Inspiration to keep your team connected while they’re physically apart.

Your team may be physically apart right now, but given the stress and uncertainty we’re all living with, they still need to feel connected, both to one another and to a sense of the value of their work. That’s where a strong company culture is important, but how do you maintain one at a distance?

The answer to this question will be different for each company depending on their values and resources. But it certainly can’t hurt to see what other small businesses are doing in search for inspiration.

Which is why a recent Medium post by Mathilde Collin, the co-founder and CEO of app Front, is so useful. In it, Collin lays out in detail 25 ways her company has translated their strong in-person culture to their new remote reality. It’s packed with ideas that can help you figure out how to keep your team psychologically knitted together during this challenging time, including:

A companywide AMA: “I host a weekly AMA (ask me anything) on Wednesday mornings. We use the app Slido so the team can submit and upvote questions from the whole company before and during this session.”

A #life-wfh Slack channel: “We created a #life-wfh Slack channel for employees to continue to connect socially and for people to post resources about working remotely, articles with ideas of fun things to do indoors, etc.”

Midweek meditation: “We typically have a guided meditation session every Wednesday through Journey Meditation. Now we hold it virtually over Zoom.”

Employee assistance program: “We have a program to provide confidential counseling service to help the team with challenges relating to work, family, stress, finances, and other personal issues.”

Books for parents: “We shipped age-appropriate books to Fronteers who are parents so they can read to their children while working from home. They were vetted by a master librarian: Real Friends by Shannon Hale, New Kidby Jerry Craft, The Hero Next Doorby Various, Wonderby R.J. Palacio, Thank You, Omu!by Oge Mora, and Mix It Upby Hervé Tullet.”

Bonusly cookies for charity: “We use Bonusly, a tool that allows us to award each other with virtual cookies for living out our company values. You can then buy things on the Bonusly marketplace, like Starbucks or Amazon gift cards. Now the team can donate to the WHO Covid-19 response fund using their cookies if they want to give back.”

Virtual game night: “Normally, we hold a monthly game night where we play games or build with LEGOs. Now that we’re remote, we play virtual versions of Codenames, Werewolf, Mario Kart, Settlers of Catan, and more using Board Game Arena, Colonist, Netflix Party, and Nintendo Switch Online.”

Lunch for five: “We usually have a randomizer that selects five people from across the company each week to get a stipend and go out to lunch together. The goal is to encourage cross-functional bonding with people you might not work with day to day. This continues to run, but instead people can order delivery and hop on a Zoom call to eat and chat.”

Birthday shout-outs: “Usually we love to celebrate birthdays in the office, and we’ll order treats once a month to honor all the birthdays that month. Now we’re giving virtual shout-outs in our #random Slack channel.”

Cards for loved ones: “Usually the end of the quarter is particularly busy for our sales team. We mailed them a letter reminding them of how much their work means to us and included blank cards for them to send to their loved ones during this tough time.”

What is your company doing to keep your culture going in the midst of the crisis?


This article was written by Hari Srinivasan, March 12, 2020 for Linked In:–these-resources-can-help March 30, 2020

Here’s a funny video ShareGate made about what a nightmare we perceive “moving to the cloud” to be… and what it is really like.

Almost overnight, remote work has become mainstream. Companies around the world are encouraging their employees to work from home to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce and communities amid coronavirus. Working through this rapid change can be hard. Linked In is moving quickly to help members get information they can trust, stay connected to their community and learn now to be more productive and successful in their jobs.

Since January 2020 “remote working” searches on LinkedIn Learning have tripled as both employees and managers increasingly look for advice on how to navigate the challenges of working remotely and managing a remote workforce.

LinkedIn now have a free learning path with 16 online courses that can help. These courses feature top tips from remote work experts to figure out how to:

Maximize Efficiency and Productivity of Remote Work 

New to working from home? These courses provide work/life hacks that can help you create a productive remote work environment, optimize your schedule for peak productivity (including meaningful breaks to help you avoid burnout), and show up the way you want to on video conference calls:

Manage the Impact of Adjusting to Your New Work Environment

Your well-being is inextricably linked to productivity. The transition from an office environment to a remote work environment can throw us off balance. Learn how to bounce back and shift the relationship with your stress response with the help of these courses:

Remotely Manage and Lead Teams 

Managing and leading teams under normal circumstances has its challenges. So, how do you lead a team remotely and make sure to keep your people engaged? Learn how to encourage productivity, engagement and boost morale remotely with the following courses:

Get to Know Your Remote Work Productivity Tools 

For many of us, a new work environment means new virtual technology. Get to know the productivity tools that will help you connect with colleagues when you’re not in the same physical location:

Whether you’re new to remote work and looking for tips on how to be productive in your new home office, or you’re leading a team and looking for ways to keep your employees connected, we hope these resources can help you on your path to becoming more effective regardless of where you are.

LinkedIn is here to help you navigate the changing world of work with information and resources, including free and relevant LinkedIn Learning courses to help.

This article was written by Hari Srinivasan, March 12, 2020 for Linked In:–these-resources-can-help March 30, 2020

Tech exec, VCs, and analysts—from WhatsApp’s Will Cathcart to AOL cofounder Steve Case—on the pandemic’s lasting impact on how we live, work, and think.

We’re four weeks into the massive time-out forced on us by coronavirus. Many of us have spent much of that time trying to get used to the radical lifestyle change the virus has brought. But we’re also beginning to think about the end of the crisis, and what the world will look like afterward.

So it’s a good time to round up some opinions about how the pandemic might change how we think about various aspects of life and work. We asked some executives, venture capitalists, and analysts for thoughts on the specific changes they expected to see in their worlds.

Naturally, many of them tended to see the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis in optimistic terms, at least when it comes to their own products, ideas, and causes. And at least some of them are probably right. But the general themes in their comments add up to preview of what might be ahead for tech companies and consumers once the virus is no longer the biggest news story in the world.

The responses below have been edited for publication.


Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare
The pandemic has resulted in what is effectively the largest “work from home” experiment ever conducted in human history . . . We’re seeing the effect on the internet, in terms of traffic patterns that are shifting. People are accessing more educational resources online for their kids; finding unconventional ways to connect with coworkers, friends, and family; and employers are being more flexible in how they respond to employee needs through more dynamic, cloud-based technology. I think we’ll see these shifts last well beyond the immediate fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Microsoft 365
This time will go down as a turning point for the way people work and learn. We have a time machine as China navigates its return back to work—and we’re not seeing usage of Microsoft Teams dip. People are carrying what they learned and experienced from remote work back to their “new normal.” We’re learning so much about sustained remote work during this time.

Jeff Richards, partner at the venture capital firm GGV Capital
I travel over 200,000 miles per year for work. Now that doing board meetings, interviews, and other mission-critical meetings via video chat has been normalized, will I reduce my travel? I don’t know, but I definitely think it’s a behavior shift that will stick. In the past, if you joined via video, you were thought of as “mailing it in.” Now it’s become an accepted form of participation. Net/net, I still think we’ll see corporate travel [come back], as nothing is better than an in-person meeting with a customer or exec hire candidate. But for routine meetings, I think we are going to see a lot more video. I also think Zoom has crossed the rubicon from “corporate” to “consumer” as everyone in my family age 5-75 now knows how to use it. That’s a game-changer.

Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies
We talked to CIOs recently, and they told us that they are becoming more comfortable with at least some of their staff working from home. Two CIOs even quantified it by saying they might consider letting as much as 25% of their staff work from home. That would mean less people in the office, and in turn, possibly less demand for office space. I believe that this could signal the death of open space work environments. The experience with COVID-19 will for years make people more aware of working in shoulder-to-shoulder open offices where it is easy for viruses to spread.

Eva Chen, CEO at Trend Micro
The COVID-19 experience will . . . build our courage to adopt new patterns to fix antiquated processes. As a result, organizations will ditch the notion of having a big office and revert back to a small-town model of working in cluster offices with more remote work. Even more so, company “headquarters” will be located in the cloud, shifting how we protect enterprise data in the virtual cloud and how we secure data from more diverse endpoints.

Sampriti Ganguli, CEO of the social venture firm Arabella Advisors
We are . . . all becoming “BBC Man,” meaning our kids and dogs routinely rush our meetings. We’ve probably crossed the chasm between what is acceptable in the office and what is acceptable at home, and in many ways, these more intimate moments allow us to have deeper and more meaningful connections as humans. I don’t think we’re going back to a world of working mostly from offices anytime soon, and as such, there are new business norms that work for home and work.

Steve Case, cofounder AOL, CEO and chairman of Revolution
[We] believe the COVID-19 pandemic will encourage people—entrepreneurs, investors, and employees—to consider opportunities outside of the coastal tech hubs. People who have been considering a move, to tap into the sector expertise (healthcare, food and agriculture, etc.) that exists in many parts of the country, or for a lifestyle change, or to be near family and friends, may choose this moment to relocate, accelerating a talent boomerang, and helping emerging startup cities rise. On top of that, the increased willingness to accept remote working as a viable arrangement following this prolonged work-from-home period will further propel this trend.

Vivek Ravisankar, CEO and cofounder of programming-challenge platform HackerRank
Remote hiring of technical talent will become the norm, accelerated by the normalization of remote work. This is a win-win for the economy and the talent pool, as it allows companies to fill positions quickly with qualified talent and opens up high-paying tech positions to developers everywhere. We were already seeing the shift toward prioritizing skills over pedigree in hiring. That will now evolve to skills over geography, making our tech talent pool more diverse, and our businesses and economy stronger.

AJ Shankar, CEO and cofounder of Everlaw
In the modern work environment, real-time communication mediums like chat allow for a certain blurring of the line between personal life and work life, an “always-on” mentality. But now, in a COVID world, that line has never been more blurred: There is no physical separation at all. So I predict that expectations around availability will change—for the better. For employee-friendly companies, evening hours will ultimately revert to family or personal time, as they should. This won’t happen automatically; a change in mindset and process is required.


Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger, Facebook
It’s becoming more clear every day that the way people are using technology to spend quality time with loved ones, engage with businesses, and perform their jobs is fundamentally shifting to a new normal. Loved ones who hadn’t seen each other in years are now seeing each other daily, people are getting creative with virtual happy hours and keeping up with their formerly “physical” lives with shared workouts and virtual birthday parties on products like Messenger. Of course, there will be some tough consequences when we come out the other side of this, but I believe the growing acceptance of technology to help us feel connected will have lasting benefits.

Michael Hendrix, partner and global design director, Ideo
Right now, the virus seems like an accelerator for digital change that was already underway . . . the surprise has been to see the resistance to this digital change suddenly evaporate. What organizations resisted for a decade is now core to survival and innovation. It is exciting, because this digital mindset will persist, and it is highly unlikely companies will try to return to what worked prior to the pandemic.

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, CEO and president (respectively) of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini
The pandemic has forced the government to intervene in the economy in ways that are completely unprecedented. The Faustian bargain of money printing and debt accumulation will cause people to reevaluate fiat currency regimes altogether. At some point, people will start to question the value of the dollars they hold and what will happen when the inevitable day of debt reckoning arrives.

Alex Farr, founder and CEO of voice tech company Zammo
Using videoconferencing is not only going to become a more common part of life due to this pandemic—the way it shows up through our tech devices will multiply. At work and at home, we’ll ask voice assistants to call our client, our boss, our mom, our friends, and on command, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, etc., will take us right to those live video conversations.

Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp
As people have been forced physically apart we’ve seen them make far more video calls on WhatsApp than ever before. These are intimate and private conversations that people expect no one else should see–no different than if you were talking in person. Not criminals, not hackers, not even a company. I believe that our shared experience of being physically isolated from one another will cause us to appreciate and value the privacy and security that comes with end-to-end encryption even more than we did before.


Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw-Hill
The change we are seeing right now in education is not something that is likely to revert back to “normal” in the fall. Although teachers will always be integral to the education process, there will need to be continued flexibility and agility when it comes to things like the delivery of content, testing, and grading. I expect that we will see an increase in blended learning environments that include learning in both the physical classroom setting and online.

