March is Caffeine Awareness Month, and for coffee lovers, in-person coffee dates no doubt seem like a distant memory one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Once a primary outlet for teams to brainstorm, colleagues to catch up, and networking to take place, coffee dates may now seem like a thing of the past. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last year, it’s how to stay connected – even if that means scheduling your next meetup with colleagues to take place from your respective couches rather than your favorite cafe.
With many employees still working remotely, and teammates unable to connect in the physical spaces in which they used to work together, there are a number of ways in which virtual coffee dates can keep colleagues connected and prove beneficial to teams.
Encourages a sense of community
For starters, there’s a sense of community that coworkers develop when working closely together day after day. For those who have transitioned to working from home, there can be more of a challenge in making the mental switch to being in “work mode” when moving from their living room to their home office than there is in actually stepping into a shared office space. A big part of that can be the opportunity to check in with colleagues, collaborate on group projects, and feel a sense of unity in being surrounded by people working on similar projects.
With increased isolation in all areas of life, regular check-ins with colleagues can help retain the sense of community that comes from sharing an office space and promote a sense of collaboration among coworkers.
One of the challenges of working from home can be a lack of oversight. For workers who thrive with a sense of structure and drive to impress superiors, a work from home environment can offer more flexibility than they’re used to. Regular team check-ins can ensure all members of a team are committed to their respective responsibilities and ensure that key pieces of any project aren’t getting dropped along the way.
Regular check-ins not only hold employees accountable for getting their work done – they can also increase motivation to complete projects. Team gatherings can ensure that all colleagues are on the same page about projects, and that everyone has the information they need to continue moving forward. These calls can also serve as important brainstorming sessions that encourage outside input and empower team members to take the information they’ve gathered and move forward.
Colleague coffee dates can serve as an important function in your plan for workplace productivity, but their broader benefit shouldn’t be overlooked. More than 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from 11% the previous year. For many people, going to work is a huge component of social life that they now haven’t been able to engage in for a prolonged period of time. This can have lasting results on attitude toward work and general mental health. In addition to using this time to connect on work matters, don’t forget to leave a space for the casual interactions that would have occurred over in-person coffee dates of the past.
Utilize Microsoft Teams to stay connected
If you’re not already collaborating virtually with your colleagues, what are you waiting for? Check out some of our favorite Teams features to make the most of your experience.