Isolation doesn't mean you have to feel alone

If you're new to working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, you've probably spent the past few weeks learning firsthand the benefits that come with working mere metres from your bed. From a significantly shorter commute to a more relaxed dress code (please tell me I'm not the only one sporting a work-appropriate top and comfy pyjama bottoms to their home office), working from home can be beneficial for both you and your employer.

Of course, whilst working remotely has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks ‒ especially when a stay-at-home order has been issued. Aside from struggling to find a quiet place to focus, you may also find it difficult to stay connected to your colleagues when everyone is using popular telecommuting tools. If you're feeling disconnected from your colleagues, you're not alone. Luckily, there are ways to make your new remote work situation feel, well, less remote.

Here are six tips to help you stay connected with your co-workers whilst working from home:

1. Address the "elephant in the room"

Let's face it: This is a challenging time for everyone. It's silly to pretend that everything is "business as usual." Instead of avoiding the topic, make a point of checking in with your colleagues, direct reports, and your manager on a regular basis to see how they are carrying on. It can be as simple as sending a Slack message or email at the start of the working day or taking a moment out at the beginning of a meeting to ask how those in attendance are faring. This small gesture can have a bigger impact than you might imagine on people's well-being.

2. Share moments from your life

As human beings, we crave contact with others. I don't know about you, but I can't remember when I've spent more time scrolling through my social media feeds than now! Seeing friends and family members posting photos, videos, and updates on their quarantine life helps me feel less isolated from my loved ones. Consider taking a similar approach with your colleagues. Sharing real-life photos and videos of your home life via Slack, or allowing your pet or child to make an occasional cameo during a video call, is a great way to help you and your team feel more connected to one another.

Select a weekly theme where everyone shares something particular about their life at home, such as the recipe for their favourite "comfort food", a photo of their new work setup, or something they're doing to manage their stress during lockdown.

3. Schedule a lunch date

If you typically went out for an afternoon coffee with a friend from the office during a regular working week, don't cancel your plans. Instead, suggest holding a virtual coffee date. I tried this out a few days ago with a good friend of mine and it was a great success! We booked our lunchtime in our diaries as we normally would and met up via a video call to catch up on each other's lives whilst we ate our meals. There's no substitute for spending face-to-face time with others, but these virtual dates make social distancing feel a little less isolating.

4. Have some fun

As the old adage goes, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Thanks to technology, there are many ways you and your co-workers can take a mental break and have a little fun with one another. For instance, consider hosting a virtual happy hour at the end of the week and offering a prize to the person who comes up with the best "quarantini." Or, choose from one of the numerous apps available for playing games and socialise with your colleagues during your lunch hour after you've "left" your home office for the day. These activities won't only help you to feel more connected to your teammates, but studies also show that playing online games as an adult can help you to manage stress and boost your overall well-being.

5. Get physical together

Exercise not only boosts your overall health and sense of well-being, but also increases your body's production of endorphins, the feel-good hormones that fight stress ‒ something we could all use right now.  There's no better time for you and your colleagues to incorporate a little fitness into your daily routines, together. Have everyone download the Stridekick app and run a step challenge, or find an online fitness class that you and your colleagues can attend at the same time. You could even have a Zoom meeting up in the background so that it feels like everyone is doing the workout together.

6. Get connected

Whilst nothing compares to spending actual physical time with the people with whom we enjoy working, there are many ways to help you and your colleagues feel connected during this uncertain time. Make it a point to regularly check in with your colleagues, swap out phone calls for video conferences to get more virtual "face time," and look for opportunities to have fun and connect with each other outside of work.

It's going to take more effort ‒ and a healthy dose of patience ‒ on our parts to navigate these unprecedented times, but we'll eventually get through this, together.

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Editor's Note: This piece was written by Amanda Augustine and originally ran on Glassdoor UK. It is reprinted with permission.

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