Connecting with Teammates and Virtual Fatigue

Connected Organization Technology Work Culture
BY ERUM KIGER

It’s been six months since the pandemic forced us out of our office buildings, co-working spaces, and campuses and into our home offices, bedrooms, dining rooms—any corner of our homes, really, where we could find peace, quiet, and a strong WIFI signal. 

After the initial adjustment, many of us found the silver linings. Dinner with our families. A run or a bike ride in place of rush hour traffic.  

From early indications, Working from Anywhere is here to stay. People are moving away from prohibitively expensive cities to places they want to live.  

But the picture is not all rosy. With no physical boundaries between where we live and work, our jobs are seeping into every aspect of our day. Zoom fatigue is real. Connecting with teammates is hard to replicate virtually. Future State clients are asking, “What can we do to keep our teams engaged?” or, “We are missing the quick hallway conversations—does everything have to be a Zoom call?”.  

People, by nature, crave connection. Finding ways to forge that connection virtually is key to continued innovation and success. Here are four that we’ve seen work:

Invest in digital employee engagement platforms.

  1. There is a plethora of tools out there, from custom intranets to SaaS-based platforms like Simpplr, but make sure your company has a digital HQ—one place everyone can go to find the latest news, announcements, and events. Whether your company workforce is mostly Millennials, or multi-generational, today’s workforce is social media savvy. Sharing videos, stories, and messages from key leaders and teammates fosters connection.
  2. Replicate the quick hallway chat with real-time messaging platforms, such as Slack or Workplace by Facebook. This prevents the need for always scheduling a Zoom meeting. Similarly, project-based collaboration can be effective remotely with Modern Workplace technology correctly adopted across your enterprise. 

Design your virtual meetings thoughtfully to deliver the best results.

  1. Think about ways to increase participation. Research shows that we retain only five percent of information we hear passively. Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Teams offer features that allow participants to interact with the meeting. Make sure your leaders and meeting organizers are trained in and adopt these features, such as polls and emojis. Where possible, send materials to participants ahead of time so everyone can focus on decision making, discussion/ideation, and problem solving during the meeting. Incorporate interactive tools, like Fun Retro Board, to create a more engaging experience.
  2. Break into smaller groups. This eliminates multi-tasking (we’ve all done it, right?), and requires participation from everyone.
  3. Dedicate time in meetings to chit chat/check-ins. Connecting with teammates on a personal level is key. Adding five minutes to the beginning of virtual meetings for personal conversations is one way to show teammates that they are valued. Better still, designate some meetings for purely social catch-up. Virtual Happy Hours and team building games increase social connection. On a recent project, we planned a weekly team virtual lunch where we could catch up with no set agenda in mind.

Combat Zoom fatigue proactively. There is real science behind why Zoom calls are so draining.

  1. Ask yourself if you need to be in front of your computer screen for a meeting. Walking meetings can be restorative, productive, and provide much needed exercise and a break from Zoom. Let employees know that it’s ok to leave the camera off sometimes.
  2. Kick off Zoom meetings with a five-minute “recess.” Ask participants to leave their desks or homes to take a picture of something that inspires them. When they return, ask them to share with the group.
  3. Create buffers in between meetings. Some clients start meetings five minutes past the hour and/or limit meeting times to 50 mins instead of an hour. Block off time in your calendar every day (no meetings allowed) for deep thinking work, lunch, or exercise. One of our clients recently instituted “Deep Thinking Thursdays,” where the whole company is not allowed to schedule meetings from 9-12 every Thursday.

Provide support for home work stations.

  1. Many of us have spouses, partners, and roommates sharing workspaces—or children who are schooling online. Provide a stipend to purchase ergonomic and home office equipment or to offset any increased WIFI and phone expenses. The costs associated with this should be more than offset by the financial benefits of having remote workforce.
  2. Can’t afford a stipend? Then think about sending your employees a “work from home care package” and include practical items they might need, such as printer supplies, note pads, and other needed supplies.

The months ahead will bring some real challenges, and nothing can entirely replace the personal engagement we crave and receive in person. However, using some of these techniques can keep everyone connecting with teammates and engaged until we can all meet again!