Virtual Teams: How We Are Connecting Internally
The marketing team had our first virtual “snack break”—an optional 15-minute WebEx where everyone could come together for a snack and catch-up.
There I was, huddled around a monitor that quickly became a grid of 1x3 inch windows. Moving profile pictures of the people I saw just the week before. Sights of kitchen cabinets and couches replaced desk dividers and rolling chairs. The random sounds everyone’s home makes, glitched in and out as everyone signed on.
I won’t lie, there was something slightly awkward about eating almonds in front of a webcam. The concept of virtually hanging out is something I really only do with family that lives out-of-town.
Eventually, the awkwardness faded, and I noticed something. Most everyone was smiling. There was something very fun and peculiar about this virtual break. It was quirky but surprisingly natural. Conversation happened just as it would in the office. Sure, the audio delay in virtual meetings can be cumbersome, but we may as well had been in the office. We were all hanging out and catching up, like normal, which was comforting in this time of self-quarantine.
For some, working remotely can be isolating—especially when you’re accustomed to an office. Having to work remotely for the foreseeable future is different from the perk of being able to occasionally work from home to balance work and life. Working totally remotely makes you miss out on the little moments to connect with your coworkers as colleagues and friends. The face-to-face moments that make work human. On top of that, we were all remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic which had its own share of stress and anxiety.
Many of us confide in coworkers for a boost in morale. The 5 minutes where you can take a moment and just chat with someone who is having their own share of stressors. The times where coworkers can vent, shoot the breeze or share a funny picture of their dog. We all needed to pause, and the quirky, virtual snack break did just that. Virtual or not, it showed me the importance of connecting in times of disruption.
After the snack break, other virtual meetups were being scheduled by more teammates. A coffee break was set at 10 am on Tuesday which evolved into a “wear your favorite hat” coffee break. A weekly, “Wednesday Wags” meeting was set up where coworkers can showcase their four-legged coworkers. Everyone was getting invites for short, 15-ish minute breaks throughout the week to virtually hang out.
Think about all the breaks you have throughout the day when you work at the office. Do you ever talk to a coworker(s) on a break? The chances are, yes. You might have an unofficial routine coffee break with a few of your teammates in the late morning or go for a quick walk around 2 pm to get over the mid-day slump.
How about lunch—do you have a regular lunch crew? We all have frequent and routine connections with coworkers at the office. Even if you don’t schedule them, many of us have routines for when we socialize at work.
Technology provides us so many mediums to virtually meet, why not utilize them to hang out with your coworkers? Send out a quick 15-minute meeting to your work friends—ask everyone to post up in their kitchen and have a cup of coffee together. Go for a walk and do a group phone call, have virtual lunch together. It’s only weird if you make it weird—have fun with it.
Just like the snack break was initially awkward, so is the adjustment from working in an office to working from home. The very way we work is changing, and it will always change. And how we communicate on an interpersonal level, amidst the chaos, will have a huge role in team morale.
We all need to pause throughout the day and have human interaction, even if it’s virtual. It’s good for us, and our teams.
Ryan Tidwell is a Content Marketing Specialist at Skillsoft