One month, 3 EnterTrainers, 8 team events

April 2022 was an exciting month for EnterTraining. It has been a few years since we had many more live events than virtual ones in a month. Clearly spring is finally on its way to Estonia and the pandemic is beginning to recede. Here is a little overview of the methods, combinations, collaboration, and also some mishaps from April. If you are planning events for the upcoming months, get in touch and let’s discuss how to make it truly memorable. Team development workshops can really make a difference. We all deserve some entertraining!

Why

for engaged teams changing the world

What:

team development sessions Virtual Global Innovation Game, Team Human Bingo, Wellbeing, FreshBiz, Beat the Box, Go Team and workshops on Focus Management and Motivation

Where:

a virtual event in Switzerland and Brazil, physical events in Hamina, Finland and in Narva, Tallinn and Laitse in Estonia

Who:

Changing perspectives can help discover new aspects about team mates!

nearly 250 participants from 8 organizations

For some events a combination of several methods works best. For the OP Corporate Bank team day, we combined Human Bingo and Wellbeing methods into one smooth combo. PS! Wellbeing which is built as an online event, was run fully live as a GPS-based activity for the first time in Estonia (and probably even in the world). Using the Go Team app in tablets, we guided teams from downtown Tallinn to the Telliskivi Creative City. All the way, participants made choices on which topic to focus on and only found out their final destination once there. In a cozy yoga studio we continued with a great Human Bingo session which introduced fun facts and stories about team members while bringing out some unexpected creativity and skills!

Another Human Bingo took place shortly in Narva Fortress with the international team of Fortaco. As the team met for the first time that day to kick off a cooperation project, building strong ties by sharing stories and laughing together was just the right fit. Since 4 events (!) were planned for that day in EnterTraining (and one of us was out with a spot of food poisoning…), we were especially happy to be a part of a great network of team development experts to collaborate with. Just like we use Human Bingo to connect and engage event participants and team members, we connected and learned a lot from each other as well.

While our great network offered help when we needed it, so could Tiina-Katrina help out partners at two different events in April. She was invited to a virtual Austrian-Brazilian joint event to talk about everyday innovation and to facilitate one of our favorite methods, the virtual Global Innovation Game. In Finland, however, we ran an engaging live Go Team Treasure Hunt based in a lovely little town of Hamina. While helping our partners create the activity, we learned a lot about the place ourselves. Did you know that Finland’s largest flag is waving in Hamina? And it really is a big one! Discovering new places is a great side effect of creating any new Go Team track. Did you know you can ask us to build a fun treasure hunt anywhere? We are just building the next one in Viimsi.

Need to move a mountain? Start with a great team!

Sometime, things do not go as planned. Sometimes, working remotely can have its challenges. Alas, so can working in close quarters! In April, we were preparing for an event that was postponed due to Covid. With three people working from different locations, it was quite last minute that we realised a bit of a challenge to overcome. Overcome it we did, and thanks to a generous buffer we plan into our schedules, everything was arranged on time. Beat the Box got a team working on a tight timeline as well so we were all on the same page.

In order for each event to run ever more smoothly and to have more knowledge and skills to share, Tiina-Katrina went to school again. After exciting discussions with the lecturers and fellow students from very diverse backgrounds, a course on Coaching Principles in Change Management has been completed. Now, the next changes are once again a more exciting challenge, as there is new knowledge to test and apply. This will surely be the focus for May 2022 – trying out our new know-how in how we work.

Although our work can be quite challenging, it is also a joy. Especially with such wonderful people involved: our team, our clients, our partners. Because of who you are, we keep striving to be better! Sometimes it means listening more, sometimes speaking up. A conversation is where it all begins. So do get in touch. With over 200 solutions in our toolbox, we can draw on the experience of our favorite solutions as well as discover new and exciting ways to enrich events and create truly engaging experiences. All you have to do is tell us what’s on your mind!

Rest: why and how

As the holiday season is upon us, it is a good time to talk about rest. In order to make it count, it is wise to be deliberate about our holidays and breaks. If a full-on holiday is out of reach, the same ideas can be applied to a night off.

