Virtual Team Placemaking | How to drive connection in a time of isolation

As the world continues to grapple with the realities of a global pandemic, what will this mean for team dynamics and productivity?

26 Mar 2020

By Amanda Steele

Virtual Team Placemaking | How to drive connection in a time of isolation
As the world continues to grapple with the realities of a global pandemic corporations are taking necessary steps to protect the safety of their workers. Many of us now are working from home or on split shifts or in ways that are not familiar to us. But what will this mean for team dynamics and productivity and what can we, as leaders, do to assist?

Isolation is a significant driver of stress and anxiety. How people deal with isolation will be critical to personal and economic recovery post-Covid. The viral videos from Wuhan with virtual dance parties and Italy’s impromptu sing alongs have been highly viewed and enjoyed by people currently facing social isolation at unprecedented levels. What’s increasingly becoming important is how we will face long term impacts of working from home and schooling from home.

Many home-workers know the challenge of staying connected and engaged. The temptation to stay in your pyjamas, eat spoonsful of peanut butter from the jar for lunch and lose yourself in cat videos is a dilemma! Creating powerful on-line connections for workers is critical to ensure we all remain driven to succeed and deliver on our personal and professional goals.

As I sit writing I can hear my daughter noodling on the piano and trying to learn how to play Alicia Keyes. Music has always been a compelling way for people to feel connected to something greater than themselves. I’ve done several narrative leadership sessions where we have co-developed playlists to define the group. On Monday our team will commence sharing calming songs to assist us in working from home by being virtually connected through music. My addition is Alma by Paolo Fresu and Omar Sosa – a wonderfully peaceful world-jazz piece. My team will be asked to add to the playlist so we can know that as we work from home we remain connected. Every morning we will have a video-conference for 15 minutes to run through the operational commitments for the day but also ensure we get to assess how people are feeling. Asking for emotional barometers from a professional workforce can seem odd- usually we expect our workers to have it all together. But these are unusual times and sharing concerns and fears is critical to building a united team.

We’re starting “best photo” competitions to share the outfits we work from home in. I’m expecting lots of business shirts up top and tracksuits below in an era of video-conferencing! Importantly we’re continuing to deliver services and go about our business as usual. Maintaining routine is critical for continued productivity and to build a sense of continuity. My teams will be reminded of the need to get up and move away from the desk- get some fresh air and sunshine and ensure they have some downtime too. The pressure on property management teams in managing potentially exposed space is immense and I need to find ways for them to disconnect and have the headspace to allow them to keep going.

Placemaking is usually considered to be in the domain of physical space but as we continue to work remotely it’s time for us to consider how we can deliver a sense of connection virtually. It’s less about selfies and more about connection. Who knows maybe we can elevate our joint sense of purpose in times of crisis through an online connection? We’re about to be tested, that’s for sure.