Over the last decade, organizations have strived for efficiency, simplicity and effectiveness in their organizational DNA. Breaking down silos is imperative for collaborative workplace cultures. Unfortunately for many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some of those walls building back up.
When the pandemic first started, many organizations were thoughtful and intentional to create communications channels, fostering connectivity to help ease the transition to working from home. We Zoomed, Slacked, hosted coffee chats and happy hours but at some point, we became exhausted.
In fact, Monster reported that 69% of employees are experiencing burnout while working from home. Keeping up with extra loads of laundry, homeschooling our children and the endless dirty dishes in addition to our work responsibilities left little time or energy to participate in those virtual happy hours. While scheduled with the best intentions, these “connection” meetings saw declines in attendance, and at some point, no one likely bothered to send out new invites.
Now, nearly 20 months into our new work-from-home arrangements, many of us long for the face-to-face social interactions that we came to depend on to energize and motivate us while at work. So, what are some ways to keep morale high with your teams while fostering a virtual environment of cross-functional collaboration?
We have 5 suggestions of how to conquer this familiar challenge, all things we have used or seen success with to keep teams engaged and connected.
- Cultivate Conversations: Keep two-way communication lines open and make sure employees understand how they can provide feedback and concerns. Don’t worry about over-communicating – people want to hear from their organizations for a sense of security and understanding important news about their employer.
- Break Down Silos: Find ways to encourage dialogue and connections across functions. We have seen success with a custom “Donuts & Coffee” chatbot in Slack. Every two weeks employees are paired with another team member who they haven’t recently conversed with and are encouraged to have an informal connection. This is a great technique for preventing those cross-functional silos!
- Storytelling: Getting to know your peers on a personal level is key to building trusting relationships, but not easy to do remotely. One proven tactic we’ve seen leverages a video series of personal interviews with employees, sharing stories about how their lives changed during the pandemic. This is a great strategy to introduce employees who might have on-boarded remotely or to humanize your senior-level managers with the rest of the organization or even just a function. Keep it authentic and film these people where they are comfortable – in their homes, at a park or with their kids.
- Personal Connections: Leverage existing employee-generated communication channels such as Yammer, Teams or Slack to create a space for employees to connect around their hobbies and lifestyles – the characteristics that intrinsically bring us together. Start a channel for working parents to share tips and advice, pet lovers to share photos of their favorite Fido or kitchenistas to share their latest recipes. We form trusting relationships with people when we can connect with them on a personal level.
- Care: Offer up resources to initiate a pay it forward program or to send a random care package. We know that employees may still have to quarantine with their families or alone. Think about that person and consider sending a care package to help get them through any challenging personal time. Let your employees know someone is thinking about them and their well-being.
While the pandemic has offered employees a host of benefits working with more flexible schedules and arrangements, it is critical not to lose sight of the deep personal connections that the office gave us. Developing some of these tactics into your communications strategy will not only help keep employees engaged but also continue to foster more meaningful connections.