Adam Enbar, CEO of Flatiron School
Right now, educators are relying on Zoom and Slack to teach and engage with students. We’re realizing it’s falling short in replicating the classroom experience, but the truth is that it was never meant to be a substitute. In fact, no ed-tech tool or platform can or should replicate the in-person classroom; tech’s role is to create new experiences altogether. Nothing spurs innovation like people experiencing problems. When things are back to normal, Zoom and Slack usage will go down—and that’s okay. Instead, we’ll see a boom in technology that is built by entrepreneurs looking to create entirely new experiences custom to the remote education or work experience.

Sal Khan, founder and CEO of educational nonprofit Khan Academy
The need for online access and devices in every home is now so dire that it may finally mobilize society to treat internet connectivity as a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. We’re already seeing governments, school districts, philanthropists, and corporations step up to close the digital divide. If this continues to happen, we could get to a state of nearly universal online access at home.


Dr. Claire Novorol, cofounder and chief medical officer, Ada Health
The adoption of digital health tools—from assessment services to telemedicine—has rapidly accelerated, with healthcare organizations across the world looking to digital solutions to support their efforts against the pandemic, and health tech companies keen to rise to the occasion in support of healthcare payers, providers and patients alike. It’s clear that we are witnessing a step-change in the adoption of digital health solutions, and that this has long-term potential. The healthcare industry will be greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and we can expect digital health technologies to form an essential part of the way forward.

Pat Combes, worldwide technical leader, healthcare and life sciences at AWS
The biggest barrier to ensuring doctors have the most complete medical history on any patient, at every point of their care, is the lack of interoperability among systems, preventing data and electronic health records from following a patient throughout their care journey. Bringing this information together is a manual and time-consuming process. But, this is one of those pivotal moments in time when we have an opportunity to identify and work to fix the underlying problems that plague our system, with so many researchers, health systems, governments, and enterprises pooling efforts and data to better understand and combat COVID-19.

Ara Katz, cofounder and co-CEO, Seed Health
At a time when misinformation is especially rampant, and in many recent cases, dangerous, it is imperative that those working in science collectively steward and uphold a standard for how information is translated and shared to the public. COVID-19 is a reminder of how science informs decisions, shapes policy, and can save lives. The antidote to this current infodemic may be as important to our collective future as a vaccine.

Harry Ritter, founder and CEO of wellness professional community Alma
There will be a monumental shift in attitudes toward mental health. [S]ociety, having experienced this collective trauma and grief, will develop new levels of empathy and a willingness to talk about mental healthcare as an essential part of healthcare in ways we have not seen before. Employers are already seeing how emotional well-being is factoring into their workforce’s ability to perform under stress. Ideally they will come out of this better able to recognize their obligation to prioritize mental healthcare as an employee benefit.

Peter Chapman, CEO and president, quantum-computing company IonQ
Within the next 12 to 18 months, we’re expecting quantum computers to start to routinely solve problems that supercomputers and cloud computing cannot. When humanity faces the next pandemic, I’m hopeful that a quantum computer will be able to model the virus, its interactions within the human body that will drive possible solutions, and limit the future economic damage and human suffering.


David Barrett, CEO and founder of Expensify
The COVID-19 crisis has swiftly exposed the fragile underbellies of many companies, especially those in tech that have been propped up by huge funding rounds and strategies that require massive monthly burn rates. They’re now teetering on the edge of collapse, with most facing layoffs across the board and some searching for buyers as a last resort. On the other hand, profitable companies . . . are simply tightening their belts and carrying on with business (mostly) as usual. Going forward, investors’ mindsets and qualifications about what constitutes a truly “valuable” company will change. Rather than focusing on the quantitative aspects like funding rounds and revenue, investors will place a greater emphasis on the qualitative aspects, such as an organization’s structure, team, culture, flexibility, and profitability.

Sean Park, CIO & cofounder at venture platform Anthemis
COVID-19 has put a sudden halt on fast money and “FOMO” investing, forcing the VC industry to slow down, resist the inclination to follow the herd, and refocus on more robust due diligence and analysis. Thesis-driven investors will be able to take the time to spend a month or two (or three) to really get to know the team, understand the business model, capital structure, and the market before closing a deal.


Michael Masserman, global head of policy and social impact, Lyft
As we look to the reopening of cities, people will be looking for affordable, reliable ways to stay socially distant while commuting, including turning to transportation options such as ride share, bike share, and scooters. There will also be an opportunity for local governments, as well as key advocates and stakeholders, to consider reshaping our cities to be built around people and not cars.

Avi Meir, cofounder and CEO, TravelPerk
Countries and regions will emerge from lockdown at different paces, leading to “corridors of travel” between destinations opening back up one by one. We’re already beginning to see early signs of a modest pickup in travel again in Asia Pacific, as the local pressure of the virus lessens. When travel does begin to resume, domestic travel will be first. For most countries, that means taking a train, not least because they’re less crowded.


Ed Barriball, partner in McKinsey’s Manufacturing and Supply Chain Practice
In the short term, companies are concerned about the shortages of critical goods across the supply chain, and some are looking for alternative sources closer to home. In the long term, once we emerge from the current crisis, we expect businesses and governments to focus on better quantifying the risks faced and incorporating potential losses into business cases. These businesses will model the size and impact of various shock scenarios to determine actions they should take to rebuild their supply chains and simultaneously build resilience for the future. These actions could include bringing suppliers closer to home but could also include a range of other resilience investments.

Amar Hanspal, former CEO at Autodesk and now CEO at Bright Machines
This pandemic will have a lasting impact . . . on the way physical products are made. Customers I talk to are grappling with supply chain and factory disruptions across the globe. This has been a wake-up call to manufacturers. The current way of building products in centralized factories with low-cost labor halfway around the world simply can’t weather storms of uncertainty. Moving forward, factories and supply chains will require, and businesses will mandate, much more resilient manufacturing through nearshoring and even onshoring, full automation, and software-based management.


Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of the Stanford
In times of great uncertainty, the most critical skill is to be able to adapt as conditions change. This is a kind of ambidexterity: focusing on surviving in the current moment while you also build toward thriving in a future that will look different. To get there, successful leaders are creating and holding space in organizations for people to be generative, despite the challenging and stressful environment. Drawing from one of the fundamental strengths of design: by separating the process of generating ideas from critiquing and selecting them, we are seeing organizations and individuals rewarded with a far wider range of potential solutions.

