Working remotely in Learning Teams: DLNETChat April 2021

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Lisa Peter

Last week, we had a lively discussion on Twitter about how Learning Teams up and down the country have tackled the challenges of remote working. We covered topics from using individual tools to improving collaborative work to management techniques that might help to keep team members motivated and help to fight the isolation some of us might feel while working from home.

Lots of people shared their experiences as well as quite a few tips, so here’s a summary of the things people were talking about.





Perhaps unsurprisingly, people chatted about collaborative tools that can support project work and ideation, for example,  Google documents and sheets, which can be worked on in real time while on meeting calls, even without the need for screen sharing. For looser formats such as brainstorming, Padlet was mentioned (which some also use for teaching support in live sessions, as it’s very popular with teachers). For teams who create a lot of online content and need to ensure consistency in design, check out the online tool Canva to share design templates within teams. 






Another question we asked was around the challenges for teams that come with working from home. For teams that normally work closely with collections and historical properties, not being anywhere near the physical objects they use as source material for learning activity, feels odd, to say the least. 



But which other challenges were identified? Looking back over the conversation, they can probably be summed up as 

  • appropriate levels of communication, 
  • making space for the social side of work, and 
  • sense of achievement.

With team members still on furlough or on flexi furlough schemes, and without the usual ‘soft touch’ means of finding out what is going on otherwise in team members’ lives, it’s tricky to assess whether they have any capacity at that moment in time. Making a conscious effort to find out, and keeping calendars up to date with current work hours and time away from the computer can help to communicate quickly to others whether to expect a reply soon or in a few days’ time.



Getting the amount of communication needed just right seems to be challenging quite generally. Whether working closely with people on a shared project, or trying to stay in touch with quieter team members, chat participants were talking about the usefulness of keeping a number of channels running in addition to emails: chats, DMs, or even an open call in the background while working on things together.



If comms about work are already tricky to get right, then creating the ‘water cooler’ moments remotely seems to be an ongoing headache, especially for more volunteer-driven organisations where the social aspect of volunteering is often as important and integral to the experience as the actual work carried out. 




I think it became clear that we are all grappling with this, and that nobody in the conversation had already found or developed a ‘golden approach’ to this in particular, so if you know of any techniques or examples of ‘creating the space for social’ while avoiding the awkward, let us know!

And finally, staff and team wellbeing emerged as another challenge. Interestingly enough, the culture around being measured along key performance indicators, such as sessions delivered, people engaged with, etc, might contribute to teams not feeling that they achieved very much in the last year, even though they are exhausted.



However, there’s been so much learning this year that has happened behind the scenes, and so much change that wouldn’t be visible in terms of ‘outputs’. These are very real achievements though, that deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.




Things people wished they’d known a year ago

We finally wanted to know what the 2021 version of us would have liked the 2020 version to know, and it looks like managing expectations and acknowledging the sheer amount of change that is happening at the moment are quite high on the list. It will be interesting to see whether compassionate leadership will turn into a much hotter topic over the coming months and years than we have previously seen.



A big thank you to all the participants who shared their experiences on the day! The next DLNET chat will be on May 7 at 1pm – watch this space for the topic announcement! In case you want to read up on the April chat on twitter, we collated a Twitter Moment with all the tweets.

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