https://www.bonnielowkramen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/man-and-woman-at-watercooler.jpg 512 471 Bonnie Low-Kramen /wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png Bonnie Low-Kramen2020-08-03 17:57:292022-01-24 16:59:24Are Webcams the New Watercooler?
By Bonnie Low-Kramen | August 3, 2020
During a call with a BTUA student last week, Jessica – not her real name – realized that strong emotions were coming up for her and she didn’t understand them. She looked visibly sad.
Jessica shared that while she was adapting to working from home, she missed her executive of 12 years. She missed sitting outside his office and being privy to, well, everything. She feels out of the loop. And she misses making their afternoon coffees which was always their time to talk, even for two minutes.
On top of everything else, the decision was made to cancel the lease on the office building. No one needed to go back into the office – ever again. I asked – On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most, what was her stress level? The answer – 8. Not a good thing.
The sadness Jessica was feeling was grief. It is real. Grief is the emotional experience of reacting to a loss of something important to you, no matter how big or small it might seem. And it is personal to every individual. Read on to explore some solutions about how Jessica is going to feel better.
The pandemic has turned the world upside down in a very short time. We have all lost so much in such a short time, and it has been a lot to take in. As humans, we resist change under the best of circumstances, and this is the polar opposite. In fact, emotions are so strong that we are starting to realize that the feelings arising around the pandemic are very similar to the grief process when we lose someone.
People are experiencing a loss in not just one instance, but multiple areas of their personal and professional life. Routines have been disrupted. Predictable schedules are no more. For working parents, there is the loss of school as existed waaaaay back in February, 2020. We all share their wondering – and worrying – about when/if we will have that again?
Where did the water cooler go?
Now that we are virtual, we must replace the water cooler connection. It is essential because it provides bonding, collaboration, strengthening teams, and relationships, and boosts productivity and engagement levels.
For people who have been WFH, the adjustment is not as significant as for others who were going to the office every day. In the beginning, people were happy to be home, avoiding traffic, and not having to be out the door to catch their train. Now that we realize this could go on for quite a while, emotions are escalating and harder to manage.
Despite the challenges, it is possible and important to maintain and even enhance collaboration when working remotely. The key is to implement new opportunities for informal interactions and socializing outside of work. Employers need to replace or replicate the real-world situations that occurred in the office with virtual situations—essentially finding a way to implement virtual water cooler activities for their remote employees.
Many virtual water cooler activities center around getting to know your co-workers. These are great opportunities for employees to create common bonds and bring new hires up to speed.
Here are 7 suggestions for Jessica and all of you to recreate the water cooler connection – only virtually.
- Physically distanced coffees/lunches – If geography and weather cooperate, there is no reason why co-workers cannot meet in a parking lot (each in their own cars) or an outdoor setting, like a park. Human beings need human connection and some need it more than others.
- Ask to sit in on meetings to feel more connected – Jessica is going to participate in the ELT meetings so that she can feel less isolated and more in the loop about company initiatives. Her CEO is all for it, as is the team.
- Daily 1:1s – 1:1 time is important. Only you know if you have enough contact with your exec(s) and your peers. If you don’t, tomorrow would be an ideal day to ask for what you need, especially since this is our new reality – for now. Jessica realized that she had been lax with their 1:1s lately, so she plans to get them back on the calendar.
- Honor People, Things, and Times – Celebrate! – Many celebratory events commonly take place in office environments. Whether it is a birthday or a weekend wedding shower, these valuable bonding opportunities can be moved online. Send gifts and or food to each person’s home, and when they arrive, join on Zoom. If it’s possible, plan a drive-by for someone’s birthday and you show up in your car in front of the person’s home at a designated time.
- Virtual Happy Hours – Let your meeting planner creativity burst forth! Teams of assistants hold weekly happy hours and an easy, low-pressure activity. Things like; hat day, or show your pet on camera day, or show a picture of the inside of your refrigerator and let’s guess whose it is, or show high school graduation photos, or show baby pics. Or, you can have a pizza party and your exec pays for pizza for the team. The list of possibilities is endless. Jessica loved this idea!
- Be Kind and Show Empathy to Each Other – Asking questions and being interested in another person’s experiences and feelings create a great space for deeper connections. All we sometimes need is for someone to be genuinely interested in us to make us feel recognized and not so alone. Surprise someone by sending a snail-mailed greeting card, flowers, food, a jigsaw puzzle, or a subscription to something that they would love, like broadwayhd.com (Someone did that for me and I am in theatre heaven.)
- We will all remember 2020 – I think it’s pretty safe to say that we will never forget 2020, the year of the pandemic. And we will also never forget how people showed up for us and how they did not, won’t we? How do you want people to remember you from 2020?
As you can see, there are endless opportunities to reimagine water cooler activities, albeit virtually. Using real-life examples, you can design options that will effectively engage and entertain and create unbreakable connections. If in doubt, just ask them!
When you attend the BTUA On Demand course, you will gain the skills to create connection, reconnection, collaboration, and communication to be able to contribute to building an Ultimate workplace! We’d love to have you as a BTUAer.
For more details: www.learn.bonnielowkramen.com
I am Bonnie Low-Kramen, TEDx speaker, author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant” and trainer of Executive Assistants all over the world. In May, 2019, I was featured in a Forbes online cover story. As part of the research for my second book about the workplace to be published in 2022, I have had over 1,000 conversations with assistants, leaders, HR professionals, recruiters, and business school professors. I have worked in 14 countries and 38 states and would love to work with you towards building your ultimate workplace. Click here to set up a time to speak with me about your training needs which can be delivered virtually or in person.