If you’re not already working remotely, you probably will be soon.
Many of us already work remotely – at least part-time. With the spread of COVID-19, and social distancing measures we’re putting in place, that number will only continue to rise.
There’s plenty of advice around how to stay productive: create a workspace, communicate asynchronously, wear pants. But there’s more to work than being productive. Social activities – like team lunches, offsites, or gossiping in the hallways – help you feel closer to your colleagues, which in-turn, improves your ability to work together on projects. On the flip side, social isolation has been linked to mental illness, dementia, and death. Grim.
So, how do we replicate this feeling of social closeness when we’re all locked in our home offices?
You’ve probably already got a tool you use to communicate with your team, like Slack. But it’s hard to just chat for the sake of it. So, set up some triggers – give your team reasons to talk.
Grab the popcorn (or the tinned tomatoes you’ve been stockpiling) and settle in for a movie. Tools like Netflix Party help you stream movies at the same time as your friends, and chat while you watch. For a work-friendly option, try streaming an episode of Our Planet – it’s fascinating, appropriate, and episodes are short enough to fit into a lunch break.
You’ve probably heard of Minecraft. It’s essentially virtual Lego – you dig up blocks, and then place those blocks to create structures. It’s enjoyed worldwide by all kinds of players, and is even used as a teaching tool in primary schools. Minecraft Classic can be played in your browser, for free, with up to 10 people.
Why not try to build a virtual copy of your real office? You’ll need to work as a team to plan your structure. Delegate who’s collecting which blocks. And if you jump on a call while you’re doing it, the social interaction will happen seamlessly.
Consider replacing your Friday afternoon beers with a game of Water Cooler Trivia. This app works via Slack or email, and it’s free for a month. It’s great fun while you’re playing, but also a wonderful conversation starter. You’ll quickly learn who is a sports fanatic, and who is way too into Harry Potter (hint: it’s me).
Set up a regular video call, and have a different teammate take you through their home each time. It’s a fun way to get a glimpse into how we live our lives. It builds empathy. You’ll pick up some good tips for your own house (and workspace). And, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a cat.