Best Practices for Working From Home on a Team

We all have our strengths and weaknesses — and as more and more of us work from home, those strengths and weaknesses can be compounded — or even reversed. Maybe a change in environment is exactly what the procrastinator needed to become more productive. Or maybe it’s an excuse for them to focus on their household chores instead of the work they should be doing.

Either way, our strengths and weaknesses define us. They especially define how we work together. By playing to our strengths in a team, we become much more productive overall. But by giving in to our weaknesses, we can easily derail a meeting and negatively influence our overall agenda.

Here are some best practices (and things to avoid) while working from home as a member of a team.

Ideas — Yours and Mine

The only thing better than a team member having an excellent idea is when you have an excellent idea — but either way, both are to be encouraged and celebrated.

If your team member has a great pitch or idea for solving a problem — it’s important to build them up and expand. Ask questions and help flesh out how it will work practically. Be cognizant of the potential negatives, but instead of saying it won’t work, do your best to brainstorm with them to find the path through.

In the same vein, when you have an interesting thought, share it! Don’t keep quiet — bright ideas are always desired in a team setting. Invite your team to help you work through the issues, and you’ll inspire them to contribute too.

Keep in mind — your goal should not be to dominate the conversation. Don’t speak over others, and don’t interrupt. But if you think your idea is great, let it be heard. And let your team members work with you to make it even better.

Keep the Ball Rolling

One of the worst feelings while participating in an online meeting is looking at the clock, realizing you’ve hit your allotted time for the meeting, and noting that your team hasn’t accomplished anything. Whether there were distractions, arguments, or confusion — it doesn’t matter. The time was unproductive, and you’re nobetter off after the meeting than you were before it.

One of the most valuable skills you can have in a team setting is being aware of everyone’s time. Encourage your team members to focus on the agenda. If a distraction comes up, try to shift the focus back to the issue at hand — respectfully. Online meetings become much less fun when you think your time is being wasted. Endeavour to be the person that keeps the team on track, and everyone will thank you for it.

If you do have someone that often derails the conversation, whether on purpose or by accident, remember to kindly thank them for their input on the topic, but encourage them to share their thoughts on the actual issue at hand.

Step Up and Take Action

Awkward silence can be the death of a productive meeting. When no one else is willing to speak up, strive to be the one that does. By taking action and moving the conversation forward, you encourage others to participate and you make sure that your meeting doesn’t run short with nothing of value said.

Use the tools you’re given to keep people engaged. Send photo examples or use the virtual whiteboards and other tools that modern video conferencing apps have en masse. If the conversation grinds to a halt, shift to a different angle and re-approach the issue. No matter what you do, by simply taking action, you’re providing a great value to all your team members. It’s much easier to work off of a catalyst then silence.

Again, the flipside here would be the quiet team members who seem to just be along for the ride. Some great methods for getting your quieter members to speak up can be assigning them something to research beforehand so they can prepare, or simply asking them directly to share their thoughts during the discussion. There generally aren’t any right or wrong answers during a meeting — it’s all about getting everyone’s input and crafting your solution to the problem in turn.

Remember to Keep It Light

Let’s face it — most meetings are boring. But they don’t need to be. While it’s important to focus on the task at hand, don’t be afraid to make jokes or show off your pets on camera. A little lightheartedness can go a long way — especially in these difficult times. Aspire to be the one that brightens the mood. You might be shocked at how much more productive and valuable a meeting can be when everyone isn’t dour and serious the entire time.

Above all, make sure to remind yourself and your teammates that while things may be tough right now, you are all resilient and you will make it through to sunnier days.