The pandemic created a real shift in our social dynamic. From one day to the next, in-person meetings and all-team happy hours came to an abrupt halt. “Face time” in the true sense of the word became “Facetime” through a screen.
Though our old modes of relating went on hiatus, the human need for connection didn’t—and so we had to find new ways to create a sense of community. Happy hours and game nights made their way to Zoom, the park became the new conference room, and teams found a way to create a new work dynamic almost overnight.
In short, we came together to find a way to make remote work work. Now we’re setting the stage for a shift to a new normal: hybrid work. The challenges may be different, but the need is the same. Helping folks find a best friend, giving them a network to lean on when they need help, and providing a trusted mentor on the team are all important no matter where you’re working from.
While we can’t predict everything about hybrid work, we know this to be true: creating community and fostering camaraderie should be central to your hybrid work playbook. Here are some tried-and-true ways you can connect your team whether they’re working in-person, remote, or somewhere in between.
Having a best friend at work is vital.
When employees feel connected to coworkers, their productivity goes up. No, seriously.
“Employees who have a best friend at work at 7x more likely to be engaged,” according to Gallup. So, how can you strengthen these connections and help your employees find their best friends? Helping your team form meaningful relationships doesn’t always mean you have to reinvent the wheel or purchase an expensive program. After working with 15,000+ teams and making 6+ million introductions, we’ve learned a thing or two. Here are some of the best ways to keep people connected no matter where they are.
- Virtual Coffee Hangs: Coffee breaks are a great way to break up the work day, while connecting with peers and stimulating creativity. Schedule a time where employees can hop on a 30-minute call with a cup of coffee and meet someone for the first time, or learn more about each other. One of our favorite things to do is introduce two coworkers and give them an icebreaker to facilitate deep and meaningful conversations. This also helps break down silosa and gives employees across different channels an opportunity to understand different roles and figure out ways to work together.
- Watercooler: Serendipitous encounters are a foundation of relationship building. But how can you create spontaneous discussions virtually? Create a #watercooler on Slack and put up a different prompt once a day. Ask people random questions like which animal they identify with, their favorite trip, and their favorite kind of potato (you would be surprised as to how opinionated everyone is #wafflefriesforthewin), and pepper in some value-added questions as well like best career advice you’ve received. You never know what might allow two employees to connect outside work fully.
- Cross-team Connections: Take some time to focus on cross-team introductions. You’ll intentionally build cross-functional networks, which can facilitate mentorship opportunities or the chance for employees to learn new skills. Connect engineers to designers, or leads to different layers of the organization.
- Social Stand-ups: Take time once per week to tack on a social prompt to your regularly scheduled stand-up meeting. This allows your hybrid team to connect before a meeting and follow up on those engaging conversations post-meeting. You can free-form the stand-ups or facilitate the discussions, but either way, it creates a fun social break in the day. Plus, it’s a way to hear about deeply held beliefs, childhood stories, things they are passionate about experiencing, and more, all in the social setting. Perhaps an employee is interested in scuba diving. In contrast, another employee has been certified for 15 years, this gives two people who may not have realized a commonality the chance to connect.
- Employee User Manuals: When you bring in a new hire, have them fill out a “user manual” with questions like “how do you best communicate,” and “how do you prefer to receive feedback”. User manuals are an easy way to start a transparent conversation about how to create a supportive environment and help everyone do their best work—and provide helpful guidelines for understanding coworkers’ needs.
- Fun Competitions: Encourage playful encounters like hosting a “most unique selfie” contest in Slack, or playing a game of “wrong answers only.” A little low-stakes competition creates teamwork and camaraderie—and you can even reward the winners with gift cards or company swag.
- Interest-Based Channels: Show off those in-person hobbies online with channels dedicated to specific interests. Perhaps many of your employees are interested in sharing recipes or learning about new hiking spots—or maybe a group of your employees is interested in memes. Get feedback from your team and implement some fun channels where people can go to connect and be inspired. Some of our favorite Slack Channels include #ListeningNow , #MemeoftheDay, #InterestingArticles, and #CreativeInspiration.