As a result of the coronavirus spread, Atomic Object (like many companies) has asked employees to work remotely. Technically speaking, the shift went pretty smoothly; we had practices and technology in place to support the change.
But mentally and emotionally, switching to remote work is stressful — compounding the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that everyone is already feeling right now. Atoms have been working from home since March 11, which means the members of our tight-knit company haven’t seen one another in person for nearly two months.
It’s important to help employees feel connected at a time when they are physically isolated. Here are five ways we’re working to boost employee morale during remote work.
1. Practice Empathy with Colleagues’ Unique Home/Work Situations
People are adjusting to this situation in various ways. Be empathic to circumstances that may be different from your own and remember that this is a short-term situation.
If you’re keeping an unusual schedule, take responsibility for communicating it to your team to make sure everyone is on the same page. I’ve decided to go down to part-time because my husband and I have two young children who are now at home with us. I make my schedule transparent and clear to my team using Google Calendar, regular meetings, and Slack. They have all been really receptive to the change, which makes things a lot less stressful.
2. Regularly Check In with Your Team
Everyone has their own way of handling the current crisis and working in a fully remote situation. I generally don’t mind working from home and don’t need the energy of the office to keep me going. Others, though, are really struggling with the new setup or dealing with stress about the virus. Remember to check in with your team daily to make sure they are coping and managing their mental health and wellbeing.
3. Use Video for Virtual Meetings
This one is hard for me because, let’s be honest, my “nice clothes” have just been hanging in my closet for at least forty-five days. Nevertheless, there are big benefits to having a video meeting instead of just a phone call. Seeing people’s faces and expressions helps you interpret emotions better than long pauses and voices on the phone. And you can feel more of a connection to them even though you are not physically near.
4. Use Technology to Collaborate
Everyone has started using tools like Zoom and Slack to stay connected. Atomic would be lost without them. But there are a wide variety of other collaboration tools available, for example:
- Reetro – A free online board we’re using to better facilitate in-person retrospectives.
- Miro – A great tool for collaborating on brainstorming, diagramming, and virtual whiteboarding.
- Discord – A way to communicate over voice, video, and text. Our developers have found this especially helpful for remote pairing. Discord channels allow for continuous voice communication for anyone in the channel.
Technology is never going to replace in-person work or the conversations that tend to happen easily in the office. But using technology for collaborative work can help teammates feel connected.
5. Encourage Virtual Socializing
People are probably missing casual conversations with coworkers about non-work subjects. It’s okay to add socializing into the day. It may be vital for people who need lots of interaction to keep their energy up.
Facilitate these interactions with virtual happy hours, lunches, or coffee-breaks. It may seem weird or forced at first, but keeping that personal connection to coworkers is essential during this abnormal time.
You can also encourage casual conversations via a messaging app. We use Slack at Atomic, and contributions to non-serious channels have exploded in the past few weeks. We have a new #plants channel for gardening advice, and I’m seeing many more fun child pictures and antics on #parents. Contributions like this help keep things fun in a time when we all need it.
What has your company done to keep morale up? Do you feel like your team has adjusted (as best they can) during these trying times?