How to Stay Connected With Your Colleagues Remotely While Working From Home
Working from home is now a requirement for many. We have tips on how to stay connected and productive.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, companies are feeling the pressure to work from home in order to stay safe. For those who work virtually as a regular practice, this disruption may only be minor.
However, many small businesses are not as prepared or experienced when it comes to working from home. In fact, only 29% of Americans are set up in a way that allows them to work from home. Thus, many may be experiencing more severe disruption.
Don’t let social distancing let you feel disconnected at work. Get creative with how you stay in touch and make it fun.
For those who are working from home for the first time, and worrying that the transition may impact their team connectivity and cohesion, fear not! There are many ways to stay equally connected as we practice social distancing around the world. Though the type of connectivity you will experience will feel different, it can still be just as productive.
Here are some suggestions to maintain team cohesion and fulfill the social needs of your teams while we transition to work from home.
Create new team rituals
Just like you have regular daily habits with your team in the office, you’ll now have to create new routines and rituals that work virtually. Here are a few suggestions.
Weekly virtual coffee
Consider setting a regularly scheduled time for your team each week to catch up over coffee in a group video conference. This time can be separate from your regular team meetings, and you can simply chat over a coffee and talk about what’s happening in your life as you would in the office.
Weekly virtual coffee sessions can replace the regular water cooler chat. Be sure to set a regular cadence in these meetings and try your best not to cancel or reschedule it.
If you’re missing the socialization over lunch, consider setting up lunch dates over video chat with people on your team. You could also mention in your virtual company forums (example: Slack groups) that you’re interested in having lunch over video chat with people as if you were in your company cafeteria.
If you’re a manager and you know your employees are shy, you can ask people who are interested in virtual lunches or coffee to sign up, and then you can randomly pair them (either manually, or using tools like Donut) to meet virtually.
Activities don’t need to be anything big. They can be as simple as everyone reading the same article and sharing their thoughts, attending a webinar, starting a book club, or participating in a weekly meditation as a group.
While working remotely, it’s important to over-communicate whenever possible. This can mean repeating your messages several times, or reposting content and announcements on several channels and platforms to make sure they reach everyone.
Here are a few ideas to implement within your teams.
Morning status updates
If your team is not used to working virtually, it might be helpful to run daily/weekly morning updates over video conferencing to help keep people on track and communicate important information to your team. These meetings keep people in touch and connected, and serve as a way to share wins/losses from the previous day.
Check in with your employees as often as possible and share any updates and changes in the business. Also, make sure to follow up on any announcements.
If you’re a manager, check in on employees at the start of each day. Something as simple as “Good morning! How are things going today? What can I help you with?” is a great place to start. Personal contact is important at this time and should be explicitly practiced to keep people feeling in the loop.
Share more with your colleagues
When working remotely, it helps to open up and share what’s happening in your life with your colleagues (to the degree that you’re comfortable, of course).
This can include things like …
Photos and videos
Sharing (appropriate) photos with your team is a good way to bond and make it feel like you’re all together. Photos and videos of your pets, your work-from-home station, your garden, or what you’re cooking are all good ways to create the personal touch lost through working from home. If you prefer to not share personal information, your favorite meme or an interesting article work too.
Personal schedules and boundaries
It’s important to be explicit about when your day starts and ends in order to set the precedence around work boundaries. Remember, just because you’re working from home does not mean people can access you around the clock. The regular workday still applies, so colleagues should respect when you end your day virtually and log off — the same way as when you leave the office.
Work from home goals
Working from home means less time commuting to the office and less time getting ready to go to work. This should free up some personal time to work on personal goals, like taking an online course or learning a new language. Share these goals with your colleagues, and see if anyone wants to join in as your accountability buddy.
All these suggestions will be contingent on having the right technology and tools in place to support your workforce. This means investing in collaborative file-sharing tools, video conferencing tools, and instant messaging. This should be the very first step as we transition into this new state of work and weather this storm.
Don’t let social distancing let you feel disconnected at work. Get creative with how you stay in touch and make it fun. While loneliness can be a problem for people who work remotely, making it a priority to schedule virtual events with your team can go a long way.
How are you and your colleagues maintaining your work relationships? What has worked for your teams? Let us know!