Beyond Zoom: Staying connected with colleagues while remaining apart

When redesigning our monthly staff meeting late last year, we made a conscious effort to ensure that every meeting met a key objective of “connectedness.” When coronavirus shifted our monthly meetings from in-person to online, we—like everyone else—needed to find new ways to remain close to our colleagues while staying physically distanced.  Even as an office that has always provided flexible working options for our employees, moving to 100 percent remote was a shift for even the most experienced WFH-ers!

Remote work will continue to be the norm for Fathom for the foreseeable future. Knowing that many of you are in the same boat as us, we’re sharing some of the things that we’ve done to help our staff feel connected to one another while we’re apart. We hope they’re useful.

Making connectedness a job

The Captain of Connectedness (and her co-captains), keeping the Fathom team together while at home.

While my official title is office manager and event coordinator, I was formally dubbed our new “captain of connectedness.” (Before this? The office’s “cruse director.” I sense a theme.) Making an individual—or, really, in our case, a small group of individuals—responsible for being intentional about connectedness has been one key to our success. Your human resources or people operations teams are great places to start, but by no means required!

Keeping business as usual

In some ways, we’re simply focusing on “business as usual.” Connectedness was a value for our team before the pandemic, so why would things be any different now? Since the quarantine started, this has looked like:

  • Staff meetings on a regular schedule
  • Regular emails from our leadership
  • Client gatherings (albeit virtual). Our monthly podcast meet-ups continue to happen over breakfast, and we’re meeting clients for happy hours after work. (If we ask for your address, it’s probably just for a delivery of nachos.)

Finding the fun

Aside from business as usual, we’re using humor, fun, and joy to bring people together.

  • Theme Thursdays. While it seems like every day is now “pajama day” by default, Thursdays are our theme day on purpose (hats, sports, and more).
  • Day brighteners. Random employees are being selected for random day brighteners, like free lunch delivery to home.
  • The office candy jar. Since I can’t fill the office candy jars anymore, I made sure everyone could still enjoy their favorite sweet treats (delivered to home in Fathom mugs).
  • Llamas. They’re a thing with Fathom. We even invited one to our monthly staff meeting.

Slacking off

Well, not really! We’ve implemented a few new things in Slack to keep the conversations going.

  • The Donut integration automatically match-makes two team members for coffee—no work talk allowed!
  • We’ve started two new channels: #remotetipsandinspiration (to share our best WFH ideas) and #highlightsfromhome (photos cats, dogs, babies, puzzles, home haircuts and more).

Getting to really know each other

On a more serious note, we’re also working hard on building psychological safety, practicing vulnerability with each other, and understanding what makes us all tick—especially in these strange times. Our entire team recently took the CliftonStrengths assessment, which has deepened our understanding of everyone’s unique strengths and has made it that much easier to work together (whether in person or remote).

We encourage you to steal our ideas. And we want to know—what’s working for you and your teams? Share in the comments!