As the pandemic marches on, managers need to help their remote employees battle feelings of isolation. Not only that, the transition from instant to asynchronous communication (where you don’t expect an immediate response) is a huge hurdle for a lot of teams going remote – especially for those who have been used to working in a fast paced, collaborative office whereby many small (sometimes trivial, sometimes important) conversations happen throughout the day.
Online social activities — from coffee breaks to happy hours — can help, but many people are craving those informal office interactions that stimulate creativity and encourage collaboration.
Here are just three ideas to encourage a little more office normality into the daily grind.
Create a Coworking Space Online
One thing you can do is set up a remote coworking space — a videoconference at an agreed time where people can simply work quietly in each other’s virtual presence. This allows team members to informally chat, share ideas, and spontaneously ask questions, the same way they would in the office.
Set up a Hotwall
If you’re managing a hybrid team, you can also set up a “hotwall,” a large monitor and camera placed in a busy location in the office, where remote workers can drop by to “visit” with their in-office colleagues. Experiment with turning it on for a fixed period of time each day and see how people like it.
Open Office Hour
Finally, consider establishing a weekly open office hour, without an agenda, and invite your entire team to ask questions and check in.
One of my clients has instigated playing online games with team members, a little downtime, a little competition and ultimately something that helps maintain allegiances and camaraderie when working remotely.
These techniques, which aren’t difficult to implement, can allow for the spontaneous and unstructured conversations that many of us are missing these days. As with many remote working practices, some ideas may take time to become the norm, but employees are now much more at ease with video and, as we’ve seen over the last few months, adaptation to new ideas is also speeding up.
Let me know if you have any other ideas worth sharing to fend off isolation and encourage remote alliances.
This tip is adapted from “Give Your Remote Team Unstructured Time for Collaboration,” by Barbara Z. Larson
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