How to Incorporate Self-Reflection Practices Into Your Remote Team

While technology allows communication and collaboration to happen, there is still the barrier of extra effort. We have to choose to reach out and connect rather than relying on it occurring incidentally. 

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Earlier this year, ShieldGEO teamed up with Virtual Not Distant to produce a short podcast series unpacking the topic of connection and disconnection within remote teams. I hosted the seven-part series and spoke with up to 10 guests each episode about what it means to be isolated or disconnected, and why remote workers are particularly prone to this experience. We had remote work advocates, app developers, psychologists, lawyers, researchers and CEOs of distributed teams all weigh in with their experiences and expertise.

The experience of unpacking a single topic from various angles over a few months was incredibly rewarding, and we saw how layered and complex this issue really is. 

One of the prominent threads that emerged from the series was the idea of checking in with ourselves. Self-reflection was continually put forth as a way for individuals and teams to monitor moods and changes in circumstances and needs, as well as create positive, individualized solutions to the problem of disconnection. And while the podcast focused on the issue of disconnection, we soon realized reflection practices are essential for addressing any problems at all.

As we know, remote workers, by design, don’t work in a co-located office. We don’t have our teams around us or our managers nearby to quickly grab when we need them. While technology allows communication and collaboration to happen, there is still the barrier of extra effort. We have to choose to reach out and connect rather than relying on it occurring incidentally. 

Where you may have easily picked up when your direct report was struggling with something in an office setting because of their visual cues — they might be getting into the office late or seem more withdrawn in conversations — you have to rely on them actively sharing with you in a remote setting. This means they have to be able to articulate what’s going on and what they might need from you or the team to address it. 

This kind of self-awareness and open communication is a skill, and while some people will naturally find it easier than others, it doesn’t mean we can’t all get better at it. 

Here, I’ll share some of the ways you as a manager can facilitate self-reflection practices within your teams to develop meaningful, open, and transparent relationships with your direct reports. 

Create safe spaces 

To promote open communication and vulnerable sharing, we first need to create safe spaces for our teams to share. 

This should be a company-wide effort and is something everyone contributes to. It has a place in the kind of culture you want to create, the people you ultimately hire, and all the tiny details that make up the day-to-day work experience at your organization. 

Marcus Wermuth, an engineering manager at Buffer, argues that creating psychological safety for your teams is a large part of the process. 

“There’s also responsibility for the individuals to try and share and bring it up if they can, but ultimately that comes back to — is the culture safe? Is it psychologically safe that people will bring those things up?” He shares in the fourth episode of Connection and Disconnection in Remote Teams.

“It’s probably a lot of responsibility on us and maybe just a short amount on the individual team members.”

What feels safe to your teammates will likely be individual to them, but there are a few things you can do to lay the foundation...read more

Shield GEO makes international employment simple. Our customers use Shield GEO to employ and payroll hundreds of workers in over fifty countries. Find out more.

Tim Burgess

Director, Shield GEO Services Ltd

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