For many of us working from home has become the "new normal" that so many commentators refer to. By now people have their homeworking routines in place, have sorted out the practical issues and are getting on with their job.

And, as quickly as we settle into these new patterns, it changes again and some homeworkers will now be returning to the workplace, even if not every day. While those working from home may now be finding the novelty of working in their pyjamas and being able to put a load of washing on between calls and emails is rubbing off, those at the start of the trickle of the returning workforce will be faced with fresh anxieties; such as whether their journey is safe and how it will feel being in the office without many of their colleagues.

Now is not the time to get complacent about your team's mental wellbeing. Indeed, you should be revisiting the concerns you had initially about keeping your team in touch and connected and, most importantly, retaining the sense of camaraderie that can be lost when people are working apart.

According to, "Relationships with co-workers are a leading contributor to employees' well-being, a new report concluded. Well-being in the Workplace, a three-year international study by Martin Boult, senior director of professional services and international training at The Myers-Briggs Company, found that relationships with co-workers were what matters most to employees' happiness in the workplace. The report included data from 10,000 people in 131 countries."

So, how do you maintain camaraderie under the current circumstances? Here are my top suggestions:

Work hard

1.     Regular video meetings

Zoom, Skype, Facetime. All have been well-utilised over recent weeks. It's not only important to speak regularly, it's important to see your teams and colleagues, read their facial expressions and body language and smile at one another! Ideally, these communications should be regular and scheduled. These give everyone points in the week to look forward to and to keep them motivated.

Allow a short time at the beginning for fun chat; a good joke or social media meme they've heard, a film they've discovered and can't wait to share, something their child or pet did that was funny or new.

Really make sure that everyone is given a voice during these meetings. If there are too many faces on the screen, some might melt into the background. Make time for everyone to speak and be listened to. This is crucial for mental wellbeing and to enhance feelings of togetherness and team building.

2.     Set working hours

While this may not be possible for all business models, if you can, give everyone a set working day. Give them a start time and set times for tea and lunch breaks and a finishing time. You can then encourage them to ‘have lunch' with the colleague they would previously have sat with in the kitchen or met for a Costa and also ensure that they are able to separate work and home life. If they are staying at their workstation to finish a project and not leaving until 7pm, they are not likely to be motivated to start at 9am the next day and a lack of routine can be very demotivating.

Of course, there are some workers who will need extra flexibility. Perhaps they need time to shop for elderly relatives or will need to take shorter, more frequent breaks to allow them to help children with schoolwork. Bear that in mind, too.

3.      Motivate your team to achieve together

There are few feelings as good as when you achieve something as part of a team! In the office, you can discuss common goals as you go along, share ideas by calling across the office or giving feedback at the end of an important call. High-fiving and back-slapping when you hit a target or finish that project. That's not so easy when you are all in different places. However, there are ways to help your team feel together when they are apart.

Remind your team of your core values and discuss in a group how they can be applied and tweaked to fit with the current situation. Ensuring everyone engages with these values is critical for a successful business and even more so when working remotely.

Have regular brainstorming sessions is a good idea and team leaders and managers should leave phones open for staff to call with new ideas. Again, voice or video calls are preferable to email, keeping communication verbal and more fluid and interactive.

Play hard

4.     Fitness fun

Perhaps your team is more likely to hook up at the gym or gather for a casual five-a-side game. A team fitness challenge could be a great way for your team to socialise, while boosting their physical and mental wellbeing through exercise. Of course, they can't go to the park and have a run together, but they could all go to their own local park and have a run at the same time. Then they could share photos on the chat group of your choice. Or make it a walk that they all do in different locations and chat throughout about what they are seeing. Perhaps one is in the countryside, one at the beach and another simply walking round their garden.

5.     Socialise "at work"

The culture of business has changed so much over recent years; it is far more sociable in its nature. So, keep this going. You will have to trust your team to spend an appropriate amount of time socialising within the framework of the working day but it is likely to be highly motivating and encourage that camaraderie if they can still have a virtual chat by the water cooler, using an app such as or set up a group chat on WhatsApp. Alternatively, why not suggest they play an online game in their tea break? For example, they could play scrabble on Facebook or a site such as Lexulous or fans of Uno can play online either one-on-one or in groups.

6.     Drinks after work

Perhaps your team like nothing better than a ‘quick one' after work together or a monthly curry night. While that may not be immediately possible, there are other ways they can socialise after work.

It's probably best to let them choose an activity they all enjoy but, for example, a cook and wine evening might be fun. Team members can take a turn in demonstrating their favourite recipe and suggesting a glass of wine to accompany it. If they want to demonstrate how to make pot noodles while drinking tea, that's also good!

The best of both

7.     Team training

Some businesses may still be working at full steam, but others will have slowed down. Perhaps now is the time to get some training booked in - the things that so often get bumped by other priorities. Again, to boost camaraderie, try to include team training that will benefit everyone, even if it's not specific to everyone's role. If you usually train in-house, this can also be done via video calling. If you generally employ outside trainers give them a call and see what they are offering.

If your team roles are diverse, you could make the training about something non-work related or have a slot each week where each team member spends some time giving more detail about his/her role. This will let your team better appreciate different aspects of your business and the pressures on their colleagues

8.     A creative (Not) away day

Of course, a great thing to build team spirit is an away day together. As impossible as this sounds, you may be able to replicate it and give your team some fun to take their minds off everything. It will take some creative thinking but perhaps they could all go fishing at their own local catch-and-return lake and have a competition to see who can catch the biggest. Or, instead of go-karting, they could play online karting games together. What about a day at the races? Your team could dress up, get the prosecco on ice and bet on races being run abroad. You know your team. This is a good time to get creative and give them a treat!

By building a sense of friendship, fun and camaraderie you will look after the mental wellbeing of your staff and prevent them from feeling isolated. Teams that have fun together are more engaged and more productive. These teams also weather storms much better.

But don't worry - even if you feel this isn't something you've paid enough attention in the past - it's never too late start, and trying some fun, virtual activities is a great way to get the wellbeing ball rolling

For more information visit Corporate Away Days