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March 24, 2020

Social Distancing: Easy Ways to Stay Connected Virtually

Many organizations across the globe, McKinley included, have transitioned to remote and virtual engagement in an effort to flatten the curve during the coronavirus pandemic. While we collectively adjust to our current reality, we know preserving culture and morale takes work. Here are some initiatives that our staff members have championed to stay connected during social distancing.

Create a virtual space to replace “water cooler” chats

Some of the best conversations take place in an office’s common area or in the hallways at a conference. These unplanned interactions add value to the day and without the possibility of running into colleagues, a sense of disconnection begins to loom.

A diverse groups of five people are talking around a water cooler.

To foster this sort of authentic engagement for our team, we created “The Kitchen,” a virtual space available for employees to join and connect. The Zoom meeting is active all day, with four peak meeting times noted for those who want to ensure they “run into” their peers.

This unstructured, online space can be used to convene colleagues around specific topics for both staff and members. For members, this means a safe, familiar community encompassing geographic regions — or even the globe — to collectively exchange information and solve problems. It’s also an opportunity for an association to monitor conversations in the field and use them as a source of knowledge that can inform future activities and resources.

Start a “club”

Having a specific, non-work-related topic to discuss is a great way to bring employees of all ages and across all departments together. Each month, an employee signs up to host a podcast discussion around an episode they find interesting — from diversity, psychology, social media and beyond. This fosters dynamic, cross-generational discussions spanning topics that have been crowd-sourced from all levels of the organization.

A stack of books on a white background.

Additionally, voting on a book of the month is an excellent way to inspire employees to read something new and take their minds off the stress of the times. Creating a book, podcast or movie club gives everyone a chance to convene around a common interest, learn something new and get to know each other better. This same idea applies to a member-focused resource. Encourage your members to utilize your discussion board and online platforms to engage with one another over a common bond.

Schedule happy hours

With today’s technology, there is no reason to call off upcoming plans that provide an opportunity to connect and recognize others. Your association’s annual awards dinner, an employee’s work anniversary — the same way we’ve seen the world improvise when it comes to conferences and debates applies to small-scale events as well. Platforms like Zoom make it easier than ever to join “breakout rooms” with a few people at a time to avoid the awkward cross-talk that is inevitable with large-scale virtual meetings. We’ve found having several rotations of random breakout rooms is an enjoyable way for us to catch up with colleagues we haven’t had a chance to interact with throughout the week.

A group of people participating in a virtual happy hour.

Catch up over coffee

Plan more casual meetings with no agenda to create space for reconnection.  Ask staff to reach out to members with a video or phone call. Schedule virtual gatherings and add an ice breaker activity for everyone to feel more relaxed and connected, whether that’s bringing a snack or letting kids or pets join.

Empower other ideas

Feeling heard and seen is one of the biggest challenges of social distancing. By welcoming suggestions and inviting everyone to contribute their ideas, you create inclusive virtual connections that strengthen your team and inspire the optimism we all need right now.

Stay productive individually

With all the great tips for effective remote work, staying productive professionally and personally goes without saying. It is easy for the lack of structure to cause overwork outside of business hours, or for distractions at home to limit your productivity. Commit to work priorities each day, but make sure to also schedule free time to wind down, spend time with your family, go on long walks or take advantage of the many free virtual workout classes available right now.

Connectedness is more important than ever. We hope these tips help you, your team and your members navigate the road ahead and strengthen your sense of community while staying safe and healthy.
For more strategic help navigating our current environment check out the 2020 Gameplan: A Discussion Guide.

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