Socially Distant, Virtually Connected- When the Water Cooler Goes Remote

November 25, 2020

Shana Auerbach

We don’t need to explain more about this unprecedented moment. While remote work has been steadily increasing over time, our current situation has enabled workforces to go remote almost overnight. Here are some tips and tricks to maintain comradery and relationships with your colleagues (and friends) while fighting isolation during this pandemic. See if any of these can help you feel socially distant yet virtually connected.

Rethink the coffee break. It’s still helpful to set up time with your colleagues to take that afternoon caffeinated break (or in my case, a decaf tea). Here are a couple of ideas that can make this more creative: Consider sharing some tasty, simple and easy recipes a few days before your coffee break so everyone can arrive “prepared”; Show off your favorite mug. It’s a great way to learn something fun about each other as well as serving as a conversation starter.

Share a meal. If your teams “Taco Tuesday” is temporarily on hold, you can recreate the social connection that happens over mealtime with shared lunches, WFH-style. Each Monday, have someone email out a recipe and ingredients needed for a simple, friendly meal. You can pick a time later in the week to prepare the meal “together” and sit down to eat the same lunch, while comparing notes. For the delivery app connoisseurs of your group, if they don’t want to cook, you could ask them to provide the lunchtime playlist so they can have a hand in “creating” your group meal.

Reimagine Commute Time. This time can be used for a “Coffee Chat” with a team member or grab a quarantini (post-work, of course) with co-workers over a video call.

Show and Tell. Bring Your Pet, Kid or a favorite home treasure to work.  While we should strive to maintain decorum, let’s not shame anyone when their cat starts chasing the cursor across their computer screen. This is an opportunity to introduce a new kind of social bonding and welcomed levity. While some of your coworkers may have a separate home office, not all of them will, and we’ll inevitably see living rooms, kitchens, even bedrooms.  Don’t take a video call while lounging in your bed but do welcome the opportunity to get to know your coworkers in a different way.

Ultimately, finding virtual analogues for our valued in-person interactions and being forced to get creative around meetings and events can make our teams more flexible and inventive. Perhaps by the time you return to the office, you will have an improved culture and relationships.