Will Lopez, head of accountant community at HR platform Gusto
COVID-19 isn’t the end of brick-and-mortar stores—they’re vital to our communities and our economy—but the way they operate will change. This crisis will force small businesses that have historically relied on foot traffic as their main source of income to develop alternative revenue streams so they can weather the next major event. For example, many restaurants might permanently link up with delivery service platforms or expand their geographic reach via ghost kitchens, and more boutiques will develop an online presence that reaches beyond their local neighborhoods.

This article was written by MARK SULLIVAN
April 04, 2020, for Fast Company: March 30, 2020

Many leaders have crossed the first hurdles of moving their teams remote: ensuring colleagues have set up their tech tools, defined their processes, and permanently logged into their video conference accounts.

But this is just the first step towards creating an effective work environment for remote employees. The next critical question we must ask is: How do you motivate people who work from home?

This question is important now because, during crises such as Covid-19, people often tend to focus more on tactical work — answering the right number of tickets, or following the approved project plan — rather than adapting to solve the bigger, newer problems the business may be facing.

But some teams rise above the rest in times of turmoil, regardless of the challenges. They win market share. They earn life-long customer love. They keep their productivity high, or higher. In other words, they adapt. Though the academic research on remote productivity is mixed, with some saying it declines while others promise it increases, our research suggests that your success will depend on how you do it.

First, it’s important to note that right now, working from home is likely to reduce motivation.

Between 2010 and 2015, we surveyed more than 20,000 workers around the world, analyzed more than 50 major companies, and conducted scores of experiments to figure out what motivates people, including how much working from home plays into the equation.

When we measured the total motivation of people who worked from home versus the office, we found that working from home was less motivating. Even worse, when people had no choice in where they worked, the differences were enormous. Total motivation dropped 17 points, the equivalent of moving from one of the best to one of the most miserable cultures in their industries.

We identified three negative motivators that often lead to reduced work performance. These have likely spiked in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Emotional pressure and economic pressure are soaring as people worry about losing their jobs, paying their rent, and protecting their health. The barrage of news, questions on how to safely get groceries, and fears for relatives are deeply distressing. Inertia for work is bound to increase as people wonder if there’s a point in even trying.

We also identified three positive motivators that often lead to increased work performance. We believe these are in danger of disappearing in easy-to-miss ways during the current situation. Play, the motive that most boosts performance, could decrease if it continues to becomes harder for people to get things done from home. For example, people may miss the joy of problem-solving with a colleague, or the ease of making a decision when everyone is in one room. Purpose could also decline with team’s decreasing visibility into their impact on clients or colleagues, especially if no one is there to remind them. Lastly, potential could decline if people can’t gain access to colleagues that teach and develop them.

If business leaders don’t move to change this, shifts in people’s motivation will ultimately lead to a decline in adaptability, quality, and creativity just at the time when the post-cornavirus recovery will require productivity growth.

What Can Business Leaders Do?
When a colleague of ours was diagnosed with cancer, our first instinct was to reduce her work so she could focus on her illness. To be sure, there were times she needed 100% rest. But we quickly realized that we had taken away a major source of her play and purpose. Her work was a much needed break from the anxiety-inducing news she received each day.

This was also true for the firms we worked with during the financial crisis. We found that analysts trying to shore up the markets had the highest motivation levels of their careers during 18-hour work days. Military veterans we interviewed talked about their highest-stakes days in the same way. For the same reasons today, you see that rather than sit at home, many citizens are organizing volunteer bike courier clubs. Fitness instructors are leading classes from their rooftops or streaming them for free online. Academics are running virtual classrooms and workshops with their students.

It’s important for leaders to follow suit and remember that work can deliver a much needed boost to their teams, even when there’s little choice involved in their work-from-home situation.

The key is resisting the temptation to make work tactical only through strict processes, rules, and procedures. While some degree of boundaries and guidelines help people move quickly, too many create a vicious spiral of demotivation. In such cases, people tend to stop problem-solving and thinking creatively, and instead, do the bare minimum.

If you want your teams to be engaged in their work, you have to make their work engaging.

The most powerful way to do this is to give people the opportunity to experiment and solve problems that really matter. These problems won’t be the same for every team or organization. They may not even be easy to identify at first. Your employees will need your help to do this. Ask them: Where can we deliver amazing service to our customers? What’s broken that our team can fix? What will drive growth even in a time of fear? Why are these problems critical, valuable, and interesting?

Today, we’re collaborating with teams across the globe that are seizing this way of working. A pharmaceutical company’s clinical trials team is experimenting with ways they can help hospitals prioritize trials and maintain safety during this crisis. Teams across the tech unicorn, Flexport, are generating ideas on how to ship critical goods around the world, keep their clients’ supply chains running, and share tips to keep their suppliers in business. An insurance company is testing ways to prioritize their skyrocketing internal chat volumes and process claims in timely ways. In the teams we work with, we’ve seen productivity remain high, and in some cases, improve.

What has made them so successful is that they are not relying solely on giant new programs or approaches that need CEO approval. They are simply finding ways to make sure every single person on their teams feels like they have a challenge that they can help solve. In your own cases, this challenge can range from something as small as how to better greet customers or accommodate new schedules to something as big as moving your previously in-person business online.

Taking This Back to Your Teams
This all may sound great in theory, but if you’re wondering how to start, you’re not alone. Few organizations have been taught how to identify when and where it is OK to experiment with new ways of working — despite the fact that experimentation results in a 45-point increase in employee motivation.

Given today’s challenges with Covid-19, there’s a simple set of recommendations we give to teams who are working remotely.

First, what you measure is the single strongest signal to your people of what you care about. If you want to show them that you care about their motivation, you can measure it using our online tool or using your own preferred survey tool. Then, have a discussion with them about what might be driving their motivation up or down, and what would be helpful to maximize their motivation and experimentation in the weeks to come.

You might ask questions like: How is the current situation affecting you at the moment? What tips do people have for how to motivate yourself and find play and purpose in the current environment? This is your time to listen and create a safe environment in which everyone can talk.

Second, make sure your weekly routines are not focused only on the tactical work – the concrete plans you need to execute, like the tickets you need to answer, or boxes you need to check. Half of your week should also be focused on adaptive performance, where there is no plan to follow, but instead, experimentation and problem solving.

Generally, we recommend a simple rhythm for remote teams.

