We’re mostly used to hearing about the wide-ranging benefits of working from home or remotely, from an increase in productivity to higher retention of employees. As with everything, however, there are potential downsides that come with this modern way of working. As people around the world experience varying degrees of social distancing and ‘lockdown’, working from home has become obligatory for many and the potential feelings of isolation and loneliness can be heightened as restrictions on social life continue.
It’s vital, therefore, to keep employees engaged. A feeling of belonging and camaraderie can be a lifeline for many, especially those who live on their own. Failure from a company to ensure its employees are happy and healthy can be incredibly damaging, both in the short term and long term when things (hopefully) start to return to normal.
Here are several ideas for how to keep employees involved, feeling part of a team and having fun whilst the office is out of bounds.
Guess the desk
An idea from Rethink Group’s People team, Guess the Desk is a great way to have a bit of fun across an entire company. As the name suggests, every few days a photo of an employee’s home-working desk (or another setup) is shared internally across the company with people trying to guess which colleague the space belongs to. Prizes can be introduced for the correct guesses as a way to encourage people to take part, and clues can be left to make it a bit easier if needed.
Good news emails
There’s a lot of bad, repetitive news at the moment, and it can be pretty hard to avoid. Sharing a weekly, or even daily email of the good news happening across your company, from employee’s personal achievements to random and fun anecdotes, is a great way to help everyone feel like they’re part of a team whilst also giving them a much-needed break from the usual news cycle.
Regular video meetings
If you don’t already, scheduling regular video meetings is a great way to keep in touch with people in your team who you otherwise would see every day in the office. Even if you don’t have a great deal to discuss, it can be nice to just say hello. If you set them for 9 AM, having a regular appearance on camera with your colleagues can also help you get in the right mindset for the rest of the day. It’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone may like video calls, so always check before to make sure you’re not forcing anyone into something they’re not comfortable with.
Reaching out to people more
There’s been an incredibly positive and generous surge of people offering themselves out for a chat for those who might be in need of a bit of company. Whilst this is a lovely and worthwhile gesture, it can be hard for people genuinely experiencing loneliness to have the courage to reach out themselves; worries about being an unwanted burden could be holding them back. A better approach than saying you’re available to talk could be to reach out to individuals first, and this is especially important if you’re in an authoritative position. It may mean nothing to the person who receives the call, or it may make their day… so it’s well worth taking the chance!
Phone calls are better than emails
Whilst some shy away from phone calls (trying to do as much as they can by email), now could be the time to rely on your phone more. Humans are social beings, but there’s nothing particularly natural about typing out communications on a keyboard. Whether it’s a quick request or a more complex explanation, jumping on the phone can make people’s days that bit more interesting, especially when stuck at home. Being able to put a voice to the name and email address reminds you that the people you work with are real and don’t just exist in the digital realm, and you can always follow up with an email containing any actions afterwards.
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