Now more of us are working from home, people are realising it’s not all just fun and games. Physical separation poses huge challenges for collaboration, but when you don’t see your colleagues every day, you can lose your sense of connection too. Without being in the same room, it becomes harder to read and relate to others – important emotional context can get lost or misinterpreted, and relationships with colleagues weaken. Communication can feel stilted and transactional, and you may even feel guilty about any conversation that isn’t directly related to work. But bonding is part of the job – effective teams are built on meaningful connection, inclusivity and trust. Thankfully, there are a ton of ways you can translate your team culture to a remote setting. Here are just seven ways to socialize remotely to stay connected, human and sane.
Instant messenger platforms like Slack are a great place to start, providing your team with a “virtual water cooler”. Instead of just creating Slack channels for work, create them for socializing too: for sharing news, discussing hobbies, swapping playlists and recipes, posting inspiration or just venting. By actively creating dedicated spaces for non-work chat, you’re showing that it’s important to connect with each other as humans – not just colleagues.
Seeing people’s faces, even through a screen, is vital for building rapport. Aside from remembering that the people you ping every day are actually real humans, it allows you to connect on a deeper level. Looking someone in the eye and using open body language – or just hearing their voice – provides important emotional context which make interactions more meaningful and engaging. So aside from team meetings and one-to-one meetings, use rich real-time media like video conferencing and voice calls for colleague catch-ups.
Going for coffee or having lunch together is a normal way for office workers to connect – and there’s no reason why home workers can’t do the same. At Memory, we hold virtual lunches once a week, where different employees can “meet” via video conference and chat as they would in the office. We also schedule open virtual coffee breaks, pairing up different employees to connect via video. This is particularly good for strengthening bonds between people who don’t necessarily work with each other on a daily basis. You can also extend this formula to post-work bonding you’d do in person too – like holding virtual games nights or watching movies together (e.g. via a Zoom screen share or a video platform like Netflix Party). Extend it to celebrate the different cultural festivals of your team, too!
We all like to peek into other people’s houses, so why not put our nosy instincts to good use and schedule virtual tours of your colleagues’ homes? Employees can set up a livestream as they walk through their home, chatting to viewers about where they work and sharing anecdotes about their personal lives. Not only does this satisfy curiosity – it helps people practice empathy by giving more insight into different people’s backgrounds, which is especially helpful for international teams like ours.
Light-hearted semi-competitions are great mechanisms for team building. There are a ton of different remote team building activities out there, so get creative. As a globally diverse team, each year we hold our own Memoryvision song contest, where employees submit a recent song by someone of their nationality and vote on everyone else’s submissions. It’s a fun way to learn more about different cultures, as well as share new music. Our team fitness challenge also proved to be weirdly fierce (probably because there was an AppleWatch up for grabs!).
Companies including Twitter, Dropbox and Yelp offer “beer o’clock”, where employees are given free drinks on Friday afternoon. Al-desko drinking, as it’s nicknamed, is meant to encourage light-hearted chat – and just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to forgo that Friday feeling. Take it to the next level and hold virtual dance parties each payday: once you get past the awkwardness of dancing on your own in front of your computer, playing music and throwing some shapes with your co-workers is a great way to relax after a hard week’s work.
Prioritizing wellbeing becomes especially important when you work from home and don’t have that physical buffer between work and private time. Thankfully, there are a load of ways you can build this into a fun group activity. Consider setting up virtual meditation sessions or holding remote yoga classes once a week. You can apply this concept to all areas of healthy living – at Memory, for example, we have a scheduled virtual “fruit break” at 14:30 every day that anyone can join. It gives us the chance to relax, chat and share news – all while enjoying a healthy snack!