Eight Ways to Cope When You're a Team of One
People can even belong to both a team of one and a larger team – think, for example, the one employee that makes up the HR, accounts or IT department in an SME.
Although the circumstances of people who work alone might vary, they all face similar challenges. They often shoulder greater responsibility than individuals working in larger teams, can be tasked with critical project-based work, or may become overloaded – all with very little support. These challenges, combined with the likelihood of feeling isolated, means that the risk of them becoming ill or of having their work "go wrong" are very real.
If you are a team of one, some of these challenges might sound familiar. You might be beginning to feel pressurized by the amount of responsibility that you have.
Eight Strategies for Coping
1. Engage With Others
Teams of one are, by nature, seen as separate, individual entities by the rest of the organization. If you're such a team, you might struggle with having no one to discuss ideas with, be challenged by, or simply to chat with. This can lead to you feeling isolated or not engaging with other people, particularly if you work in a different physical space.
2. Make Your Voice Heard
Other people might not understand your priorities, your workload, or the limits of your responsibilities as a team of one. They might bombard you with work requests when you're least able to help out, and it can be hard to reply with a flat "no." But remember that you're on your own and sometimes it's simply impossible to do everything that people ask of you. There's no shame in this, so go easy on yourself and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Equally, it's easy to get overlooked when you're a team of one. Your work could easily slip under the radar if you don't hold a prominent position within your organization. So, it's crucial to get noticed. It's important that people know what you're working on, so be sure to keep them informed.
3. Seek Help
No matter how good you are at your job, you can't be good at everything. Furthermore, as a team of one, you are unlikely to have much time available to master new skills, and when you're ill or suffer a setback, the needs of the business continue regardless.
It's important that you know your limitations and are able to seek help when there's a gap in your knowledge, you don't have enough time to complete your tasks, or you need help at short notice. You might find someone in another department, freelancers or external business partners who will help you.
Use networking tools to build up a bank of contacts who can provide you with professional support, and employ your persuasion and negotiation skills to make best use of their expertise.
Remember to offer your own help to others in quieter times. This will help you to "bank" some goodwill ready for when you need a favour. You may be a team of one, but that doesn't mean that you can't be a good team player within your business.
Don't overlook the help that technology can provide, either. If you're a one-person HR department, for example, software can help you to tackle recurring tasks, such as onboarding, payroll and benefits.
4. Own Your Professional Development
Working alone can reduce your ability to develop yourself professionally. You could be invited to attend fewer courses than colleagues in bigger teams or miss hearing "on the grapevine" about learning opportunities that arise. You might simply be too busy dealing with your workload to even think about taking some time out for professional development.
To overcome these difficulties, try to take ownership of your own learning and development needs.
5. Hone Your Creative Thinking
As a team of one, you may not have access to many resources. Be prepared to get creative. You might need to tackle problems single-handedly, and devise new products and processes by yourself. You may even have to sidestep usual workflows just to get the job done.
6. Be Organized
Teams of one often need to be hyper-organized. If you're a team of one, it's best to get organized quickly. Keep on top of your schedule, your workflows and your deadlines, and prioritize them accordingly. You, and you alone, stand accountable for getting your work done on time and to a high standard.
7. Stay Focused
It's easy to get distracted, procrastinate and become less productive when you work by yourself. To stay on track, it's important to set realistic goals for yourself and to stay focused on them. Align your goals and priorities with those of your organization, and draw up action plans for achieving them.
8. Remember you Health and Safety
As a team of one you might be required to work physically alone. This can increase the risks to your health and safety, so it's wise to discuss any concerns that you have about your working space with your manager before you start. Together, consider the steps you could take to make your job safer such as ergonomic furniture to buddy systems and safety monitoring systems.