How to Stay Socially Connected with Your Team While Working Remotely

Building resiliency during difficult times is one of the hallmarks of society, but how do you do it while feeling isolated? As the COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically and involuntarily forced workers everywhere to telecommute and practice responsible social distancing, there’s no doubt it will begin to take a toll psychologically and emotionally.

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Life, and work, as we know it has changed in fundamental ways — including our daily interactions with co-workers. In this new normal, which seems anything but, how can you take steps to ensure you remain socially connected with your work family? Here are a few practical ways:

1. Create a virtual water cooler. Depending on how tight knit your team is, take it upon yourself to start group chats or texting/WhatsApp groups to stay plugged in and feel like you are part of a team again. Send cheerful photo or video greetings, create polls, exchange funny memes, share images of your work space or have a workspace-decorating contest, talk about the most mundane things as you would in-person. Now is as good a time as any to humble brag about your Instagram-worthy home-cooked meals. Sharing your concerns is only natural, but try to focus on the positive.

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2. Schedule team check-ins. Whether you choose to do so organically or block off time on the calendar, having regular touchpoints — both 1:1s and group calls — with your teammates can help you gain some semblance of normalcy during what can be an otherwise abnormal time. Host a virtual happy hour, a virtual book club, a virtual lunch-and-learn, a virtual coffee date, a virtual karaoke party, a virtual doggie play date, a virtual gaming competition, a virtual workout session, a virtual trivia game, virtual crossword-solving, a virtual meeting to talk about a new TV series or movie, a virtual bake-off or a virtual group tour at a museum that you can find online for free. (Who said you can’t refine your artistic palate at home!)

3. Try video conferencing. Video conferencing can be a terrifying proposition when the right circumstances do not present themselves, but in this time of virtual isolation it can be a breath of fresh air — not to mention, a reason to climb out of your pajamas and put that open jar of peanut butter off to the side. If you’re camera-shy, make your pet the star of the show by hosting a “show your pet” meeting.

4. Create team-based collaborative work activities. Consider taking e-learning classes or webinars as a group—you can have your group chat open so you can begin a discussion thread as you learn. Or you know how you’d book a meeting room and order a pizza to quickly brainstorm ideas for a project together? Take the same concept and move it online. Share a meal (without actually sharing a meal) and hammer out creative ideas for your next big project. You can still share screens and bond over your shared distaste for frozen pizza.

5. Offer to help. There are ways to help out in your community, but now more than ever there may also be team members who could use a bit of cheering up. The simple act of reaching out can brighten someone else’s day at no cost to you. If you want to take it a step further, offer to help wherever you can to help ease the burden off of a co-worker. Know someone drowning with work or someone who may be tied up taking care of a sick loved one? Offer to pitch in. Know someone struggling with tech issues? Jump on a call to see if you can help resolve it. Know someone going stir crazy? Send them ideas for at-home activities that can mitigate the boredom. We will get through this, so let’s try to make positivity contagious along the way.

Deanna Hartley is a writer and editor, and has spent 10+ years publishing articles on job search advice, career development, recruitment, HR and human capital management. Deanna has a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, was formerly a senior editor at award-winning publisher Human Capital Media and a senior copywriter at CareerBuilder. She currently works at Aon, a global professional services firm. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Gannett, Business Insider, the Chicago Tribune and Workforce Magazine.

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