For some people, working from home during the pandemic has been a dream come true. For others, not so much. According to Cigna, 61 percent of Americans reported feeling lonely in early 2020. Mental health experts believe that the number has increased significantly ever since due to prolonged social distancing and repeated lockdown. In time, people started losing their sense of community and became less engaged to their company’s life.
Bridge the gap
Loneliness takes a toll on mental health and can affect people in many different ways, from loss of appetite to reduced productivity. As a manager, you have an opportunity to bridge the gap and engage employees. That will keep your company moving forward and combat the loneliness that employees may be feeling. Use these strategies to create a sense of community for your remote team.
Build dedicated social spaces
One of the biggest challenges managers face with newly remote teams is to find ways for workers to bond without the classic water cooler talk that comes naturally with in-person interactions. To solve this, consider how your employees communicate during remote work and how you can add social elements to these flows.
For example, here at 4PSA we have numerous Topics in Hubgets, our communications and team collaboration platform meant for off-topic or non-work-related subjects. These group discussion boards (they are much more than a simple group chat) aren’t just random catch-alls. Instead, each one has a specific subject that’s meant to guide social discussions. For example, Books Topic, Lunch food, My Cat 2.0, or even Sales & Support social club 😛
These Topics allow employees to form communities without distracting the whole group. Employees can always opt-out of any such topic that doesn’t appeal. For example, an employee without kids won’t probably want to be on the parenting thread.
Creating social spaces can prevent team members from getting distracted in their work communication threads while allowing for a sense of community.
Connect everyone back to the company
As you’re building out plans to increase connections, consider how your employees talk to each other. It’s likely that some workers are more siloed than others, especially if you have some employees who work alone or in teams of two. This can leave people feeling lonely and disconnected from the company as a whole. However, as John Boitnott, digital media consultant and investor, says:
“In order to keep employees focused and motivated, it is important to consistently remind them that they are part of two teams—that of their department and that of the company at large.”
To re-connect employees to the company, plan larger company gatherings, where everyone is able to connect together in one place. Here are a few simple ways to do that, despite the distance:
- Host a company game afternoon. Here’s a long list of sites that host group games.
- Host all-hands meetings. Even though few people are actually talking to one another, coming together to hear about company updates can connect them back to the company as a whole.
- Host company-wide goal setting. Remembering that their goals also feed into the larger company goals drives connection and motivation.
- Allow interdepartmental shadowing. Let employees remotely shadow other employees to help them connect to other areas of the business along with employees they may not normally work with or talk to.
Share your gratitude and encourage others to do it too
It’s easy to feel as though you’re lost in the sea of employees when you’re not in an office. While you might share a quick thank-you when you walk past someone in the office, it’s harder to remember to pass on this gratitude or make it public when working in a virtual setting.
Make a point to share gratitude with your team, whether you set aside a few minutes in a meeting or use the Hubgets Team Board, like we do at 4PSA, for team praise. We sometime use it to post kind words and give shout-outs to our peers that help them. This highlights how everyone is helping each other by creating a strong community.
Create a community from a distance
Combat loneliness and drive connection among your team with these simple strategies and ideas. Figure out what works for your employees and implement where appropriate.
Even a few non-professional Hubgets topics (or whatever group chats you use) or one monthly company-wide meeting can make a difference in bringing people together, boosting productivity, connectivity and motivation.
And remember, as long as people feel they are part of a community, they will feel engaged to the company’s life and teamwork better. And their mental health will also improve.