Building successful virtual teams during Covid-19 and beyond

Building successful virtual teams during Covid-19 and beyond

The pandemic has lead many people to work from home for the first time. Meanwhile there have been many reports of the adverse effects of the lockdown on mental wellbeing. As a Registered Nurse, Wellbeing Coach and Mental Health First Aider, I’ve certainly had my fair share of calls for support over the last three months. However, I am also hearing positive feedback from many people who have wanted to work from home for years but “hadn’t been allowed to,” or “never quite got around to organising it.”

Woman typing on laptop
"With the extra time available for important reflection, it’s helpful to discuss and update your strategy and goals." - Heather-Jane Gray, Fellow

As the founder of Synergy Global, a consultancy specialising in helping people to lead change more effectively, I have been providing free advice, running webinars, and offering coaching to support teams during this difficult time. Whilst this may have been thrust upon us, most people are naturally resilient and have adjusted their working behaviours from the office to the home quite well. Many are also enjoying the extra time they have saved by missing their daily commute.

For many years I worked in our beloved NHS and we had a saying that ‘leaders should never waste a crisis’. That’s because it is during a challenge that many people rise up in service of the greater good – and change some entrenched ‘bad habits’ for ones that better serve the broader community.

My Churchill Fellowship explored the development of successful high performing virtual teams in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Now I specialise in values-based personal and organisational change programs. Here are my seven top tips on how to help your own team to work successfully during lockdown and beyond.

1) Get to grips with helpful technology

We mainly use a mixture of Skype, What’sApp, Zoom and Microsoft Teams – all have good video quality, whether that’s for fun or work. You can even choose settings to make yourself look better on camera. We use a What’sApp thread for more informal communication, along with Facebook and Instagram, with LinkedIn for more professional posts that attract clients. Don’t underestimate the number of people there are out there as a ‘captive audience’ right now – we recently held an online conference which had over 4,000 registrations within two weeks. While improving inclusive communication with email, be careful with the dreaded ‘reply all’ or people can drown quickly.

2) Use this time to enhance your wellbeing

We’ve done a team check on working ergonomically to enhance energy, and many people adapting their spare room to offices have decided to try standing desks for ease. Many say that they actually work longer from home but more flexibly, taking a refreshing walk in the middle of the day or cooking. We know that alcohol and chocolate sales are up and that it’s important to watch our weight – and let’s face it, snacking at home is easier that in the office. If you feel isolated or need help, reach out to a colleague or your boss.

3) Align your own and your organisation’s values

This is a perfect time to reflect and discuss how a values-based vision or purpose (what you want to be) can help to instil positive behaviours. It is obviously best to co-create these with your team, before working out creative ways to engage others in the organisation. Ensuring staff buy-in is the only way these will be put into practice and make a sustainable change to the culture. 

4) Update your own and your organisation’s mission

With the extra time available for important reflection, it’s helpful to discuss and update your strategy and goals (what you want to do). We all live in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world and we may need to pivot our life and business plans, in order to survive and thrive beyond Covid-19 and the economic downturn that will follow.

5) Review your own and your organisation’s reputation and brand

Consider how others perceive the behaviours or you and your family or team, and how these come across in your community. To improve your standing, you might consider the many opportunities to support others during this time – whether that is personally checking on a neighbour or volunteering your team as part of a larger organisational Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. When will we ever have more time than we have now?

6) Consider your own strengths and weaknesses

Think about what knowledge and skills you will need to achieve all of the above, going forward. To help, you could try to find a suitable online course, mentor or coach to help you seize these opportunities. Many of our clients have used the opportunity of this extra time for reflection on their life, work and health – often choosing to change their careers. This is an ideal time to study and prepare for the future, bearing mind that so many old-style roles are being overtaken by artificial intelligence and robotics.

7) Think about how your Attention, Mindset, and Behaviours effect your results (AMBA)

Try to positively reframe the current situation by using a ‘glass half full’, rather than a ‘glass half empty’ analogy. In years to come, people will still be talking about ‘the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020’ and will ask how you handled it and what you learned from it. Keeping a more optimistic mindset, and focusing your behaviours on helping others, are proven to enhance mental health and wellbeing – so you will reap the results that you choose to sow.


The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.


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