How I managed to keep my team connected and invested in each other’s wellbeing through video conferencing.
Before Zoom Was a Thing
As the CEO of a virtual firm since 2006, you can imagine my joy when video conferencing became routinely accessible.
Trial By Error
In the beginning, we were able to converse as a team nationally on conference calls. They were choppy, and there was so much cross-talk that it felt like we were in a radio tower routing planes. I would have to give blocks of time to my team members so that they could speak uninterrupted.
-Think of the Oscars when they turn on the music so the person receiving the award knows to step off the stage and stop talking!
The first platform we used was in early 2015. We were able to share screens, faces, and home offices. It was awesome to actually engage with each other on a more personal basis. This changed the dynamic of how we interacted as a team and as individuals.
However, I quickly realized that many of my employees were completely disengaged during calls—not just because of video compression delays. The majority of the team would look off to the side at another screen, down at their cell phone, or just walking in and out of the call.
How do I get engagement?
Happy Hour Themed Calls Will Improve Your Virtual Work Calls
Homework for Improving Your Virtual Work
After the first few virtual/visual calls it became apparent that if I did not assign a collaboration task to each team member, I would continue having challenges to get them to engage on all company virtual calls. My Operations Director helped me create themed calls during Happy Hour in which the team was offered a role that would help them to collaborate and get to know each other.
This is not giving out busy work and micromanaging people—it’s about using collaboration to achieve virtual engagement. We kept our Happy Hour Themed Calls light and fun, and we increased interaction and employee connectivity.
One tool in particular we implemented was to ask each team member, including myself, to describe a word that represented how they felt that day/week/or month. This allowed us to grow closer as a team so that not everything was about work.
Listening to one’s team and letting each person convey how they were doing also helped in getting a sense of team mood and energy. If those around us don’t feel heard and accepted at work, then creating a safe and respectful space becomes difficult.
After adopting an open and communicative format, our Happy Hour Themed Calls became something to which the team looked forward. We all knew ahead of time what the theme was and what specific roles.
Once we set a tone, shared, laughed, and played a game or two, it didn’t feel like a work call anymore. We could temporarily disengage from the work mentality barrier and just be a group of people who liked to see and hear from each other frequently.
The takeaway is this: by getting team members to engage through collaboration-based themed calls, we got those same team members to become more interactive and productive on work-related virtual team calls because the team members felt more comfortable interacting with each other.