15 Sep 2020
Distributed working adds flexibility to life. When working from home (WFH) life admin can be handled in stride - washing machine in the background, wipe down the bathroom after lunch, etc. Focussed work is easier, you just need to ignore the Slack notifications during your focus time. You can take better control over your diet and exercise and environment (office room temperature anyone?).
The one difficulty that sneaks up on people WFH is the lack of social interaction. If you're used to working in an office environment, joining people for a coffee or some harmless gossip becomes a familiar part of life. When that is taken away your sense of being connected to the people you work with is lost too.
Over a prolonged period that sense of loneliness can become quite unsettling. Covid-19 has added to the daytime loneliness by shutting down our socialisation outlets, be they samba dancing, cooking classes or a beer with friends. What was a mainstay of meeting up with friends, a kiss on the cheek or a hug has become anathema. This combination of loneliness and social isolation induced by Covid-19 is difficult to deal with. Research has shown that "loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
I've worked with distributed teams for years. I've seen first hand the benefits of regular connections with the people I work with, and the harm that can take hold if that's not prioritised. Each team interacts in a different way, and it's important to run regular experiments to see how you can improve the way you do things. My team is also WFH and last month we ran an experiment with how we conduct stand-up meetings for remote teams as a starting point. That in itself is proving to be a good way of improving remote work culture. Here are some other ways to stave off the loneliness and social isolation that plagues anyone working away from the office in 2020:
Help your neighbours
If you have neighbours that aren't as nimble or as technologically adept as you are, post a note through their letterbox and offer them a helping hand. It's very rewarding and chances are that they'll appreciate it. This kind of interaction will also help boost your local community friendliness numbers 🎉
These can be with friends, family or colleagues. We've played a huge number of games during our workplace games nights, ranging from Fake Artist using a miro board to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The latter isn't to everyone's taste, but working together in a video game does wonders to bring a team together.
Guess the fridge
This is a fun game for larger teams. Everyone sends a picture of their open fridge to a coordinator. The coordinator then posts a "guess the fridge" poll every now and then. Some of the reasoning that accompanies the guesses can be hilarious. It's a great way to connect on a human level. There's a more boring "guess the desk" version if that's more in keeping with the company vibe.
Distributed team watercooler
Okay, bare with me for this bit of self promotion :) In all sincerity I recommend you try out Chinwag, the watercooler for teams WFH that we built. It's a neat way to bring people together without the formality of organised fun. <3
There are plenty more ideas if you have a look on the internet. These should be enough to get you started.
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