Due to COVID-19, many workplaces are now having their employees work remotely from home to keep everyone safe and healthy. While it can be comfortable to work from home and many employees seem to be getting more used to this daily routine, personal connection between coworkers can be harder to establish. It can sometimes feel like your work relationships have changed while working remotely.
It doesn’t have to be challenging to establish a human connection with your coworkers and your managers while working from home, and it’s possible to have a positive experience networking online. As a business owner or manager, it’s essential that you make it easier for your team to connect. Keep reading to better understand how real connections in a virtual workplace can boost mental health and employee morale and ways to go about improving connections in the online workplace.
Real Connection Is Important to Mental Health
Forbes notes that personal relationships help us combat stress and are important to have for our mental health. When employees work from home and have less in-person interaction and more isolation, it can greatly impact their mental health. It’s important for employers to keep on top of warning signs that staff members may be dealing with mental health concerns.
Here are some warning signs that may point to mental health problems caused by isolation:
- Work performance issues that were not present when an employee worked in a traditional office setting
- Appearing to be less motivated to complete projects or to work towards goals
- Lack of participation in team-building activities or special events with colleagues
- Continued anxiousness
If you do notice any of the above signs, it’s important to remind your employees that you’re there for them and that you care. You can provide them with resources to get mental health help so that they don’t feel alone. Not all employees will show noticeable signs, though, so it’s important to be proactive in your approach. You can work harder to put programs in place to foster virtual connections within the workplace.
If you’re not sure of ways to improve human connection with your team while working virtually, here are some great ideas you can implement:
Use Video for Some Communication
It can be very beneficial to use video for your virtual workplace needs. When you can see your coworkers and the rest of your team, it can feel like you’re actually in the same room together. If you’re able to do so, schedule some of your company’s meetings to be held via video-conferencing. This can improve the experience of networking online and make staff members feel less isolated while they work.
It’s important to note that it does take a bit of extra effort and work to have online meeting attention from your staff, as working from home does create some distractions and technological issues that cause delays. Sound or video issues can be distracting, too. Give your employees some time to adjust to video meetings, and if you need to, test different software options out to find the best solution for your team.
Check In Regularly With All Team Members
It can also be beneficial to have regular check-ins with all your team members. Asking how everyone is doing and how they’re feeling is important during a time like this. It can improve human connections and makes staff members feel heard. Be sure to check in with each employee on a regular basis, and do so privately so they can come to you if they need help.
Introduce Break Areas to Hang Out or Host Online Social Events
Just because you’re working online doesn’t mean you can’t have the “water cooler” environment typically offered in an office setting. In order to boost connections in the virtual workplace, your team can set up break areas where you can encourage employees to hang out during their breaks or during set “happy hour from home” times or other special online events. This can be a separate chat room feature or game area where employees can chit-chat, discuss non-work topics and get to know each other more.
No matter what you choose to do, your employees will appreciate that you went out of the way to encourage social interactions.
Other companies have had success with this kind of setup. Cisco has successfully retained company culture and human connections by providing virtual water cooler opportunities to their staff. These opportunities make it easier for employees to be human and to strengthen the virtual connections they have with their coworkers.
Setting up your own virtual hangouts or virtual water cooler areas can be effective once your team gets used to it. You can poll your staff to see what kind of special online events appeal to them.
Establish a Virtual Buddy System for Networking Online
Another way to boost relationships and connections in the virtual working world is to create a virtual buddy system. Pair each employee with a buddy and have them communicate with each other throughout the workday. This can feel similar to having a cubicle buddy in an office setting, and it helps to boost morale and keep employees engaged.
You can switch up pairs every so often to encourage employees to make new friendships and learn more about other staff members who are part of their team. It’s also a good way to have employees check in on each other to make sure their mental health and happiness are well while working from home.
It takes time and commitment to successfully improve human connection and relationships in the virtual work environment. Making an effort to strengthen virtual connections while networking online can boost mental health. If you do notice any warning signs or think one of your employees can benefit from mental health counseling or mental health care, FHE Health is a great resource.