Belonging is an innate human need to be part of something larger than ourselves. In this unusual time of social distancing that need for connection may be even more critical. We all understand the need to do our part to help mitigate the spread of this virus, but there are some things we can do to maintain a culture of belonging while keeping our distance.
1. Maintain a Culture of Belonging.
Every day is filled with personal interactions that provide excellent opportunities to cultivate a sense of belonging. Moving to a virtual environment certainly limits those opportunities for personal connection, so we need to think creatively about how to create those belonging moments in a different yet meaningful way.
2. Create Moments to Socialize and Connect.
Consider hosting regular video social outings like a daily “coffee talk”, where employees are invited to get together and socialize via video-conference at a pre-set time every day. It doesn’t need to be an entire hour – even a daily 15-minute time to connect and socialize can give employees something to look forward to and alleviate some daily stress. If your organization is too large to accommodate a company-wide outing host daily team or department video outings.
3. Don’t Forget to Celebrate.
If celebrating birthdays or company wins is part of your culture, you need to maintain this tradition. Remember and acknowledge employee birthdays that fall over this period of self-quarantine. You can organize a time to all get together virtually and sing happy birthday. You can also send physical packages like flowers or chocolates.
4. Start Meetings with Belonging Moments.
Start your virtual meetings by providing opportunities for participants to connect and share. This is a good practice even in normal times. Invite everyone in the group to respond to one ice-breaker question or ask one participant to kick-off each meeting by sharing a tip or something unique about their heritage or culture. Be sure to invite employees in advance so they can prepare and make sure it is clear they can say no.
5. Promote Self Care.
It’s important that employees take care of themselves during this time. Remind employees to try to maintain normal routines like getting dressed every day and assuming as normal as possible daily routine. Institute times each day where employees are encouraged to disconnect from social media and the news and use that time to meditate, take a walk or just breath. Maintain boundaries. When working from home it is even harder to define boundaries and separate home and family time from work time. Be respectful of employees need to disconnect from work and make home and family a priority.
6. Use Video to Connect.
While it’s appealing to work in our PJs when at home, over a 2 or 3-week period we can get into some bad habits. Using the video function in your meeting software not only provides an opportunity for deeper connection in meetings but also serves as a great motivator to be dressed and presentable.
7. Practice Good Teleconference Etiquette.
Anyone who has been on a teleconference has experienced the frustration of poor teleconference etiquette. I am sure we have all seen the spoof video going around social media. Be mindful and respectful of your coworkers on the line. Resist the urge to multi-task while in a meeting. Don’t engage in side-conversations, but if it’s unavoidable (many of us have kids at home and you on the phone seems like the perfect time for an “emergency”) remember to mute your line. It’s equally important to unmute your line when you want to contribute to the meeting.
8. Keep Learning and Development a Priority.
Trying to work from home with our entire family in the mix is challenging at best and near impossible in those worst-case-scenario moments. While it may seem like a luxury to take time for personal growth and development, it may be just what you need to uplift your spirits and keep a positive attitude. Many organizations are offering free webinars and online courses. Make a little time for yourself and take advantage of these free resources. VisionSpring is offering a couple webinars of our own.
9. Leverage Technology to Create Virtual Experiences.
Provide creative ways for employees to engage in a virtual environment. Things like online Trivia Games or Getting-to-Know-You Bingo can provide a great opportunity to engage employees, create opportunities for employees to get to know each other, and cultivate belonging moments in a fun way. Give employees 1 to 2 weeks to complete their Bingo Card. Post one trivia question each day and invite all employees to submit their responses. You can use some of our diversity-related questions provided in the free companion tool or you create your own set of questions that are relevant to your organization. This can be a great way to reinforce things like safety tips, ties to community efforts, customer knowledge, cultural intelligence, diversity and inclusion, etc.
10. Publish Employee Profiles.
Many of us take our workplace connections and day-to-day interactions for granted. We tend to form our tribes and spend most, if not all, of our time with a small group of people, missing out on opportunities to get to know many of our coworkers. This could be a great opportunity to learn a little bit about some of our coworkers and possibly find some connections. Feature small write ups, employee profiles or personal quotes from employees in company newsletters and other company-wide communications. You could also hold live virtual sessions or record the interview and post it as a podcast or recording. You can use our employee profile template to craft your interview questions for your profiles.
11. Start a Blog.
Start a company blog where managers can share what they are doing to maintain a culture of belonging and employees can share personal affirmations, journal daily emotions regarding their state of mind, offer support and guidance to one another, and those infected can share symptoms and illness progression so others know what to expect.
12. Share information.
Above all, make sure you are keeping employees up to date about changes in company policy, any known positive cases among your employee base, information about the stability of the business, pertinent client or project information, etc. Consider sending a daily update to all employees.
We are providing free access to all the tools that have been referenced in this article. If you’d like to receive an electronic copy of anything referenced here or would like to discuss how to maintain a culture of belonging, please contact Erica Colonero at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.visionspringinc.com for more information.