While the internet in many ways allows us to be more easily connected than ever before, there is also a sharp sense of isolation that develops when all of our work is remote. We no longer have a desk buddy to chat with, we aren’t running into our coworkers in the break room, and we can’t just pop into someone’s office when we think of something to tell them. The culture of connection that we work so hard to cultivate in our workplace has no place to thrive in the disconnect of remote work.
Part of having a connected workplace culture is having that sense of community between colleagues, which is hard to achieve when working remotely.
So how can you foster that culture now, when so many of us are working remotely?
Decide when a quick message works and when it doesn’t
In non-COVID times, this tip would sound like “decide when a quick message works, and when in-person is better” but, unfortunately, that’s not an option for many of us at the present time. But it doesn’t mean that every work related conversation has to stick to Slack or email.
While working remotely, it’s important to think about the nature of the work you’re doing–and what the needs of that work are. If you’re trying to get something done on your own and just have a quick question, sure, shoot over an email or drop a message in the Slack channel. But if you’re working on something more complex, something more creative or challenging, it will probably be more productive (and enjoyable) to work on that with someone else.
You can do something as simple as a Zoom call to connect to your colleagues face to face. Or, if you’re all local, see if there’s a spot you can meet up in person! (While following social distancing guidelines of course.) Even if you’re just on a bench outside the office for half an hour, having that opportunity to engage “IRL” can help you feel more personally connected to your work, and your workplace.
Find new ways for regular check ins
This doesn’t have to be an elaborate, formal meeting, but having a time set aside regularly–maybe weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly–for everyone to hop on a Zoom call to touch base about where they are and where they need support can help everyone learn and grow into a virtual culture that feels just as connected as your in-person culture. Ask what difficulties people are having and if they have suggestions for what would help. Again, if possible, see if there’s a way to get your team together in person (safely) even if just for a socially distanced monthly check in.
Find a way to connect that isn’t mandatory
When you’re only connecting quickly about work questions, project details, etc, that feeling of community can evaporate quickly. That culture of connection in a workplace isn’t just about work–it’s about valuing the people you’re with and the environment you all create together (which, unfortunately, can’t really be replicated over email). Take time to brainstorm other ways to connect with your colleagues. Maybe suggest a book club–everyone could take a turn recommending an industry-related book to read, and those who’d like to can participate. You could have a Slack channel just for book of the month thoughts, where people can pop in things they’re thinking as they read it, and then you can all get together to discuss the book!
Or, if you’re a community focused business, look out for community events being held. Are there ones that would add value to your team members? Ones that would offer a new way to connect with your team? Send info to your colleagues and see who would be interested in attending! Encourage them to send along events they find as well.
Related: Make some fun Slack channels (if your team uses slack)
To get that sense of chatting by the water cooler, your team needs a virtual place to gather. And Slack is great option for that! Since you can have channels designated for specific topics, you can keep all work talk to work channels and then have a spot for things like:
- Pet pics
- Funny memes
- book /tv show recs
- “Watercooler” chat
- Playlist of the day
Or whatever sort of things your team tends to share and connect about.
You can also keep it simple: ask your team what would make them feel more connected to their colleagues & provide them the community culture as best as possible while working remotely. They might have ideas you wouldn’t have thought of!
And taking the time to ask them about their needs and ideas will help remind them that this culture of connection is a priority for your business, and that each member of the team is valued and important.