We have been reflecting on the past year of ups and downs and the impact on our beautiful business and our team. In our experience, truly connecting with people and bridging the gap across screens (and even the globe) to continue to do great work and collaborate brilliantly together has been critical in getting through the tough times.
And then it hit us…some of us have never actually met in real life. Yet, we have managed to achieve our shared goals, aspirations and visualise and plan for the future. This is our story.
“I joined FizzPopBANG nearly two years ago now and it feels like I have been here forever and have known my crew mates for a lifetime. But I had a sudden realisation that there is one member of our team that I have never met in real life: the wonderful Georgie, who runs FizzPopBANG New Zealand. I don’t even know how tall she is in comparison to me, but we do call her pocket rocket, so I’m thinking shorter than me!”
“I’m a hugger. There’s something about physical contact that for me breaks down barriers. Through touch, whether it’s a full-blown bear hug, polite handshake or even a high five, I usually find a greater sense of connection with someone and as a result I’m much more inclined to open up to them.
So, the day Clare said to me “hey, you realise we’ve never met, and I have no idea how tall you are!” was a true shock. How have we become so incredibly close, with a mutual respect and genuine connection, just over zoom?”
“I first encountered Georgie’s abundant enthusiasm and passion in my induction. She was the critical linchpin to my introduction to FPB and getting me up to speed on the important stuff. She was a welcome and necessary support in all things operational, but also a kindred spirit and we quickly clicked with one another. I felt like I could ask her all the daft questions I had as a newbie and she was always an email or message away with advice, support or a bit of banter.
“One of the things I am so grateful to Clare for (that she has in abundance for me) is her time. It’s never too much trouble for her to jump on a call to talk things through, even though we’re living in different time-zones! It’s a highlight of my day when I open my laptop and I know that she’s there, even if it’s just a quick ‘Heya’ for a minute to feel connected. Which makes all the difference when I work remotely from the other side of the world.”
AND THEN... COVID
“When Covid hit, it was a shock not to be able to leave the house, travel to see clients and deliver our sessions in person. I missed the buzz of being around people and the variety my job usually provides on a daily basis. But I did find it easy to stay connected to my team, including Georgie, because it’s how we work anyway. Our team have always worked remotely, and we’ve never had an office. We were able to adapt to virtual delivery of our sessions at pace and continue to collaborate and communicate in the usual ways. This gave us the advantage and allowed us to focus on transforming our business to online.
We also found that many clients were keen to understand how we built and sustained brilliant virtual relationships and nurture a culture where everyone works from their home office or garden shed. I know my online relationship with Georgie has definitely helped me build stronger and better relationships with other members of the team during recent times of lockdown and isolation, and I’m truly grateful for this.”
“Covid meant that Clare and I were suddenly in the same boat - neither of us could physically be near our teammates. Even though Clare lives so close to several of our crew, she might as well have lived on the other side of the world. The thing is that now with restrictions easing, Clare and our UK based team are physically able to meet again. But I’m still a 24-hour flight away.
My UK team have been through so much change, but very little has actually changed for me in NZ. I haven’t had to go through the emotional and physical stress of a dramatic digital revolution, forced to self-isolate away from friends and family for months on end, or go through furlough to keep the business afloat.
The UK team have come back together, and chances are, I could feel isolated and very far away from them all right now, but I don’t. Yes, there are private jokes and those all-important hugs that I miss out on, but we’ve worked hard to create the right culture for successful global remote working.”
HOW TO BRIDGE THE GAP OF A VIRTUAL WORKING RELATIONSHIP
Reflecting on our relationship and how we have nurtured it over time, we think there are a few essential aspects we have focused on (whether consciously or unconsciously) that have ensured a strong foundation of trust, clarity and communication, and that has made bridging the physical gap of continents and oceans easier.
Commit to making time to connect (virtually)
With time zones this can prove tricky but it’s about being flexible, being clear on the purpose of the time together and having a shared goal to achieve. Our time together may be an evening for one and an early morning for another, but when we have clarity on why we are coming together, the conversation is rich and fruitful, and most importantly we progress. We respect one another’s time and the fact that to make this relationship work, we have to blur the workday boundaries sometimes, otherwise we would never actually speak to one another! We never take this sacrifice of time for granted and regularly check in with each other to make sure it’s still okay and manageable.
Be vulnerable – share your hopes and dreams
We have opened up and shared our personal lives – our whole selves. We spend time chatting to each other’s kids and partners when they are in the background on Zoom. Getting to know each other’s lives has cemented our connection and our ability to make things happen at pace. It means we can have the honest conversations and give each other feedback in the moment, without filters and judgment. We are comfortable to be vulnerable with each other, which means the hard stuff is easier, regardless of the virtual element of our relationship.
Create moments that matter
Whether it’s gifts in the post, personalised video messages, or texts to say “I’m thinking of you” they all create moments where you feel part of something special. It’s about making gestures to your teammates so they feel part of the crew even when they can’t physically be with you.
And especially over the past year, we have continued to acknowledge the important life things, bigging each other up when we achieve great things and sending supportive messages to one another when we need a boost or a few words of encouragement. We’ve definitely demonstrated our ability to have spirit in good times and bad this year (one of the FPB values).
We are looking to our future now. With so many new virtual working relationships having been forged, it’s an exciting time to get on with collaborating online with remote teams and to navigate the changes that COVID has thrust upon us all.
So, we encourage you to seize this chance to take your virtual working relationships to the next level. Visualise and plan for your future together. And you never know, one day you might get to meet them in person, raise a cocktail (or two) and see how tall they really are!
By Clare Timothy & Georgie Smith