During the pandemic, maintaining a positive company culture, conducting training, and delivering vital information to staff has been a challenge, but we have been excited to embrace this new future of working online at Allstate.
With research and trial and error, we have discovered that our teams thrive by using new technologies and focusing on leadership and clear communication during this time.
Online Platforms for Team Collaboration
Old-school technologies like the humble telephone have never been conducive to productive meetings. However, with the rise of modern platforms for seamless video conferencing, we can conduct incredibly effective discussions, seminars, and training, even with the added challenge of remote work.
How people talk is often just as important as what they say. Using Microsoft Teams and Zoom, we can easily observe body language, accurately hear the tone of voice, and physically see what people are talking about. As a result, holding discussions remotely is no longer the barrier that it once was, even in a large business.
Microsoft Teams also provides the opportunity for online file management, so that we can send, receive, and store files for seamless collaboration between different teams, business areas, and locations. Our team leaders use these apps to help encourage team productivity, reduce isolation in remote teams, and seamlessly manage in-house and remote workers.
How We Build Leadership Through COVID-19
Resilient and trustworthy leadership is integral to the success of businesses during COVID-19. At Allstate, we are building trust by providing consistency and structure despite our current confusing world.
We understand that there are many different roles throughout our company, and each role and person in that role has different needs when it comes to working remotely.
As such, we work with our team members to define working agreements and workplace norms. We seek out their input, clearly define their roles, and help them navigate their responsibilities, goals, and tasks to work toward. With these changes, we believe our staff will continue to thrive in the remote environment, and new hires will be able to be seamlessly integrated into the business.
To promote equality and transparency amongst our team no matter where they are located, we strive to proactively communicate and share information openly (where information is not confidential or sensitive in nature). We also encourage our managers to promote team cohesiveness by treating all team members equally and not having favourites.
As some team members may feel disconnected by working remotely, we acknowledge the importance of recognising and rewarding people for a job well done. Therefore, we urge team leaders to reward team members equally and only provide negative feedback confidentially.
Even while working remotely, everyone should be given the same opportunities, and task delegation should always be shared equally. By maintaining a balanced workload, team members will thrive.
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Just like your in-house team, your remote workers need the right tools to be successful. We remove roadblocks by providing the appropriate tools and equipment like laptops, phones, and even internet bill rebates to remote workers. We also encourage team leaders to be mindful of time zones and international/interstate holidays to cultivate cross-cultural awareness.
Remote working can still be challenging for some team members, even with all these considerations. That’s why it’s essential to create opportunities for in-person team interactions where possible. When travel and COVID restrictions allow, you can arrange one-on-one or small group meetings face-to-face for some respite from remote working.
In some instances, your team may be a mix of remote and on-site. In these cases, task delegation should be fair across both teams. We also suggest that leaders allow on-site teams some flexibility similar to remote workers, like starting later or finishing earlier.
Communication is key when it comes to managing a mix of in-house and remote teams. Excellent communication ensures that all team members can be afforded the same or similar opportunities, perks, and information no matter where they work from.
Nurturing Team Culture and Connection
Nurturing team culture and connection can seem daunting with the added complexity of remote work, but managers and leaders play an essential role in connecting the remote team to the broader business. A great manager can nurture, guide, and support all team members.
We encourage our team leaders to support remote workers through structured check-ins, where team members know their questions and concerns will be heard, creating time for sharing non-work topics like birthdays and hobbies, and using video calling to reduce isolation and encourage connection.
By combining these elements and maintaining a focus on strong leadership, transparent communication, and team connectivity, Allstate has continued to thrive throughout COVID. We are incredibly proud of our team leadership, in-house and remote team members, and continuously search for new and innovative ways to improve their work during the pandemic.