The implementation of social distancing means that we are all spending less time with other people. As many of us are now working flexibly and away from the office, our social connections with our peers are at risk, and it is up to us to maintain communication and social interactions with our teammates to ensure that we don’t begin to feel disconnected or isolated from our team.
In current circumstances, email alone will not be sufficient – particularly if people are working remotely for an extended period of time. It is important that we utilise the variety of communication options that are available to actively connect with our peers.
Plan your communication:
For most of us, there are a number of different ways that we can interact with our team, whether it is via chat, email, phone or video-conferencing. To effectively leverage all the digital tools available, it can be useful to set some ground rules for the different communication channels. For example, as a team, you may decide to create a specific chat group for any social interactions and use email only for work-related correspondence. Establishing some guidelines around how teams will communicate can assist with maintaining social interactions whilst also managing work demands.
Planning regular, virtual meetings with your team is important in order to sustain team cohesion and connectedness. If possible, team meetings should be conducted using video-conferencing technology so that employees have the opportunity to see each other and interact as a group. Having recurring team meetings will allow employees to become used to the routine and they will come to each meeting prepared with any questions or updates that they want to discuss.
Keep up the chit-chat:
As virtual team meetings may be the only opportunity employees have to see each other, it is beneficial to try to re-create the informal conversations that would typically occur if all employees were in the same room. At the start of each of your virtual meetings, set aside some time for casual conversation, allowing employees to interact with one another before you start discussing business. To inject a bit of fun into each meeting, have an employee come up with an open-ended question to ask the group – something that is not work-related (eg. “What did you have for dinner last night?”). Each employee then has the opportunity to speak and share something with the team. An activity as simple as this can make a team feel more connected as they learn things about one another.
Make personal connections:
Body language and facial expressions provide great insight into how someone is feeling. However, working remotely means that you don’t see your team consistently throughout the day, so picking up on these visual cues is not possible. All team members need to make a conscious effort to connect with their peers with the sole purpose of checking in to see how they are. For managers, it’s important that not every interaction you have with your team is about work. Take the time to reach out to your employees individually and ask them how they are feeling and coping. Managers must be open and listen to employees’ concerns, acknowledge their stress and empathise with how they are feeling.
Communicating often and staying connected will help us all to maintain our sense of belonging to our team and to our organisation during these times. So be proactive and communicate with your peers as much as you can.