Monday: Hold a performance cycle meeting for the team that covers the following.

What impact did we have last week and what did we learn?
What commitments do we have this week? Who is on point for each?
How can we help each other with this week’s commitments?
What are the areas where we should experiment to improve performance this week?
What experiments will we run, and who is on point for each?
Tuesday-Thursday: Have at least one individual meeting with each of your team members. To help motivate your employees, focus on helping them tackle challenges that are a slight stretch. You can also coordinate small group meetings in which employees can collaborate on the week’s experiments and tackle problems together.

Friday: Focus on reflection. Showcase and gather input on the experiments of the week. This might include presentations from project groups during which team members share metrics and insights. It’s also important to check in on each other’s motivation and progress. As the leader, set the example by asking people how they are feeling: Where did they struggle with their motivation, and where did they thrive?

We know that this approach works because we used it during the financial crisis. When most financial services teams were doubling down on rules and processes, we helped thousands of people working in mortgage and home equity shops identify the problems they could solve, innovate, and adapt. Their motivation skyrocketed, and they outperformed the status quo by 200%, finding creative win-win solutions for the financial institutions they worked at and the customers who were in danger of losing their homes.

As we saw in the 2008, it is possible for teams to experiment and adapt. We also saw that it is possible for teams to freeze under pressure and recede. Make it your mission to achieve the former and achieve greater levels of growth and productivity as a remote team than as an in-person team. This is a challenge that can keep you energized and experimenting long after this crisis is behind us.

This article was written by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi
April 09, 2020, for Harvard Business Review:

Although the last time you played an ice breaker might have been at summer camp, they still have a great role to play at work. They break down barriers between members of remote and hybrid teams. You’ll learn more about each other while bringing people together with mutual interests. These activities can bring a quick burst of fun to get everyone on the same page and working together.

What Is an Ice Breaker?

An ice breaker is an activity designed to ease into the introduction of a difficult conversation or discussion. They’re usually silly questions or games that break down barriers among people in a group. Once your group is more relaxed, it’s easier to begin conversations and work with one another.

Ice breaker activities can be done in-person or virtually with a remote team. Here are some ice breaker ideas for you and your team to try.

Virtual Ice Breakers

Virtual Ice Breaker Activities

Even if you’ve only done ice breakers with a group of people right next to you, it’s possible to do it virtually as well. Just fire up your video conferencing platform and get your team together to start your activity.


One activity that takes advantage of your presentation set-up in use is to ask remote members to show pictures that represent them. This could be made in a slideshow format or posted in a company-wide Slack channel. Include prompts like, “Show us something you love to do” or, “Show us any pets or kids you have.” These answers give your coworkers deeper insight into what your hobbies or interests.

Virtual Coffee

Some of the best ice breakers involve a meal or drink, but that can be hard when you’re in a remote or hybrid team. This can still happen with some virtual tools like Donut! Donut helps integrate team members through a virtual get-together. It randomly pairs two coworkers so they can meet. You’ll have personal conversations and ice breakers with multiple people without any heavy lifting.

The Time Machine

The Time Machine is another unique ice breaker idea. Ask team members where they’d go if they had a time machine. Use follow up questions about why they chose that time, if they would try to visit anyone in particular, or if they would stay in that period. Based on their answers, you’ll get a better understanding of what they find interesting, and gain a unique perspective of your team.

Ice Breaker Questions

Asking questions with a group is one way to get more comfortable with everyone. Focus on questions instead of activities when you’re looking to get comfortable quickly. It less of a hassle than setting up a long game or task. Asking questions about your team members is a good way to get a deep understanding of those around you.

Ice Breaker Questions for Work

In a business setting, you’ll want to keep your questions professional. Don’t get too in the weeds, as it can leave those getting to know your team out of the loop. Some practical questions include:

What was your favorite project at your last job?
What do you enjoy most in your ideal workplace?
What do you love most about this company?
What was the team like when you first started?

A good question would be something you’d ask one of your friends about their job. Getting answers to these questions will show you where your team has been and what everyone enjoys about their colleagues.

Meeting Ice Breaker Questions

Ice breaker questions in meetings should strike a balance between topical and lighthearted. Diving into details about the meeting can throw some colleagues off, while being too casual can make folks lose track of what’s being discussed. Questions like these strike a good balance to help you get ready to talk while keeping you ready to go over details.

What’s something this week that you feel proud of?
What did we do as a team that worked great?
Who did an outstanding job this week?
What’s something you’d like us to do this week?
Questions like this get folks to reflect on their work while building team camaraderie. Once this ice breaker is complete, discussing your meeting subject will be a breeze.

Funny Ice Breaker Questions

If you’re looking to be a little lighthearted, questions that are funny are the way to go to get a laugh out of everyone. Some of the best include:

If you were a vegetable, what kind would you be?
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
If you were going to perform in the circus, what would you do?
What’s the funniest thing you did as a kid that your family still talks about?
Moments like this help bring your team closer together by emphasizing that you’re all people with funny experiences. When teams realize they’re made up of real people just like them, they can focus on getting work done in a relaxed way.

Ice Breaker Games

Sometimes games are more impactful than individual questions with team members. Games are more relaxed than questions and can be reserved for dedicated ice breaker time. You most likely won’t hold an ice breaker game in a meeting, but they work well on their own.

Ice Breaker Games for Small Groups

Ice breakers for small groups should strike a balance between detail and speed. They should be detailed enough that the group learns a lot about each other, but quick enough to get you to your next task at hand.

Two Truths and a Lie

One classic ice breaker for small groups is Two Truths and a Lie. Each person in the group writes down two true things about themselves and one lie before the papers are shuffled and passed out. Each person will go in turn and guess which person’s fact is a lie.

It’s a great test of intuition and reasoning, and you get to learn something cool about your team that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Avoid this in large groups, since the game requires a bit of thinking for each turn that can add up.

Six-Word Memoirs

Another ice breaker that shows off your creative flair is Six-Word Memoirs. You’ll write down a sentence that describes your life story in six words, and teammates can ask why you chose what you did.

An example could be, “The best experiences can happen randomly” for the time you met your favorite actor at a restaurant. It’s a creative way to simplify your best experiences that make your coworkers want to know more.

