Guest blog by: Michael Bleau, Co-founder and CEO of Event Hub
In the Coronavirus (COVID-19) gut-punched world in which we all presently live, many event organizations have been forced to become a remote event team. However, communicating as a remote production team has unique aspects that may present challenges to the unprepared. As a tech company that operates a mostly virtual office under normal circumstances, Event Hub invests a lot in building a successful remote work culture. With that in mind, here are three things to make sure to focus on when building your virtual office culture.
1. Great remote event teams make face time mandatory
I’m not talking about “Facetime” on your iPhone. Using a video meeting tool like Google Hangouts, Skype for Business or Zoom is essential. Even more so is requiring everyone to keep their cameras on during team video calls. Doing this keeps people in the professional mindset of getting presentable for the work day. It also helps to ensure accountability for being present on calls. When a camera is off, it is too easy to become distracted and start checking emails or playing on a phone. If that happens, valuable meeting info gets missed and teammates feel disrespected. Keeping cameras on is the easiest way to avoid that. It makes sure that when people start their work day, they are truly ready to work. Your remote event team will perform better as a result.
2. Disagreements should not play out on Slack, text, or email
Have you ever gotten into a text fight with a friend over nothing? Or a friend texts you something meaning one thing and you misread it an entirely different way? This happens because people read text through the lens of their POV, not the senders’ POV. Their emotions, insecurities, and personally history with the sender influence how they read into a text. The same thing can happen when using written communication in the workplace.
When my Co-founder and I started our business, it took a few rounds of learning this the hard way. Because we wore so many hats in the beginning, it was quicker and easier to fire off a text or Slack message about a given topic. In reality it was rarely easier or quicker — just lazier. We would assume the other person would know the context of our message and would correctly guess the tone with which we meant it. Time and time again, we were getting into fights over Slacking that would often even spill over to a phone argument. By the time we got onto the phone, we had both gotten fired up from multiple rounds of misinterpreting each other’s written words!
Fortunately, we have some great advisers who were able to clue us in. At their recommendation we began using video calls to discuss all important matters. It was a game changer and instantly removed 90 percent of our friction. Nowadays we know each other’s tendencies much better and are better at interpreting written communication. That being said, we still make a point of having regular video calls and are quick to jump onto a video chat when something pops up requiring important decision making. I also make sure to be on video whenever I give coaching notes to my employees, so they can see that I’m coming from a caring place of wanting them to succeed. Our remote team is stronger for this practice.
3. Make time for team building
Speaking of coaching employees, designing your weekly calendar to include team-building time is essential for remote event team success. One of the hardest adjustments your team will make is the lack of human connection from unplanned socializing. I’m talking about those random watercooler run-ins, the “Did you hear about…” moments in the kitchen, hallway, or wherever you were used to running into teammates in an unofficial capacity throughout the day. As most of the face time in a remote work setting will happen in scheduled meetings for work-related items, it’s important to foster relationship building among your team.
There are a few ways to achieve this. Two exercises my company employs are “red-yellow-green” check-ins and virtual coffees. Once a week during one of our all-hands calls, we kick if off by having everyone give a personal emotional score of red, yellow, or green. It can be from either professional or personal reasons, and team members are encouraged to explain why they are feeling a certain color. There is no judgement.
A second activity we use is something called a virtual coffee break. Every other week, a team member is randomly assigned to meet with another team member in the company, for at least a 15 min break over a video call. All personnel are included, and employees really enjoy the personal connection.
Following some key guidelines will help to create a strong remote event team culture. Use video calls as often as possible over phone or text. Avoid having serious debates or settling disagreements via text, slack, or email. Build team-building practices into your teams’ regular routines. Remember, converting to a remote event team is a shift for everyone in your org. Give each other some leeway as you adjust to the new work flows and protocols, and take the time to check in on each other. Good luck in building your remote culture!