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7 easy ways to create community in a remote work world.

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

By definition, remote work is "(of a place) situated far from the main centers of population; distant. or having very little connection with or relationship to." It's no wonder that we have employees who can become disengaged, lonely, and isolated from the company and the people within it. But we can change that!

As you and your team are getting used to or trying to update how you connect with your remote work staff, keeping employees engaged in a digital world means it's time to roll up your sleeves and get creative. Here are 7 easy ways you can create community and connection in a remote work world.

1. Schedule coffee breaks to connect your team

When you're at work in real life with your team, one of the many benefits of working in the same space is the natural small talk and connection that is created by everyday small interactions. When you're remote working, you have to be a little more strategic in how you provide those interactions. One way that you can get your team to engage in small talk is to allow your employees to schedule coffee breaks with one another. It can be as simple as setting up a 10 -15-minute video call for employees to use to connect with their coworkers and peers. They can spend some time connecting with one another without the main focus of their interactions centered around the next impending deadline, a project they're working on, or the million things they have left to do on their to-do list. It's simply a time for them to connect with other human beings.

Tip: Have new employees or a group of employees that may need a little help knowing what to talk about? Share a list of prompts to get the conversation started.

2. Daily or weekly video check-ins

There is something truly magical about seeing our coworkers faces. And while we may not be able to see each other in real life while we're remote working. We can (in most cases) see each other via video conference call. Set up a quick daily or weekly video conference with your team to check-in with them. Spend time NOT talking about work, and instead, focus on your people and how they're doing. See below for an easy way to quickly check-in on your team so you can circle back with those that need your support right away.

Tip: If you can't host a video conference, set up a conference call. The important thing is to stay connected with your team.

3. Spirit week/crazy outfits

Do you remember back in grade school when we had spirit week and each day of the week we had a theme to dress up for? How about doing something similar for your video conference calls. Here are few ideas (some of these were inspired by co-founder Tina's kids' school): Crazy Sock Day, Crazy Hair Day, Favorite Author, Company Brand Color Day, 50/60/70/90/80s Day, Nerd Day, College Shirt Day, PJ Day, Superhero Day, etc. Get creative. While we may not be in the same space as our team, it doesn't mean that we can't sprinkle in a little fun here and there.

Tip: Remember to set some boundaries. Nobody wants to see anyone without a shirt, or in something inappropriate.

4. Exercise challenges

Although we're all confined to our homes, that doesn't mean that we should lose focus on the physical wellbeing of our team. To help keep your team motivated set up an exercise challenge to engage your team in a little physical activity. There are incredible small businesses and solopreneurs around the globe who are creating online classes, from yoga classes, to exercise set to trap, rap, and R&B music there are countless options for employees to stay active while they stay inside their homes.

Our friends at GrillzandGranola created a fitness guide for working from home. We love the option of taking an online fitness class and it's such a great way to show your employees that you care about their mental and physical well being.

Grillz and Granola and Define the Line working from home fitness guide

"Starting at $5 per class, join GrillzandGranola for a series of live, hip-hop and r&b fueled workouts, including their signature class TrapAerobics™. Learn more"

Tip: there are many apps like, runkeeper, that can track not only the amount of miles you run, but the length and quantity of workouts.

5. Color-coded check-in

Recently we met with the talented Kathleen Holland, who shared about a color-coded system to help easily check -in with employees' mental wellbeing. It's a simple and quick way to gauge where your employees are at, right now in this moment. Here's how it works, ask employees if they are green, yellow or red today/this week/this moment, etc. Green = doing fine, yellow = things could be better, and red = need help. Using colors instead of trying to have employees explain every emotion their feeling makes it easier to check-in with each individual and lets you know who you need to follow-up with on a one on one basis. Kathleen also suggested creating your own color-coded system. Maybe you can add in another color that represents that the individual has extra time or additional resources that they can provide to the group.

Tip: Email the color-code (don't forget to share what each color represents) to your team before your next meeting. To kick things off and to set a tone of vulnerability, share what your color first.

6. Employee surveys

Often when you think of employee surveys you may think of the once-per-year check-in that many organizations do. Which often means that there are A LOT of questions to answer. Employee survey's don't have to be that complicated or complex. Resources like Google Forms and Survey Monkey make it easy for anyone to create a quick survey that can be sent out to the entire team.

Tip: Before creating your survey, think about what information you want to collect AND what you will do with the information once you receive it.

7. Water cooler channel

Does your team use a communication platform like Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc? Think about adding a channel that is simply for the benefit of sharing personal updates, funny memes, and creates a space for employees to engage in small talk that we are oh-so used to in workplace settings.

Tip: Make sure to set expectations and create rules of what is and isn't acceptable in the Water Cooler Channel. Monitor what's being said to ensure no one is being offensive, rude, discriminatory, or harassing.

BONUS: Jackbox Games

Looking for something fun to do with your team that's interactive? Think about hosting a game from Jackbox Games. They have lots of different options for games and all you need is a computer, video conferencing system, and personal cell phones to play.

Tip: Test play the games before sending out an invite to your team. Once you have it all figured out, you'll be able to "troubleshoot" if any of your team members have difficulty.

Have something that's not on this list that you've done with your team that's been really great? We'd love to know what you're doing to engage your remote workers and create community.

About the author: Nikki Larchar, SHRM-CP is the co-founder of harassment prevention training company, Define the Line. With their first-of-its-kind comic book training, interactive training sessions, and resources to help organizations engage their employees in a difficult conversation, Define the Line is on a mission to eliminate workplace harassment and create workplaces that are safe and secure for everyone.

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