Hanging out in the tea room, taking a brain break to connect and converse with our fellow team members is one of the human elements which must be re-imagined for the remote working space.  The tea room is where we share our challenges and our wins, where we learn about what our fellow workers do and enjoy outside of work.  It is where impromptu mentoring, coaching and personal development often takes place.  The tea room can be a source of energy and a reminder of why we do what we do.  Having connected, laughed and pontificated we go back to our task with a renewed sense of vigour.

So how do we bridge that gap when we’re all working remotely?

E-brain breaks and E-tea in E-breaks in E-spaces work wonderfully well – we all link up via ZOOM (or some other video conferencing tool) with our cups of coffee, tea or drink of choice at a pre-determined time to chat and share as if we’re in the tea room.  We remember we’re part of something bigger, we have a tribe who understand how we’re feeling, we get to reconnect with the culture of our place.

The dynamics will be different, the side conversations don’t work so well, the e-hugs feel different, and it isn’t as easy to read body language.  The upside though far exceeds these challenges.  Human beings need to feel connected and to be reminded that they are part of something bigger and that they matter.  Seeing is believing.  Seeing each other is so much more powerful than simply hearing each other or reading each other’s words.

E-breaks are part of the organisations human fabric – organisational culture and values guide behaviours in this E-space.  Yes, we need to have guidelines and protocol regarding what is OK and what is not OK(similar to what we have in-house).  We must view the E-break as if it is taking place in traditional workplace – it becomes a place of work – separate but still an integral part. We wouldn’t turn up in the tea room in our PJs neither would we show up in our E-space in our PJs.

At the office, the tea room door is always open – we might need a break and we swing by and ask someone to join us – to run something by them, to share a win or to simply enjoy their company for a few minutes.  So why not keep the electronic forum open for the entire working day.  Those needing a break can text their colleague and head to the E-space to see and engage with each other.  It is a good idea to have separate “channels” for each purpose.  You have the E-break channel, the team meeting channel, and the mentoring channel – all set up to accommodate critical meetings which have been scheduled and planned in the past  to enhance productivity and well-being in a physical workplace.

Appoint a champion to maintain, evaluate and improve the E-connect process in your business. Notice who isn’t connecting, notice who is embracing the process, notice the energy and the culture of the E-space.  Address any issues and off-culture behaviours immediately.  Be decisive and follow through with the consequences.  Behaviours in the E-space matter.  Involvement by all of the team matters.  People can become invisible if we’re not diligently noticing who isn’t turning up and who isn’t connecting.

Yes it’s new and yes there may be teething challenges and yes it is one of those times when we can’t let perfect get in the way of better.

One of the most important things business owners and leaders must do is to stay connected to their counsel.  Talk often to other entrepreneurs, to your advisors, and to thought leaders. A lone wolf mindset will limit you – connect and collaborate constantly – leverage collective intelligence.  Please connect with us here at Opening Gates 

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