Staying Connected While Working Apart

While we continue to face the challenges of COVID-19, the importance of staying connected while many of us are apart from one another is still at the forefront of most of our minds. Although we might not be able to see each other face-to-face daily, there’s no doubt that at a time as challenging as this one, we’re still #BetterTogether.

To help build and strengthen the connections between our employees, Mollie, a Venterra Regional Trainer,  shared advice with our teams about how to do just that. It’s packed with some great takeaways, not just for our employees, but for those outside Venterra who might be looking for ways to maintain bonds with co-workers and others while social distancing. Take a minute to read over her article below, put some of her tips into practice, and you just might ease some of those human interaction cravings!

By Venterra Regional Trainer, Mollie Witt: 

As many of us across the world have come to realize, the current work environment that we are participating in does come with a unique set of challenges, and one of the biggest and most underestimated and toughest challenges is the challenge to connect while social distancing.  Connection is really important; it creates the bond that ties us together- and the bonds that we have are why we are able to be a successful organization. Thinking back to when the majority of us were working in the same location as our team members, the emotions that could come with work were easily shared by a team.  When one of us dealt with a difficulty in our work world, we had others there to vent with.  On the opposite side, when we had good news, there were often people present to share that with!  


I remember working with my team as a Better Living Manager and Better Living Consultant when I would get a lease, my team members would cheer and we would have a moment of celebration.  Birthdays were especially fun because we got to have a birthday party and cupcakes with lunch.  Even those moments checking in after a weekend or day off can be really missed when we are working remotely.  Some of my favorite memories from working on-site were when I would have a cup of coffee with the maintenance team- smiles and laughs really set the tone for the day.  While these moments may not look the same, they can still exist in our current work environment by using a little creativity and being mindful and intentional about connection.  


If you have not noticed by now, our culture is really the best thing about working for Venterra!  Learning how to navigate through this virtual environment while staying connected to your work family is very important.  Social distancing does not mean social isolation.  And luckily, at Venterra, we have different ways that we can stay connected through isolation. (Teams Chat, Teams Video, phones, email, Yammer, etc.)  Even thinking beyond your work life, one thing that has emerged through this pandemic is the fact that there are tons of ways to stay connected while practicing social distancing!  


Have Fun in Chats to Nurture Bonds!   

You are more than an email address. Bonds between team members are super important, should not be underestimated, and are something that we should continue to foster during social isolation.  Remember, it is OK to share a laugh or a smile through email or Teams chats.  Teams even has GIFs (and a meme maker) built right there into the chat screen to encourage that smile and connection.  Also, when you share a bit about yourself or let your personality shine through, and allow others to share a bit about themselves, you create stronger professional relationships and this allows you to be a better co-worker while simultaneously keeping those feelings of isolation at bay.   Don’t underestimate the power of connecting through memes and gifs!  There are entire Facebook groups that are dedicated to connecting through memes, and personally, it may be one of my favorite ways to communicate- my husband and I may or may not have entire conversations with GIFs and memes.   


While we all have a history of working very well together and having these bonds, don’t forget to nurture them while we are not seeing each other in the same capacity. When you bond with your team, you are able to contribute more effectively, as you and your team members feel heard and content.   We must remember to not lose sight of the importance of our bonds!  We worked hard to create them, they take time and do not happen overnight- so it would be a shame if we let them fall to the wayside with social distancing!  The people and the bonds are really the best part about working for Venterra!  While the way we do it may be slightly different than before, we need to make sure that we are mindful to not let this slide or get pushed aside.  


staying connected - Microsoft Teams screenshotFind Ways to Enable Face to Face Connections!   

Some of our teams are already having daily face-to-face huddles using Microsoft Teams.  This is such a wonderful way to stay connected with the team while also keeping our eyes on the team goals.  But it doesn’t have to stop there.  Think of some things that you would do as a team previously and try to incorporate those into our current environment.  One of the great things about working with people that you really care about is sharing a meal.  Eating with others is one of the most underrated ways to connect.  So, think about ways that we could incorporate this into the current workplace.  There are so many options here- team “pot luck” lunches via Teams, coffee breaks, one on one lunches, etc.   


The power of seeing someone who is important to you during this time should not be underestimated! Professor Sophie Scott, Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, told Sky News that video calling has been proven to be just as good for your brain and happiness as being in the same space.  Prof Scott said that a study by Professor Robin Dunbar at Oxford University found that “you get the same bang for your buck – you talk for as long, you are as happy and you laugh as much whether the face to face interaction is on a computer or it’s actually happening in front of you.”  In addition to the happiness component, when the pandemic is over and we find out that it is OK to return to our new normal, those bonds that we have nurtured throughout this time will only be stronger than they were before!


No matter where you find yourself during this time, or what role you play within our company- you have the ability to not only better your experiences with connections, but also help your team members just by being mindful of the different opportunities that we have to connect.  Connecting and maintaining bonds is good for both sides of the relationship! 

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