Pandemic Apart: What To Do If Your Co-Workers Have Never Met

Employee Engagement Is Suffering

As the pandemic grinds on into its 18th month, employee engagement is in jeopardy. Companies must deal with a previously unimaginable challenge: Employees who normally would share an office have never met each other in person. New hires around the country have met their colleagues only virtually. Many have started new jobs and left them without ever meeting another co-worker. And that’s raising serious concerns.

The New York Times recently examined the issue in an eye-opening piece: “If You Never Met Your Co-Workers in Person, Did You Even Work There?” The global shift to remote work has created a “phenomenon of job hoppers who have not physically met their colleagues.” It’s a trend so new that there is no label for it. It’s also a troublesome trend—but you can find solutions.

Easy Come, Easy Go

As companies hire more totally remote employees who never meet another colleague, “emotional and personal attachments to jobs may be fraying.” As new hires struggle to “form personal connections with co-workers,” loyalty erodes. These employees have begun developing an easy-come, easy-go outlook.

After all, if you don’t have any personal attachment to your workplace, what’s to keep you from moving on to other opportunities? And of course, as the Times points out, employers aren’t sure “how to retain people they barely know.”

One answer to that is to get new hires started off on the right foot. When you on-board new employees, make sure to do lots of virtual meet-and-greets and orientation sessions. That will help form bonds between employee and company from the start.

Too Strict

The Times spoke to one of these unlabeled job hoppers who warned that even remote employees need to socialize. Morale dips when work becomes an endless series of video calls with “strict agendas.”

“You know people’s motivation is low when their cameras are all off,” the employee said. “There was clear disinterest from everyone to see each other’s faces.”

Fortunately, the fix is easy. Try starting meetings with an ice breaker, which can be as simple as discussing a favorite show or movie people have seen lately. Alternatively, ask everyone what they did over the weekend, or what they’re looking forward to doing soon.

Adapt & Loosen Up

Just as companies adapted to the pandemic by transitioning to remote work, they can adapt to this byproduct of that transition. Jen Rhymer, a Stanford scholar who studies workplaces, “said companies could help isolated workers feel motivated by embracing socialization, rather than making employees take the initiative.”

Companies might consider creating a new position or responsibility: “Head of Remote.” That person can proactively focus on coordinating “small group activities, hosting in-person retreats, and setting aside time for day-to-day chatter.”

Basically, leave room for co-workers to get to know each other, and create opportunities for them to do so. You’ll see employee engagement improve and new hires sticking around.

Create Team Building Opportunities

Speaking of which, our morale-boosting virtual employee engagement activities have helped connect remote workers during the pandemic. And they like to let us know how much they appreciate that.

“Even though we can’t physically be together, it was nice to have an activity where we can all collaborate across teams without the stressors of work.”

“We had a couple of new hires join. I’m sure they are off to a great experience with our company, with an activity that can pull people together who are working remotely from all over the world!”

“Everyone in our group had a great time. There was something for everyone. Everyone participated, we all laughed a lot and we learned some new things about our co-workers. I would highly recommend this for a team event!”

Contact us today to learn more and find the right activity for your group. Instead of hopping jobs, you’ll have remote employees getting better acquainted and working as a team in no time.