With half our team based in the Chicago area and half global, engaging our remote team has always been top of mind. In late December of last year, we shared a blog about our white elephant gift exchange across eight countries as an example of how we’re working to keep everyone engaged, connected and having fun – whether from our headquarters or from home offices across the globe.
Fast forward a few months, and our whole team has now shifted to remote – and our engagement needs are even greater today. There is no “mother ship” right now. There’s no opportunity to overhear a conversation, whether work-related or personal, and jump in to share ideas and experiences. We’re working with kids in the background, with spouses sharing workspaces, with slower internet connections, and even more importantly, with a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty. We have to be even more intentional about supporting our team and keeping everyone engaged, motivated and connected – both to the company and to each other. Social distancing, we realize, is best approached as physical distancing, or “a recognition that what we need is greater physical distance between people, not great social distance.” Now more than ever, those social connections matter. Because we’re all stuck at home, our life outside of work has changed dramatically – so work plays a more active role in social connections.
To that end, a few things that have been successful for us at Multilingual Connections:
Small Group Huddles
For years, we held all-team huddles to check in as a group on a variety of informal topics, from weekend plans and favorite comfort foods to favorite books and movies. As our team has grown in size and in location, we’ve broken our huddles up into smaller groups to ensure a more comfortable conversational flow and meet via video for twenty minutes.
Virtual Coffee Breaks
As our company grew beyond our office walls, our CEO and COO started doing virtual coffee breaks with team members, and we’ve now encouraged the whole team to take part. Since we can’t easily grab a coffee together or have an informal chat in the cafe, our team members schedule periodic virtual coffees with each other to catch up on life outside of work.
Water Cooler Chats
We have a variety of rooms in Google Chat to discuss work-related content, but we’ve developed themed chat rooms to discuss employee-driven topics and boost morale. The most active room is our virtual “water cooler”, where we share everything from cat memes to news articles to pictures of our daily lives – and most recently, a video of our COO slowly flipping over the handlebars of his bike while out on a trail (just a bruised rib and wrist…and a good lesson of what not to do).
From many people, working from home day after day means alternating between night time pajamas and daytime pajamas – or putting on a clean shirt to be video-ready. We’ve always been a casual company, so aside from client meetings, we rarely dress up. However, after weeks of questionable hygiene and abysmal fashion, we decided to hold a Formal Friday competition. The team was encouraged to dress up, submit photos, and vote on categories including Best Tux, Best Shoes/Slippers/Socks, Most Ready to Go Out on the Town, and others. Winners were announced during an afternoon happy hour and were charged with coordinating the next Friday’s events. Since then, we’ve had a second Formal Friday, followed by Fitness Friday, and we’re looking forward to Future Friday!
These are challenging times, and we’re fortunate that our team was able to transition to fully remote so quickly and seamlessly to support our clients’ translation and localization needs. However, working from home and working during a pandemic are not the same. The additional stress, family obligations and general uncertainties presented by COVID-19 make things much more complex, and it’s essential to keep this complexity in mind when thinking about your team’s performance and engagement – and how you can support them through their unique experience of this crisis and beyond.
Oh, and don’t forget to wear pants on your video calls!