Most Unique

This last ice breaker is made to show everyone’s unique backgrounds; it’s a game called Most Unique. Your goal is to find something about you that no one else has in common. It could be a vacation you’ve been on, an award you’ve won, or a hobby no one’s heard of before.

The group says one-by-one something they think is the most unique, and others will speak up if they’ve also done that. Once someone finds their own most unique fact, it moves on to the next person. At the end of the game, you should have new facts about everyone, and great conversation starters to ask about at another time.

Ice Breaker Games for Large Groups

Larger groups can still play some of the games mentioned above, but they can take too long to be effective. Games for large groups should be quick so everyone can play a part and meet each other. You can form smaller teams within the large group for some games, so everyone is doing the same activity while getting to know a core group of people.

Simon Says

This game is a classic from your childhood that still can be used today: Simon Says. Although it might seem silly at first, games like this get people moving and ready for further ice breakers.

For those that don’t know, Simon Says works like this. One person leads the group of people into following their movements, but only if they preface the movement with, “Simon says”. As the movements become faster, people forget to follow along only if they hear that phrase and become “out”. The last one standing is the winner. You’ll break down barriers team members, and get you more comfortable to talk with each other.

Ten Things in Common

This game works well in large groups, but you’ll want to debrief within smaller groups. The object of the game is to find ten people in the room with some things in common with you. You can try to find others who went to the same college as you or love the same type of movies. The best part about this game is that it requires you to talk to everyone else in the room to find out what you both have in common.

This can be more difficult than you think! Once you find ten things you have in common with others, come back to your smaller group to report. Doing this allows you to hear what other members have in common with those you might not have met yet. You’ll still get an understanding of what everyone else in the room is like and what they’re into.

The Marshmallow Game

This icebreaker is best for in-person teams, and might be the most challenging out of the bunch, but it provides some of the best team-building experiences. Divide the room into groups, and give them 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and a marshmallow. The goal is to build the tallest structure possible without it falling in 20 minutes.

Although it sounds easy at first, building a tall structure with these materials is challenging. Team members must work together to build the structure and should assign roles along the way. Working together is key, and members must play to their strengths to get things built quickly. You’ll develop team chemistry and learn more about yourteam’s leadership styles. All the values gained from this activity are easily applied to your workplace.

These games and questions might just sound like games, but they’ll bring your teams closer together. Breaking down barriers at the office facilitates more effective work. You’ll learn more, and have fun along the way!

This article was written by : March 30, 2020

Over the last few weeks we have seen a large increase in the number of people conducting Microsoft Teams meetings as they move to remote work arrangements. Whether you are brand new to the tool, or conduct all of your meetings on Teams, we want to provide you tips on how to have the best online meetings experience.

#1 Connect online with people inside and outside your org
With Teams, you can host online meetings with people both inside and outside of your organization. The next time you schedule a meeting in either Teams or Microsoft Outlook, simply include the email address of your external guests and Teams will take care of the rest—including sending an email invitation complete with instructions on how to join your online meeting. Your meeting guest can click on the link, enter their name, and join the meeting from their browser—all without having to install a plug-in or download the Teams client.

Microsoft Teams web join experience

#2 Enable everyone to participate with dial-in capabilities

Designed for participants who are on the go, don’t have access to the internet, or prefer to dial into a meeting, make sure meetings are inclusive. Users who are enabled for Audio Conferencing will automatically see dial-in instructions added to their Teams meeting invitations. Clicking on the dial-in number from a cell phone will automatically launch the phone dialer, dial the number, and even enter the conference bridge. Gone are the days of having to memorize numbers!

Teams user interface showing the meeting details, including Audio Conferencing dial-in information

#3 Stay in control of your meeting

Teams provides the meeting organizer with many options when it comes to defining the roles and permissions for online meeting participants. For example, you can choose to enable a meeting lobby, which lets the organizer define when and who is admitted into the meeting. You can also designate who can present, mute attendees, and start/stop recordings, just to name a few.

Meeting options user interface showing roles and permission available

#4 Hold face-to-face conversations with video

If you can’t meet in person, meeting online with video is the next best thing. Encourage everyone in your Teams meeting to turn on their video. Turn on background blur to keep the focus on you instead of what’s behind you.

Teams UI showing meeting attendee toggling background blur while joining a meeting

#5 Share only what you need

When sharing content in Teams meetings, you control what others can see. You can decide whether you need to show your entire desktop, or just a specific window. If someone is sharing their desktop or an application, you can request the presenter to give you control.

Teams user interface showing presentation capabilities in the sharing tray

#6 Everyone contributes with digital ink

Just because everyone is not in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t brainstorm on a whiteboard. Microsoft Whiteboard is integrated with every Teams meeting, enabling meeting participant to join in with touch—or their mouse—and contribute with digital ink. Whiteboard sessions are saved as part of every meeting and available for future use and reference.

Sharing a Microsoft Whiteboard within Teams

#7 Don’t miss the meeting, even if you missed the meeting

Whether running a few minutes late, or double-booked with a fire drill, there’s a good chance that someone will miss the meeting. Instead of bringing them up-to-speed in another meeting, simply record your Teams meeting. Not only is the recorded meeting stored in the cloud—and a link provided in the meeting chat—but participants can search the meeting transcript and jump to the point in time of the meeting where it was mentioned.

Teams meeting recording playback showing searching a transcript and jumping to the point in the meeting when referenced

#8 Follow along with meeting captions

Encourage your meeting participants to turn on live captions and read subtitles in real-time. This is a game changing feature for those who are hard of hearing, have different levels of language proficiency, or are connecting from a loud location. Live captions is currently available in English for users located in the United States.

Teams meeting recording playback showing searching a transcript and jumping to the point in the meeting when referenced

#9 Be seen and heard clearly

Microsoft offers a full portfolio of Teams-certified devices to ensure you look and sound your best with high quality video and audio. Connect and start your meetings with just one touch and choose where and how you want to work with devices designed for any space and working style.

Person sitting in an open space environment wearing a Teams-certified headset while attending an online meeting

A lot of managers worry about productivity when making the transition from in-office teams to remote work situations. There is a nagging concern employees are going to be goofing around rather than focusing on work.

