The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most businesses and employees to shift to a virtual platform this year. In fact, as of November 2020, there were about 80,700 jobs in the UK allowing remote work — which is more than triple the number recorded in November 2019.
Much of the hiring process is being done online now, too. However, new employees may find themselves a little out of place without the usual warm office welcome greeting them. As such, it’s your job as the manager to ensure that your team gets to know your newest talent well even while working from home. Here are a few ways you can do this.
Organise virtual icebreakers
Harvard Business Review states that video conferencing helps mitigate the loneliness and isolation remote workers are prone to feeling. After all, media-rich communication tools like Zoom or Google Meet are great for filling in the social context gaps that arise from working at home. You can maximise this for your new employees by conducting virtual icebreakers.
For instance, ask your team to do a quick virtual tour of their rooms. Unique personal effects like posters or souvenirs from another country can make great talking points on which to build stronger connections. Alternatively, you can also host Powerpoint parties. Via Zoom’s screen-sharing function. Everyone prepares a presentation about a topic they’re passionate about — from Netflix’s “Bridgerton” to puff pastry recipes — and presents it over a video call. It’s an entertaining way to get to know each other while learning about topics outside of your spheres of interest.
Encourage them to maximise company health policies
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet notes that mental health in the UK has significantly deteriorated since the arrival of COVID-19. With the pandemic slowly taking its toll on everyone’s psychological state, it’s important to prioritise your employees’ welfare if you want them performing at their best.
To this end, inform your new employees of your health policies and support programs as you welcome them into the company. Additionally, you’ll want to encourage them to convert their home working space into an ergonomic one to make sure they’re working in the best possible environment at home. Pain-Free Working points out that ergonomics can lead to better productivity and a more positive outlook overall. Even if it just means using an angled laptop stand or sound-absorbing divider. This is essential for new hires who want to put their best foot forward at work.
Schedule regular e-coffee breaks
In line with taking care of one’s mental health, you should also arrange regular check-ins with your new employees. Check in to see how they’re acclimating to their new environment. One way to do this is by scheduling quick 15 to 20-minute e-coffee breaks. Mimicking, in a way, the same spontaneity we experience in physical break rooms.
To encourage more well-rounded connections, software development company GitLab even offers its employees the option to pair up with a random person. In the absence of face-to-face contact, creating new social rituals is key to alleviate the pandemic’s emotional toll.
Hold virtual game nights
The best part about remote team-building activities is that they don’t have to be an elaborate affair. Virtual game nights, for example, are quick and easy to set up. And offer opportunities for interaction beyond the typical Zoom conversation.
If you’re in the mood for an interstellar murder mystery that needs both teamwork and backstabbing, consider playing the wildly popular “Among Us”.
On the other hand, those with a competitive streak will enjoy collections like Jackbox Games’ Party Packs. Which contain silly variations and spinoffs of classics like MadLibs and Pictionary for a night full of laughs.
Create a virtual “water cooler” channel
Casual conversations at the office about non-work-related matters can help foster better relationships in the workplace. But these small everyday interactions have been removed with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To recreate a similar space in an online setting, you can create a dedicated “water cooler” channel on Slack. Or whatever communication platform your office uses.
There you can share anything interesting you find, including photos of pets or funny memes and videos you see online. Such engagements can be a good opportunity to showcase the work culture to your new employees.