The virtual workspace
With Malaika T. Edwards
It has been a month since my last article and a lot has changed. In the March article [COVID- 19 and the Workplace], I discussed different things that business owners can do in response to the coronavirus, such as accommodating pandemic leave for employees, making provisions for mental health support and developing a business continuity plan if one is not currently in place. Since then, there has also been a lot of information in media outlets providing business owners with ‘best practices’ on how to be effective leaders at this time- all useful information.
Given the increase in the number of employees who must now work from home, I want to share a few tips on how business owners and their team members can engage with each other in a fun, relaxed way- to reduce some of the (possible) anxiety they may be feeling at this time, while still getting work done. The activities below should help to bring teams closer together, while also promoting productivity.
1. Live Virtual Office… each day, an employee can start a video chat (ideally at the usual start time for work) that other team members can join. In essence, employees are joining a workspace with each other in the same way they would come into office each morning. By doing this, everyone is working together during the usual office hours and can interact with each other as if they had been in office working face-to-face.
2. Role Assignment…increase engagement by assigning roles to employees, and rotating roles for your team meetings. For example, one employee could be assigned the role of photographer (yes- virtual meetings need pictures too), another employee can assume the role of coordinator who schedules meetings, one persons can be the designated time keeper to ensure meetings stay on track, and yet another employee could be the energizer, responsible for building team spirit before and during meetings.
3. Tag! You’re it…before starting meetings and jumping into business, break the ice and ask each other non work-related questions on different topics (think general Trivia questions). Each team member can go around the (virtual) room and once you’ve been asked a question, you can ask another colleague a question as well. This activity shouldn’t last for very long and can set the tone for a relaxed environment before discussing business matters.
4. Hats and Costumes…have a costume day during your virtual meetings. Designate one day out of the month (maybe even 2) as hat day, tie day etc. and encourage your employees to dress up and take part.
5. Games Day…have a dedicated games day. The employee assigned to the role of coordinator can make a list of online games and team members can agree upon which game(s) they would like to play. This activity is fun, and also serves to develop and facilitate team building.
6. Lunch ‘n’ learn…have virtual lunch ‘n’ learn sessions and teach each other about non work-related activities. Many team members have families at home, and for some persons they are cooking and preparing several meals daily…a lunch ‘n’ learn session could therefore include quick recipes for children.
It is important for me to emphasize that although we are all affected, the way we manage and treat with the situation is critical. We must recognize that both personally and professionally, some employees and business owners will be feeling anxious and uncertain at this time- this is natural and expected. As best as possible, try to manage your stress levels and help to lighten the stress levels of others. Please continue to follow the relevant health guidelines for yourself and for your business.
Malaika T. Edwards, PhD provides HR advisory services to business and individual clients. She is also an academic in the Higher Education landscape. You can contact her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/malaika-edwards or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.