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Gaming Remote Teams

With WebEx, Zoom and Hangout calls being the normal across the world, how do we really track productivity levels? True we can connect with remote teams using Slack or Microsoft Teams to delegate tasks and monitor progress, but what becomes of individual motivation amidst these uncertain times?

The impact of motivation on employee productivity has been avidly researched and a profound correlation, well established. The challenge for the white collar workforce is how to keep remote teams engaged and motivated over long periods, as the pandemic unfolds.

For the past 6 years, my work in designing serious learning games for adult learners has helped me understand the nuances of how intrinsic motivation can help drive a state of FLOW in users. I firmly believe there are lessons in game design that can unlock value in designing communication and processes for the remote workforce.

Let’s look at communication first. The number of emails that you shell out to your team every hour is not a measure of your throughput, nor does it impact your team churning out results faster. Micro-managing low-order tasks, being done by experienced professionals can add to the existing stress levels and hinder efficiency. The need of the hour is to create communiqué (verbal/written) that helps drive a sense of autonomy in the recipient. Acknowledging his/her strengths in fulfilling the task at hand and delineating clear timelines for completion presents a basic blueprint. The need for establishing a common sense of purpose has never been greater. Pick up the phone and check up on your team, reassure them about how there skills are vital for the organization to serve its purpose. As Ogilvy aptly said, leaders grasp nettles; this is the time to hone your story-telling skills to drive home a sense of purpose and belonging in your teams.

Next we look at how we can utilize game design to reframe existing processes to drive home engagement. John manages a team of 10, who work on a critical project. The SOPs are clearly defined and they have a weekly call to asses the progress of the project. Earlier John could easily walk up to any team member and check up on them. With the team now working remotely John feels a sense of handicap in not being able to engage with his team. How about creating a competition format for the weekly deliverables for the team? A simple leader-board that tracks task completion along with mapping selfless activity like helping others or boosting team creativity. Something new for the team to look forward to and also drive home a sense of competition. Building extrinsic rewards like points or badges within the existing process for milestone completion can help foster a sense of camaraderie within the team.

Using simple hacks from game design and behavioural psychology, we can start building new bridges during these incoherent times. The human journey from the caves to the Statue of Liberty, is one that is full of infinite hope. As we bask in this new reality of a curtailed world our ingenuity and resourcefulness are vital for paving the way for a better world.

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