The idea of “gathering around the water cooler” is so ubiquitous it’s almost funny—especially since so many of us have never actually seen a water cooler, let alone gathered around one. But the concept of a water cooler is still useful; when we work in office spaces, we usually do find times and places to gather—moments of human connection, however small, that can positively transform the day of even the most introverted among us. In the world of remote work, this is still possible, but it requires a little more intention and the right tools. Here’s what our experts have for you:
Two things: first, use your computer’s camera and ask others to use theirs; and second, open portals—lots of them.Your camera is your friend. Get yourself in some kind of acceptable form (from the waist up, at least) and turn your camera on when you do video chats—and you’ll be doing lots of them. Give your colleagues and clients the ability to read your body language. And read theirs. Use the “Brady Bunch” setting (“gallery view” if you’re looking for it) if you use Zoom. It’ll make a huge difference.
You may not be able to gather around the water cooler, but you can gather around your machines, share your faces with each other, and still get some good office gossip in—even if it’s just that the cat won’t stop shredding your pant legs while you’re trying to finish that spreadsheet.
And speaking of cameras, I encourage you to find time every week to “open a portal” with a few of your closest colleagues and/or friends. Here’s what I mean by that: just open up a video chat—a Google Meet, a Zoom meeting, a Skype video call, Facetime, whatever—without an agenda. Just go about your normal business together. Don’t feel like you have to talk. Imagine you’re in the office together, sitting at two adjacent desks. Just be present for one another for an hour or two. Conversations will happen, but they don’t have to. There’s something meaningful about spending that time together, and it’s made a huge difference in my working-from-home life.
Jeremy Varo-Haub | Lead Strategist, Senior Designer
The social isolation of remote work can be jarring at first. Humans are social creatures who thrive on being together and our work environments are a huge part of the social structure. That being said, the remote working world has opportunities for connection never before seen in the history of business. Face to face digital interactions makes it possible to work across the globe in real-time.It also makes it possible to share time together while not working. Virtual cocktail parties via Zoom anyone?
Jeremy Lucas | Strategist
Stay connected with others in your company, department, etc. One of the biggest concerns with remote working is the company will lose its culture. You may not have a direct connection with your colleagues and support team, but they are just an email, call, etc. away.
Rich Shawen | CFO
Use your camera for meetings. I know—you hate an on-camera meeting. But if that is the only time in a day or week where you see and are seen, it is important. Body language, facial expressions, and being clearly attentive are even more important for online meetings.
Ben Carmel | Learning Designer, Facilitator
Social distancing doesn’t mean losing the social connection. If you are working remote you may find that you are more productive but this doesn’t mean we have to disconnect from the world. With no commute through traffic, you may find a whole new world of time opening up for you.Steward that gift by adding in some time to reconnect with old colleagues, family, and friends. Moments like these remind us how important human life truly is. Thinking back on other times that we had a crisis—like 9/11 or the 2008 economic crash—we all banded together and came out on the other side, together. So togetherness should be a top priority and with the technology we have today, we can be virtually with those we care about in an instant.
Natalie Born | VP of Innovation
Working remotely can be lonely and isolating.
You can always reach out to colleagues for some levity, but consider starting a text chat with a friend or a friend group. Regular messages throughout the day make you feel connected and can deepen friendships.Just be sure that if you’re screen-sharing, you turn off onscreen notifications—especially if you’re texting with friends who use off-color language or topics.
Step away from your desk and your work regularly. Chat with family members. Play with your animal for 10–20 minutes. You’ll be recharged in no time.
Matt Morasky | Head of Client Services
You are not alone. I’ve worked and managed remote teams for the past 5 years and have never once felt isolated in my role. Yes, there are certainly days when I never remove my slippers and glance up surprised by the already darkening evening sky. But my days are filled with human interactions, video chats, Slack banter, information sharing, digital collaboration, and more.Remote working comes with context. Whether you’re working in a coffee shop, co-working space, or from home, we all juggle multiple priorities at the Edge Effect of work and life. If a child happens to peek his head into a video chat window or your bird chirps incessantly in the other room, or the barista is steaming milk during a critical moment during a client call, these activities can actually be opportunities to break down formalities, shrug, and smile, and remind us that we’re all human after all.
Annie Pomeranz | Director of Operations & Project Management
Communicating from afar really stresses the humanity of work. Put effort into empathizing with your team. Try to avoid crosstalk. Turn up your reflective listening. Use purpose-built channels. Influence a cameras-on culture.
Matt Adams | Head of Creative Services
Each organization will have a different approach to managing social connections. However, the same general rules tend to apply whether you’re in a remote role or an office role. The biggest thing to keep in mind is how you communicate with people. Being mindful of communication standards and courtesies is important to creating a positive remote environment for social interactions.
Joey Kenney | Director of Business Development
Use digital, but determine with business and social connections which channels are right for them. Everyone has preferred channels, but at work, get a consensus for which ones to use for optimal efficiency and impact.For personal connections, I am checking in regularly with updates—sharing photos, OMGs, and otherwise trying to maintain an ongoing conversation. Use video. And set meeting/meet-up times.
Squid, a rescued street cat living the high life in the Varo-Haub household, loves long naps, walks on the counter, and chasing a toy BB8 down the hallway. She'd be a heck of a strategist if she could talk.
She's delighted Jeremy works from home so she can climb up his back, walk on his keyboard, and throw things off of his desk.
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