Because of the COVID-19 more and more countries are going to full lock-down causing business to close down and send their people to home(offices).
Working from home has several positive impacts like for instance avoiding long daily commutes, being able to spend more time with family and friends, giving more flexibility and higher productivity. But it also has some disadvantages like for instance communication challenges, potential disengagement, and loneliness.
According to the Harward Business Review recent article, loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. It is thought that extroverts may suffer from isolation more in the short run, particularly if they do not have opportunities to connect with others in their remote-work environment. However, over a longer period of time, isolation can cause any employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization, and can even result in increased intention to leave the company.
So what can a caring employer do to support their team members during the lock-down to avoid loneliness and keeping the human touch with remote team members? Here are 6 options that different teams can use.
Whatever platforms you are using for team meeting, whether it is Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Zoom or similar do not forget to turn on your camera. We know that in personal communication body-language makes up 55%, tone of voice 38% and words 7%. So that you wouldn’t miss the whole message and could properly read the person then ask everyone attending the meeting to turn on their cameras. Usage of cameras also motivates people to take care of themselves (like properly dress up instead of being in their PJs all day) and give a Human Touch to the virtual meetings.
Virtual Morning Teas
When the New Zealand government announced that country will go to COVID-19 alert level 4 then ISS New Zealand’s corporate team started to work full-time from their home offices. To keep in touch with all corporate team members company started daily Virtual Morning Teas (in rest of the world know also as coffee breaks). During the morning teas people are enjoying their morning coffee and informal conversation, like for instance sharing the story of their latest grocery store visit.
One thing for sure – you shouldn’t forget to have a healthy lunch during the time when you work from your home office. One way to assure that is to have a virtual team lunch (even once a week will do the trick and help to stay connected). To do that you can agree and schedule the lunch in people’s calendars – everyone can cook something and then set up their phones/laptops (with their cameras) – having a visual helps a lot. You can share your recipes and get good ideas for your own future lunches when feeling that you are running out of ideas for healthy lunches. Even if the lunch is just 15 minutes, it is time well spent with the team!
Virtual Team Activities
There are teams that were very active before the lockdown who now find themselves in the situation that they are cut off from their colleagues, families, and friends. It is especially hard for those whose personal bubble has only a few people or who are missing on their good office-friends. No worries, today’s virtual world allows us to do so many things together! Why not use one of your breaks for team yoga or planking? Or start a book club. To do that you can agree with the team that this is an (e)book for this week, read it privately and discuss within your team. Or play virtual games (as my teenage son is doing with his Estonian friends who are about 17K km apart from us) if you are into gaming.
Challenges are a great way for team bonding. Though during the lockdown you can’t meet each other in real life you can still create some challenges to compete with each other. For instance, take part of the teddy bear hunt or do as my husband is doing with his colleagues: they take photos of each meal they prepare (and yes, they show off with their culinary skills) and post these in their private WhatsApp group.
Make it fun
Last, but not least, make it fun. Make it as fun as you possibly can.
So what can you do here? For instance, why not to have Official Fridays instead of Casual Fridays and instead of jeans and a t-shirt ask people to dress up smart business. Jokes are always helpful, so when you find a great joke or meme, then share that with your team. Even if the joke comes in the middle of the busy working day it helps to put a smile on person’s face. And it matters, especially during the time where we are living today.
Stay safe and share your experience how have you managed to keep Human Touch during the lock down period!