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6 tips for staying connected as a team during COVID-19

Note: This page is meant to advise NRCan employees on working during COVID-19. Please consult Health Canada’s COVID-19 pages for up-to-date information on the situation.

Team meetings, virtual lunches and ideas to help with team spirit

This is the second in a series of articles that will provide tips for working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information is provided courtesy of our colleagues in the Corporate Management and Services Sector.

It’s been just over a month since we all started teleworking full time thanks to COVID-19. While we may have started settling into some sort of routine, feelings of isolation and fear are still very real.

While we can be assured that, as public servants, we’ll continue to have a job, we’re still facing challenges on a daily basis: homeschooling kids, worrying about parents in long-term care homes, figuring out how to pay a mortgage when a spouse/partner has lost their job and wondering when things will return to normal.

With all this uncertainty and worry, team morale is as important as it’s ever been, and staying connected as a team can help us navigate these difficult times. Here are six tips to consider for your team.

1. Hold regular team meetings

Holding team meetings via video can help ease feelings of isolation, especially for those living alone. Seeing our colleagues’ faces can help improve morale. Use Microsoft Office 365 Teams for your video chats — it’s off the NRCan network, and you can share documents as you meet.

The director general of the Laurentian Forestry Centre is holding virtual all-staff meetings every two weeks to discuss employee issues and concerns, and staff at the Geological Survey of Canada in Dartmouth are holding “Connect for 30” videoconferences to share their science and maintain a connection with colleagues.

2. Take a coffee break or have lunch together virtually

Taking a coffee break or having lunch with colleagues is a normal part of the daily routine for many when we’re physically in the office. That doesn’t have to stop just because we’re working from home — you just have to be creative.

A team in the Corporate Management and Services Sector in Ottawa takes a 30-minute virtual walk together everyday, and they’re continuing to hold their “Diner en français” virtually once a week. A team in Sherbrooke had social time every Thursday before COVID-19 where they talked about everything but work. Now, they’re connecting each week by video instead.

3. Use instant messaging

Instant messaging, on a platform like NRChat or in Office 365 Teams, is an easy way to stay connected and especially when we’re not together in one location. You can set up different channels based on your team’s needs.

The Communications and Portfolio Sector set up two channels for its employees to help with morale during COVID-19: one for parents of young and school-aged kids, where they share activities and words of encouragement; and one for photos of pets — because who doesn’t love a good cat or dog photo! Other ideas include sharing:

  • book or music recommendations
  • ways to stay active
  • tips for teleworking
  • virtual courses to support or further your career

4. Establish a buddy system

While managers are our go-to for information about how we work under COVID-19, they’re also navigating a new and stressful path themselves. Having a buddy system on a team where employees can check in on each other helps ease some of the manager’s burden and keeps teammates connected. Pre-COVID-19, our coworkers were a main source of our daily interaction. Today, we can still rely on each other to help us adjust to a new way of working and living.

5. Hold team-building activities

The team-building exercises you had in the office don’t have to stop. You just have to do them virtually. Ideas include:

  • starting a daily workout challenge
  • tagging a team member to share inspirational/positive quotes or a joke (office-appropriate of course…LOL!)
  • holding an online scavenger hunt
  • hosting a trivia challenge

The NRCan Language School staff have a “Question of the day.” The questions can be fun, like “What was the worst and best summer job you had?” or more serious like “What are you grateful for in this period of physical distancing?”

6. Manage expectations

Know that the safety and security of employees is NRCan’s number-one priority. Our senior management know these are unforeseen circumstances that are challenging for everyone. You may feel that you’re not as productive as you were before COVID-19, and that’s okay. This is not “business as usual” or the “new normal.” Work with your manager to review your work priorities and set realistic objectives. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and talk to you manager.

Take care of your mental health

Be aware of the leave available to you, and know that the Employee Assistance Program is available to you and your family 24/7 at 1-800-268-7708 (TTY: 1-800-567-5803).

Stay informed about COVID-19

Be sure to get your information from reliable sources:

More resources for working from home during COVID-19

  1. Tips for setting up a home office during COVID-19

Questions?

Email NRCan's COVID-19 mailbox.

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