5 lessons learned from managing a scale-up remotely — Part 4— “challenge for the team spirit”

5 lessons learned from managing a scale-up remotely — Part 4— “challenge for the team spirit

If you are reading this blog for the first time, you should know that it was created with an idea to share my lessons, which I’ve learned during managing a scale-up remotely during the COVID pandemic. In previous parts, I focused on the WHY for managing a company remotely, in the second part — on the catalyst effect of remote work. In the last, part I’ve shared my view on the importance of a process.

This time, I would like to focus on the probably most dangerous side-effect of remote work — the impact on team spirit and social relations within the company.

remote work is great, but …


Actually great.

Ok, but...

Those are 3 phases, which probably describe in the best way the experience with remote work over the last 6 months for most enterprises. The initial shock caused mostly by technical challenges, followed by the positive experience, that this way of working is actually bringing positive effects, and finally followed by the deeper understanding of long-term effects of the social aspects of our work.

We might work more efficiently and we might have more time to focus, but the social aspects of our work such as team spirit or engagement on the company level became extremely hard to retain.

I believe, that the lack of social contact has suppressed these aspects of our work and has shifted our focus and senses to the most essential aspect of our work — our team.

remote team vs remote company

In October this year, Atlassian released a whitepaper “Reworking work” — a global research into the impacts of COVID-19 on the nature of work and collaboration.

One of the most important outcomes of the research is the fact, that while team-connections are strengthening, the connection to the organization is getting weaker.

People are closer to their teams, more distant from their organization

I’ve picked especially this point because I see the same pattern happening at ableneo right now. I’ve also noticed a difference when it comes to our team members :

  • team members, who joined ableneo before the pandemic and already had social and face-to-face contact with other team members still have a stronger connection to the organization and are in general more engaged
  • team members, who joined ableneo during the pandemic and their contact with the rest of the company was mostly remote are naturally connected more to their teams and do not look for contact outside their teams

I believe, that most organizations are not prepared for this change of employees’ behavior and do not recognize the need to adapt.

don’t stop ! improvise & over-communicate

So the connection of your team members to the organization is weakening, and engagement on the company level becomes more challenging because you can’t have contact in person, and you are limited only to few ways of communication. What now?

Well, I definitely know what you should not do — stop! It’s very tempting to simply stop all activities related to strengthening team spirit and organizational culture because you think it’s not possible in any other way than in person.

I believe, that we should use our creativity and experiment. We can’t meet in the office kitchen, or at the coffee machine, but we can organize a daily time-slot for all team members, so those who have time can meet in a “virtual kitchen” and have small talk. Maybe we can not meet under the Christmas tree and share our gifts with the team members, but we can still send them the gifts home with personal wishes. Some ideas might work, some not, but I believe that improvisation and experimenting are the best way to keep our spirit alive.

Last but not least — don’t be afraid to overcommunicate. People’s resistance to emails is growing each month of the pandemic, so you can’t simply rely on this channel. Use emails AND your instant messaging AND video calls. Don’t be afraid to send reminders and send important messages even 2, or 3-times. If you think this amount of communication is enough, double it :)

That’s it for my 4th, and actually, the scariest lesson I’ve learned — the long-term impact of social distancing on your company’s social health.

In my next, and last part of this blog series, I will focus on a purely personal lesson that I’ve learned during this pandemic.

5 lessons learned from managing a scale-up remotely — Part 4— “challenge for the team spirit” was originally published in ableneo People on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.