Working together apart: How to keep your team connected in the new normal.

Our team was riding high after a three-day strategy retreat. Then, the lockdown hit.

We said farewell to our gorgeous Malibu rental and headed to the airport, recharged by the crashing waves and sunny California skies. With new strategic goals and three days of team bonding fresh in our minds, we couldn’t wait to get back to the office.

Unfortunately, our Malibu glow was about to fade fast.

Back home in Chicago, we stepped off the plane and into a citywide pandemic lockdown. As we sat nervously chatting and waited for our cabs, it dawned on us that it could be a long time before our close-knit team was in the same room again.

The pandemic may have upended work life as we know it, but we’ve seen no reason for Blue Daring’s fun and collaborative culture to take a hit.

As we’ve worked to figure out our new normal, we’ve also been experimenting with new ways to keep momentum going and our culture intact, despite being physically apart.

Here are some tips and tricks that might be useful to your own culture as you continue to work from home or transition back to the office.

1 |  Allow space

We all know that life and work these days can be stressful for everyone. So, give people breathing room. Here at Blue Daring, we’ve made it clear from the beginning that we’re not expecting business as normal because nothing about a worldwide pandemic is normal. We’ve all learned to be more forgiving when someone doesn’t respond to a Slack message right away or needs extra time for a task. And as we reopen our office, we’re continuing to give our team flexible options for working from home.

2 |  Give guidance

Make sure you’re setting clear and reasonable expectations. Soon after we went on lockdown, we created remote work guidelines, which we just recently updated for our return to the office. The point isn’t to overwhelm everyone with rules, but to offer a structure that allows for flexibility. We want our team to know they have permission to take care of their needs while getting their work done. Because self-care is a big part of helping people stay productive.

3 |  Show you care

At Blue Daring, we love helping clients create branded gifts and kits for their teams and customers. Nowadays, these unique giveaways are a great way to help folks feel connected or welcome them back to the office—and our people know it. A food delivery gift card gave all of us a night off from cooking. A “work-from-home kit” with a branded mug, coffee and notepad sent the warm fuzzies flying. And a special takeout delivery to everyone’s home for a team member’s farewell party created a shared experience that brought us all closer together.

4 Keep connecting

Meetings shouldn’t be the only reason teams get together on camera. From virtual group yoga and meditation to a recipe swap to pairing team members off for drinks and conversation, we’ve made it a point not to let go of the games and activities that nurture and sustain our culture.

Whether your team is still at home or back in the office, chances are your work life hasn’t 100% returned to business as usual yet. Now is the time to be innovative, flexible and creative with your approach to culture. We hope the experiences we’ve shared will be helpful as you figure out what your new-new normal looks like, and the one after that.

Above all, remember to take care of your team. We may be apart, but we’re all in it together.

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