The Importance Of Rituals In The (Remote) Workplace

You’ve probably got at least a few rituals in your office, or at least, you did, before the pandemic.

Maybe you had an employee named Bob who brought doughnuts in for everybody and just left them in the break room, first come, first serve, or maybe you’re ‘Bob,’ and left the doughnuts there for your employees to enjoy.

It could be that once a month, you cater lunch in and everybody gets to enjoy a little sandwich and small talk on the house, or even something smaller scale than that, where people pass each other in the hall, or meet up by the water fountain to talk for a minute or two about the day’s events, sometimes related to work, and sometimes not.

Every day, there are scores of these little rituals taking place in every office in the country, or again, there were, at least until the pandemic shut most of that down.

The thing is, rituals like that are incredibly important.  They tie us together, and they make employees feel welcome and a part of something special when they’re in an environment where there are lots of rituals like that and they get to take part in them on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has sent tens of millions of people home to work, and when you’re at home, you’re not only cut off from the general hum and buzz of the office, but you’re denied access to those rituals too.

That matters because not being able to take part in those things is one of the big reasons why remote employees tend to have lower morale and productivity than their in-office peers.  Significant percentages of remote employees report feeling lonely, disconnected and cut off from their peers. Is it any real surprise then, that those feelings lead to lower productivity and eventually, in many cases, serve as the spark that leads to a search for greener pastures?

The good news is that this is an entirely fixable problem.  Since the workers can’t come into the office any more, it’s just a matter of bringing those rituals to them.  Granted, you’ll have to bring them their daily dose of ritual goodness remotely, but we’ve now been meeting and organizing and collaborating together remotely for several months, and most employees have adapted to the new reality, so adding rituals in this way shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Why not create a company forum and encourage your employees to gather there?  Or perhaps set up a private channel on whatever messaging service you’re using for videoconferencing and remote meetings and allow your employees a pretty free hand in gathering there and talking about whatever they like.

Remote meal times are also a possibility, where each person can bring a snack or a meal and a beverage of choice to hang out for maybe half an hour to chat with colleagues.

These kinds of things can be done simply by leveraging technology you already have and are already using; you’re simply using them in a slightly different way, and there’s no harm in that.  In fact, from the perspective of your employees, there may be a tremendous amount of good in it.

Give them the space and watch them create their own, new rituals.  When they do, you’ll also see an improvement in moral and productivity, and that’s a big win for everyone.