Insights/ Boost engagement: Staying connected in a virtual world

Author: Louisa Cook

A very astute client has just said to me: “I feel like we have hit the wall. The runner’s wall”. We continued the analogy, describing this period of unrest, uncertainty and rapid adaption as a marathon. We knew it was going to be a hard path from the start of the pandemic, lockdown and summer ‘holidays’ but we had September in our heads as an end point, the finish line. Schools to re-open, offices to start bringing staff back, people to ease back into their old routines and working from home to become a choice not a necessity. Our social groups to widen and the fun and laughter to return. The fear and anxiety to dissipate.

And although some of that did start to happen, we feel that we are now not at the finish line but only just half way (if we’re lucky!). With restrictions forecasted now in 6 monthly blocks (not three weekly reviews), the fatigue is kicking in.

Remote working teams are now the norm. Teams have found ways to adapt, technology has gone such a long way to keeping us together and video conference calls fill some gaps and meet our innate need to connect socially. But according to Rebecca Walker, Executive coach and trainer from Unfold, “what we are missing is the sense of fun”.

Rebecca has been working with clients throughout the pandemic and has noticed greater fatigue and flagging resilience since the latest set of restrictions were announced. “People are missing those spontaneous interactions, the quick catch ups, the ad hoc advice, the laughter in a shared joke. Planned team calls have removed the spontaneity of that communication and everything feels a little more forced.”

Walker continued: “Leaders are also having to work harder to help people stay connected to the values of an organisation and retain that all important sense of community. The weekly quizzes, coffee morning chats or virtual drinks still have their place but have lost their initial novelty”.

So with the end of 2020 approaching (shh yes, less than 13 weeks until 2021), anxiety on the rise and restrictions tightening, it is no wonder that Google reports the online search for ‘TEAM BUILD’ has increased by 57% as businesses try to re-ignite their company cultures.

So how do you keep nurturing your company culture? We spoke to Paul Sweetman at Sweet Comms, employee engagement specialist about this issue.

“Meetings on Zoom or any other virtual platform tend to become task-focused rather than team-oriented, so it is easy to miss – and simply get used to lacking – the dialogue and connections that conversations about non-work issues can help forge. Since COVID-19 struck, we have relied on our shared history to keep teams together, but that can only go so far. Now it’s clear we will be in this situation for many months to come – and some of us may never go back to our offices in quite the same way – we need a more robust approach to employee engagement in the virtual world: following the same core principles but using digital tools more effectively to create the connections we need.

“This year, more than most, it is important to proactively celebrate what everyone has contributed in very challenging circumstances. An opportunity to thank, celebrate, share and renew. See the back of 2020! And start the New Year re-energizing people.”

At Powwow, we have been working on this challenge with clients for the past few months, creating bespoke events and concepts, thinking outside of the (computer) box to create meaningful, tailored events. Events that feel different and show thought for employees. It’s the little touches that count. If you want us to help you over the coming months with employee engagement, wellbeing or indeed, tackle that “so what on earth are we going to do for Christmas” question, we’d love to talk to you.

As Walker says: “The organisations that are rising to the challenge of creating new types of team events or just moments in the day are those that are making them personal, thoughtful and inclusive. They help connect people with the values and culture of the business, give an important boost to the team and create some fun along the way.”

I know which type of organisation I’d rather work for.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch