From Speed Networking to Chatroom Coffee…Ways to Foster Coworker Connections while Working Remotely

coffee zoom

Since the pandemic, relationships with coworkers have changed—in some ways, we now know our coworkers like we never thought we would—a glimpse of breakfast dishes piled high, children arguing before a mute button is pressed, or knowing the names of pets who pop into meetings.  It’s been a full year of remote work for many, and it’s hard to maintain the “business on top” professional persona for that amount of time.  Casual Fridays have morphed from jeans to sweats to pajama pants….

Even with these glimpses into personal lives, we feel disconnected from coworkers—from adult conversations by the watercooler, casual pop-ins, business lunches and elevator chit-chats.  We feel far removed from the relationships we once had.

Like any relationship, the one of remote coworker takes work.

Here are five ways to foster coworker connections in a remote environment:

1. Watercooler chatroom coffee link

Consider starting your day with a little connection over coffee.  Education company General Assembly (headquartered in New York City) has a morning video chatroom link set up for workers to join. The beauty of this idea is DAILY connection.  Also consider incorporating an “optional early” start time to regularly scheduled meetings for coworkers to visit.

2. Host speed networking meetings and virtual happy hours

A popular forum called Run the World Today offers speed networking options where employees can be matched with coworkers for five minutes of chat time (for example).  Think speed dating.  This can be fun and can be set up to pair employees randomly so they meet people with whom they otherwise would not interact.  Hosting a virtual happy hour is also popular with many companies.  Minda Zetlin, Inc., suggests keeping happy hours to one hour and coming prepared with some casual conversation ideas.  After attending a happy hour, Zetlin said she was in a better mood: “I hadn’t had that experience of being in a communal group for way too long and though it certainly wasn’t the same as meeting a bunch of friends in a bar, that Zoom meeting really helped fill the void.”

3. Share employee hobbies/ skills

If employees who want to share their talents with others, the company could support ideas such as yoga or Zumba sessions.  An artistic coworker may want to teach others how to paint or knit.  Along these lines, the company could make it easy for employees to share things like recipes, music, or great ideas for entertaining kids at home by hosting a platform for posts.

4. Promote common courtesies

It’s amazing how little things can go a long way.  I have a coworker who always starts his Google Chats with “Good morning” or “Hi Chris” and waits for a response.  It can be an urgent matter, but the chat exchange is always very positive and courteous. “Using common courtesy such as saying ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening’ or offering your co-workers a simple smile are great ways of practicing office etiquette,” says Denise Douthard, COO of Polishing the Professional.

5. Reaching out and listening

One of the easiest (and often most neglected) ways of staying connected is to simply be interested in another person and take the time to ask questions.  How is your coworker handling the additional stress the pandemic has brought forth?  How are your coworker’s kids doing? The American Journal of Psychiatry conducted a study of over 100,000 people and found that the best way to prevent depression is through social connection. Ideas include talking to someone (and affirming them) over the phone, sending a card or a thoughtful gift, remembering a birthday, or maybe having a meal delivered to someone who is not feeling well.

Don’t Overdue it

Managers should be highly aware of HOW they are communicating and HOW employees are responding to the communications.  Are employees getting messages with one communication (like a weekly staff newsletter) or does it take a couple of different means of communication to reach everyone (email mid-week and a staff newsletter on Fridays for example)?

Are managers communicating just on a mass level or are they also giving individual attention to employees? Employees who crave attention sometimes seek it out through overcommunications.

Artemis Consultants knows maintaining coworker relationships is part of a healthy company (and networking) culture.  These connections may be a lifeline to many employees working from home. As positions continue to go remote, companies offering creative ways to connect can appear more attractive to prospective employees.

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