1. Why rest

Brain

After an intense workout or a physically demanding day, we mostly realise the power of quality rest. Somehow the value of resting diminishes when our work shifts more into the white collar mode. After all, who needs rest after just thinking, talking and typing all day? Obviously we all do! While physical strain makes our bodies so tired that our brains slow down quite voluntarily, it might be a whole other challenge to switch off from work mode when most of our work happens in those very same brains. Just like giving your body time to recover, our brains need time to recoup as well.

Being deliberate about our resting time becomes ever more important when work seems to be omnipresent. Being able to switch off from work and make your holidays and breaks count has become especially important during remote work and working from home. The wonderful thing about deliberate rest is that it is a skill like any other. Why is that great? It means we can learn it, practice it and perfect it as we experiment with different kinds of rest. 

2. How to rest

So how do we hone our resting skills? You’ve made a great start – by thinking and reading about it you have already opened doors in your brain. Now, keep reading to decide what you let through those doors and what info you will act upon. You can also pick up a book about it or invite us to help your team approach rest more deliberately. Here are some tips to get you started.

2.1 Rest mindfully

Mindfulness is spreading like wildfire through the western world and with good reason. Being mindful of what you are doing brings your attention more fully to it allowing you to enjoy it more fully as well. This applies to your holidays and evenings just the same. If you rest mindfully, you get more out of it. Pay attention to moments of rest: being bored can be a wonderfully rewarding thing! Just let yourself be. Whether it’s waiting for the light to change, coffee to brew or date to show up, enjoy these microbreaks. Leave your phone behind and your hands free for a while and just breathe in the sensations, thoughts and movements that appear. If you manage a proper holiday, really switch off from work and focus on the holiday and the activities it involves.

2.2 Rest actively

A distinction is made between active and passive rest. The first implies true involvement while the second allows very low levels of engagement. Perhaps surprisingly it is the first kind that really counts. Passively scrolling through social media or the news has a higher likelihood of increasing anxiety and stress than bringing relief against the very same culprits. Being actively involved in your holiday may sound obvious, but is not always the case when we consider our evenings on the couch. Choosing activities that keep you engaged will allow your brain to stop focusing on anything work related. Meet friends, read books, visit events – do things you enjoy and let them truly occupy your mind.

2.3 Plan ahead

There is something incredibly satisfying in waiting for a well planned ahead holiday. By planning ahead, you don’t have to have every detail down. You might not even know most of what you’re going to do. But even if you have an idea for an outline of a holiday, you can enjoy the wait

2.4 Switch off

Switch off from work and switch off from devices. To truly rest, work thoughts should be kept to a minimum. A difficult way to do it is by checking your emails every time you get bored. An easier way to switch off from work is to also switch off from devices. Having a separate device for your travel and holiday related things could help – I use my kid’s tablet! This is also the only device I manage to read e-books on. No emails, no calls, no work. If you still use your work devices, at least switch off all notifications. And, once you get back to work, keep them off! Decide on a time you check your emails or social media and don’t let notifications from any of these run your life. Own your holiday, make the most of your micro breaks and you will come back with more energy and fuller batteries.

Support your team working remotely

Remote work is a double-edged sword. It can bring a wonderful boost in productivity, but it can also drain us of energy. Being a part of or even in charge of a remote team brings with it its own unique set of challenges. How do we know who is working on what? How do we avoid burn-out? And how to balance it all? Here are few tips from a remote worker with 15 years of experience!

1. Where are you going?

I am sure you know the saying from Alice in Wonderland that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Henry Kissinger added even a better ending: …every road will take you nowhere! Being on the move might feel fun for a while, but it tends to wear us down if we are not quite sure of our destination.

It might feel tempting to blame the pandemic for our inability to set clear goals, but let’s consider what has changed in terms of goal setting. Did we ever know what was going to happen tomorrow? We might have felt more confident in our projections, but we never truly knew. If we take that as a baseline for usual goal setting, it takes the pressure of the current situation! So, we do not know which way the situation will unfold – consider a few scenarios and plan for those. If the situation changes adjust the process or the goal itself.

Try thinking from big to small. What is the vision of your organisation? What is your team’s role in reaching that vision? And what results should you reach by the end of 2021? From there, keep distilling the smaller goals until you are all clear of where you should get to by the end of next week! Once these start falling into place, the next logical step is to check the frameworks you have in place to support reaching your goals.

