Due to the pandemic of 2020, many companies have transitioned their employees to a virtual environment. Therefore, instead of in-person interaction on a daily basis, many employees are working with each other, and clients, from a distance. While there are many perks to being able to work remotely, the loss of personal connection is not one of them. Numerous employees are facing feelings of isolation and loneliness due to the lack of personal connection that they were once used to. If you find your employees are having these struggles, read on to learn some ways you can help combat these feelings.
One of the best things your employees can do to keep their spirits up is maintain a healthy mind and body. As an employer or manager, you should allow your workers time and flexibility to focus on their health. Set an example by making your health a priority. Eat healthy and consider a lifestyle program to promote optimal nutrition, such as Thrive by LeVel. Thrive side effects include increased energy and mental performance.
Mental health in particular is an important component that you and your employees should be focused on. As previously mentioned, a dramatic decrease in personal interaction is having a negative impact on mental health. Emphasize to your employees the importance of taking mental health days. Many times workers feel they should only use sick days for physical sickness but taking sick days to allow your brain to rest and reboot is just as vital.
Be extra flexible with schedules as job functions allow. If your team manages inbound calls, obviously not everyone can be away from the phones at the same time but do what you can to allow individuals time for breaks, stepping away for doctor appointments and things of the like. Employees will perform better if they are able to take time to focus on their health and recharge.
Video Meetings are the next best thing when you cannot meet face-to-face. Video chats allow you and your team to see each other and replicate in-person interaction. Most laptops nowadays come with a camera already installed. There are many streaming services that can be utilized for video conference calls, such as WebEx, Zoom and Skype. Setup video meetings and encourage any managers under you to do the same. Is your home office a mess? No worries, many services allow you to change the background of your video, so for all your employees know, you are taking your calls on a Caribbean beach!
When you stop meeting in person, it is easy to stop celebrating things you would normally observe in the office, like birthdays and holidays. Do not let the virtual world stop you from celebrating the joys in life. Is one of your workers having a baby? Throw a virtual baby shower. Have everyone wear pink or blue in honor of the baby. Everyone munch on their favorite snack while you play guessing games over video chat. Someone having a birthday? Have a party! Have everyone on the team comment on a digital birthday card. Sing “Happy Birthday” over a video call. As budget allows, send the birthday person a small gift or gift card. Christmas just around the corner? Do not cancel that holiday party just yet. Host a video call where everyone wears their ugly Christmas sweater. Plan a secret Santa in advance; set a small budget and have everyone mail a gift to their person. Take turns opening the gifts on camera so everyone can watch. Just because you cannot meet in person does not mean you have to stop the fun events.
Sharing photos is a great way to bring a personal touch to everyone’s day. Have a “virtual week” every month or two, with a different theme every day. For example, one day can be “pet day” and everyone shares a photo of their favorite furry, fuzzy or feathery friend. The next day can be a “happy place” day. Everyone uploads photos of their happy place and explains why they love it so much. The photos can be shared on a drive or email chain, whatever works best for your system setup. Sharing personal photos is a wonderful way to emphasize the human connection your team is missing out on.
It is hard to know what is going on in each of your employee’s lives if you are not sitting down and chatting with them on a regular basis. While you may have team meetings or one-off calls, it is not the same as connecting with them one-on-one. Set aside time to have a one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports on a weekly or biweekly schedule. Use this time to go over work topics but also to connect with them on a personal level. Find out what is going on at home, with their family and any upcoming events in their lives.
Be sure you also ask how they are coping with being in a virtual workforce. This is a great time to emphasize the importance of prioritizing their mental and physical health. Reassure them that you are flexible and will do what you can to support them.
This may be something you were doing prior to transitioning to a virtual environment but it is all the more important now. Make sure you acknowledge your employee’s accomplishments, not just to them but to their teammates as well. Doing this shows your employees you are proud of them and value them in the workplace. This can be done in different formats, such as a recognition email, on a phone call or as part of a team newsletter.
When someone new joins a team, it is not uncommon for that person to share a few fun facts about themselves in order for others to get to know them better. Now that your team is working virtually, this is an excellent opportunity to get to know each other a little better and deepen those personal relationships. Each week or so, choose one person on your team to put together a small presentation about themselves.
Have them use PowerPoint or another application to display photos; have them share a little bit about themselves, such as where they grew up, where they went to school, their favorite hobbies, their family and other fun facts. The presentation does not have to be more than a few minutes. Even that short amount of time offers a look into each individual’s personal world. This can be done in a standing call or you can set up a new call specifically for presentations and connection time.
While everyone has a job to do, and it is important that the jobs get done successfully, the pandemic has left many people in challenging family situations, from laid-off spouses to forced homeschooling. Do your best to accommodate each employee’s situation. If someone needs to rework their schedule to help their kids with school, work with them to change their schedule. Having an understanding and supportive attitude will go a long way in connecting with your employees.
These times are unlike any our generations have experienced. While the virtual workforce has brought with it many benefits, it comes hand-on-hand with many challenges. Implement the above suggestions to create a stronger personal connection with your team.
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