How to feel connected when you miss your office

Lisa McLeod PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

One of our clients said, “When this is over, and we’re back in the office, I’m never eating lunch at my desk again. I want to be in the break room with you people,” referring to her colleagues.

If you find yourself really missing the camaraderie of the office, you’re not alone. Even the introverts on my team are finding themselves longing to be with our clients again. Zoom just isn’t the same.

Sure, working from home means no commute and pants optional, but it also can come with deep loneliness and feeling less connected.

Being a well-connected (remote) team takes an extra layer of intention. Here are a few best practices to keep you from feeling like a lone wolf:

Connect more frequently, for shorter durations

In working from home, our interactions become more formal. They also can become longer. Both contribute to exhaustion.

In the office, many teams connect casually, unscheduled touch bases that last a few minutes. In remote environments, we tend to save every potential question or comment for a long, structured meeting.

Combat this by checking in more frequently and for shorter durations. Many teams we work with are doing 15-minute check ins every morning or making a practice of having virtual lunch together to stay connected beyond formal meeting agendas.

Zoom beyond your core team

The office lunchroom, elevator rides, parking decks, etc. gave us opportunities to connect with people outside of our core teams, even just for a few minutes.

But without a “reason” for these interactions and connections they disappear in remote environments, which can make your organization, and your impact, feel a whole lot smaller. Try connecting with people in your organization whom you haven’t “run in to” for a while, even if it’s just a morning coffee or a quick hello.

Change your physical environment

In the office, you work at your desk and in conference rooms, in your boss’ office, in the lunchroom, in the training room, etc. At home, we tend to work in the same place every moment.

Change it up. Work from the kitchen instead of the living room, rearrange your furniture a little bit, hang up different art. Even better, take a phone call outside. Varying your physical environment, even if it’s just 10 feet, wakes up both your brain and your heart.

Talk about not-work

“My kid said his first words” is never going to be a meeting agenda item, but life updates like that are important factors in helping us feel connected to each other.

Not-work talks help us see each other as full human beings, beyond the roles we play at work. Just because your meeting is virtual doesn’t mean you have to skip the casual updates at the start or end of a meeting.

I recently did a virtual keynote for a large sales team. Afterward everyone hung out, catching up. We joked it was like the bar after the meeting, (and yes, several people were indulging). The relaxed vibe made everyone feel connected. Check-in beyond your action items and keep your friendships alive with your colleagues.

When serendipitous hallway chats and high-fives are gone, we need something to replace them. You and your team need not succumb to isolation. Being intentional about staying connected helps you, your boss and your team members experience a more connected workplace.