Ever since the emergence of the coronavirus outbreak, intermittent lockdowns over the past two years have forced companies around the world to adopt flexible working arrangements in a bid to overcome pandemic fatigue and meet new employee expectations. Remote work or hybrid work arrangements are the new norm, and it does take some time for you to get used to it.
In a world of social distancing and digitalisation, many employees have lauded the shift to working from home and the convenience that it brings. Office meetings are replaced by video conferencing platforms, travel time is converted to personal time and employees can now “go to work” in comfortable clothes.
Yet, despite the benefits of hybrid work, many have raised concerns around the loss of physical interactions which they feel are fundamental to building the organisational culture.
the importance of staying connected while working from home
An important part of work is to be able to build purposeful relationships with our colleagues and for most of us, talking to our co-workers form the bulk of our daily interactions. When we don’t interact with our colleagues, we’ll start to feel disconnected and less motivated, which will result in poor morale and productivity. And even if you find a job elsewhere, the issue will likely persist if everyone doesn’t put in the effort to stay connected.
Working from home does not necessarily mean that you should disconnect from your colleagues or feel lonely at work. Lucky for us, the same platforms which enable remote working also enable us to interact with our co-workers, all within the comfort of our homes or wherever we choose to work from. Building that connection doesn't always have to be done in a physical setting, you can still stay virtually connected with your co-workers on digital platforms.
Working remotely could diminish our ability to communicate effectively or build social relations as our social interactions are limited. This is why a team should always strive to have open communications, remotely and in-person, to stay connected and productive.
Here are 5 helpful tips on how you can stay connected with your co-workers while working from home while staying motivated and engaged.
5 ways to stay connected with your colleagues
1. schedule regular team meetings
Working from home can make it difficult for us to stay updated on the latest information about what’s happening in the office or in your team.
Scheduling regular team meetings is a great way to be “in-the-know” and get involved in each other’s work. Knowing what your colleagues are busy with keeps you updated and in sync with one another, ensuring that everyone feels included as part of the team and aligned with the organisation’s goals.
You can schedule regular meetings with your co-workers either daily or twice a week to share recent project developments, daily tasks or discuss new ideas and opportunities. You should also proactively schedule meetings with your colleagues, more so than you would in the office. If you have some extra time, arrange for some virtual team bonding games so that these meetings are not all just about work.
These meetings will help keep you connected with each other and give you that extra motivation to excel at work.
2. make time for casual interactions during meetings
A reason why we feel disconnected from our colleagues while working from home is the absence of a common physical space for spontaneous physical interactions. These opportunities for casual interactions occur all the time in the office environment - when we ride the elevator, walk down the hallway or refill our coffee at the pantry. Such instances are impossible to replicate when everyone is working remotely.
Much of communication is non-verbal, with body languages and voice tones delivering most of the message. For example, how you gesture your hands or move your head, can indicate whether you agree or disagree to the conversation. This can be replace with the use of video conferencing when working remotely - for both formal and informal discussions.
You can always dedicate half an hour to an hour to hold 'virtual coffee breaks' weekly. It will be the perfect time for a mini bonding session where everyone could share about how their day has been or the things that they are going through outside of work. This will undeniably boost your relationships with your colleagues and understand them more at a personal level.. Online meetings provide rare opportunities to recreate in-person interactions when we are far apart from one another.
Even if you are introverted or camera shy, try turning on the webcam and show your face! To help build some confidence, you could also try wearing your formal attire. If you’re shy about showing others your personal space, you can always change your background to your favourite photo.
The ability to see and interact with each other virtually will create a more personal and friendlier atmosphere with your colleagues. Video calls let us hear the tone of our co-workers and observe their body language, allowing us to establish meaningful connections with them despite the physical distance.
3. prioritise mental health and well-being
This is one of the most important things you should look out for. Even though everyone is getting used to working from home, the crisis and events happening around the world have undeniably been stressful for everyone.
