Coming Together While Distancing

May 01, 2021 -

Strengthening Work Relationships During the Covid-19 Crisis

Going to the break room, stopping by the water cooler, and sitting at a community lunch table are some of my favorite ways to have impromptu relationship-building conversations with coworkers. Typically when you catch people in these places, they are taking a mental break from the day to day challenges of their jobs and looking for a pleasant distraction. It gives me a great opportunity to ask them about things they enjoy outside of the office or hear interesting stories of their lives which paints a picture of their world-view and personal perspective. Unfortunately, during this covid-19 crisis, we're all quarantined away from the office and those preferred meeting spots are temporarily non-existent. Being quarantined requires us to get creative and invent new ways to better connect with each other.

Leading with Respect and Empathy

In a recent blog by Christopher Littlefield, he astutely points out that "although everyone is facing the same threat, not everyone is facing the same circumstances". From the challenges we have at home, to the stresses of our individual roles, the toll that a crisis takes on each person can vary wildly. He goes on to identify 6 core ways to be a respectful coworker during this crisis:

  1. Understand what each person is dealing with at home
  2. Stay in touch daily
  3. Make it safe to ask for help
  4. Be forgiving and patient
  5. Make it ok to not be perfect
  6. Share resources and self-care ideas

By realizing that we're all in this together, but in different ways, it can help us better connect and support each other. From having patience with a coworker whose kids keep running into your web conference video to colleagues that no-show in important meetings. Understanding each other's unique situation and offering to help when possible makes a huge difference.

A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

Keeping people connected in a virtual world with some semblance of normalcy can feel like an unused muscle being worked. It may seem unnatural and forced, but over time, as people get used to the new paradigm, the effort will be appreciated. These relationship building activities don't need to be grandiose. With applications like PeopleTies for example, you can easily find commonalities or shared interests and build around events around them. Here are some great events that we've seen many organizations enjoying during this time:

  • Breakfast/Coffee with the Boss: Managers can offer to start their day 30 mins earlier than normal and have a virtual coffee with their direct reports. One on one or in a small group, these intimate, informal meetings help teams bond and build trust.
  • Online Tournaments: Video games are perfect for connecting people remotely. There may be gamers in your organization who never knew they had that shared interest. Promote their joint participation with a gift card or corporate shout out to the tournament winner.
  • Virtual Happy Hour: Colleagues meet after work in their local time zones via Zoom and have their favorite libation while telling amusing anecdotes. And no one has to drive!

Beyond events, being personal and showing you care with something as simple as a phone call or text to someone who's isolated or in a difficult home-life situation goes a long way and can't be undervalued.

Look at the Bright Side

In times of crisis, it's often difficult to "look at the bright side". But it's looking ahead and having hope that keeps many of us moving forward. One of the positive side effects of everyone working remotely is that we're building skills and learning methods to better work with our remote coworkers in the future. When we're all back in the office, we'll have a better perspective of what their lives are like and be better prepared to form remote relationships. Hopefully, we'll all find ways to continuously learn about each other and foster empathy and trust.