Teamwork in the time of corona: six tips

8 Apr 2020 12:08 | Centre for Applied Research Economics and Management

For the past few weeks we’ve been living in a different reality in the Netherlands and at the AUAS. We work at home and this will be the case for a while. This raises questions: how can AUAS employees work well in teams at a distance? What should you do and what is better to just let go?

AUAS professor of Team Professionalisation, Daniël van Middelkoop, along with his research group and advisor Karin Derksen, are organising a webinar on 17 April: Teamwork in the time of corona (fully booked, but there are spots on the waiting list). During the webinar, they will share tips and answer questions. For those who are unable to attend, Van Middelkoop and AUAS coach Peter van Dijk share their top tips for AUAS teams working from home.

Tip 1: Be realistic

The new situation creates challenges and new tasks at work, and for some this happens in a complex home situation with children, partners or while caring for loved ones. Tasks take longer, or require more energy. Discuss the home situation with each other and do not assume that everyone has a home situation in which they can work with full concertation all day.

Discuss with each other what has priority, what is achievable and what can wait or be tackled differently in this situation. A healthy dose of pragmatism can be very helpful here. Don't overcompensate by making up for a lot of 'lost time' in the evening or during the weekend. Get enough rest and relaxation, so that you have energy to carry on the following day.

Tip 2: Discuss goals and roles

Especially in this situation, it is important to redefine your goals as a team: what do we want to achieve and what does that require from us in the coming period? What will change in the roles and tasks in the team? Assess this together and get additional help where necessary.

Tip 3: Make time for personal contact

Teams also have a social function and the corona crisis has an impact on everyone. Make time for personal conversations: take care of each other. Pay attention to your colleagues and reach out to others when you could use some attention yourself.

Tip 4: Start new routines and make clear agreements

We’re used to stopping by colleagues’ desks to discuss appointments or ask a questions. This is more difficult remotely. Make clear agreements together: when can you be reached and when will you be offline? Who makes which decisions, what are the deadlines and where can you ask questions?

Start new routines by, for example, planning a fixed moment in the week for meetings and making clear agreements about how these meetings are organised. Think in advance about how you will have discussions with each other. Appoint a facilitator per online meeting who will keep an eye on time, distribute speaking time and steer the discussion in the right direction.

Tip 5: Usage of digital tools

Discuss which digital tools you will use for which purposes. Video conversations (e.g. MS Teams or Zoom) are suitable for discussing major themes and topics and boost social cohesion. Chats or Skype audio are handy for asking quick questions and e-mail is useful for summarising and confirming agreements.

Tip 6: Testing and learning

In this new situation, teams are looking for new ways of working together. This is a complex learning experience. Try things out, discuss how it’s going and make adjustments where necessary. It’s ok to make mistakes.

Webinar: Teamwork in the time of corona

Are you interested in attending the free webinar (which will be held in Dutch), on 17 April from 9:00 – 10:30? The webinar is currently fully booked, but there is a waiting list. It’s also possible to receive a recording of the webinar afterwards and an extra webinar may also be organised. If you are interested in any of these options please sign up here.

Padlet about teamwork in times of corona

The organizers of the webinar have created a Padlet page about teamwork in times of corona. This page has plenty of information (in Dutch) about remote teamwork and is open to everyone. View the Padlet.

Research on HBO teamwork: room for improvement!

Teamwork is a given in higher education, but this doesn’t guarantee good teamwork. Commissioned by Zestor, The AUAS research group Team Professionalisation conducted research into teams working in higher professional education, in collaboration with external partner Karin Derksen and Arjen Kaarsemaker. Read the results of this two-year study in the (Dutch) report, Samen sterk of nog meer werk?