As many companies continue to extend their work from home policies due to the pandemic, you may feel a bit disconnected from your colleagues, peers and business partners. That’s understandable. The novelty of virtual interactions has waned, as we’re required to maintain the same level of interpersonal connection through our computer screens.
Tips for staying connected
Make a list of your key workplace relationships. Include all colleagues: clients, coworkers and supplier partners. Some of these relationships require greater levels of communication than others, so use your best judgement to determine how often to reach out and for what type of event. Establish reminders to connect with each person or groupings of people based on the level of contact you deemed necessary. Or don’t wait. Whenever someone pops into your head, seize the moment and reach out.
Before you set up meetings, remember the key to keeping workplace relationships dynamic is balancing personal with business conversations. As we try to juggle our home and work lives, it’s easy to have quick, business-focused meetings. Fuel your human need for genuine interaction by talking about more than just the weather.
Keep your cameras on. It helps to stay engaged by having as much face-to-face contact as possible. Additionally, it builds trust and provides some level of normalcy while being socially distanced.
Here’s a range of activities to strengthen your relationships with colleagues.
1. Meet over a meal
Combining the feel-good emotions of a tasty meal with connecting with a colleague is the cornerstone of relationship building. With the ubiquity of video calls and at-home food options, this is a simple way to catch up.
If you’re meeting with a client virtually, try sending a hot pre-made meal to one or a group of contacts at a client’s organization. While you enjoy the food, talk about industry trends and probe for insights on high-level topics. Think big picture and not tactical.
Wrapped up a major project? Won a huge deal? Identify moments to cater lunch for a team or department. We’ve lost those times to celebrate milestones in person, so we must maintain connections in other ways.
2. Connect over coffee
We all have our morning or mid-afternoon rituals for gaining (or regaining) energy. Simply setting up some time to connect over a cup of joe is a great way to stay connected. If you know the preferences of your colleague, you can even send over some pre-ground beans, trendy tea packets or a ready-made piping beverage. Or you both can prepare your own favorite steaming drink and catch up.
AFLA has its own Coffee Break Series, where industry peers meet over a cup of your favorite beverage (we won’t know what’s in your cup!).
3. Check off your to-do list over a dual sprint
Sometimes working side by side toward the same goal is just the right amount of push needed to tackle a project. To help conquer your to-do list, set up a web or phone meeting and establish a time limit and goals for the dual-working session. You can turn off your camera and/or put yourself on mute and get to work. Check in at the mid-range to see how progress is going. Then once the time elapses, talk about your progress and next steps.
4. Reformat your happy hour
Many of us have taken part in a video chat happy hour with colleagues over a cocktail. Switch things up by playing a game instead. Themed or pop culture trivia is a great way to discover people’s interests. Online games, such as Scattegories or Scrabble, can help get the mind flowing before a brainstorm session. And interactive games such as Simon Says and Charades easily creates laughs.
5. Switch up your chat rooms
Many of us have ongoing chat threads with key business contacts or internal teams. Instead of only messaging about a pressing need or formal question, change it up.
Has an interesting topic made the news that concerns your industry? Post the link and gather impressions. Did you hear an insightful question on a webinar, and you’d be interested in how your team would respond? Ask away and encourage people to think critically and provide long-form answers.
6. Attend virtual conferences
You don’t have to miss your favorite conferences this year when many are going virtual. AFLA 2020 is a prime example. The theme is NextGen, which is a perfect topic for planning for the future during this uncertain time.
Our methods of communication and connection are only limited by our creativity. As this period of uncertainty stretches on, put extra intention behind your interactions to ensure your relationships stay strong until you meet again.
I hope to see you all face to face in the near future. Until then, let’s make the most of the virtual world we are living in.
What’s your favorite way to connect virtually? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.