasks, help, and advice.
Technology To The Rescue?
All of these issues revolve around technology and the ways that it is becoming even more prominent in the current situation. Since the pandemic began, teleconferencing technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and remote workers have been aided by the wide array of apps and devices that make working from home easier than it has ever been.
It is, however, important to bear in mind that these technologies, while being extremely useful for organizations, are still just tools and not miracle-cures. They can help, but they still require thoughtfulness and a human touch; simply holding Zoom conferences regularly isn’t necessarily going to inspire or motivate team members. And an over-reliance on technology can create its own set of stresses and anxieties: some individuals may not understand how to use the technology, or feel as comfortable participating on its platforms. Technology itself can sometimes be cold and impersonal, and recent studies have indicated that people may feel more exhausted from Zoom conferences than from face-to-face meetings.
In order to transition with the changing times, we have to learn to work with what we have. But we can also mold technology use to fit our needs as teams. This means thinking about how it can be used to foster communication, sharing, and fun as well as efficiency. It means becoming a bit more aware of how to use technology to spread joy as much as how to spread the workload. The lack of soft team building in the workplace means that teams are in vital need of replenishing motivation through fun interaction and engagement.
This is why online team building activities are crucial: they teach teams how to use critical technology together, while at the same time encouraging them to consider how to apply it towards building a better team infrastructure that responds to individual needs.
Conclusion: Why Online Team Building Matters
With all these major transformations in our personal lives, work lives, and relationships with technology, team building is more essential than ever. Transitioning into whatever comes next requires having a team that is flexible, communicative, and focused, all while being able to work separately and from home if need be. The only way forward is to adapt, and an online team building strategy can help. By teaching teams how to create new channels of connectivity and trust, and how to use the current teleconferencing technology to achieve team building goals, teams can gain the means to work effectively and confidently in spite of uncertainty.
Invite Japan is working hard (from home), developing new and exciting online team building content that incorporates puzzles, games, and other mental and physical activities. This is a new world for all of us, and we are constantly tweaking and improving our ideas and games. If you have an idea for an event or have specific goals in mind, let us know and we will work with you to create it. As always with any of our team building events, we are always open to customizing our events for your specific organization’s needs.
For more information or inquiries, please contact us at [email protected] or visit our website at www.invitejapan.com. You can also check back here for more articles on the ways in which the world is changing and suggestions for your team on how to cope.