2. Set your play-area

Photo from Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

A study was conducted by landscape architects about how kids play in different play areas. If there was a fence around the playground, kids would use up all the space and climb on the fence effectively testing their boundaries. If, however, there was no fence, the kids would huddle up and only play in the centre of the area. Without clear boundaries, they would feel unsafe and unsure of how far from the group they could safely venture. 

A similar often subconscious behaviour is common to all of us. If we lack clarity on where we are going and what are the frameworks we can safely operate in, fear takes over. And once fear settles in, there is little hope for great creativity and collaboration – keywords for knowledge work we are mostly involved in these days.

Having clear working hours and an office to commute to has provided us with these much-needed boundaries so far. Work used to be mostly confined to the workplace. Now, working remotely, we are always at work. Unless we set ourselves and our teams some frameworks, that is! A great place to start is with boundaries for communication. Remember, we can’t always be on.

3. Connect!

I have divided this section into two “ions”: communication and emotion. In the first half, the focus is on actual communication practices and in the other, rather on the emotional reasons for effective communication. Let us start off with a term that all remote workers (should) know by now: asynchronous communication.

Communication: Synchronous vs Asynchronous

When you walk into your colleague’s office or call them on the phone, that is synchronous communication. It happens between people in real time. If we are both online and merrily typing away in any messaging app, it is also synchronous as it happens at the same time. If you then leave your device to go make coffee, it stops being synchronous as I am still engaged in the conversation while you are not. The same applies to emails, voicemails and written notes that are not written and read or recorded and heard at the same time. These are examples of asynchronous communication.

There is a case to be made for both types of communication. What is crucial, is understanding the benefits and pitfalls of both. It might seem like a wonderful thing for a manager to be able to shout out a question in the open office and get quick feedback from everyone there. Time spent by the manager is perhaps a few minutes so if the overview of the answers is the most crucial thing for the company at that time, then it is surely their time well spent. For everyone else though, this 2-minute disruption might mean up to an hour of lost time trying to get back on track with what they were previously working on. Instead, an online poll with a clear timeline sent to everyone’s email might have done the trick without disrupting the whole staff.

Agree upon a communication structure

For any kind of communication to work effectively, clear goals and commonly agreed upon frameworks are needed. If you skipped over the first two chapters of this article, go have a look at them now. If you have followed along, this is where you tie it all together. Sit down with your team (this is a metaphor and can also take the shape of a virtual walking meeting) and decide which communication channels you will use for which goal. Agree upon a structure. For example, sharing pictures of cute cats (or cool old cars) to boost good emotions should happen asynchronously. Use a separate Slack channel or Messenger group. Remember to snooze notifications for things like that! (And invite me to the group if you do set one up for old car pictures!) For going over important team decisions, a meeting in real time would be best.

Even if your team works in different time zones, create time to work together in real time. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp have devoted a paragraph on this in their timely book from 2013, “Remote – Office Not Required”. 

“Thankfully, there are lots of enjoyable work-life schedules outside the regular 9am to 5pm. Embrace that. Ironically, you’ll probably get far more done when only half of your workday overlaps with the rest of your team. Instead of spending the entire day dealing with Urgent!!! emails and disruptive phone calls, you’ll have the entire start (or end) of the day to yourself.”

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, 2013

Emotion: why we communicate

Now, once the structures around communication are in place, let us look at one of the reasons for communicating with team members at all: emotion. Whether we are introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts, we all need some time spent with other people. The duration and the intensity might vary, but we are all need to feel as part of a community. Your team can be a great source of positive emotions if you allow space for it. 

Having a voluntary coffee morning or informal virtual lunch once a week might be just what is needed to vent, celebrate successes, and connect as human beings discussing weekend plans, the joys of home schooling or your cooking experiments. Adding some well-designed team development activities, self-development workshops or peer-learning sessions can elevate the emotional connection even further. If done well, these experiences build trust and enhance collaboration, which are hallmarks of a strong team culture. With a strong team, your goals become far more attainable! So, come together, set those goals and frameworks, and connect meaningfully to build a successful remote team. And reach out if you think we can help!