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Launch Leadership Resources

Remote Work: Building Your Virtual Water Cooler

Everyone is feeling it: burnout. Pandemic burnout, Zoom burnout. So how can managers help their remote team keep up morale?

Zoom life

It’s been over a year now since the pandemic and remote work began. The distribution of the vaccine brings hope, but we still have yet to make it to the finish line.

Your team has been home for a year now. They’ve adapted to our new normal by now, but working from home is getting pretty old. They’re trying to be as productive as possible while corralling kids and dogs and significant others.

If they live alone, this past year has been an isolating experience. If they have families, they’re cooped up and frustrated. It’s like solitary confinement for some and the regular cellblock for the rest. You’re already meeting with your employees periodically for progress reports and to discuss strategy and tasks. Is that enough?

How can you find new ways to build camaraderie when you and your team have been working remotely for a year?

A photo of a woman doing remote work with children in room
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels

A few ideas

Ask your team to give everyone a tour of their home offices

Wow. Max has a large collection of porcelain penguins. Whether they have dedicated office spaces or a quarter of the dining room table, your employees’ personalities will come through.

Create a “Picture of the Day” contest

Photos of cats on the fridge or kids in a couch fort are fun and humor is a great way of building rapport and bringing people together.

Integrate music into your work routine

Hold a speed listening party with folks playing a snippet of their background music for the team. I’ll bet you never knew Frank was a Bangles fan. This is another way to learn more about each member of your team. You can even have a “Name That Tune” contest featuring short clips of music.

Have your employees share pictures of their pets.

The sight of Rex, the Great Dane, sleeping in a cat bed next to Julia’s desk is endearing. The upside of working from home for many is more time with their furry or feathery friends. Giving updates on the pets is a great way to get to know your staff.

Get folks to share remote work tips with the crew.

Sam takes a break every hour and runs around the house twice with his kids. Marla turns off her computer for half an hour at lunch and reads a novel. Surely by now your team has come up with helpful hints to share with everyone.

Share parenting advice

Ask your employees to share tips for caring for/schooling/not throttling kids during this crisis. Virtual learning has been tough on everyone. Sharing tips could be super helpful for everyone with or without kids. I mean, you don’t have to be 6 to appreciate tips on Lego projects.

Laugh a little

Share a story about when you made a humorous work-related mistake. Remember that time you put the wrong address on that networking evite? You’re the boss but you’re also a person. Your team needs to know that. Letting them know you’re human will make it easier for them to come to you when they’re stressed, stuck, or overwhelmed.

Part of your job as the manager of a remote team is building their morale and helping them work together. Discovering new things about them and sharing aspects of your life is one way to do that.

For more tips on managing remote work, visit the Remote Nation Institute website.

About the author

Mari Anne Snow

Mari Anne Snow is a business expert, specializing in the design and implementation of remote work, dispersed or virtual team programs, and custom people-to-people skills training for remote leaders. She is a versatile, energetic and highly experienced business executive with the capacity to quickly assess any situation, diagnose immediate and long term needs, and provide practical leadership and immediate, measurable results.

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