When you work remotely, do you worry about Connecting With Coworkers?
There’s no need to feel alone! As many of us work from home (some permanently), we feel disconnected.
Working remotely doesn’t have to be difficult, a chore, or a struggle.
Keeping in touch with clients, vendors, coworkers, managers, or direct reports should come naturally when working from home.
It is true that working from home can have psychological effects whether you are just starting out with a remote job or have been working remotely for years.
1. Provide opportunities for spontaneous connections
Those proverbial afternoon chats around the water cooler or when you’re picking up a report at the photocopier are natural micro-interactions in the office.
Researchers suggest we underestimate the importance of this type of social connection to our overall happiness. Additionally, these conversations can lead to new ideas for a company or breakthroughs on business challenges.
Video conferencing software can create this colleague connection even though you cannot randomly bump into a coworker in the hall while telecommuting.
Make short meetings during the week that are meant for informal conversations using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or any other video conferencing app your company uses.
Set up 15- to 30-minute recurring meetings labeled as “Coffee Breaks,” “Lunchtime Chats,” or any name that makes it clear it’s for social interaction. On their calendars, colleagues can mark their attendance as “tentative” and join the video chat at any time.
2. The Pomodoro Technique With a Friend
To keep a structured remote workday, there are many time management techniques—and advice to choose one. Our suggestion is that you and a coworker choose one of these techniques to practice together. For example, if you are using the Pomodoro Technique, set a timer for every interval of 25 minutes and say “ready, set, go!” together. Then you can take a guilt-free five-minute break with a buddy instead of doing laundry, while gamifying your workday to a certain extent. Just remember to do your laundry at some point, though.
3. Organize “get to know you” events for new employees
Whenever new employees join a company, leadership needs to get creative about how to integrate them into a remote team. It can be challenging to fit enough time into these project meetings for new hires to really get to know each other although they will meet via a remote meeting to learn about their tasks.
Companies can use communication apps to facilitate these “get to know you” events by pairing colleagues randomly and providing prompts and questions to guide the conversation. Slack add-ons Donut and WaterCooler accomplish exactly that.
Meetings like these can create a sense of belonging for new employees and even help existing employees learn something new about each other.
4. Make video a requirement
Even though this seems obvious, tons of people still use soul-crushing conference calls or they simply “don’t like” to be on video. In the current situation, skipping video is not an option since there will be no in-person communication. Our default to phone calls and Slack misses out on too many nonverbal cues. In the office, when you ask, “Can we talk?”, your coworker can see your friendly, non-scolding face.” The solution is to have video chats, to have them frequently, and to require video access for every team member.
Do you need lighting tips? When setting up, utilize natural light and yellow is the next best light color. Make sure you’re not backlit by the light coming from the front.
5. Video chat in groups while working silently!
It may not be for everyone, but we encourage you to give it a try. In other words, pretend you are sitting next to each other in real life — that is, silently, but with video on. Coworking spaces are gaining in popularity due to the fact that just hearing someone typing away and working diligently can be a huge boost for moods and morale (not to mention productivity). Sometimes working from home is exciting, but it can be isolating for many people on a regular basis.
6. Organize your home office
No matter how adept your team is at video conferencing, working from home can pose unique challenges. You might have a child working on schoolwork right next to you when you connect from home. If your cat decides to stand in front of your camera at a less than ideal angle, well, that’s just the way cats are.
Keep your team connected by removing the anxiety and stress they might feel in anticipation of these moments when home life spills over into work life. You could host a bring your kid to work day or a bring your pet to work day where employees are able to meet some of the little ones who fill your home office. This helps to build relationships and signals understanding to your staff.
7. Create a virtual book club for the company.
It is possible to do this through Slack, where members join a channel, a book is voted upon, and a date is set for finishing it.
A ‘book club’ can be held virtually via Zoom over a monthly or semi-monthly schedule that is attended by all members.
The deadlines and chapters that have to be read by when need to be communicated clearly.
8. Schedule check-ins that are primarily about listening
Many people had a tough time as a result of the Coronavirus. Financial challenges, problems at home, health concerns, and many other concerns plague people today. We are accustomed to asking “How are you?” without actually expecting a full response and without anticipating the time required to listen carefully to it.
Get in touch with your colleagues at least once a month by giving them a call, asking how they’re doing, and then listening. It speaks volumes to create a virtual work environment where team members know someone cares enough to schedule a personal check-in when they’re having a hard time.
9. Promote casual encounters
That’s not the kind. Although we hate to sound like broken records, working from home can be lonely and stifles those spontaneous moments that lead to closer relationships and creative solutions. As you move around your house, take your colleagues to the watercooler as a way to make up for it. Take your computer with you wherever you go. Going into the kitchen to make some tea? Bring a colleague along. You’re celebrating a victory by doing a victory lap around your living room? The video needs to be widescreen. Do you have a celebrity faux pas to share? Drop your thoughts in the “casual chatter” Slack channel.
10. Add some flair to your video calls
Zoom, for example, offers the option to change the background of your video conferencing session. From the software’s options, you can choose a photo or something fun. Encourage participants to select a different background for some video conferences than their actual home office.
Create a contest to determine which background is the most creative or use them as lighthearted conversation starters. Alternatively, everyone could choose a photo from a past vacation and play “guess the location.”
Maintaining the socialization and connections that occur more organically in an office environment can be challenging when moving to a remote work environment. Even when working from home, you can keep your team motivated and connected with a little creativity.
The result is not only to strengthen trust and relationships between employees but also to foster a culture of work-life balance throughout your company.