Stay Social With Your Team Amidst Social Distancing Tom Armitage Senior Digital Marketing Team Lead I’m struggling with the isolation and remote-only work. As an extreme extrovert – by definition – I gain energy from being around people. Perhaps you’re the same as me. The remote environments created because of the coronavirus and social distancing means that teams need to put in extra work to stay connected – while also staying productive. This means ensuring meeting time is efficient, collaboration is silky smooth, leaders are transparent, and morale is high.Here’s some advice… 1) Stay Home (Home)Not all of us are used to this new work lifestyle. Some common complaints among folks who work remotely full-time include struggles with communication, lack of social opportunities compared to office staff, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. I’m sure we’re all starting to feel all three of those. But we must remember that 1) this too shall pass, and 2) we need to be as productive as possible during this period. Have a regular routine (get up at the same time, shower, eat breakfast, etc) and have a dedicated space just for work. That way, when you “turn off,” you can walk away from your office or desk, and give full focus to family or your personal life.Don’t get distracted by household chores, or other things that can pull your focus away from work. Prepare lunch the night before. Break up the day with scheduled stops for coffee. Put your phone in the other room and sign out of social media apps so you aren’t caught browsing.Make sure those in your home (both adults and kids) know your “business hours” and respect it as much as possible. 2) Stay Distant (Video)Some organizations are better at adopting and utilizing video conferencing more than others. However, during this time, we’re all being forced to use it for ALL meetings and calls. There are certainly differences between good video meetings and bad ones. We’ve all been in both. Let’s look at a few things that make some positive video experiences. Have functional internet connectivity. Nothing is more frustrating than a voice that’s unclear and is breaking up. Arrive a few minutes early and make sure both audio and video work great. Mute yourself when not speaking. Don’t work on other things during the meeting. It’s impolite and not as efficient as you might think. What’s your home office look like? I hope it’s well-lit, doesn’t have distracting or offensive items in the background, and you’re dressed professionally. As a matter of fact, wear what you’d normally wear to the office. Beyond looking more professional, you’ll work more productivity too. 3) Stay Connected (Software)There is so much software out there to help with collaboration and connectivity. Choose the right tools to help your organization and lean on them to make your teams stronger and work better. It’s important that all within the company use the same set of software and there’s training involved to make sure everyone is aware of their full functionality and capabilities. Chat Tools: Slack/Yammer. These are great for helping with faster, simpler communication (avoid internal emails as much as possible) and better phone calls.Video Conferencing: GoToMeeting/Skype/Zoom. Great for fostering more successful meetings with both internal and external stakeholders. Accession from Northland Communications that is both a video conferencing and phone software-based tool. Make sure all team members use video in their chats to keep your team united (yes, even the introverts!).Task or Project Management: Wrike/Asana/Basecamp/Trello. Get your to-do lists added (and keep them well managed and always up-to-date). Assign and receive work and make sure all details are found within. 4) Stay Informed (Transparency)There’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty right now. Employees have questions, and they are worried about the impact of coronavirus on the company and their own personal role within. Company leaders must help employees across the entire workforce feel as positive as possible during this difficult time. There needs to be transparency at all times. Establish a “crisis leadership team” and meet often (every day or every other day). Leaders in the organization can review the most current situation of what’s happening with COVID-19 on the world, and how those updates affect the company directly.Plan on daily updates to be issued from one leader each day that goes out to all staff members across the organization. Keep them informed of what was discussed in the crisis meetings and any other important company updates. This is absolutely necessary to ensure folks don’t feel as if they are in the dark about what’s going on inside of the company. Consider a “Truth Book” for pressing Q&As so employees can always reference it later. There’s certainly dollars being saved with internal events being canceled. Take any unused dollars from the “social outings” bucket, and re-allocate towards “care packages” that can be sent to employee homes. Hire a wellness expert (sessions to take place virtually, of course) to teach the staff on health topics (or maybe a financial advisor instead). Or, shift the dollars towards some sort of goodwill gesture like toiletries and hygiene products for the elderly in your community. 5) Stay Fun (😂)Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to help staff stay positive and encourage team members to have fun. There’s too much stress surrounding this virus. Plus, all the smiles and laughs that we all have when we interact in-person in the office, are just simply not happening. It’s important to keep team members engaged virtually while keeping topics and the atmosphere light at times. Create different Spotify playlists based on work type: Punk Joints for Proofreading, Low-fi Hip-Hop Beats for Writing, Monster Metal for Mundane Tasks, Country Classics for Creative Work, etc. Allow team members to collaborate and share. Encourage good health habits (not just because of the virus, but because people are thrown off their normal routines) – good eating, exercise, time for relaxation, prayer or meditation, etc. Build time into everyone’s calendar to go for brief walks or 15-minute coffee chats with team members (small talk).Have virtual meetups where the topics are fun and light. Think about virtual happy hours on Friday afternoons, yoga sessions in the morning from each others’ living rooms, movie chats, and book clubs. Have the entire team get together during lunch breaks, while eating, and keep the conversations non-work-related. If you’re daring, theme them. We had a “funky hat day”. I wore Toad’s hat from Super Mario Brothers. 🙃Despite the challenges that come with these circumstances, it’s important that you and your team stay engaged. It may take a little time getting used to, but having good practices around a work-from-home environment and video conferencing will help your team stay connected, involved and ultimately more productive. Remember to stay positive and we’ll get through this together!