Social Supports and Camaraderie Building in Remote Working

Anthony Hickey

Organisations are constantly seeking to support their staff and maintain connections despite being largely physically separated. We are happy to offer some guidance on how to do just that, by providing examples of trends observed in some of Ireland’s Best Workplaces. Of course, these practices are supported by employee survey data, indicating the efficacy of such initiatives.


Social Supports

Naturally, providing social supports in a remote workforce is somewhat of a challenge, but that challenge has been well met by our client organisations. While practices will differ, the central theme is that of providing an outlet for employees to raise issues, or perhaps even just reach out for a chat. Here are some suggestions for implementation in your organisation:


A reminder of Pre-existing Supports Available

Many organisations will have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) already available to employees. An effective strategy is to ensure this is visible to all staff, with this being achieved through all company communications and featuring prominently on intranet sites, SharePoint, or similar channels. 


Formal Listening Channels

Many organisations have set in place contact procedures should individuals encounter issues related to remote working. Generally operated by HR personnel, this is a confidential channel for staff to raise issues such as a need for greater flexibility in working hours, inadequate working equipment or emerging mental health issues. Again, visibility is key here, so this contact information should be prominent across communications.


Informal Listening Channels

Not every communication should be formal, there is tremendous value to simply having a chat with colleagues. This has certainly been the position of many of our clients, whose dedicated HR teams have made time to simply reach out and have a chat with staff, particularly during difficult periods. These initiatives have been well received by employees, particularly those living alone, who appreciated casual conversation greatly.


The Virtual Water Cooler

HR need not be the only outlet for casual conversation, many organisations have sought to replace water cooler conversations with virtual hang out spaces. A simple idea, yet one reported as beneficial by staff, a space on Microsoft Teams or similar is set up for non-work-related chats. Colleagues are free to drop in as they please and discuss whatever interests them.


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We have been blown away by the practices devised by organisations in an effort to provide sources of fun and connection for their staff during remote working, especially at the beginning when everything seemed new and daunting! HR teams and social committees were not short on ideas, with a wide range of activities for employees and even their families devised to promote a sense of camaraderie, and perhaps even a little healthy competition. Below you will find some easily implemented ideas for your workplace:


Art Competitions

Reflecting the family commitments of many employees, we have seen several organisations create art competitions for the children of employees. With the adults often getting in on the action, sharing of artwork across the organisation, and even little prizes for these budding artists, this type of initiative is an easy way to create a bit of fun for staff and their children.


Virtual Happy Hour

This one is for the adults of course! Often teams have traditions which involve a few casual pints to end the workweek, this little ritual is sure to be missed by many. We have seen a few organisations continue this tradition in a virtual setting, with a few tipples and stories being shared to cap off the week. Probably best to keep this one to Friday only folks.


Fitness Challenges

There are a lot of options with this one, some of which can even be linked to CSR activities. The virtual 5K appears to be a hit with our clients, with funds going to a worthy cause and high levels of engagement, this type of initiative is a win-win for any organisation. Step challenges are also frequently reported, with this offering the opportunity to participate at a pace suitable for all.


Quizzes and Competitions

No doubt you have participated in at least one Zoom quiz by now - they have become rather popular! However, they are popular for good reason, as they are easily conducted and can be all-inclusive in nature bringing the whole team together for a few headscratchers. Some organisations have even themed questions around their history and strategy, building knowledge on the organisation in a relaxed setting.  


Final Word

Undisputedly, social supports are essential to navigating difficult circumstances. We are first and foremost social creatures, and our colleagues form a substantial component of our social worlds. It is also the case that camaraderie and positive mental states are beneficial to organisations, with these factors more often than not being highly correlated with organisational performance. As such, maintaining camaraderie and providing social supports will be invaluable to both the individual and organisation at this present junction.


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