We’ve been lucky. As copywriters, the logistics of going remote were as simple as cleaning out the office fridge and setting up makeshift desks in our apartments. When I think about my uncle working round the clock in the ER and my brother frantically restocking shelves at the local supermarket, I’m grateful that my team can seamlessly work from home throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges. Like many companies around the world, we’re still adjusting to going fully remote. We’re learning how to optimize our productivity at home, which looks different for everyone. And perhaps most importantly, we’re figuring out how to keep our team connected and our company culture alive and well.
One in five remote workers reports that loneliness is the biggest struggle they face when working remotely. In comparison, only 8% said that staying motivated was their biggest issue, and 3% named WiFi troubles. And while that might not sound particularly serious in the face of a pandemic, when you consider how long this period of self-isolation may go on for—and how much higher everyone’s stress and anxiety levels are right now—the potential impact on employee mental health should not be ignored.
But we’re doing our best to keep calm and carry on—and to help each other get through this. And since we’ve been so inspired by the creative tactics that other companies use to foster a sense of togetherness while their team is apart, we thought we’d share a few of our own. We hope they’ll help your team make social distancing feel a little less, well, distant.
1. We get our (virtual) stretch on
The daily stretch has been a beloved MarketSmiths tradition for some time now. As with most office workers, we spend a lot of time sitting down, which can quickly lead to sore necks and aching backs if we’re not careful. To combat this, our resident wellnessSmith, Kirby, began leading the team in a tailored stretching session at 3 o’clock every afternoon.
That standing appointment is still on our calendars, but the daily stretch looks different these days. Rather than standing around our conference table, we find a comfortable spot in our bedrooms (or in some cases, kitchens) and jump on Zoom. We’re still led by stretch guru Kirby, and there are still plenty of laughs and wobbly legs. And as an added bonus, we get a peek inside everyone’s fortresses of solitude.
The daily stretch isn’t the only team-building activity we use video conferences for. In the two weeks since we went fully remote, some team members have begun scheduling virtual coffee breaks and touch bases with each other, and there’s already been talk of taking our monthly happy hour online. Because as nice as it is to work from bed occasionally, it’s even nicer to see your colleagues’ smiling faces when you’re feeling the solitude.
2. We sync up our tunes
The copywriting office is often filled with music, and even when we have our heads down and our headphones on, we love sharing what we’re listening to. That hasn’t changed since we went remote—it’s just moved to our internal messaging platform, Slack.
In our #songz channel, we share albums and playlists that we’re vibing to and seek recommendations when we want something new. Of course, everyone’s tastes are very different, so the channel is also full of friendly disagreement (my love of Icelandic technopunk, for example, is not widely shared). But from time to time, we all find ourselves jamming to the same tune, and for one wonderful moment, it’s like nothing’s changed.
3. We’re compiling a collaborative cookbook
MarketSmiths love to cook, with varying degrees of success. Jean Tang, our fearless leader, is a former food writer, while I only recently learned how to turn on my stove.
Since we’re not leaving the house these days, the team is cooking a whole lot more. And since we were always fond of swapping recipes in the office, it didn’t take us long to start compiling them in a living document to ensure the team eats well in isolation.
True, we are no Michael Psilakis (and this story may move you to tears). But we are still happy about the MarketSmiths Cookbook. Here’s a peek at one of the recipes the team has shared:
The best thing about the cookbook is not that it’s encouraging us all to try new recipes (although it is), or that it makes your mouth water (although it does). It’s the fact that you get a sense of each team member’s personality and sense of humor as you’re scanning it for something good to eat. And if I can’t joke with my coworkers about my culinary antics while I wait for the office microwave to be free, this is the next best thing.
4. We’re sharing the love from our pets
Few things are more effective at cheering people up than cute pictures of animals. So, when someone on the team seems in need of a quick pick-me-up, we’re quick to fill Slack with fluffy goodness.
Unfortunately, thanks to allergies and strict landlords, not everyone is lucky enough to have a furry friend at home. Those of us that do try to share the love:
On the left, you’ll see Buddy the dog. On the right, that’s Jasper. And while you may not be able to reach through the screen to pet them, doesn’t your day feel just that little bit brighter for knowing them?
Keep your distance, but stay close
The coronavirus situation is going to take a toll on us all, but we owe it all to ourselves and our coworkers to stay connected and stay positive during this challenging time. Together, we’ll get through this.
We hope these insights into our newly remote culture help your team stay close while social distancing. We’d love to hear what strategies you’ve found effective, too. And if we can help your organization hone its messaging (or if you just want to see more pictures of our pets), get in touch.