We’re over a year into the pandemic, with working from home becoming the new normal. And with many companies rethinking how they’ll operate post lockdown, WFH could be here to stay.
Despite the advantages, it’s easy to feel isolated from your employees and colleagues when you’re away from the office. So how do you stay connected? We’ve got all the advice you need.
Catch up over a virtual coffee break
When working from home we lose the everyday chats in the office. Those Monday mornings when you share stories of your weekend or discuss last night’s TV. Such conversations are important in building up relationships, especially if you (or they) are new to the company.
Try arranging virtual coffee meetings with your co-workers one or two mornings a week. Just a 15-minute non-work related chat can be a great way to start the day and build rapport, and might even motivate you to be more productive afterwards.
You could get into pairs or threes, mixing them up each time. This would avoid bigger groups where only managers and the more dominant members have the confidence to contribute.
Enjoy a Friday evening quarantini
A drink over video call at the end of the week is a fun way to wind down and stay connected to your team. To keep things fresh, you could play a classic board game online or create quiz questions.
Apps like Party Qs generate random conversation starters such as ‘What are four things you liked about your childhood?’ or ‘What’s better: technology or nature?’ These can help create a rapport with your direct reports and co-workers in a fun and interesting way.
Create a work exercise group
There’s no better way to keep up exercise during lockdown than having others motivate you. And chances are, lots of your teammates will be wanting an excuse to get out of the house, especially with the days getting warmer and lighter.
Exercise apps like Strava allow you to create running or walking groups. You can see each other’s routes, share photos of what you see on the way and exchange messages of encouragement. It’s a great way to build a sense of community with your team when you’re physically apart.
Have informal work channels
Using apps like Slack can keep you connected while working from home. Alongside anything work-related, you can have channels such as ‘Random chat’ where you can share anything you fancy.
Introducing challenges such as photo competitions (example: guessing who the co-worker is when they were little), can add a bit of sparkle to your workday and helps build relationships with your team.
Create an office environment
If you miss not having your direct report or work buddy next to you, try recreating it virtually. Start a video call with them and minimise the screen so you’re able to get on with your work. For the most part, you’ll both be silently working away, but if you need to ask anything you can.
It saves you deliberating over whether something is worth an email or not. And with a colleague effectively in the room with you, you’re less likely to get distracted by the latest lockdown meme.
Set your team challenges
Studies have shown that short bursts of work can be more effective than longer stints. As a way of staying both productive and connected while working from home, try setting your teammates challenges to get something done within a certain time limit.
They say creativity comes from a deadline and not enough time, so you might be surprised at what you produce. Plus, you can motivate and encourage others to reach their targets—a sure-fire way to stay connected to your team.
Try speed networking
With apps like Run the World, you can organise talks, conferences and team socials to help you stay connected during lockdown. Over a set period of time, you’re randomly matched with a different colleague every 5 minutes.
It’s a great way for people who’ve just joined the company to meet each other. And even for old hands, it’s a fun way to engage with your co-workers—especially if you’ve lost touch with some people since the start of the pandemic.
Get active in your meetings
Some companies get rid of the chairs and make employees stand during meetings. It might sound like cruelty, but it can be effective in generating ideas—it’s amazing how quickly you can find solutions to problems when you’re desperate for a seat!
We have a tendency to sit down during a video meeting, and can easily switch off mentally. Instead, try having a meeting standing up—or even while going for a walk or making dinner. Physical activity is known to stimulate your brain as well, so you might connect with your colleagues in a slightly different way and come up with some useful ideas.
Meet the needs of your team
It’s easy to make assumptions about others based on our own thoughts and feelings, but one person’s experience of lockdown won’t be the same as another’s. It’s worth doing a questionnaire to see how people are feeling a year into the pandemic.
What have they found tough so far? In what ways would they like to stay connected? Would they prefer more group interactions or one on ones? These kinds of questions will help inform company policy—not just during lockdown but if and when working from home continues post-Covid.
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