The pandemic has really shone a light on the potential for distanced digital workspaces to become the norm — whether that’s for the next few months or the years that will follow. As an article from Forbes points out, it has caused us to ‘rethink’ our daily lives and how they can be carried out in ways we didn’t fathom before. The pandemic is causing a spike in the digital revolution's speed, and we must be prepared to adapt and thrive in these new conditions.
We all know teamwork makes the dream work. But when you face the challenge of being unable to sit face-to-face, talk in real-time or see the progression of work live, cohesive teamwork can become a difficult task to accomplish. This is especially so for creatives, wherein communicating intricate and complex ideas can pose a challenge over Zoom or Skype. However, just like everything else, we can adopt easy and effective habits to combat and overcome the troubles of long-distance working relationships with your teammates.
Connection problems crash, network issues, update issues… the list goes on. The digital experience can be convenient in some ways but a headache to navigate in others. The inability to see or hear a teammate can be frustrating, even more so when they are unable to rectify the situation as soon or as well as we’d like. Digital problems can lead to delays to progress, inaccurate work and communication errors. Sometimes, this can be a one-off thing, but it’s easy to become frustrated when it becomes constant. Even without the digital issues, there’s also the possibility of teammates who just aren’t meeting our expectations. Maybe they don’t finish their tasks on time; maybe they keep getting it wrong. However, we need to practice having empathy and having patience in the current climate. We never know what people are going through privately. Perhaps some teammates are just lazy, but there could be a bigger picture we aren’t privy to affecting their emotional and mental well-being. The UN published an article on the economic disparities affecting digital learning and accessibility in April. We should bear in mind that some of the issues, especially digital ones, are out of a person’s control. As we’ve learned over the past year, being mindful and understanding is especially key.
As a creative, it can be hard to put all of our amazing, complicated, deep, fantastic ideas into words. Literally. On a normal day, if we’re already having this issue, imagine adding our teammates' inability to hear us or misinterpreting information to the mix. Potential disaster. Especially so when meeting tight deadlines or when it’s an extra complicated job. Even brainstorming can be difficult when we’re not sketching out ideas on the same piece of paper. It’s also difficult to read the room and gauge the team’s reactions to suggestions when we’re trying to stare at the faces in nine tiny boxes all at once. Or worse, when it’s the share-screen mode and we can’t even see all the faces. Therefore, communication really is key. Clear and effective communication is extremely important in ensuring that nothing gets confused and problems are solved immediately. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify information we don’t know, even if it makes us feel like we’re being a little annoying. If we have disagreements on a topic, we should state our reasons and arguments effectively. It’s always better to nip the problems in the bud and solve issues before they can fester. And if we’ve got a problem with someone’s work or participation, reaching out to them to clarify the reasons for their performance can prevent us from harbouring negative emotions and help create useful solutions instead.
At some point in our adventures in the realm of teamwork, we’ve all been guilty of the herd mentality. Maybe it’s a teammate who keeps ghosting us on meeting days, or maybe it’s a teammate whose submissions are always delayed. We know the drill. After a few repetitions, someone voices their annoyance and the rest of us follow. Before long, we’ve created a sort of mutual bond over the disdain for that one irresponsible or disagreeable teammate. That is, perhaps, one of the worst things we can do. Not only is it disrespectful, but it’s also detrimental to cohesive teamwork. Whilst we may think the person is unaware, they’ll certainly notice it. The tension between the team and personal issues with someone is probably the biggest killer of effectiveness. Not only can we become shut off or exclusive towards a person, but we can also create a lack of interest on their part and lose out on good input and participation from someone. Moreover, it just leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. According to this article, having the right support is one of the key factors for effective team success. So, let’s make sure we don’t ruin it with pettiness.
Whilst we’ve spoken about how to deal with frustrating teammates, we ourselves mustn’t become one. Having a good amount of self-awareness is important in teamwork. Making sure we’re checking ourselves to ensure we’re pulling our weight and being aware of the way we treat our teammates in the way we speak to them and help them is absolutely key. We should never pile the bulk of the work on someone, even if they volunteer. Nor should we try to outdo our teammates when our competitive streak takes over. After all, we’re all working towards a common goal. Instead, we should assess and allocate work based on capability and strengths to achieve timely and maximum results. Beginning the projects with a good delegation and the right division of work can really allow the rest of the process to occur with ease and good progression. It’s also important to remember to pace ourselves, and if we’re having trouble keeping up, don’t be afraid to relay our concerns to our teammates and ask for help. Teamwork can be a breeze, as long as we make it so.