While working remotely has been steadily increasing over time, our current situation has opened up a whole new ball game with entire organizations closing their offices and having staff work from home. As a result, employees across the country are missing the in-person, human interaction that naturally occurs in the workplace. Here are six creative tips that will help you and your team maintain strong relationships, keep employees engaged and re-introduce some normalcy to your day.
Include “Water Cooler” Time During Meetings
One of the best things about working in-person is keeping up with your coworkers’ personal lives. During meetings, include time for personal interaction. You can even encourage these conversations by introducing fun topics/questions. For example, ask about first/favorite concerts, what shows/movies have people been watching or what they would do if they won the lottery. Having fun conversations can generate some positive energy within the group and even help your meeting run more smoothly.
Host Virtual Celebrations
Even if we can’t all get together in a conference room (or local bar) to celebrate birthdays, life milestones or team accomplishments, we can definitely mirror these activities virtually. Host a video call and spend time sharing favorite memories of the person you are celebrating. A personal note from the CEO, a workspace chat message filled with thoughtful notes from colleagues or a group digital card are just a few other ideas to help you continue to celebrate together. We want you to make sure your employees are spoiled with attention on their special day!
Involve Your Coworker’s Families and Homes
Working remotely blurs the lines between home and office. Try to embrace this rather than trying to pretend your home is as professional as your office. It isn’t and that’s ok; lean into it. Definitely respect each other’s boundaries, but try inviting your children or pets to make special appearances when a meeting ends early or they unexpectedly dance across your computer screen. You can also encourage people to give a tour of their workspace – then ask about some of the items in their home office. This is another way to welcome every opportunity to get to know your coworkers better.
Make Video Mandatory
You may have coworkers who prefer not to be on video. So be upfront with your expectations that certain meetings (or portions of them) will require cameras on. This visual component is necessary to establishing a connection and aids comprehension. When we default to voice-only meetings, instant messaging or “the black hole” of email we lose important non-verbal cues such as excitement, reflection, reticence, confusion and happiness. Make sure to limit emails for information sharing and opt for screen time for any kind of discussion.
Gamify Your Workday
The idea here is to make work fun and make your difficult tasks feel easier to complete. By adding “gamification” as a motivational technique, people will feel engaged, invested and focused. Offer incentives to your team for completing otherwise innocuous tasks – either as contests or in a given timeframe (e.g., timecards, expense reports or other “administrivia” tasks). If you have a group task to complete, try splitting into teams to come up with their own solutions. When you regroup, have each team present their ideas with awards for various things: e.g., most creative, most efficient or the “ummm ok” award.
Recreate the Social Connection
The team isn’t heading to their favorite local lunch spot now, so recreate the social connection that happens when you do grab lunch together. Pick a day of the week where you and your team have shared lunches, in work-from-home style. Order take-out or prepare a meal together. Eating your lunch together virtually can be unifying, a boost to your psychological well-being and just the midday pick-me-up you needed. (You could also recreate the department FAC online.)
So try some of these suggestions with your team – or think of your own ways to keep the “social” in social distancing! By the time you head back to the office, it is likely you’ll have strengthened company culture, relationships and engagement. Remember: Always bring your best self to work no matter the location.
All of our service area leaders have dozens of year of experience. These are protips they’ve picked up along that way that you can use right now to solve common issues.