The Virtual Watercooler: How to Make Remote Work Fun
Welcome to my regular life. I’ve worked remotely for nearly five years. I’ll confess. It can feel like a bit of the Twilight Zone at first. Many of you likely have never worked from home and have no idea how to make remote work fun.
For many of us who regularly work from home each week, we tend to live as though the world is only within our walls. Often, we only go out because the in-laws are hosting a birthday dinner or friends have scheduled a game night.
As for our co-workers, we see them in meetings and don’t go to happy hours with them. We’re used to that. You likely aren’t. You are figuring out to avoid remote worker FOMO (fear of missing out).
And if you’re a manager, you’re also navigating how to effectively manage a remote team on your own, away from the support network at the office. You might even have a little FOMO yourself. Socializing is an important way to feel in touch and connected during your remote work day.
For the time being, the world has pressed pause on all of these social interactions. I’m here to help you think of alternatives to fill these gaps and find the world outside your walls, even if you are staying at home 24/7.
Staying Social When You Work at Home
Believe me, the digital world gives us so many ways to still connect with friends and colleagues without leaving our homes. You need to be creative and not be intimidated by technology.
Here are a few ways to stay connected with your colleagues, friends and family and still feel social every day.
Start your day with a coffee date.
Block off a little time in the morning, even before your regular remote work day begins, to hop on a quick Google Hangout or another video conferencing platform with a close work friend. You can sip your coffees together and spend a few minutes recapping your family life and plans for the day with each other. Just like you would if you worked together in an office. I check in with a few close work friends every morning. My day isn’t the same without it.
Create fun Chat groups.
At Onix, we have a Google Chat room called Project PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). It’s open to anyone in the company, and it’s a place where we can go to connect in a fun way that isn’t work-related. We share memes, song ideas and jokes so we can enjoy a laugh together and feel connected during the day.
Why not create something similar with your colleagues? You can allow these threads to run in the background as you work and check in on them throughout the day. Make it fun with a little friendly competition. Why not challenge your team or colleagues to share the best cat GIF of the day or post a music video for a song based on a daily theme? The possibilities are endless.
Don’t cancel standing lunch dates.
If you usually eat lunch with a friend on Wednesday, keep doing that! Hop on a video call and have lunch. Bonus: Move your laptop to another room or the couch for a change of scenery and relax for a bit.
Host a virtual happy hour.
Missing happy hours with friends — work or otherwise? Set aside an hour a week after the work day ends to connect on Google Meet or another video conferencing platform and partake in a beverage and conversation together. Go around the room and share info about the cocktail you're drinking. Offer a group toast to the best parts of your week and have some laughs with familiar faces. It really helps.
Recently, at Onix, we decided we needed to have another way to meet as a company that wasn’t work-related. Maybe learn about something that had nothing to do with tech. A group of us started brainstorming ideas in our Project PMA chat room.
I said, “I can teach everyone how to bake beer bread.” And, suddenly, Beer Bread Friday was born. We used the PMA board to plan our “cooking class,” which we held via Google Meet. We sent out a company-wide invite via Google Calendar.
By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, we wound up with 40+ people attending the event with about a half-dozen people actively cooking on camera as I led them through the recipe. We also had an active chat room within the Google Meet session made up of other Onix employees who enjoyed this social time with work friends. We have more ideas on tap, including trivia sessions and other ways to connect via Google Meet.
Don’t forget about the phone.
Pick up the phone when you get off work and use this time to call family and friends. We all have plenty of loved ones we are always too busy to call in our lives. Sometimes hearing a voice at the other end of the line makes all the difference to someone feeling lonely.
Tell Us How You Stay Creatively Connected
Staying at home doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with the people who are important to you. It’s not hard to rethink the way you connect when you’re at home all day. Lots of people are getting creative right now and finding ways to stay positively connected in this current state of the world.
In fact, we’d love to hear what you are doing to reach out to loved ones and friends. Please share some tips and tricks about how you, your family, your friends and your colleagues are staying connected as a remote workforce. Send your tricks here, and we may include them in a future blog.