Illustration of a woman shaking flowers, chat bubbles, and note cards out of her laptop.
5-second summary
  • 2022 promises to (finally) be the transitional “light at the end of the tunnel” year we’ve been waiting for. Which means the shape of teamwork is likely to change (again).
  • When we asked our Atlassian Community members for their top tips, communication and empathy featured prominently.
  • Community members also shared ideas for reducing burnout and workplace stress.

As much as we hope to see the backside of pandemic-era restrictions and anxiety this year, both are still very much with us for the moment. If you can identify with ol’ Bilbo Baggins, who felt “like butter scraped over too much bread,” you’re not alone.

So how can you prepare for whatever comes next? We put this question to our Atlassian Community and two major themes emerged: empathy and communication. We also got loads of other timely answers, which we’ve collected here. To give you a taste, here are 10 tips that stand out. (Responses are lightly edited for clarity.)

1. Turn FOMO into JOMO

“We all know the feeling of ‘FOMO’ when it comes to working,” writes Jennifer Velázquez, Head of Marketing at Jexo. “You may feel like your work will crumble without you steering every single piece, and often end up doing too much with no time left over for yourself.” Instead of staying chained to your job, Velázquez recommends taking time out to recharge and let new ideas emerge. That might mean taking a few days off or simply logging off promptly at 5:00 p.m. without feeling guilty.

“Trust in your team (they’re there for a reason!),” she says. “The more we embrace JOMO, the more decluttered our heads will be, giving us more capacity to tackle upcoming challenges and hit our milestones.”

Do your team a favor and start delegating more

2. Remember the 4 Cs of communication

Whether you’re communicating via email, voicemail, chat, or conference call, Rose Eliff, Senior Technical Writer at Custom Business Solutions, reminds us employ the four 4 Cs:

  • Clear – Avoid ambiguity. Anticipate any knowledge gaps in your audience and fill in the blanks for them. Avoid jargon. Use vocabulary that everyone will understand.
  • Concise – Short, direct sentences are easier to follow than long, rambling thoughts. Avoid filler words that clutter the message. In writing, use bullet points and paragraph breaks to organize the text, but go easy on the exclamation marks. Your words should do the work, not your punctuation.
  • Correct – People count on you to be truthful, so fact-check yourself. If you don’t know the answer, say you’ll find out instead of making something up. You’ll be seen as a trustworthy source that others can rely on.
  • Compassionate – Be courteous and kind when communicating. Your integrity and kindness will make you a person that others will want to listen to and engage with.

Communication is especially important when we aren’t working in a shared office environment. Without those hallway and kitchen conversations, we have fewer chances to provide extra context or clarification.

One commenter added a fifth “C”: customize. Think about the level of detail your audience needs and the best medium to use. Feel free to add more “Cs” to the discussion and keep the communication goodness going!

The guide to workplace communication channels you didn’t know you needed

3. A little empathy goes a long way

When our colleagues do something “weird” or miss a deadline, it’s often because they’re quietly fighting some kind of battle we can’t see. According to Jimmy Seddon, R&D Tools Admin at Arctic Wolf, we should assume that everyone is working with the best of intentions, even if it appears someone isn’t pulling their weight.

“In my part of the world, we’ve gone back into lockdown,” he shared in January. “That means parents have to contend with remote learning as well as their jobs. Mental health issues continue to be a struggle as people are unable to leave their homes. Families are affected by loved ones that are out of work or facing health issues.” Yeah, that’s a lot.

He also reminds us that nine times out of 10, a private conversation with someone who is falling behind will reveal that they’re overloaded but too scared to say no when new work rolls in. “Be kind and supportive of your team,” Seddon advises. “You’ll appreciate that same support when you need it from them.”

