Humans are naturally social creatures — in our personal lives, and at work. We crave social experiences as part of a healthy lifestyle, which is so important for our mental and physical being. The question is, how do we actually make authentic connections when everything seems to be moving online?
As business becomes increasingly digital, there are less opportunities for people to come together in a traditional way. But new technology and tools arise, opening up doors for leaders to foster genuine moments with teams and business contacts — even if it’s behind a computer screen!
Whether your workplace is brick-and-mortar or completely virtual, here are ways to stay better connected with your employees, customers, prospects and fellow business leaders.
1. Keep & attract top talent: Workplace perks like innovative office spaces, free lunches or “bring your dog to work days” used to attract new employees (and make others wild with jealousy). But now, your staff may be looking for more than just the freebies. Creating genuine human bonds — especially in a virtual space — will help you attract talent, while retaining the best and brightest of your current workforce. Highlight the ways your business uniquely makes those human connections by tying back to your corporate values in your careers page, employee onboarding kit, HR materials and during interviews.
2. Health checks: Think about ways to support your employees’ mental health. Doing wellness check-ins with employees at the beginning of team video calls can be a great start, and will show empathy and understanding when it’s possibly needed the most. Or find anonymous ways (such as through weekly surveys) for your workforce to report on their state of mind will help both introverted and extroverted employees feel like they’re being heard.
3. Around the virtual watercooler: Recreate the watercooler environment to help remote workers interact with other employees on a personal level. Try hosting a weekly virtual team hangout (not a work meeting!), where employees have a chance to socialize and chat about interests other than what’s on the to-do list. Make someone in charge of this social activity, and then have everyone take a turn to host. Your team will likely come up with fun themes and inspiring conversations that can boost morale for all.
4. Celebrate success: Acknowledge positive milestones such as product launches, project kickoffs and when your team hits key metrics. Don’t forget about personal celebrations such as employee birthdays or anniversaries, which can make employees feel valued as they put in more work hours.
5. Mini events: Get creative to plan little outings to connect with your network. Organize a weekly in-person meet-up (with social distancing as required) such as in a park or out on a hike with small teams. Or start a virtual business book club that can help you connect on different topics than normal. You can even ask everyone to think about how the lessons or discussions could apply to each of their roles, which can be a way to generate innovative ideas.
6. Learning opportunities: Encourage professional development to support employees in their career growth. For example, a new branded learning initiative developed by L’Oréal (called “LEARNING NEVER STOPS”) encourages and promotes all types of development — from MOOCs to webinars and online classes. The content offered is important to their employees, such as successful strategies for working remotely or tips for stress management.