At People Matters HR, we are lucky to have a great bunch of clients. All of differing sizes and sectors, they have one thing in common – a real sense of team connection.

Businesses work hard to build a company culture over many years – so it’s essential to keep this going in tough times.

So, when the team are separated, just how do you do this? We’ve put together a guide of small things you can do as we all embrace our “new normal” and become a nation of homeworkers.

Daily video call

This is the most important way to maintain team connection. The phone is great – but seeing each other face to face brings a new level of togetherness.

The technology out there at the moment is fantastic and so there really is no excuse. From Microsoft Teams to Google Hangouts and Zoom, we are lucky to have many ways to keep in touch with staff.

Inevitably, some team members may resist this. They may be unsure of how to use the technology or just feel camera shy. We’d suggest that you make it compulsory – once staff have their heads around the idea, it’s really no different to a normal team meeting. Start and end each day with a team huddle that keeps the connection.

Work with video on

Most of us are used to working side by side with colleagues. In theory, this is no different to your usual office set-up. We’d suggest pairing colleagues together and both work with their cameras on – silently. There will naturally be the odd bit of banter and conversation. More importantly, your staff will have someone to bounce ideas off. After all, we know it’s good to talk!

Encourage the usual lunch and break times

We hear all the time that children need routine but adults do, too. Try to stick to the usual brew run times, get the team to put on their cameras and all have a ten-minute chat – and a virtual share of the biscuit tin. At lunchtime, encourage your team to take their usual break, off-camera. This will allow them a little headspace and time out to either get some fresh air or catch up on household jobs. They will return much fresher and ready for an afternoon of work. Explore our IMPROVE Online Training to enhance team collaboration and adapt to the ‘new normal’ of remote work.

Make allowances for interruptions

This strange new way of working means that you need to make allowances. Bring your cat/dog/ child to work day is now the new normal – but it can be incredibly stressful for employees who are still trying to maintain their usual professional presence. Cats will naturally stroll across the screen and children will inevitably need attention. To the committed worker, this can be upsetting.

Embrace this – a quick “hi there Freddy, how’s it going!” will instantly break the ice and prevent any embarrassment on your employee’s part.

While some of your team will be lucky enough to have a separate workspace. Many will be working from their kitchen table, their living room – even their bedroom. Remember that that is people’s personal space, so don’t cross boundaries. Instead, see this as an opportunity to get to know them better.

Be flexible

On that point – you may need to make some allowances for certain members of staff. It’s a harsh truth that you will have team members who are trying to keep up their day job while home-schooling their children – and that is really tough. They are unlikely to be as productive as you would like and will probably be highly stressed.

Acknowledge this. Talk to them and help out in any way you can. Can you be flexible with their hours? Reduce their workload? Give them more admin-based tasks to work on? If you can help them out, try to do it – and they will thank you long term.

Keep to workplace traditions

Friday bacon butties, Thursday beers or Wednesday dress down day,  it’s these things that build a company culture– so keep it going. It will give a sense of both normality and togetherness to the team and break up the week.

This can now be adapted to include other members of the household. How about a “show off your pets” afternoon, a kid’s drawing competition or even a Friday family quiz?

Appoint a well-being officer

A well-being officer should be appointed if you don’t already have one. These are tough times and we are all under incredible pressure. While many have families to turn to, you may have some workers who are completely isolated – and they will be finding it hard. Really, really hard. Our mental well-being has never been so important, and loneliness is on the rise. As such, it’s your responsibility to check in on your staff on a regular basis. Nominate a trusted employee to do a weekly (or more if necessary) one-to-one in a safe environment where your team can download whatever is on their mind. Make sure they know this is completely confidential and ensure you follow up in accordance with your company policy is required.