This blog post is a recap of our webinar hosted on April 15th: Supporting Our Colleagues During Times of Crisis featuring Dr. Charmain F. Jackman, Dean of Health & Health Wellness at Boston Arts Academy.
Dr. Charmain F. Jackman shared her wisdom and resources to help us think of ways to engage with our employees during this time. Our webinar participants also shared with us what they’ve been implementing “in the workplace” as they get used to the new normal. Here are a few examples of things you can do if your team is now fully remote, you’re interested in supporting a colleague who has been laid off, or you want to show compassion to your colleagues who are having a hard time adjusting.
Create time for breaks during long meetings
Scheduling meetings: It is important for us to be mindful when scheduling our own meetings or meetings with our team. While many of us are no longer working in the same physical space, scheduling back-to-back meetings in the virtual world can be as draining as they are in-person. When possible, give yourself 15-30 minutes to recuperate, take a break, and prepare for your next meeting.
During meetings: If you’re hosting a meeting that is longer than an hour, your audience may appreciate a 5-10 minute break. Since many of us are interacting with each other behind a screen, it may seem like people should be able to “get up and do what they need to do” but let’s face it, people appreciate official breaks. Besides, no one should have to miss an important part of the meeting just because the organizers aren’t being flexible enough.
Check-in breaks: Some of our webinar attendees shared that they’ve been creating informal space for their colleagues to just hang out. Usually in a physical workplace, we have formal or informal ways of socializing, such as sharing stories about what happened during the weekend. While it is true that being in the same physical space helps with this type of engagement, it is still possible for us to socialize this way in a virtual space. Here’s what one of our attendees shared with us:
“My organization created “virtual breaks” that give people an opportunity for folks to “pop in” and say hello. I also make a point to send emails / IMs to people that miss the face to face interactions.” – Rita
Introduce non-work-related activities
Some of us may still remember going out to our favorite café for team lunch meetings, or hanging out with colleagues after work to go see a show together. While we may miss interacting in these ways, there are still many opportunities for us to bond outside of work. Thanks to technology, there have been happy hours, book clubs, and game and movie nights still happening– only now virtually. One of our attendees, Victoria, shared a list of team activities: sharing recipes with each other, hosting a paint night, and participating in group stretches. Here are some additional ways community members are engaging with their colleagues:
“We’re doing an “AMA” on Zoom, where a member of our team is talking about one of his hobbies and people will get a chance to ask him questions.” – J
“A fun thing my company has been doing is playing online bingo every Thursday afternoons with gift cards as prizes!” – Alfe
Send something in the mail and provide resources
A few folks asked us what it looks like to support colleagues who may be having a hard time adjusting or were recently laid off. Besides checking in through a phone or video call, it may be a good idea to send a care package or an electronic gift card for something they’d enjoy. Furthermore, Dr. Jackman shared with us that it’s important to do wellness checks and recognize when you may need to intervene and provide professional support to someone. Having a list of resources on your company’s website or in an internal document is a great way for your employees to help each other out. Here are some other ways people are showing support and providing resources:
“We are doing a “Local Business Swap” – employees who sign up agree to purchase a $10 gift card to a local small business to show support for our community. They’re matched with another employee (much like a secret santa). If people are comfortable sharing their address, we are encouraging them to send the gift cards along with a personalized note, drawing – it’s exciting to get snail mail!”- Victoria
“We also pick a person from a Virtual Tip Jar or a Mutual Aid Needs List to send donations to everyday.”- Alfe
As we ended our discussion, Dr. Jackman reminded us that no one is perfect. While we are all finding ways to support each other, we must also remember to support ourselves and be compassionate towards one another. Whether we are senior leaders, managers, or entry level staff, we will all make mistakes during this time. The most important thing is for us to create opportunities to give and receive feedback from one another in order to learn from our mistakes.
Are you and your team finding ways to improve engagement as you adjust? We’d love for you to share with us what’s working at your company. Submit all tips and suggestions on our contact form!