Many of us first transitioned to remote work in 2020, and two years later, some workplaces have gone back to the office, some are still remote, and some have adopted a hybrid approach. There are so many benefits to flexible work, but one of the challenges can be forging meaningful connections with co-workers when communicating over Zoom, email, and Slack. And yet, research shows that maintaining relationships with those we work with can help us work more efficiently and feel more fulfilled at our jobs.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us the creative ways they bond with co-workers in a hybrid or remote work environment. Which of these tips will you try?
Schedule weekly catch-ups
“Our team has a weekly catch-up on Monday mornings where we talk about what’s going on in our lives at the moment. It makes us all feel closer, despite the fact that we are based in different time zones with eight hours between us. We check in with each other a few times per week, and it’s also very important that we appreciate each other regularly with uplifting words and emojis.”
—Bianca Riemer, leadership coach, London, U.K.
Coordinate a virtual team activity
“We have a weekly team meeting every Friday and we rotate who hosts these meetings. The first ten minutes of the meeting are devoted to work updates and important information to be shared, and the remaining 20 minutes are devoted to a fun, interactive activity that the person hosting prepares. We have had so much fun playing virtual bingo, virtual show and tell, and virtual charades, as well as doing team quizzes and mini competitions. We have learned so much about each other through simply playing.”
—Candice Tomlinson, coach and hypnotherapist, Sydney, Australia
Turn cameras off to encourage undistracted listening
“I encourage everyone to turn off their cameras during video calls! Many believe that by seeing each other we are bonding more. However, being on video and seeing yourself is extremely distracting. We don’t listen as well with all of the heads on the screen, especially your own. It makes people think that they need to act a certain way and that they are on the spot. It feels like you are in grammar school, like the teacher’s watching. We bond more by simply listening to each other.”
—Laura McHolm, Los Angeles, CA
Invite a co-worker to a virtual coffee chat
“I’ll use specific invites to have a ‘coffee’ with a co-worker. And for a few local teammates, I’ll have them over for a coffee outside. I will also use Zoom to connect and discuss a topic face-to-face. I believe having a few folks that I can have meaningful discussions with is what is important. It’s about quality over quantity.”
—Dave Galloway, principal strategist, North Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Ask meaningful questions
“I ask my employees, ‘How’s the family? How are your kids doing in school?’ And since we all need to know if someone has covid, I ask about a family member who has tested positive. ‘Are they feeling better?’ Personal engagement seems to ease stress and tension, and bring a sigh of relief that they can vent if they need to. And when it’s time to work, I’ve noticed their focus is sharper. My advice, ask! A simple ‘How are you today?’ goes a long way.”
—Rudy Chavarria Jr., founder, College Web Mentor, Walnut, CA
Schedule extra time for “water cooler conversations”
“I bond with my teams and co-workers by adding more time to my one-on-one meetings for social conversations. Just as we used to do in the hallways or at the water cooler at work, I set aside 10-15 minutes to ask them about how they are doing, their families, what’s going on in their local community as we all live in different locations and more.”
—Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving, Los Angeles, CA
Get creative with virtual holiday parties
“We held a Christmas party for our remote team. Two of us work together in the same office, the other three work from their homes in another country. We ordered food from local services that was delivered directly to each of our remote team members, and picked up some food for ourselves. Then we all got together on Zoom to have our lunch together. Little efforts like these help us work together as a team and it makes it feel more like we’re in the same place.”
—Helen Wakefield, online business consultant, N.S.W., Australia
Send around a funny meme or article
“Bonding with our co-workers is essential to keep up with the dynamic world. They keep us informed about the updates in the industry and will help us drift through our challenges. However, with everyone settled in their homes, the human connection may seem difficult. I find that the little conversations with our co-workers rejuvenate our bond. Comedic forwards on your phone can light you up with hilarious elements. Time spent together virtually, either through WhatsApp or video calls, can be powerful.”
—Archana Kini, psychotherapist
Find small moments to check in
“I believe energy can be felt through all communication methods, so I make it a point to, as best as possible, keep my energy high and let people know I am there if they need me. I like to allow spur-of-the-moment interaction as best as possible to avoid a sense of contrived and forced interaction.”
—Karisa Karmali, online fitness coach, Ontario, CA
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