4 Tips for Creating a Connected Workplace Culture Online

Someone sitting at a desk in front of a computer, looking out of a window showing the importance of creating a connected workplace culture online

More than a year ago, many of us were required to begin working from home due to safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many, this was their first time working remotely. Offices struggled to find ways to ensure that employees felt engaged in their work and connected with their fellow co-workers. They were unsure how to go about creating a connected workplace culture online.

Individuals have had to learn how to balance their work life with their home life.

New employees had to navigate learning their positions through virtual on-boarding while trying to get to know their new co-workers.

Today, many people are getting ready to head back into the office. Many teams have decided, though, to keep their employees either fully remote or create a hybrid system in which they come into the office a few days or hours per week and spend the rest of their time working from home.

As we go through this new transition of remote work, I wanted to take some time to talk about continuing to create a connected workplace culture, even if that means doing so online. In today’s article, I’ll offer a few tips for teams that will be continuing to work remotely.

The Pros and Cons of Remote Work

While there are certainly many challenges that offices have had to face because of individuals working remotely, there have been some positive outcomes, as well. These are a few of the arguments being made for and against maintaining some semblance of a remote workplace:

Pros of Remote Work

For those who work well in isolation, remote work may have been an excellent experience for them. Not having a commute has helped save some people money on car maintenance, parking, and gas. Some people may have felt fewer distractions and more productive when working at home. Furthermore, as we shed tight waist bands for more relaxed and less fitted ones, we definitely feel more comfortable. Plus, some individuals have had more free time to explore other interests, like cooking and home decor.

Employees may feel more empowered by the flexibility that remote work offers. They may have more time during the day to go to a doctor’s appointment if they make up their hours later.

According to a survey by WalletHub, almost 60% of American workers believe that the COVID-19 pandemic and switch to remote work has positively impacted the way that we work.

Cons of Remote Work

Still, for others, flexibility cannot make up for the loneliness they feel throughout the workday. People miss interacting with their colleagues daily and having friendly conversations in shared areas.

Zoom fatigue has also become a concern for employees as they spend hours at a time talking to people through a screen. However, a lack of Zoom meetings, emails, and slack messages could lead to gaps in communication, since not everyone is sitting in the same room to receive the same information.

Parents have found it difficult to maintain childcare while being productive. In that sense, remote work has been more restrictive, rather than flexible. In the same survey by WalletHub, half of parents working at home with young children said that they were not more productive when working at home. Even household pets add to the distraction and the noise in the background of meetings.

1. Have Productive Meetings

It may seem counterintuitive to building a connected culture, but having shorter, more productive meetings will help minimize the effects of Zoom fatigue.

A Stanford News article by Vignesh Ramachandran gives four main causes of increased fatigue from video chatting: increased eye contact, even if you aren’t speaking; constantly being able to see your own face; less mobility or otherwise being unable to move; and having to work harder to send and receive nonverbal communication.

If it’s possible for your company to have shorter meetings, this might help individuals feel more productive, less exhausted, and more willing to reach out to their colleagues on their own terms.

2. Ensure Employees Feel Empowered to Reach Out

Particularly if there are new employees on the team, some people might be hesitant to send cold emails and messages to their colleagues.

If you find that your team’s Slack channel seems to be lacking in polite conversation, consider starting a message thread to get other people engaged and break the ice a bit.

Reach out to people individually to ask how their day is going or if there’s anything you can do to support them. Share an article in a shared channel. If appropriate, maybe even share a fun image or video.

If you can get people talking and feel more relaxed, they may not feel as isolated during their work day.

3. Check in With Distant Employees

For some people, the pandemic and other unsettling events of the past year have taken a toll on their mental health. They may feel unable to cope with their day-to-day responsibilities.

Employees who are distant may be quiet during meetings (or more quiet than normal) and unwilling or unable to engage in conversation on messaging platforms.

If you notice anybody behaving in this way, particularly if it affects their ability to work and function daily, make sure to reach out and see if there’s anything you can do to help them. Make sure they’re receiving help outside of work, too, such as talking to a coach or therapist.

There are a lot of people struggling right now. A little bit of support from a co-worker can help make people feel cared for.

4. Ask Employees What They Need/Want

If you’re someone who works in a management position, you may find that employees respond more positively when asked their opinion.

Consider starting a conversation about what co-workers want their workplace culture to look like. Have an open dialogue about what they consider their boundaries.

What do they feel comfortable discussing at work? Do they enjoy having the freedom to send interesting albeit non-work-related articles every now and then in the company Slack channel? Do they think the team would benefit from having a Zoom for casual conversation once or twice a week?

By asking employees what they want to see, you’re giving them the power to make the workplace their own. Their voices are heard.

Plus, creating a habit of having these open, honest conversations will most likely make people feel more engaged with their work.

The Bigger Picture of Creating a Connected Workplace Culture Online

Many of us have been navigating remote work for more than a year now, with varying difficulties and successes. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with open dialogue and active engagement, you can foster a healthier online relationship with your colleagues.

Do you feel as though your co-workers have grown distant while working from home? We should have a conversation. Contact me to schedule a meeting, and we can discuss several ways to address your workplace’s unique needs.