What empathy-centered leadership looks like

4. Urgency ≠ importance

This tip comes from another member of the Jexo team, co-founder Nikki Zavadska. She reminds us that all our work should be “important” – if something isn’t, then it shouldn’t be on our plates in the first place. But some items are more time-sensitive than others. “Most people make things out to be more urgent than they really are,” she says. “Remind your team that they’re not always expected to do things right away.”

Zavadska points out how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking every ping from colleagues asking for help is an emergency. “We get overwhelmed by these requests, then we can’t focus on the tasks that matter more,” she says. She even introduced an acronym for this phenomenon: WoLF (working on the latest fire).

So whether you’re the requestor or requestee, be sure to clarify the timeline for the request and provide context as to why it’s urgent (or not). As Zavadska says, clear communication is the key!

This is how to say “yes” at work without spreading yourself too thin

5. Take turns facilitating meetings

Video calls aren’t going anywhere, so we may as well get good facilitating them. Jack Brickey, a VP of Engineering and IT in the telecom industry and an Atlassian Community Leader, points out that individual contributors don’t necessarily get many chances to practice this skill. Granted, not everybody wants to facilitate meetings. But it’s still worth encouraging every member of your team to give it a try so they can develop that muscle.

6 meeting hacks (and 1 weird tip) that build trust

6. Be intentional about your schedule and workload

With the sudden shift to remote work, many people started working longer hours without noticing it. The lines between work and personal time tend to blur when you’re working from home. Teodora Vasileva, a marketer at Old Street Solutions and another Atlassian Community Leader, recommends setting aside a little time each week to look at what’s on your plate, both personally and professionally. If things are out of balance, look for items that you can delay or delegate to a colleague.

6 ways to support the work-life integrators and segmentors on your team

7. Keep the virtual coffee chats going

Community Leader Nina Schmidt, who leads project and process management at UVEX Group, makes a point to take 15 minutes each week for a casual water-cooler style virtual catch-up with her team. This helps new team members feel at home faster and keeps the connections between long-time teammates strong.

As someone who started a new job during the pandemic, Schmidt knows first-hand how tough onboarding and settling into a new team can be when it’s all virtual. That said, 15 minutes of small talk each week is beneficial when you’re all in an office, too.

Small talk at work has big benefits

8. Define the problem before devising a solution

Have you ever seen one of those machines that warm up diaper wipes before you use them? At the risk of editorializing, that’s what you might call “a solution in search of a problem.” This phenomenon can strike any team in any industry. So before you dive into solution mode, make sure you fully understand the problem.

Once you examine it from different angles, you might find it’s completely different from what you thought! Community member Melissa Castán points out that problem definition is a team sport. Exploring a problem from different points of view almost always leads to a cleaner solution.

Conway’s Law: the little-known principle that influences your work more than you think

9. Assume you don’t have complete information

Look: data is great. But data points don’t tell a complete story. And, being humans, we tend to fill in the gaps in our knowledge by unconsciously making up stories of our own. Christine Dela Rosa, my own esteemed colleague and leader of the Teamwork Lab on Atlassian Community, offers three ways to avoid falling into that cognitive trap:

  • Validate your assumptions. If you need more data points, collect them. Run surveys among a sample of customers. Poll teams. Or even gut-check by talking to one person of interest.
  • Share your thoughts along with your source so others know what you’re basing your perspective on.
  • Err on the side of overcommunicating. Information you think is obvious may not be to others.
How to boost your team’s success with shared mental models

10. Rethink your team’s norms

Community member and Gliffy marketer Samie Kaufman writes that “getting back to normal” won’t mean simply rewinding the clock and working as if the last two years never happened. We’ve settled into using tools like group chat and video conferencing in certain ways. See also: practices like asynchronous stand-up meetings.

But what about when more of us are working in an office again? Kaufman challenges us to keep an eye out for norms of any kind that could use a refresh and work with our teams to update them.

The agile guide to winning at team development

Thank you to everyone who responded and/or upvoted answers on Community! Let’s do this again next year. 🙂

10 teamwork tips custom-built for 2022