By Angela Petteys

For many of us, working remotely has been a sudden, necessary, but completely unexpected change.

Whether you’re in a state affected by widespread quarantines or just part of a company looking to play it safe across various departments, remote work quickly became a big part of many of our professional lives over the past month or so. While most of us were able to adapt our daily routines pretty quickly — and none of us are complaining about the ability to work in our pajamas, surely — it’s sometimes hard to shake that feeling of disconnection.

“Disconnection” in this case doesn’t refer to any potential issues with your WiFi, although working remotely can be a good stress test on just how good your home internet is. A lot of us can take for granted just how much impact the physical work environment has on your sense of camaraderie; even if you mostly use tools like Slack to talk to your team while in the physical office, the sense of physical connection you get from sharing a space with your team goes a long way towards building stronger teams. This, of course, tends to go right out the window when working remotely.

So what can be done about it? Are there ways to ensure that feeling of working together and connecting as coworkers while everyone is stuck in their own homes? Can this sort of human connection help you feel more grounded and productive even during what’s surely a flat-out weird time for everyone? The answers may be a little easier than you’d expect.

Create New Rituals

Back in the office, everyone had their daily routines. Someone would hog the hot water for their tea at the same time every morning, someone would walk to their favorite sushi place up the road on their lunch break, so on and so forth. While many of these have been taken away due to the quarantine conditions, there’s still ways you can set a routine and connect with your teammates over something other than the task at hand.

Zenefits, for example, suggests creating a virtual standing lunch date with members of your team. Once or twice a week as schedules allow, encourage your team to order or make whatever their favorite lunch is and then set up a meeting where everyone can get together to talk about what’s going on in their lives other than just the daily work stuff we all have to talk about anyway. (The more shy members of your team could still be encouraged to join via phone so nobody can see them eating.)

Make Time for a Commute

This may sound a little counterintuitive, given that you’re not actually driving anywhere, but a lot of people actually use their commute to do things like catch up on phone calls and emails before they hit the office. 

A good way to stay connected to your team during big projects and get a little more done around the house is to start factoring ‘commute’ time into your daily activities. Virtual Vocations suggests starting a little before your scheduled work time to make phone calls to your teammates and catch up on emails while getting some laundry done around the house, for example. You might be surprised how much more productive and in-the-loop this can make you feel.

Uniform Meeting Experiences

A big problem that remote workers encounter is the idea of presence disparity. As defined by Steelcase, presence disparity is what happens when the participants in a long-distance meeting aren’t all getting the same experience. While the term generally refers to distributed work and presentations, it can cause a huge impact on remorse working teams as well.

Have you ever been on a phone meeting where it sounded like one of the participants was in a wind tunnel, or kept getting interrupted by the kids? Are there constant connection issues and image quality problems during video conferences? Obviously some of these will require a little more work to solve, but a good way of encouraging connection during meetings and conferences is to make sure everyone is having the same quality of meeting, and ability to participate. 

Get to Know Your Coworkers Better

Even if you worked in an office where everyone was good about sharing their interests and lives outside of work, working remotely is going to bring you into their lives even closer than before. As The Muse correctly points out, video conferencing from home can give you a glimpse into your coworker’s lives that you may not have expected, from their children and pets (who will inevitably interrupt a meeting at times) to what their house looks like.

While interruptions should be kept to a minimum, you should welcome the opportunity to get to know your coworkers. Take some time to ask about your coworker’s children, pets, or just a unique home decoration and find yourselves all bonding a little bit more. 

By taking a little time to introduce these new routines to your daily life, you might be able to feel like a bigger part of your team and more connected to your coworkers, even while everyone’s working from their house until quarantine ends.