Imagine your life a year ago—our days were filled with going to the office, connecting with our co-workers, and seeing potentially hundreds of other people every single day. In March, everything changed. We began social distancing and limiting our exposure to other people, mostly by working and learning from home, believing this would only be for a few weeks. February marks our eleventh month of working from home and social distancing. It is hard to imagine a future where we cram into crowded bars and restaurants, surrounded by unmasked strangers.
All of this has led to feelings of disconnectedness from our friends and family, but from our co-workers. In retrospect, the little moments we spent connecting with colleagues over our morning coffee or in the hallway were more important than we realized. Now, as office reopening's are further delayed despite vaccine rollout, we are confronted with the fact that we will continue to be separated from our coworkers.
According to an article from SHRM, 66 percent of millennials find it hard to make friends, and 20 percent of workers say loneliness is their greatest struggle while working from home. A remote workplace has many benefits, like having a more flexible schedule and being able to wear sweatpants, but it is harder to communicate and create relationships. An article from Forbes describes how social connection can help decrease workplace stress, which can cause high absenteeism, low energy, and feelings of burnout. As we continue to struggle with pandemic fatigue, increasing colleague connections are more important than ever. Here are our tips to foster co-worker collaboration, connection, and cooperation:
Zoom with purpose. If your meeting can be summarized by an email, make it an email. If your meeting is already schedule, review your itinerary to see if there are parts where your co-workers can provide feedback. Being able to bounce ideas off office mates helps inspire creative and innovative solutions. Setting aside time in your meeting to focus on collaboration can help bring back some pre-pandemic ideas, which means more innovative solutions for your company.
Put fun back into your workday. Another way you can increase bonds between remote employees is by fostering fun, low-stress events outside of work. Make sure to plan an event your colleagues will be excited to attend. Very few people want to start thinking about work again after they’ve already signed out for the day. If you plan your event during the workday, encourage employees to unplug and turn off notifications, giving them a real break from other work. The Bundle team recently completed a virtual escape room. We had the opportunity to bond and connect in a fun setting, but also learn more about our work styles. When we did come together for a work problem, we were already comfortable and connected to each other, leading to greater collaboration.
Personalize it. Other companies have planned and executed similar events, like scheduling virtual morning coffee breaks where colleagues can catch up and hosting game nights that encouraged some friendly competition. Virtual happy hours have also allowed employees to mingle virtually, and other offices have hosted family fun events. The key is to personalize the event for your employees. If only a few members of your team have children, a family fun event might not be so popular. Find out who your employees are, their preferences, and plan accordingly.
These are just a few ideas to bring colleagues together. Bundle offers numerous sessions to build bonds and foster a virtual community, so there is something for everyone. Team Break sessions are the perfect way to work on leadership and communication skills with your co-workers, providing essential connectivity between everyone and increasing overall job performance.