Ways to Stay Connected While Apart

June 4, 2020

Our recent blog posts have covered everything from how local government employees have switched to working from home and to the organizations, websites, and tools someone can utilize to help with that transition. But one of the less covered topics might just be how hard the social change has been for many newly remote workers. 

While this might be one of the more overlooked subtopics under the work from home umbrella, that doesn’t make it any less legitimate of a concern. So the question is, how do organizations keep their employees’ social meters filled and team morale and chemistry high without everyone’s usual water cooler conversations, in-person meetings, and day-to-day talks? 

Here’s our top tips (and a few resources too) for socially adjusting to remote work.

1. Designate At Least One Place For Miscellaneous Connection And Conversation

This is probably the single most important first step in the quest for improved social dynamics in your organization’s remote workplace. Many of the ideas you’ll see if you check out the websites linked below are variations of conversation starters (come up with a question of the day each morning, begin sharing a video of the week, etc.) and suggestions for competitions or activities like having a cook-off, playing PC games, or starting a virtual book club with coworkers. 

If your organization’s remote workplace doesn’t have a channel or area to mention miscellaneous employee conversation, there is zero chance of any of these team-connecting suggestions possibly coming to fruition and nowhere for fellow employees to connect in a casual group setting without setting something up themselves. 

TAKEAWAY: Consider creating places where work-talk is banned or places centered around certain themes like media, animals, or friends and family.

2. Try Donut

No, not the pastries that you’d sometimes find in the pre-COVID office breakroom. Donut is a Slack add-on that regularly pairs up team members to have a 30 minute ”donut-break”.  Donuts can encourage coworkers that don’t already know each other to become acquainted but it can also maintain the good social relationships that already exist. 

TAKEAWAY: Donut only works if your organization uses Slack. BUT, since now you know that something like this exists you can keep an eye out for something similar to integrate into your organization’s messaging system.  Learn more about Donut here.  

3. Recreate Bonding Over Food & Drink

Think about how many connections between coworkers are created and maintained over coffee, lunches, and happy hour excursions. Lucky for us, these can be one of the easiest traditions to continue. For lunches, simply pick your person (or people), set a day and time, and if desired you can even choose a certain restaurant everyone should order from or dish everyone should prepare. 

The organizer can send out a group video chat link and a certain day and time so that anyone who wants to join can do so ad libitum (this strategy works well for recurring morning coffee meetings too).

TAKEWAY: Go bananas with connecting through food! 

4. Try Trello

Like Donut, Trello is a free software that works to improve collaboration in work between peers. Trello provides boards, lists, and cards that enable the organization and prioritization of your projects in a flexible way.  Learn more at https://trello.com/

BonusTry Basecamp as a potential alternative to Slack or some of the other remote workplaces you might employ. Learn more at https://basecamp.com/.

TAKEAWAY: There are lots of ways you can communicate and collaborate with your remote teammates. It’s not just all about Slack. 

5. Stress The Importance Of Audio And Video Communication

It’s easy to disconnect the messenger from the message when a simple email, Slack, or Teams notification pops up on your screen. You might even opt to ignore it completely!  Phone calls and especially video calls can provide that heightened amount of social connection with the added bonus of improved clarity when discussing details.

TAKEAWAY: Connecting in the flesh is always the best option. 

6. Try Know Your Team

Also like Donut, Know Your Team is an app that can be added onto Slack for free. KYT provides researched social and culture questions that aim to build rapport and uncover team insights, fun icebreakers to help unfamiliar coworkers or new hires get to know each other, and even a check-in made to act like a “heartbeat” to keep everyone informed via status updates. 

Learn more at https://knowyourteam.com/

TAKEAWAY: Same as #4

7. Set Boundaries Around COVID-19 Related Discussion

While this last idea might seem specific to remote work employees reading this blog post during the time of the coronavirus, this advice can actually be helpful for guiding any future work in times like this. 

Like idea #1 mentioned, one way to go about implementation here is to have a channel specifically dedicated to COVID-19 information, updates, and discussion, and subsequently ban talking about it in any other channels. Also, virtual lunches or meetings of any kind can be prefaced with sentiments like, “no talking about work” or “no talking about the coronavirus.” 

Twitter user Jason Fried weighed in on how his organization is addressing boundaries. Fried said, “Lots of people at work want to talk COVID-19, but not everyone. Where you talk about it matters. If it’s mixed in with work stuff, then those who don’t want to hear about it can’t avoid it. So we set up a separate “All Pandemics” project in Basecamp”. 

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So now onto the self-promotion part. We here at NextRequest are always there to help you lead the charge toward innovative work practices. Let’s consult on how you and your organization can better connect while apart.

Learn more here.  


LINKS:

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/25/how-coworkers-are-staying-connected-while-they-work-from-home.html

https://www.halfhalftravel.com/remote-work/stay-connected-while-working-from-home.html