Remote working began three years ago for me, so in a sense, I’m prepared for the stay at home guidelines. However, as a coach who has also worked in an office for thirty years, it took a little adjusting when I transitioned to a home office.

Here are some things I learned to help keep a team together when physically separated.

1. Communication is key.

Communication is always essential for successful teams to operate. However, when you’re all working remotely, the need for even better communication is tenfold. Without the organic day-to-day interactions that are typical in an office setting, a lot of natural communication is lost. Passing each other’s office doors, meeting at the coffee station, having lunches together, and attending work events are all absent when we work remotely. It’s necessary to set up the normal day-to-day meetings with your team and coworkers, but it’s even more important to reach out individually to make sure everyone is handling the remote working and can stay productive while away from the office. It may require another phone call, email, text, or virtual meeting.

Be present when you’re communicating. It’s easier to become distracted or try to multitask when in a remote setting. As a result, sections of a meeting or communication get lost. Try to stay with the dialogue and give the rest of the team your full attention.

Setting up daily calls and check-ins, whether you’re management or not, is necessary to keep all communication lines continually open. Assumptions will be high when communication is low. Assumptions lead to more assumptions and/or bad decisions.  The moment an assumption occurs, the foundation of that relationship and potentially that business begins to crack. Work hard to keep the foundation reliable.

2. Show you care.

Every situation is different. Every person will have a different set of needs. And don’t forget, some have children in the home. Some have children who have significant behavioral/mental/emotional/physical issues that require more attention than yours. Others have parents they are caring for, while some have loud dogs. Many live alone and social distancing is actually social isolation, while some have a spouse working in the same “office” in the house, and others live in noisy locations. There are those who may be struggling with social distancing, while some are thriving. These situations are similar for bosses as well as employees. Remote working, especially if it’s new, requires some adjusting. Having compassion for your boss or employees can go a long way to keeping a team together and working as a unit.

Showing concern for each individual is significant while everyone is in home mode. Sending a coworker food, calling and not talking about work, sending flowers, or offering to listen when someone is struggling are meaningful gestures. Also, consider adjusting meeting times around a coworker’s childcare needs or giving unexpected days off to show you have compassion for what each person is experiencing. You’re in this together.

3. Hold yourself accountable.

Understanding your role on the team and in the organization will help guide you to a successful remote experience. The days are full of temptations and distractions. There is food always available. There are kids and dogs to play with, especially when the weather is beautiful outside. Maybe the mail just arrived, you need to cut the grass, or you meant to fix the grill. The list goes on. Remaining productive requires setting a schedule as close to mirroring your prior work schedule as possible. It may be challenging to stick with it every day, but the closer you can stick to a routine, the more productive you will be. You can make adjustments, but the schedule remains.

Challenge yourself to remain focused and vigilant during this time. What productive activities can you accomplish every day that make yourself, your team, and the organization better? What can you do to make a difference? One hour at a time and one day at a time.

4. Take breaks when breaks are needed.

The flip side of distractions is no distractions.  You could sit down at your desk and work without interruption all day and evening. The day turns to night, and you realize you forgot to eat. You go to bed and get up the next day and do it all over again. It’s not healthy to sit and work all day and night. It’s smart to take mental breaks from your day and get your body moving every hour or so.

There are plenty of examples of short breaks to take throughout the day. You can start by going for a walk, a run, or maybe a bike ride. Read more, eat a healthy snack, play with your children, get the mail, meditate, or call a family member or friend. Plan to get outside. Head to the grocery store while you listen to a podcast. Or simply take a ride in the car venturing through a park, by the ocean, or around a lake. Scheduling breaks helps keep you fresh and productive while at home. After all, you are more than your job.

However, if you need help, reach out to someone. The at-home experience may be a time when your technological experience gets tested, the news becomes too depressing, or life is just far too different. There are always people who can help us when situations get tough. 

5. Feed your passion.

And be careful about what you bring into your mind and body. Understanding what brings you happiness is a great start. Everyone has passions, or at the very least, hobbies. Watching too much news or getting caught up in following, or worse, arguing about politics can bring you and the folks around you down. Not having social interactions is challenging. Finding balance in what you allow into your mind and body is a must. Eating healthy foods as opposed to sugar and caffeine will help you stay focused, fresh, and creative. 

Balance your workday with motivating and uplifting people, activities, and content. It’s easy to get frustrated at the uncertainty and mixed messaging as it relates to this pandemic. However, you can stay in control of your attitude and mentality. Do those healthy things that make you happy, even if you have to temporarily do them alone, in small groups, or virtually. 

6. Go virtual for more than just work.

Most businesses, schools, churches, medical appointments, and events have gone virtual, and technology has come to the rescue throughout this crisis. However, we are social beings, and we are accustomed to being physically in the presence of other people. The COVID crisis has challenged this. Going virtual beyond work can bridge the gap to connectedness while kept at a distance from family, relatives, and friends. Virtual meetings with family and friends can help you stay connected to people you love.

This crisis may or may not be over for some time. Still, we can use our creativity to stay encouraged as we aim at maintaining positive attitudes, togetherness, and productivity at home.

We are in a different time, but one thing holds. For thousands of years, humans have adjusted to new circumstances, challenges, changes, and obstacles. Controlling only what we can control and letting the rest go is tough in times of crisis, but it’s also a healthy way of dealing with tragedy, grief, pressure, and uncertainty. We’re in this together.