Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the stigmas around remote working or working from home have seemingly vanished with this new way of working well and truly established around the world. Most companies are leveraging technology to maintain communication and conversations with employees and clients. Meetings via Skype, Teams, Hangout's or Zoom are filling up our diaries with communication on Slack and Whatsapp supplementing our email inboxes and in doing so, are providing more instant interaction.
It's clear that the longer we work from home, the more we get used to it. But it's not the same as being in the office surrounded by colleagues that you typically spend more time with than most family members. With the onset of remote working there is a little nuance that is missing, that only occurs in the office environment and is something that is intangible by nature, but influences a company's culture. I'm talking about fun and banter in the office, those small but welcome distractions that help to lighten the mood no matter how busy we are with work. With remote working how do you keep that interaction or that camaraderie going? Working from home has made us focus on the work that needs to be actioned, but how do you keep the social aspects going with your peers and colleagues and whose job is it to do that?
C levels, Directors, Partners, Management take note. There is a fine line between micro-managing and managing effectively. We understand that right now the job and tasks at hand mean that you must wear multiple hats. From the business continuity side, to customer management and to managing your teams. As a manager, you must make it a priority for your remote teams to engage in regular team socialising or at the very least provide gentle distractions that provoke different emotions from your teams. Socialising in any form is a powerful tool to help you build a connection with your colleagues; people that perhaps start as team members but become close friends as working relationships and trust develops. Clearly, with remote working it's harder to create those unscheduled, moments of fun and joy. Harder, but not impossible.
Normal day to day work will continue, but remote working can impact individuals differently and research has shown that remote employees have weaker relationships with their colleagues compared to those who work on site. Here are some of the issues identified:
- Staying motivated
- Distractions at home
- Collaborating and communication
- Unplugging after work
The issues above can create challenges not only for the individuals but also companies that face productivity issues. That's where I believe that creating social scenarios can help and encouraging fun activities, even during work time, plays a part.
Here are a few examples of what you could do inside your organization:
1. Creative Backgrounds
Most companies are now operating on a video calling software, be it Zoom, Google Hangouts or Teams. For internal meetings, there's always an opportunity to be more fun! One such example of this is the creation of custom backgrounds for your video call. In Zoom, for example, this feature is called 'Virtual Backgrounds' and allows you to customize your scene. Who can be the most creative? There are some great examples of how this can be used and we've seen backgrounds featuring Joe Exotic from the Netflix hit, Tiger King amongst others.
2. After work meet-ups.
In normal office culture, meet-ups occur after work or at the end of the week and weekends to help us unwind. While this may not be possible now, why does it have to be cancelled altogether? Encourage your team members to have regular social hours, virtual happy hours or dinner dates that provide an opportunity for colleagues to talk about things other than work. Widening this across the company can also create opportunities to connect those within the business who they normally may not interact with.
3. Team Social Bonding
Quiz nights are a great way to provide some team building or as a fun after-work activity. These can be replicated easily over video conferencing. Elect a 'quiz master' to create questions and host the quiz, and as a company, join in with the game. You can even try to organize teams to extend the experience further!
4. Special Occasions.
Usually special occasions such as a birthday means that you have a cake, can go out for dinner or have a party but with social restrictions and remote working, it's nearly impossible to do this. A great story that I heard centers around a guy who was celebrating his birthday while there were social lockdowns in place. He lived alone and was in total isolation and couldn't invite friends or family to be with. His colleagues found out and decided to send presents at different times of the day to their friend as a surprise! Someone sent breakfast, while others sent a puzzle, Xbox games with the last present of a day being a birthday cake, at which point all his colleagues connected on Zoom and sang happy birthday. Amazing!
5. Donut Conversation.
For those using Slack, there's a fun little plugin you can install called 'Donut'. Coffee breaks at work usually mean a few members heading to the pantry or break room and having a 5 minute chat whilst having a coffee. What Donut does is pair you up with you people who don't know each other too well, for a chat. It's as simple as that!
Being cooped up indoors, it may be the case that very little exercise takes place. Encourage a yoga session, or a workout in the mornings. Your company may have trained instructors with it that may be willing to provide classes for the team. What other hidden talents do people in your company have? Explore these by encouraging people to share information about themselves - things that typically wouldn't come out in normal day to day office life and see if these can be used to create fun and interaction for everyone.
Remote working doesn't need to be boring, or monotonous. Add a little bit of fun into the scenario, everyday can be different, every week can be special.