March 23, 2020 11:20:29 AM EDT

COVID-19 Strategies: Ways for Managers to Virtually Improve Connection

As we shift to this temporary “new normal” of reduced travel, social distancing, and working from home, we are at risk of feeling disconnected from our coworkers. Not only can this cause a decrease in engagement, but it can also reduce job satisfaction, limit productivity, and create a divide between managers and employees.

Signs You May be Disconnected

As with any change, it will be uncomfortable to shift to spending more time in your house and away from the office. However, if you find yourself (or you see others) exhibiting any of the symptoms below, it could mean that you are gliding down a fast track toward disconnection and isolation.

  • It’s hard to start work in the morning. This is not just because the kids are home or the TV is on, but it is because the work doesn’t interest you.
  • Your mind wanders while you are working, thinking about anything but the task at hand.
  • You find yourself surfing the web or glued to news channels 24/7.
  • When you read emails, you tend to see a negative tone or mean comment in the text.=
  • You find yourself disagreeing with others on conference calls more than agreeing.
  • You are snapping at coworkers and your family for no apparent reason.

Ways to Improve Connectivity

There are several things you can do to stay connected with your team while working remotely.

  • Ask for input – Reach out to coworkers to ask for their input on things you are working on or set up a review meeting so you can discuss the topic with a small group.
  • Start a virtual discussion – You can sometimes start idea generation or discussion via email or chat, which allows you to stay connected with team members on more “informal” topics.
  • Catch up over virtual coffee – If you are someone who typically grabs coffee with a coworker or strikes up conversations with people in the coffee line, invite them for virtual coffee instead. Grab a cup, turn on your video, and take 10 minutes to catch up.
  • Set virtual lunch dates – Schedule lunch dates with friends, coworkers, and business colleagues to maintain relationships and connections.

Steps for Leaders

If you are leading a team and see the disconnected signs in any of your team members, you can also take the following steps to help bring them back to an engaged, productive mindset.

  • Daily huddles – Start your day together, discussing the work to be done and how you can help one another
  • Check in with IMs – Use instant messaging (via Teams, Skype, Slack or any other tools you have available) to check in 1:1 with each team member, especially on days that they are quiet or seem withdrawn.
  • Video meetings – Request team members to use their video option when joining meetings so you can see one another’s faces.
  • Rekindle office jokes – If you have funny jokes or shared experiences from working in the office, carry them into the virtual work environment (e.g., if everyone complained about an empty coffee pot that no one would fill, update the team that you still have that problem).

Disconnection and isolation can be a huge drain on productivity and impact to your overall well being. However, recognizing the signs early and implementing preventative steps can help to mitigate the risks and allow for a challenging situation to result in an opportunity for stronger connections, improved satisfaction, and the best possible performance for you and your team!


Struggling with transition to working from home, virtual meetings, and other  business concerns related to COVID-19? Connect with us to brainstorm and talk about strategies.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson

Judy partners with executives and leadership teams to engage and inspire employees in a way that delivers sustainable strategic results. She brings deep expertise and creative ideas to solve organizational effectiveness issues and closely collaborates in a way that builds internal capabilities. Judy has spent over 25 years consulting in a variety of industries, bringing her expertise in behavior to a wide range of organizational issues including organizational behavior change, leadership, change management, culture and engagement.