How to Stay Connected with Coworkers While Working from Home
Working from home has its perks, like no commute time and a more flexible schedule. But it can be hard to make and keep connections with co-workers when you don’t see them regularly. There is something to be said about the bonds you create with someone when you sit next to them, run into them in the elevator or see them in the kitchen on a consistent basis.
“Seeing” someone virtually just isn’t the same as sitting next to someone in a conference room, but there are ways to keep up connections when conference calls are the main form of communication.
It can be tempting to keep your video off on a conference call because you didn’t bother to wash your hair or get dressed that morning, but whenever possible, use the video option. Seeing someone’s facial expressions as they speak really does make a big difference in connection and communication. While it will never replace being in someone’s presence, it’s easier to understand them and their tone when you can see their face.
If you manage a team, consider video conferences mandatory for some meetings so people have a warning and can prepare. And, if you don’t already have one, put a team meeting on the calendar for once a week so people who usually see each other daily can still “see” their coworkers and get each other caught up on what they’re working on.
Make Small Talk
Before you dive into the meeting topic, take a few minutes to check in with everyone on a call. When everyone is in a conference room and waiting for others to join people always chat and share stories, so give everyone the same opportunity in a virtual meeting.
There is no need to fully structure this with questions or a round table, but the meeting leader can pose open-ended questions like “What did everyone do this weekend?” or “How is everyone doing?”. And if you run into lots of silence, consider sharing yourself first to get the ball rolling. It can be easy for people to clam up or not feel like they need to speak on conference calls, but encouraging people and setting an example can help without making it mandatory.
Give Everyone Time to Speak
When you’re in someone’s presence, it’s easy to tell when someone has something to contribute to the conversation based on body language and facial expressions. But even if you’re using a video conferencing tool, these signs can be missed or people may feel hesitant to add something that they normally would at an in-person meeting.
So, meeting leaders should ensure they ask questions like “Does anyone else have anything to add?”, “Are there any questions or concerns?” or “What do you all think about this?”. That way there is a clear opportunity for everyone to speak.
It’s also common for people to accidentally talk over someone on a conference line because you can’t see when the other is getting ready to speak. Don’t let this discourage you. Take turns and jot down your thoughts so when you have the chance you can interject and share your thoughts.
While video conferencing and other virtual meetings can’t, and won’t, replace in-person meetings forever, they are a great way for teams to keep and forge connections when most offices are closed. So use video and encourage people to act the same way they would if they were in the office.