How to Support Your Team in a Virtual Setting

July 1, 2020 | Darrah L. Pilieri, APR

Several public relations agencies across the country have returned to working in their offices, but many of us remain working from home. Until we return to the in-office setting, it is important to continue investing in building vibrant relationships among a team – even virtually.

Providing a psychologically safe place for your colleagues is of paramount importance – not only for employee engagement and morale, but also for employee retention. But, how do you do that effectively in a virtual setting over a prolonged period?

While we are used to working at a distance, most often, with our clients, working virtually with our team members is a whole new world. We are reduced to images on a computer or names in an email. When working alongside a colleague in person, it is much easier to pick up on nonverbal cues and read emotions. Now that I am physically distanced from my colleagues, it took a few weeks to understand how I can effectively be there for my team.

There was no handbook. No set game plan. I had to call an audible.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have rippled through our lives in many ways, but don’t let it impact the way you connect with your colleagues. Here are a few ways you can support your team while working from home during (and maybe after) the pandemic.

Take care of yourself

You have heard the phrase, “You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.” The phrase couldn’t be truer during the pandemic. Self-care is the first step in being able to help others. If you are not taking the steps to nurture your own mind, body and spirit, you can’t possibly recognize the needs of others—much less anticipate them.

Sure, it may feel odd taking a vacation day when you haven’t been to the office in three months. But, if you need a day or two to unplug, feel inclined to do so and don’t feel apologetic. After all, you’ve, most likely, worked at the same rate you would, should you have been in the office.

“There was no handbook. No set game plan. I had to call an audible. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have rippled through our lives in many ways, but don’t let it impact the way you connect with your colleagues.”

Be empathetic

It is an emotional time for everyone. From remote work, to personal challenges, to feeling a loss of control during an event like this, all agency team members can partake in empathetic communication to help ensure your colleagues feel listened to and cared for.

When you notice a colleague is “off,” privately ask them how they are doing. I’ve reached out to my colleagues individually to show I am thinking of them and to give them a space to vent—judgement free—should they need it. You may find that is exactly what your teammate needed in that moment to help them get through their day. The more empathy and care you can express the better.

Don’t forget to socialize

When we work together in the office, it is easy to sporadically talk and collaborate with colleagues. Oftentimes, when the low-pressure, casual conversations take place, ideas are formed. Schedule one-on-one lunch or happy hour calls to connect about this project or that book. Although you are not physically together, you still should take the time to have the random conversations with your team, which can help generate big ideas—for your clients and your agency.

The past three months have forced us to change our way of working, living, thinking and connecting. Although it may feel like the coronavirus has stolen our inter-personal ways to connect with our team, it hasn’t. Stay resilient. Stay focused. You have the power to virtually lead your team to ensure continued engagement and comradery during this unprecedented time.