Mental health and well-being have never been a more important issue to tackle until these past couple of years. While the COVID-19 pandemic has us worrying about our physical health, its restrictions and social isolation has given rise to a loneliness epidemic which has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. Working from our homes can get very lonely, especially for those who live alone.
This is why it is critical to value meaningful communication with co-workers, not just for the sake of productivity but also to preserve one’s own sanity. Make it a habit to check in with your fellow colleagues and keep up with their lives, whether or not they are shy, quieter than usual or seemingly fine. These are simple things that you can do to express showing care and concern to your co-workers. It is also an easy way to improve employee relationships.
Even when you’re able to wake up later for work, being cooped up at home can make you feel stressed and fatigued. Instead of working one’s fingers to the bone, it might be a good idea to pick up a new hobby or do some activities to de-stress. You may want to start exploring different exercises and routines to keep yourself busy with life outside of work. If you’re not able to exercise, investing in a good book or watching shows on Netflix or Disney+ will also help stave off the pressure from work.
While work is undoubtedly important to us, overworking will lead to burnout and it is crucial to set aside time just for yourself to rest. You should always pay attention to your own health and wellness. Only with a healthy mind and body, you are able to work to the best of your ability to get the outcomes you want.
4. arrange team bonding activities at work
A great way to keep employees connected when working from home is through team bonding activities. This is a great way to improve team spirit and to encourage virtual teams to engage. The team can set aside time to play games like trivia quizzes or pictionary - some examples of the games that everyone can participate in. These quick games serve as great icebreakers to get to know one another or simply to catch up with one another.
Consider organising a monthly sharing session where everyone can host their own “TED talk” about their hobbies or a topic that interests them. This way, everybody gets to see a side of you that they maybe never knew about! This will not only help to engage employees, but also motivate them at work. You will be surprised by how much your experience at work will improve when you're surrounded with colleagues who impact your life positively. This will definitely boost your connection with your teammates.
Team bonding activities do not have to be restricted to the virtual space either. Arrange for physical meet-ups such as meals or house visits to stay in touch and catch up with one another. These do not have to be frequent, after all, everyone is busy with their lives. However, having these outings once in a while ensures that we remain connected with our colleagues while doing something different and fun!
5. assign dedicated channels for work
When working from home, the lines between our professional and personal lives get easily blurred as our homes become our “office”.
This disruption to our work-life balance can cause a decline in productivity and create more stress, affecting our health and well-being. Imagine using Whatsapp for both work and leisure - where you’re supposed to be making dinner plans with your colleagues, but the topic suddenly shifts to a project that is due tomorrow. That would absolutely spoil the mood, wouldn’t it? Having work topics popping up incessantly even after working hours causes unnecessary stress and anxiety.
This is why we need to learn how to establish clear boundaries between work and personal commitments to manage our time more effectively and maintain a healthy work-life balance. We can start by separating the communication channels that we use for work and personal life.
For work, you should use official channels such as Google Chats or Microsoft Teams, not only because it’s more professional to discuss work topics on these platforms, but it’s also compliant in terms of data security. However, if you are speaking to your colleagues about non-work topics such as arranging to meet up for dinner or to share funny TikTok videos, you can always switch over to Whatsapp or Facetime.
It may sound troublesome and confusing at the start, but trust us, you’ll get used to it and you’ll be glad that you’ve made the decision to separate yourself from work when it’s time to let your hair down.
asked to return to the office even if you don’t see the need to?
There are still some employers who prefer to have all their staff to work in the office rather than work remotely. They believe that by having everyone together, they’ll be able to have a stronger organisational culture and their employees would be more productive. However, not everyone feels the same way.
If you’re a superstar at connecting even when apart and feel dissatisfied with your work arrangements, consider connecting with us to find a new employer instead! Our friendly recruitment specialists are here to assist with your job search and expand your career opportunities. Whether you prefer working from home or working in the office, reach out to our specialised recruiters who will gladly guide you in finding your next employment!