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How to work as a team when you are apart

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Across the country, and the world, education teams are fragmented. Schools and early years settings are closed, some to all children, and many to all but the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable. Every school setting has organised themselves in their own way, perhaps operating central hubs, or with an individual staffing rota, or there may be staff teams working on rotation. Educators who are not physically in the setting will be at home, perhaps organising support for children and families from there. They may be furloughed.

This means teams are separated at a time when staying connected is vital, both for practical purposes and for wellbeing. This got me thinking about what makes a good team, and how we can maintain that now that we are having to conduct things differently.

June O’Sullivan wrote in her blog recently: ‘…for me the best leaders in a crisis are those who have built the loyalty and support of their team during the ordinary times.’ If your team has strong foundations then you have something to build on when times are challenging. What are the strengths your team had when you were together in your setting? How can those qualities help you maintain a sense of togetherness now?

Supporting a team means keeping everyone involved and valuing their thoughts and ideas. Staff need to be able to ask questions, reflect and evaluate together. There will be a lot of questions right now and managers may not have the answers, and there is no easy way to gather and share. Perhaps you could have a weekly virtual meeting to share what has been happening? These may need to be done in smaller groups if you have a large team, or if you have some staff members who have been furloughed. If this is the case, you could take notes and send them to other team members if they were not able to participate. Giving the meeting a structure sent out in advance will help make it valuable. Perhaps beginning with how everyone has been; how are children and families?; discussing positives as well as challenges; a time for questions; a time for suggestions..

Reading up on teamwork, having a common goal often comes up as a key element to uniting people. In a school or setting this may be summed up by your ethos or vision. You could talk together in a virtual meeting about what your common goal might be now. What are you, as a team, trying to achieve? Is there a word or phrase that embodies what you decide on? You could use this at the end of messages or emails as a mantra to remind everyone that they are working towards something together.

Acts of kindness can boost morale and wellbeing even at times of great difficulty. This can be done by any team member, whatever their role in the setting, and can reach out to staff who are at a setting or those who are at home. Checking in with everyone, sending a photo or a thoughtful word will make everyone feel kept in mind.



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Edited by Jules

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