Practically overnight, the majority of the American workforce went digital. Our living rooms became our boardrooms and our pets and children took on “coworker” status. Yet, despite these improvements to the way we work, there’s still a glaring need to connect with others.
Our ability to share ideas and files, to check in on our progress, and to hold each other accountable are still rooted in our ability to connect with our teammates. And that’s a good thing. Ultimately, we accomplish more together. It’s only natural that when our physical environment prevented us from getting face-to-face with our coworkers, we created a digital environment to bridge the gap.
The shift from an on-site workplace culture to an off-site workplace culture has led to a “Zoom boom.” By the end of April, Zoom reported over 300+ million daily users. Downloads across all video-conferencing solutions have more than doubled. These apps are experiencing a meteoric rise because they offer a simple solution for remote workers to connect with one another.
They aren’t the only tools you should have in your stay-at-home-work-kit, however.
If you’ve been Zooming hour after hour, you’ve probably noticed that video conferencing can be more taxing than traditional in-person meetings. As the New York Times explains, humans are made to mirror each other and to pick up on tiny changes in our facial expressions in order to follow conversations, and with the glitches, lagging Wifi and the flatness of our screens, it’s actually harder for our brains to form a connection over video.
So, if you want to think outside the (Zoom) box, here are a few ways that you can connect with your coworkers without relying on video conferencing:
- Pick Up the Phone
Talking to someone on the phone may seem like a callback to simpler times, but it’s actually one of the strongest ways to connect with someone. Why? Because you have to listen.
One of the biggest distractions during a video call comes from seeing yourself on screen. Rather than listen to what other people are saying, this feature invites you to fixate on yourself. You pay attention to that bump on your forehead that seems bigger than you previously thought. Or you get so focused on looking like you’re listening that you actually forget to listen. It’s a real problem, and it can be solved by picking up the phone.
Calling someone also feels more intimate than staring at a screen. That’s because we usually call people we care about like our family and friends. Most of us don’t make a habit of calling our office mates. If we have a question, we typically opt to walk over to their cubicles to say hello. These spontaneous interactions provide a quicker response than email, and they also provide a sense of connection and culture. A phone call does the same. It can be both spontaneous and engaging. But more than that, because we associate the phone with friends and family, it can also feel like a warmer way to connect, too.
- Share a Meal
If you’ve got an office buddy that you’re used to meeting for coffee or lunch, there’s no reason you can’t keep your taco Tuesday tradition. You could share recipes with your pal and make the same meal. When it’s time for lunch, you can call each other to compare your results.
You can also combine your skills to create a socially distanced potluck meal. In this approach, each of you would make part of a dish and then safely share with each other. (Telescopic fork, anyone?) Maybe you can whip up a couple of fish tacos while your pal mashes up a mean guacamole. You can pack up and safely swap and the both of you get a collaborative and tasty result.
For those with smaller culinary ambitions, you can get familiar with your favorite delivery apps or support your local businesses and order your friend a meal directly.
- Be Flexible and Open
If you’re in a position where you can help your coworkers or team handle the new challenges in their lives, be flexible. As fun as having our teams together for virtual happy hours or activities can be, some people have reported that these events can cause more stress than benefits. For employees who are already struggling to complete their regular work in a new environment, these additional “get togethers” can feel like another obligation on top of an already full plate.
Rather than expecting your team to participate in “mandatory fun,” ask them (privately) what they need. You may be surprised to find out that instead of digging around their closets for a costume contest, they’d prefer you to be a little bit more flexible with their deadlines and schedules. Ultimately, this kind of personal attention and understanding creates the deepest form of connection between employees and their organization.
Even as we’re working separately, we’re working together. Staying connected with our colleagues isn’t as easy as it once was – even if we see each other all day on screens. By taking a little extra time or a different approach, we can deepen our connections with each other as we collaborate and move forward.
How are you staying connected with your coworkers? Have you found any out-of-the-Zoom tips you’d like to share? Tell us more on our Living Your One Thing Community Facebook page.