Virtual Bonding in a Time of Social Distancing

Dr. Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Autism Research wrote in her book:

The past couple of months has highlighted the necessity of incorporating virtual social practices into our daily routines to provide a sense of normalcy back into our lives. Being confined to the walls of our homes has brought to the front of our minds the necessity of in-person interactions.

"social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being."

Many of us feel the toll of decreased day-to-day interactions with our coworkers, neighbors, and even strangers. We crave the lost bonding moments, such as catching up with a favorite barista or recapping the weekend with an acquaintance in the elevator. When we're able to return to "normal" public life, we predict that people will be more appreciative of the benefits of in-person connection, which by human nature, we desperately crave. Regardless of remote work changing how we associate with the office, we, as members of the workforce, need to find ways to continuously stay engaged and build relationships outside of emails and regularly scheduled company-wide Zoom meetings.

We have established that human interaction is not only necessary, but fundamental to the success of many individuals.

From our drawing board of ideas for continued interpersonal connection with our coworkers, described below are some of our favorite tried and tested ways to facilitate those critical spontaneous moments, even while physically separated:

  • Media Club: A Media Club is a great way to highlight important topics in the workplace. It's similar to a book club, but the type of content can include movies, articles, podcasts, videos, etc. By assigning a piece of content before the selected discussion date, you're able to pave the way for a productive conversation with your coworkers. Designating a particular piece of content encourages your peers to get educated and participate in the discussion. For example, to have a productive conversation on anti-racism, Careelist elected to compile different forms of related media to engage with on a rotational basis. Every week, we select a new documentary, article, podcast, or book to view. Our first selection was a documentary called 13th (a must-watch: free on Youtube and available on Netflix). We found a free discussion guide to accompany the documentary and scheduled a company-wide Zoom call to see our coworkers' perspectives. In the upcoming meetings, we've chosen a few NPR 'Code Switch' podcasts, 'This Land' podcast, and a documentary titled 'I Am Not Your Negro' (available on Netflix).
  • Playlist: Using Spotify's collaborative playlist feature, have your team share what they listen to throughout the day. All you need to do is go to Spotify → Create Playlist → Give the playlist a name like "Office Radio" → Under the "playlist settings," change it to become a "collaborative playlist." Anyone you share the playlist link with can add their favorite songs, and Spotify's social features allow you to see which user uploaded each song. With this simple bonding activity, you will simultaneously discover new music and learn more about your coworkers. While Apple Music and similar platforms do not have the same collaborative tool as Spotify, they offer options for sharing playlists.
Screenshot of a collaborative Spotify Playlist
  • Open Door hours: Leadership dedicates certain "open door" hours each week for any team members to start a casual conversation regarding any topic. Send a calendar invite to all employees, so they're reminded when these hours are occurring. These hours are meant to replace 'swinging by someone's desk' to ask a question or just for a quick and informal chat. These small conversations are essential for bonding because they're less formal and structured than appointments. They also make sure employees feel comfortable reaching out to the leaders they don't have scheduled meetings with, and allow spontaneous networking to happen!

For more ideas like these, visit the RebootWork Library page on Virtual Bonding, joining the RebootWork community, or feel free to reach out  directly for a spontaneous chat by emailing shannon@careerlist.com!

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