As more employees are working from home to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, sales managers have been forced to rapidly adjust to operating remote sales teams. Though the challenges are myriad (especially if your company was totally unprepared to make the change), the Coronavirus is opening many managers’ eyes to the possibilities that a remote team offers.

To make the shift, managers may need to adopt different systems and tools to keep their teams running smoothly. By having the right communication systems in place and the right tools for engaging your employees, you can set up your newly remote sales team for success.

Creating Channels of Remote Work Communication

Communication is vital and fundamental to managing your remote team. Without clear paths of communication, you run the risk of projects falling through the cracks and significantly decreasing productivity.

The first step is creating dedicated channels of communication. Using a tool like Slack, set up channels for different purposes, such as regular office chatter, collaboration on assignments, and virtual meetings. Additional considerations for your remote work tool stack should include options like Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Gong.

Having a separate channel for socializing and connecting with teammates is essential, especially as your team members adjust to a remote working environment due to Coronavirus. You want this virtual watercooler to help your company culture retain some semblance of normalcy.

Establishing various channels of communication is only half the battle. You need to simultaneously establish clear guidelines about how to communicate with them and what your expectations are regarding response times and so on.

In the process of rapidly rolling out reliable remote communication systems, don’t lose sight of the purpose behind it all: to save time and boost productivity.

These goals can be quickly undermined if employees feel like they are always “on” now, or required to be available for whatever chats are coming at them. It’s important to remind your team members that they shouldn’t allow communication channels to become so disruptive that they prevent team members from meeting core company goals or destroy their work-life balance.

How to Communicate with Your Remote Team

When managing remote workers, it’s vital to remember to be regularly communicating with active team members.

A study by Gallup discovered that employees were most engaged when their managers returned their messages or calls within 24 hours. Additionally, those employees who were most engaged communicated with their managers daily in one way or another.

This level of communication happens very naturally in an office space. However, when adjusting to working with a remote sales team, it’s essential to go the extra mile to ensure that you’re spending time briefly checking in on each employee to see how they are doing.

This can be everything from following up on projects with regular, scheduled meetings to simply seeing how they’re adjusting to working remotely due to the Coronavirus.

Ensuring Productivity While Your Team is at Home

Productivity and accountability are the two core tenets of a successful sales team — whether they’re working in the office or remote. The amount of hours your employees put in is less important than what they accomplish during those hours. Providing clear goals, effective tools and frequent communication will help ensure your team is operating efficiently wherever they are working.

The best way forward is to manage based on medium to larger objectives. Micromanaging is not effective in an office — and it’s impossible to do when it comes to remote teams. You’re best off assigning medium to large tasks to members of your sales team, then giving them the tools to take care of the details.

Giving your sales team the right tools to boost their productivity where they spend the most time will get you the results you are looking for. By utilizing the suite of productivity tools offered by Cirrus Insight, you provide them with the best chance of staying on top of everything while working remotely.

Cirrus Insight helps your sales team track when customers open emails, schedule email follow ups, and even efficiently include availability for in-person meetings in emails. Additionally, you can set follow-up reminders to ensure that sales representatives aren’t missing any opportunities to nurture leads or secure a sale.

Measuring Progress With Your Remote Team

It’s important to be able to measure progress without interrupting the work being done by your sales team. For skilled managers, this is very natural during the workday. However, when switching to a remote team, it can require more of your attention.

Failing to check-in with your team members (especially those working remotely) can leave them feeling unimportant and isolated. This can lead to them lagging behind on deadlines and ultimately failing to meet company goals.

The first step to measuring your sales team’s progress is to establish clear goals for the entire team, as well as individuals. If it starts to look like team members are slipping too far behind, it can make a huge difference to reach out before this becomes a habit.

You can keep track of your sales team’s goals via online Salesforce dashboards and Cirrus Insight’s analytics and email side panel. By analyzing key productivity metrics, as well as specific sales goals, you can stay on top of how your team is doing without making anyone feel micromanaged.

Incentivizing Creativity in Dealing with a Crisis

Sudden changes in the workplace are hard. It can be difficult to get your team to switch workflow management tools, let alone flee the office to work remotely. It takes a lot more effort to recognize and incentivize your workforce when they are working remotely.

But, recognition and rewards not only make your team members feel appreciated — they are also known to increase productivity and company loyalty. This can be as simple (and cheap) as a big “thank you”.

A little can go a very long way when you’re dealing with remote teams.

Other Notable Benefits of a Remote Sales Team

Though Coronavirus might have forced your hand toward creating remote teams, there are a number of significant benefits to working remotely that are unrelated to avoiding the disease.

First and foremost, remote teams are cheaper to run. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll start to notice savings in office-related expenses. It’s also cheaper for your employees who now don’t have to spend money on gas commuting to work or buying lunch out.

Many studies point toward increased productivity and creativity when workers are allowed more flexibility with their hours while working from home.

According to a study done by Connect Solutions, 77% of remote workers said they were more productive than when they were working in the office. Additionally, 30% said that they were able to get more done in less time.

Final Thoughts: Coronavirus Forces Companies to Manage Remote Teams

Without a doubt, the Coronavirus is putting new pressure on sales teams as they scramble to work remotely. However, savvy managers are seizing this potential crisis as an opportunity to roll out new, more productive systems.

By establishing channels of communication and guidelines for their use, you can decrease the likelihood of team members feeling isolated (or quarantined) while working from home. You can also facilitate increased productivity and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

With those systems in place, all you have to do is track and monitor progress with a powerful tool such as Cirrus Insight.

Cirrus Insight automatically syncs all relevant sales data — email exchanges and appointment setting via calendar with leads, even opportunities and cases — into Salesforce. From there, everyone on the team is able to measure progress and jump in to move deals forward where necessary. The insights gained through analyzing key metrics will allow you to manage and guide your sales team as they navigate the new challenges of working remotely.

Start a free trial for Cirrus Insight today, and keep your sales team productive — and healthy!

This article was written by Maddy Osman, Cirrus Insight: March 18, 2020

There are many reasons to work remotely and Microsoft Teams is here to help you stay connected with your teammates wherever they are. IT admins, don’t miss Support remote workers using Teams which as recently been updated.

