By Sara Williscroft, ABC, CDMP

It has been twelve days since my company suggested I work from home. Twelve days of busy-signals on conference calls, unstable remote connections, endless amounts of meme sharing and teams struggling to figure out how to be productive in all of this disruption.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many businesses to re-think how we work as teams. In twelve days, most of us have managed to learn how to use digital collaboration platforms like Skype and Zoom to help making working at home possible. That was the easy part.

Now we need to tackle our lack of social connection. This is the part that we all need to maintain for the good of our mental health. 

Social connection in a virtual workplace will lead to more productive work and protect your mental health.

Here are some tips to help you find that connection you’re missing from the office:

1. Lead by example

This is the time for over-communicating. Let your colleagues know that you will be reaching out more frequently because you want to know how everyone is doing. It is through these conversations where people will identify problems and roadblocks that can be solved with collaboration.

2. Always reply

There are no head-nods in cyberspace. When you are sent an email, reply back with an acknowledgement that you received it. Communication uncertainty can lead to costly confusion and delay.

3. Pick up the phone

Voice communication allows people to hear our true intentions and nuances in the message we’re sending. Call your team mates to actually talk. Without the benefit of daily face to face communication, we need to make extra effort to foster a personal connection.

4. Amp up your listening skills

Communicating without the benefit of body language means that we need to hone our listening skills to pay attention to underlying communication. Pay attention to voice tone, silent pauses, slow responses and a general reluctance to speak candidly. Use questions to confirm what you believe you are hearing.

5. Use Video when possible

Video offers a more personal approach to virtual meetings. Try scheduling in about 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the call to ask how participants are doing. This can help grow the connection between participants. Also, make sure you dress for the meeting (even though it is tempting to stay in your pjs!). Professional attire shows your respect for the other participants and can help your mind stay on task.

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