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Remote work

Long-distance relationships are like remote work

April 15, 2020

I recently entered a long-distance relationship. I didn’t realise it at the time. I left my partner in our home in London and traveled to Spain right before shit got real and flights were canceled.

Now we’re entering the second month of a long distance relationship, with an indefinite amount of time remaining… Like many other couples who are navigating uncharted waters.

Meanwhile at work, I’ve been busy supporting our clients with the shift to remote teaming. It just dawned on me that the practical tips we’ve been encouraging to help teams work together effectively apply to any remote relationship.

1. You need some new ground rules

The way we behave as a team at work, or as a romantic couple is governed by unwritten rules and behaviours. Those old rules may no longer apply.

💕 One of our new ground rules is to keep communication to a minimum during the working day since we’re both more prone to distractions at the moment. As a couple, we never made our new rules explicit but at work you should.

👩‍💻 At work, taking an hour to define some new behaviours as a team is one of the most valuable conversations you can have during these testing times. Follow this exercise.

2. Commit to regular one-to-one time

💕 We know that 10pm is our time to catch up and we can rely on having one another's undivided attention.

👩‍💻 If you’re new to remote working, schedule weekly 121s with your direct reports. Avoid rescheduling or canceling if you can — it says “something more important came up”. More tips on how to have really effective, structured 121s here.

3. Make the effort for the conversation to work

💕 The conversation doesn’t always flow effortlessly. Neither of us have left the house for ages. Some evenings we run out of things to chit-chat about. Having a good question up your sleeve helps. We’re using Gottman’s Card Decks app every now and then.

👩‍💻 Whilst Gottman’s Card Decks are definitely not safe for work, we recommend starting every team meeting with an ice-breaker or a warm up question. You’ll learn something new about your teammates and increase participation for the rest of the meeting.

4. You don’t know how the other person is doing until you ask

💕 We can usually tell when one of us had a shitty day. It’s harder to pick up on non-verbal cues now. So ask. How are you feeling? How was today compared to other days in times of Corona?

👩‍💻 The same goes for your colleagues. Your one-to-ones and team meetings are good opportunities to ask people how they are feeling, both in and out of work. We also recommend launching a quick survey to check whether the team feels like it's on track.

5. Turn cameras on

💕 Seeing each other helps reinforce bonds. And it’s a nice reminder of what he looks like — not too shabby if I say so myself!

👩‍💻 The face to face interaction helps you communicate with your colleagues — you can spot an eye-roll or a smile. You’re also less likely to scroll instagram or check emails.

6. Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive 🎵

💕 Every now and then we remind each other that we've always made it through and that we’ll be stronger at the end of this.

👩‍💻 At work, focus on what is going well — now more than ever you need to celebrate successes, however small.

  • Recall other times of adversity and how you came through as a team.
  • Reframe the new challenges you’re presented with as opportunities.

Just because we're physically distanced from our colleagues and partners doesn't mean we have to be emotionally distant.

At Saberr we're experts in teamwork, so take the couples advice with a pinch of salt!

To learn more about how we're helping organisations transition to remote teaming contact us at support@saberr.com or request a demo.

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