During these unusual, challenging and abnormal times, we aren’t used to not having constant human connection with others outside our household. For some individuals, this is particularly challenging and can have a big impact on one’s mental health. Hearing what your colleagues are having for lunch can actually have a large influence on your motivation for your workload than we appreciated pre-lockdown. This blog is going to demonstrate a few tips and tricks we, at Worldteachers, have found which makes working from home, away from your colleagues, a little easier.
We set up a Skype chat with all employees, which loads up automatically as we switch on our PCs first thing in the morning. Each day we make habit of saying good morning, checking in with each other throughout the day, saying goodbye/ have a nice evening when switching off, etc. This platform is the main place where we discuss various work activity and communicate the goings on within the business, be it job updates, info on interviews, or system and technological conversation. In short, Skype is our main form of communication with one another. This has not only helped us replicate that ongoing small chat which would occur in person in our normal office setting but is also vital for our team to function the day to day running of the business. Maintaining continuous communication is the most important tactic to stay connected during lock-down. It not only ensures that everyone continues to stay on the same page with what is happening work load wise but allows that essential ‘colleague connection’.
The importance of all employees understanding the business activity needs no explanation. However, this will be discussed further in a future blog post, from the team leader’s viewpoint. If you want to subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates for each blog post please click HERE.
Most companies will already have some form of a group chat in place, which hopefully was used frequently pre-lockdown. For us, this is a group chat on WhatsApp. We’ve used this since before lockdown as a platform to share news and personal chat from outside work, be in the evenings or weekends, commonly sharing photos and videos of what we’re up to. The importance of having a mixture of work and non-work chat will be explained in the next bullet point.
But what is the benefit of having two separate chats during lockdown? Well, we use this WhatsApp chat for the exact same reasons as we did pre-lockdown. We separate work and personal life by separating the platforms we communicate on. Now this isn’t regimented, and we don’t use strict rules on what can be used on each platform (lockdown communication should replicate ‘normal’ in-person continuous communication after-all), but we found ourselves automatically switching between them. Perhaps it is because we mostly have WhatsApp on our phones and Skype on our computers, so physically when we share news outside of the working day, we won’t be sat using our computers.
I also think it is especially important that personal chat doesn’t get lost or bogged down in the work chat. There will be endless back and forward communication on the main platform (Skype for us) and if someone shares a piece of news, we don’t want it lost or accidentally ignored. In addition, we physically find it easier to share photos and video on WhatsApp, so that probably helps. It is important for the brain to switch between work-focus and to enjoy the personal chat from our colleagues.
So, there you have it, in conclusion – have two forms of communication to help continue the split between work chat and personal chat, such as in ‘normal’ office circumstances.
Let’s be real, not much is happening during lockdown. No adventurous trips, or wild weekends for us to share to our colleagues. We need to step back from the classic sharing topics and activities that we would usually share, and instead appreciate the more day-to-day simple activities which we would usually take for granted. This includes going for a walk and seeing some adorable lambs playing or cooking a tasty meal or home baking. Now don’t get me wrong, most companies may already have been sharing this, but now these are our most exciting events outside of work, we need to make extra effort to share and appreciate. As well as sharing ourselves, it is just as important to comment and reply to each other. If someone’s weekend highlight was finishing the last episode of a series on Netflix, reply and ask about it. Remember not everyone will have a big household, and this work chat may be their greatest form of personal connection with the outside world. So, in this case, any news is noteworthy news.
I’m sure many companies have their own pros and cons about their team bonding efforts, be it a group meal on a Friday after work, a physical day of activities throughout the year, special traditions etc. but it is important we don’t forget the value of these events, which ensures the ever vital connection between the team of employees. There is endless research on why having a close knit team that know how to effectively work together produces higher performance levels and a more efficient work-load, so don’t forget about this whilst we physically can’t be together.
Although, at Worldteachers, we have made real efforts with our teams’ communication, taking a step back to organise a team bonding activity was something we delayed upon - make sure you don’t do the same. We have now introduced a Zoom Quiz/ catch-up every two weeks on a Wednesday before lunch. Remember employees’ work day routine has been turned upside down, especially those with young families, so keep that in mind and plan an activity with a day and time that works with everyone, and most importantly can be adapted or altered if need. This is another way to connect and discuss outside of work topics, which again is extremely useful to remain a tight unit, and beneficial for everyone’s mental health. Using Zoom allows us to physically see one another, which is another big advantage to keep in mind. It humanises us and reminds us that we are still working with our colleagues and not just robots behind a computer screen!
A quiz is the perfect and appropriate way to get the competitive side out and brain working on something other than work. Using questions on different topics also allows chat and discussion to bloom with a little helping hand. Asking people for their answers also encourages those who are quieter on the other group chats to take part in this communication, and ensure they feel included. Again, having the visual advantage helps to physically see how one another is doing. The next blog issue is going to focus on team bonding activities to do during lockdown, with some examples you can use right away with your own company.
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Another great way to ensure all employees are staying united, and are involved in the business activities, is including various members of staff across different business behaviours. An example of this is our social media content. We have a post scheduled for next Friday – World Biscuit Day – where I asked each of our employees to share their favourite biscuit. This not only allows for discussion and chat, but also reminds all of your stakeholders that there is a face and human behind the service. Inclusion elsewhere also allows a separate focus from our day-to-day activity, sparking creativity and energy levels from the interest of a new action.
I hope this is both a reminder and explanation for you to make efforts to keep that 'colleague connection'. Any more ideas you have to strengthen the connection, please feel free to comment on this post so we can all share our thoughts.
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