“Don’t give up”: creative ways to build connection with virtual colleagues

It’s been 130 days and counting since c|change went remote, and in this time, I thought I would’ve listened to a lot more podcasts. I always listen to podcasts (a few recent favorites: Wind of Change, Dead Eyes, and Guru), and working from home, with much less contact with the outside world, I assumed I’d listen to even more. But instead, I found myself cutting way back. Maybe it was because I felt a bit overwhelmed with information about the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t need to add more in my life through podcasts. Maybe I just needed to let my brain meander more. 

Either way, I needed something to listen to. Until one day I received an office-wide email from a colleague, titled “PLAYLIST.” All caps. I’m intrigued. I opened to a simple message from c|change’s Culture Club, which typically plans company outings and teambuilding events: 

“Hi all, please respond just to me with your favorite song of ALL TIME. (A song that we will be able to find on Spotify) Deadline: EOD Thursday. THANKS! Culture Club.”

What would I consider my ALL-TIME favorite song? How do I choose?

I selected Noisettes – “Don’t Give Up,” a song that has always given me confidence, starting when I first heard it as a shy college sophomore in theater school trying to bolster my confidence around more outgoing actors.

Once my colleagues had contributed their songs, a link to the Spotify playlist was shared with the company (and now with you). 

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (or at least talk to someone else!)

Listening to this playlist of the team’s eclectic songs—from Frank Sinatra to Whitney Houston to Basement Jaxx—I was quite entertained, trying to match the song to the colleague (to my surprise I didn’t get many correct). Not only was I learning new things about my coworkers, I was also feeling connected and engaged, especially as the email thread continued and people who’d missed the original deadline shared their favorites.

This long period of social distancing and remote work has been a difficult adjustment for everybody. At c|change, I think we’ve risen to the challenge admirably, but it still requires an extra effort to feel connection with each other, to continue to deepen our relationships as coworkers and as a company. At the same time, though, that effort can have even more of an impact than it may have in-person.

That’s something our friends at Eagle Hill Consulting discussed in a recent article, “Extreme teleworking can connect us to colleagues in unexpected ways.” President and CEO Melissa Jezior writes:

One positive I’ve found as I telework with my colleagues is a much deeper connection to their humanity. Extreme teleworking has provided new glimpses into each other’s home lives and personal spaces, a view we probably would never have had in ordinary times. I see my colleagues’ books, plants, artwork and laundry baskets. I’ve met my coworkers’ spouses, partners, children and pets. I see the views from their windows, and I see their struggles as we muddle through the days and weeks.

While I would have never wished for this pandemic, I am thankful for the new, deeper connections we’ve found thanks to technology and telework. Going forward, I hope we can find ways to keep and enrich these deeper relationships with our colleagues. And communication will play a critical role in nurturing these new connections.

The Spotify playlist was one such unexpected way to engage with my colleagues and deepen my relationships with them. Our Culture Club and company leadership have been doing that in other ways as well throughout our time of, as Eagle Hill calls it, “extreme teleworking”:

Our core values of Radical Optimism, Compassionate Collaboration, and Mindful Creativity have been put to test the past few months and have also provided a good North Star for how we’ve responded to our new work reality—including how we’ve stayed connected as a company. We all hope we can get back together as soon as it’s safe, especially since our office has relocated to a beautiful, new space. But as long as we’re working remotely, we’ll continue to find more ways to stay connected, feel engaged, and deepen our relationships with each other. Sometimes all it takes is a song.

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