Even though working from home is becoming increasingly common, we have never faced such widespread or mandatory telecommuting before. Despite the fact that we have never been so technologically prepared to work from home, doing so is taking a toll on employers and employees, especially those who favor in person communication. For industries in which working remotely is possible, the question becomes “How do we maintain a sense of camaraderie and productivity while we are apart?” We will explore practical advice related to this question below.
First, it is important to appreciate the value of casual conversation and the camaraderie it builds. In the Thrive Global article, “How to Create Genuine Camaraderie Among Remote Workers,” Brian Hart explains that camaraderie helps coworkers feel connected and satisfied with their jobs, thus turnover rates decrease. In other words, employees are likely to be more loyal to a company in which they feel well connected. Although casual or “watercooler” talk is a natural product of working together under one roof, employers should make the effort to replicate opportunities for such interaction. Hart suggests opening meetings with casual conversation. He also encourages employers to use messaging apps designed for casual group discussion.
In addition to creating a space for casual discussion, everyone can benefit from fun prompts to get people talking. Signe Brewster suggests sparking conversation with highly debatable question, “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” in the Wirecutter article, “How to Keep the Spirit of Teamwork Alive While You’re Working from Home During Coronavirus.” In addition, a social media trend of posting pictures with your new pet coworkers has become popular. Employers may consider hosting a virtual meet and greet to welcome such furry friends to the team. Don’t have the time to organize this event? Try using a new group chat dedicated to sharing amusing stories or pictures related to working from home. Creating a time and place for watercooler talk helps to build connections and morale during a stressful and isolating time.
As with the suggestions above, high quality communication is the key to making working from home a success. The NBC News article, “Here’s how to stay productive-and connected-when you work from home,” by Nicole Spector, discussed best practices for communicating remotely. She strongly recommends using face to face communication, such as FaceTime, to facilitate meaningful interaction, pointing out that lengthy threads of emails can get confusing, not to mention the fact that important questions may not be answered quickly. Virtual meetings ensure that everyone is on the same page, and that aspects of nonverbal communication are accurately interpreted. To further enhance communication, Spector makes two suggestions: create virtual appointments in advance, and work at the same time as other employees. Agreeing on a date and time to go over important project details ensures that all team members take part in the discussion. It also relieves anxiety to know that there will be guaranteed chances to collaborate and ask questions. Although remote workers do not need to start and stop their full shift at the same time, it is important to have some of the workday overlap. Doing so increases the chance that others will be available to discuss problems, ideas, or questions.
As a final note, it is important to remember to be patient to one another during this unprecedented time. Everyone is facing different degrees of stress as they cope with stay at home orders, social isolation, and the fear of illness striking them or their loved ones. Although some people love working from home, not everyone is wired to do so. Help one another as you establish a routine that works for you and your coworkers.