Making the move from being with your team in a building to all working from home was something we wouldn’t have imagined in January this year. That changed for most of us overnight.
However, that’s business as usual for Tessitura Network. We are a remote team with 240 staff working across five countries, all from their own homes. This was a choice made nearly 20 years ago and with an 80% staff retention rate and 95% client retention rate, it is clearly an effective business model.
Having previously worked in venues, most recently as Strategic Director at Wales Millennium Centre, I was used to teams being physically together and always under one roof. Any new role is a challenge, but becoming Managing Director for Tessitura Europe last January posed a challenge I hadn’t faced before – managing remotely.
Effective leadership is not always one size fits all, but a lot of the existing theory does assume the team is physically together. So how do you keep your team motivated when you’re all in separate locations? Here’s some things I’ve learnt:
In a physical environment, the opportunity for conversations are often limitless: the office, meetings, quick catch ups, the kitchen. When working remotely, you must plan these opportunities to ensure that key messages and information are understood and support staff wellbeing. Begin with over-communicating to make sure that everyone is getting the right message and no one feels isolated. There are a number of channels we communicate through to ensure everyone is kept up-to-date in a way they feel comfortable, such as staff meetings (which are recorded for those who can’t attend), one-to-ones on camera, instant message tools, and a virtual notice board.
The right message at the right time is always important. Ensuring you have the right tools to deliver that message is key when working remotely. Being involved, included and informed gives everyone their purpose and it’s essential in keeping the team engaged and motivated. Investing in robust technology is a must; at a minimum I’d suggest having:
- A secure, reliable video conference platform
- Instant chat tool for quick conversations (both work and social)
- Virtual “notice board” for companywide messages and sharing
Feeling part of a team is vital to motivation and those chats around the kitchen area may well be the first thing people miss as they work from home. We use a group on our online company noticeboard for everyone to share family photos, cartoons, and jokes along with other spaces for more specialised interests such as baking and crafts. A virtual after work drink or activity helps too. Without an office space, making the time for these personal connections is key to keeping teams connected with each other.
We have all heard the light-hearted comments about being productive in your pyjamas when a colleague works from home, but if these jokes become a perceived pressure then that becomes added stress for your team and can perpetuate the myth that working from home is not productive. Tessitura Network has grown from working with one organisation to now over 700 arts and cultural organisations in ten countries through a team that are all based from home. We know for a fact that where you work does not impact productivity – keeping your team motivated and engaged does. Trusting that your team will continue to deliver and knowing they trust you to support them is most important.
Regardless of location, being passionate about your role is the ultimate in motivation. As a not-for-profit organisation we live by our mission to advance the business of arts and culture. Every team member is committed to that mission because they understand their part in achieving it. They understand because we talk openly and honestly, provide tools and trust each other, which is what being part of a team is all about.
A new world is emerging with new ways of working. Trust that if you communicate openly, and provide the space and tools to connect, your team will continue to be motivated and be ready for whatever comes next.