4 best practices for working from home

#1 Make the most of meetings

  • Meetings are about the people in them, not the technology. The most effective meetings have a clear purpose. Use your meeting description to detail what the meeting is for. Learn more about driving great teamwork with our Art of Teamwork materials.
  • Use chat to share reminders or pre-read documents to your audience before the meeting.
  • Record the meeting if that’s acceptable in your organization.

#2 Be inclusive and use your video

  • When you’ve got robust bandwidth, turn on your video Tip: Use background blur if you don’t want your background to be a distraction. Video really amps up collaboration in meetings (but if you’ve got limited bandwidth, turn off video to maintain high-quality audio). Make sure you know how to join a meeting in Teams before the meeting starts.
  • Practice inclusion – ask everyone for their input. If someone’s audio is too low, or if their device is causing problems, deal with it at the start of the meeting so that person won’t be excluded.
  • Don’t forget to keep track of your mute button! :smile:

#3 Track notes and action items, share frequently used documents

  • Take notes and share follow-ups in chat. It’s harder to get a casual recap in the hallway when there is no hallway. Use an app like Planner, Asana, or Trello to track tasks.
  • For something that you usually handle with one meeting and informal, hallway catch-ups, schedule a 15-minute follow-up meeting a few days later. Be sure to include prep work in the meeting invitation.
  • In channels, create tabs for important files, websites, or dashboards so the content is available to everyone on the team.

#4 Customize your virtual workspace

Whether you’re new to remote work, temporarily working from home, or on an extended leave, Teams is there to help you be productive from anywhere.

This article was written by :  February 28, 2020

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world. Travel restrictions and new rules on large public gatherings have changed the daily routines of millions. Over the past few weeks, many of my colleagues and customers have approached me to ask: What can we do to help?

Lily Zheng is a good friend and coworker who lives in Shanghai. We have worked together in person in China but mostly we meet on Microsoft Teams. Recently, Lily wrote a letter to regional customers about what she and her team have learned working remotely while weathering the outbreak. Her letter inspired our team to make Microsoft Teams available for free for people moving to remote work during this challenging time. I wanted to share it with people worldwide who may benefit from our Shanghai team’s experience. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Let me turn it over to Lily.

Dear Customers,

My name is Lily Zheng, and I am a Microsoft employee who lives and works in Shanghai. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect millions of people here in China, we have experienced a huge spike in remote work. It’s as if every school, hospital, and business in China is now a distributed organization – if only temporarily. From virus outbreaks like COVID-19 to unexpected weather emergencies, there are many reasons that working remotely could become suddenly necessary. So I wanted to share three lessons I have learned over the last few weeks, as well as three lessons we have gathered from our customers as they adapt to remote work.

Like a lot of you, I began hearing about the virus back in January, mostly on social media. But I didn’t realize what a big deal it would be until just before the Chinese New Year. That’s when, due to the Spring Festival travel rush, the number of affected people began to rise rapidly. On January 23, the government sealed off Hubei Province in order to curb the spread of the virus. The next day, New Year’s Eve, my family had planned to go see a movie. When we learned from the press that movie theaters across the city had been shut down, the severity of the outbreak really sunk in. Two days later, the government announced unprecedented cancellations of Spring Festival events, and I cancelled a long-planned family vacation. The kids were crushed, but our health and safety had to come first.

So, what do I say when people ask what it’s like to work in China right now? Well, working remotely has cut down on our commute time, and we’re certainly no longer worried about what we are wearing. And with many restaurants closed, we’re all brushing up on our cooking skills. But with kids out of school – and babysitters stuck at home as well – staying productive can be a challenge.

What I’ve learned from remote work

While our team here is accustomed to working remotely, these past few weeks have really clarified what successful and sustainable remote work requires. Here are my top three lessons.

Stay well.

This move to remote work is all about protecting our physical health by minimizing contact with the virus. That, everyone understands. What is less obvious is that working where you live can create its own kind of stress. Taking time to exercise, eat well, and enjoy real downtime away from screens are all essential to maintaining mental well-being while working from home.

Go all in.

It can be tempting to put things off while working remotely. But teams that thrive remotely find ways to do just about everything online. If you’ve scheduled one-on-ones, keep them. If you’ve planned big meetings, hold them. If you’re ready to brainstorm an upcoming presentation, jump on that video call.

Support your teammates.

I’ve also learned from this experience that supporting others is the best way to stay positive and energized. We use our online tools for more than just work, sharing photos of family and pets and checking in with each other throughout the day. Cheering each other up is not just good for maintaining morale, it also helps keep our team together when we work apart.

What I’ve learned from customers

In the space of a few weeks, we’ve seen customers in China truly transform the way they work. Here are three things I’ve learned from customers to set your organization up for success.

Immediately open the lines of communication.

When your employees are working remotely, it’s more important than ever to ensure everyone stays briefed on the business. One of our customers, a large Asia-based insurance company, started broadcasting video messages to their staff to make sure everyone had access to the latest information. With everyone balancing working from home with childcare and other challenges, recorded videos give people an opportunity to catch up when they can’t make a live meeting or briefing.

Keep it moving.

While it can be tempting to postpone plans until everyone can get together, companies here are finding ways to keep things moving forward. With the government’s encouragement, many schools have been able to start their terms on time by moving everything online. They’ve been supporting their students by creating clear schedules, hosting morale events like cooking challenges, and carefully communicating assignments and other information so students aren’t overwhelmed.

Even big meetings can be moved online.

Many of us are accustomed to quick calls or video chats with a few teammates, but large and formal meetings can also be successfully held online. With so many employees opting to work remotely, hospitals here have been gathering their staff remotely. One hospital in Dalian, for instance, has been holding large staff meetings via Teams. Keys to successful online meetings include setting a clear agenda, practicing inclusion by resolving any audio issues at the start of the meeting, and taking clear notes to share as follow-ups later. Remember, too, that if your organization permits it, you can record meetings for those who can’t attend.

For me, and for many people across the world, this isn’t the way we imagined the kick-off to a new year. But we’ve learned a lot. And Teams has been an incredibly powerful tool for helping us manage through the challenges. Many people aren’t aware, but Teams is already available for free. You can go here to learn more. But no matter what tools you choose to use, I hope these tips prove helpful, and I wish you and your families all the best!

Lily Zheng

Director, Microsoft China

This article was written by : March 2, 2020