In the age of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, uploading offices to the cloud is allowing many businesses to stay afloat. While there are many benefits to remote working, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should be aware of the downsides as well.
One component that is lost when businesses move online is the social connection created by working in the same space. Many employees already feel isolated by new quarantine restrictions, and being apart from coworkers can exacerbate existing loneliness. It can also fuel miscommunications and office tensions since nuance is tricky in virtual exchanges.
Luckily, there are several ways companies can continue team building despite physical separation. Here are five ideas that can bond employees so that they emerge from COVID-19 a stronger community than before.
The regular office rhythm typically allows for social breaks. With a little creativity, these can get built into the online schedule as well.
To start with, consider adding a few fun threads to communication rosters. For example, designate conversation channels for memes, recipes, themed music playlists, and other off-topic sharing. These kinds of discussions provide sanctioned breaks during which employees get to explore shared interests and ideas further, building their connections despite the distance.
Home Tours and Scavenger Hunts
Another great way to get to know one another during this time is to provide home tours. Each employee can be assigned a day when they take the others on a tour of their current location. They can show off their home office and introduce everyone to their human/animal/vegetable/mineral “coworkers.”
A twist on the home tour concept is to conduct home scavenger hunts. Team leaders can assign objects to locate at home, and members share what they’ve found at the next video meeting.
Joint team calendars provide more great opportunities for groups to bond. In addition to project assignments and due dates, workers can add personal calendar reminders, such as anniversaries. This sharing allows coworkers to celebrate milestones together, send meaningful greetings, and provide encouragement during trying times.
This idea comes out of The Office playbook. At one point in the hit show, a character joins a new branch, one obsessed with the game Call of Duty. The group plays in teams from their own desks and offices, and the exercise helps integrate the new guy with coworkers.
This same strategy can be employed by remote offices. Teams can pick a game that interests them, and then log on at the same time. Working together to solve puzzles, bring down zombies, or hunt for treasure can help further mold employees into a cohesive unit while providing a fun outlet.
Virtual Movie Night
In line with the game suggestion, shared movie nights can also fuel connection. Thanks to platforms like Netflix offering party viewing, offices can choose a film and watch “together” from their own homes. Timed right, teams can chat during the film, commenting on parts they like, or provide live reactions to what’s going on. The fun continues the next day as the movie can fuel conversation threads and other forms of connective sharing.
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