As the world works together (while social distancing) to slow the spread of COVID-19, millions of employees are now working from home. After a few weeks of initial hiccups, employees are now adjusting to this new normal. Virtual meetings and phone call check-ins have replaced team gatherings and popping by a cubicle for a chat. Many are enjoying the increased productivity that results from fewer interruptions, while others are simultaneously juggling the demands of being an employee, parent, caregiver, and educator.
One of the biggest challenges is keeping teams connected on a personal level. This is essential to success in this time of uncertainty. We don’t know how long it will be until it is safe to return to shared office environments, and we don’t want to lose the long-cultivated relationships that are foundational to a company’s culture.
Technology is your ally. It’s made it possible for many to work remotely and will help your teams stay connected when they can’t be together. Use these five tips to encourage camaraderie, teamwork, and sustained relationships during COVID-19.
- Encourage Socialization
Going from constant in-person contact to social distancing has been hard. It’s necessary, but not without challenges. Humans are social creatures, and maintaining social interactions with colleagues, family, and friends during this time of isolation is critical to mental health. Employees need time to socialize throughout the day. This happens naturally in an office setting but must be a deliberate thought when teams are separated. The occasional virtual team happy hour or five-minute non-work-related video chat with a friend and colleague does wonders for morale while helping employees stay focused for the long haul.
- Stay Connected While Enjoying the Great Outdoors
Now that spring has sprung in most of the United States, more and more people are taking time to get outside. Anyone who works from home regularly can attest that a short mid-day walk restores energy, motivation, and productivity for the afternoon. During normal business operations, people often hold ‘walking meetings’ to touch base on projects, either around the office or outside when the weather permits. Why not try a walking phone meeting? Encourage team members to step away from their computers, if possible, and take a walk together, from wherever they may be. They can use the time to brainstorm, problem-solve, hash out project details, or simply catch up with one another.
- Virtual Team Meetings
Many companies hold a monthly or weekly touch-base meeting with their entire team. These quick meetings are strategic touchpoints that facilitate team building and keep everyone on the same page. Do not pause these meetings while your team is working remotely. They’re more important than ever. We highly recommend using software with video capability so teams can see one another. Use the time to celebrate successes, share important updates, ask for (and give) help, share team shout outs of great work you have seen from the prior week, and – most importantly – connect as a team the way you would in the office. This small semblance of normalcy will help boost morale and keep your team motivated.
- Video Chat, Video Chat, Video Chat
Video has never been so crucial to day-to-day operations. Your team needs to see each other to feel connected while they may be feeling isolated. With so many options available, easy access to video chat has become a business norm. Whether you’re using Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, GoToMeeting, or another product, make sure everyone working remotely knows how to set up a meeting so they can connect with team members, clients, customers, or vendors easily and on their schedule.
- Embrace the Unexpected
Is there a definition for ‘normal’ anymore? The business landscape has changed, and companies must adapt. We’ve embraced the chaos and proved that we will persevere. If late-night TV shows, concerts, and news broadcasts can be successful from living rooms, so can your business. Just know that a dog may bark during important client calls. Kids could pop in and out of video conferences to wave hello. Internet connections will lag. We hope you and your team can embrace it all and enjoy some laughs along the way.
Remember that this will not last forever. We’ll be back in the office someday in the future. For now, we have to use the technology and tools at hand to keep pressing forward with a positive attitude. The work will get done. Your kids will go back to school. We’ll make it through with a positive attitude and a mood of flexibility.