From sparking creative thinking to boosting team morale, here are five ways you can optimise your team's productivity, boost wellbeing, and keep your employees connected and motivated as you transition into working across office and home locations once lockdown lifts.

Adopting new ways of working with staggered shift patterns and flexible working locations presents a new challenge and many questions for management teams. How do I make the most of employees’ time spent in the office? And how do I make sure team members working from home still feel involved and part of the bigger picture?

Follow these tips to gain the most value from your team as a whole, by boosting their engagement and happiness both inside and outside of the office.

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When members of your team are in the office...

Aim to make face-to-face meetings as productive as possible

A key reason to travel into the office for many teams is to make the most of face-to-face meetings. These are often more productive and focused. Facial expressions, body language and natural in-person interactions can help with clearer communication.

According to a study by Great Business Schools, over four in five people prefer in-person meetings and they generate almost 30% more ideas than virtual meetings on average. So clearly, a lot can be gained from face-to-face meetings.

Make sure you create a clear agenda beforehand. This will give your meeting direction and value for staff coming into the office. Set out achievable objectives and try to share these virtually, along with the agenda, three days in advance with any relevant documents to help your team prepare and stay on track.

Actively involve members of the team who cannot attend in person. Dial them in over video call and encourage them to contribute ideas – make a concerted effort to ask them questions and engage them in the conversation to involve them. Create a space where virtual meeting attendees feel as comfortable to communicate thoughts as those who are physically present.

Turn your meeting room into a no laptop or phone zone. Assign one person to take minutes, and then free your meeting room of laptops and phones. This will encourage your team to bounce ideas off one another instead of hiding behind a screen – when you have half an eye on your emails, it’s almost impossible to stay fully present.

Share meeting notes via email and encourage your team to feed in. Try to do this as quickly as possible while thoughts from the meeting are still fresh. Think about inviting your team to a shared Google Doc so those who are unable to attend can still add their ideas into the meeting minutes.  

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Get the creative juices flowing

“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.” – Steve Jobs, American business magnate and co-founder of Apple

Indeed, time together in the office can be well spent leveraging creative thinking. Make the most of these rare hours together by sparking new innovative ideas and problem-solve through brainstorming. 

• Withhold criticism and welcome unusual ideas. In order to build as many ideas in a short amount of time as possible, flip the “quality over quantity” notion and opt for “quantity over quality.” Foster a non-judgmental, open environment in which team members feel comfortable voicing every idea, no matter how unique, far-fetched or unachievable. Use independent time apart to then build out those ideas that shine. 

• Try brainwriting yes, really. This involves group members anonymously writing down as many ideas as they can on a post-it note or index card, then pinning these to a board to discuss in greater depth. This will allow more introverted employees to contribute more freely. You can also involve staff working from home by asking them to email their ideas prior to your brainwriting session to display alongside the others. 

• Prioritise problem-solving. The problem-solving process comes much more naturally in person and can be far more fruitful. Before you meet in the office, identify the problem you wish to tackle and then set aside time to work on creative solutions to crack it together.

Focus on boosting team morale.

When a team is split across locations, morale can take a hit. Use team time in the office to elevate spirits and build stronger relationships.

Strike up conversations that don’t involve work. A big drawback to working from home is the lack of spontaneous conversations unrelated to work. So-called “water cooler” conversations can help your team let off some steam, increase employee bonding, and brighten their day.

• Hold individual meetings. Being in the same place can be a great opportunity to check in with team members face-to-face, allowing them to open up more readily than on a video call. Find out if they have any wellbeing worries, aim to set work goals and ask for feedback on your management style. Make sure you still hold virtual meetings with team members unable to meet face-to-face.

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When members of your team are working from home... 

Keep your eye on the end goal and measure success differently.

Success is no longer measured by hours spent in the office, but rather goals met and tasks completed. For many, this is a positive shift in perspective that could stick for management teams long-term.

Have clear and detailed deliverables. For both those working from home and in the office, think about providing more detailed descriptions of tasks and give your team the freedom to execute them in their preferred way.

Acknowledge and reward great work. Perkbox is a great platform to reward success. It brings employee benefits, wellbeing, feedback and recognition together in one place.

Don’t leave anyone out of the loop. 

When some members of a team are working separately, it’s all too easy to become disconnected in your work. Keep everybody in the loop to drive work tasks forward effectively.

• Think about virtual daily or weekly stand-ups. Start each week with a check-in in which each member takes a couple of minutes to report to the team on progress made and their plans for the week ahead. 

• Share important in-person discussions with the whole team. As employees shift between working from home and in the office, make sure important conversations and ideas shared are forwarded on to those who were not present at the time. This will keep your team working as one and minimise feelings of isolation.

Read how CEOs can keep their remote workforce connected and happy for more tips on the technological tools available to beat FaceTime fatigue and win over your workforce. 

For helpful advice and up-to-date resources on how to navigate your business through COVID-19 and beyond head to our Back to Business Hub.