Figure out how to stay connected with your remote staff.
Intentionally keeping your remote team connected can improve team morale. — Getty Images/pixelfit

Whether you’re newly remote or always a solo employee, working outside a traditional office culture can have its low points. Upwork’s 2018 State of Remote Work report found that loneliness is the biggest struggle to working remotely. With offices and coworking spaces closed for the immediate future, how can you stay connected to your coworkers?

[Read more: 7 Ways to Improve Company Culture Remotely]

Rethink your commute

Before the pandemic, the average one-way commute in the U.S. was nearly 27 minutes every day. That’s roughly an hour of time that you and your coworkers will get back now that you aren’t going anywhere.

Commute time was when many of us switched from home life into work mode. Some people listened to podcasts while others read the news or caught up on email on the way into the office. That extra time in the morning is important for shifting our mindset into productivity and the professional attitude we’ll need for the rest of the day.

Now that we’re working from home, use that space to connect with your coworkers and make that same mental shift. Listen to a podcast together, use that time to mentor one another. Schedule informal coffee talks where you share a skill or area of professional development that you may not typically get to use during the normal workday. At the end of the day, your commute time can be used for a virtual happy hour. “You’ll gain social time, mentorship, different perspectives, and regain some of the spontaneous conversations that are lost in remote working,” wrote the experts at The Muse.

Lots of teams are leaning into a little friendly competition to keep spirits high.

Create new rituals

One of the highlights of working in an office environment is the little traditions that spring up during the course of the day. One PR team used to take a mid-afternoon break over a cold Coca-Cola every Thursday to celebrate the impending end to the week. Rituals like these can be replicated virtually; or, create new ones that help your team stay connected.

One way to foster new rituals is to set up virtual space to let them grow organically. Create a Slack channel dedicated to fun social messages. Or, open a video chatroom link that you and your colleagues can log into throughout the day.

General Assembly, a New York-based company with employees working remotely, uses an ongoing video chatroom each day to foster culture and engagement. “You never know who’s going to be in there, but it mirrors what it’s like to get coffee in the kitchen at the office,” one General Assembly employee told CNBC. “It’s just small talk that lasts for a few minutes, but it’s a nice ritual if you’re craving that human connection every day, which I have been.”

Bring in your outside interests

Remote work can often blur the line between work life and home life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“While some of your coworkers will be lucky enough to have a separate home office, not all of them will, and we’ll inevitably be seeing living rooms, kitchens, even bedrooms. Don’t cross boundaries, but do welcome the opportunity to get to know your coworkers in a new way,” wrote The Muse.

Make time in the day to learn about your coworkers’ outside interests, meet family members (or roommates or pets), and share more about life beyond the office. Prolonged social distancing can mean that many of us aren’t seeing friends or family as frequently, so socializing throughout the workday should be a priority for mental health. Use this new way to work as an opportunity to get to know your coworkers better, meet other people with whom they are close and maybe learn about a new hobby or skill in the process.

Set up a team challenge

Lots of teams are leaning into a little friendly competition to keep spirits high. Trivia night is a popular option that’s easy to set up using an app like House Party or through a Slack channel.

[Read more: Best Team-Building Activities for Remote Teams]

If your coworkers aren’t into the competition aspect of games, there are still ways to build camaraderie virtually. Send each other photos of your workspaces, great lunch recipes, or have themed dress-up days. Start a book club or ask a local yoga instructor to offer a virtual class. The trick is to find something that fits into everyone’s schedule and that you can do together.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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