How To Create Human Connection During Online Meetings

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The #workplace teams I consult with are driving extra hard to perform in this challenging environment.  They stay on task. However, I do get glimpses of stresses around parents’ health concerns, kids online schooling road blocks and other unfathomable challenges around working remotely.  This is unchartered terrain. 

As these stresses bleed into our daily work, it becomes increasingly apparent that virtual employees no longer have a forum to talk about and work through what they are experiencing.  Pre-pandemic, they could grab a cup of coffee with co-workers in the lounge and kick around their daily challenges.  Today, for many of us, that forum is gone.

They clearly want to share with their peers what they are experiencing.  However, jumping into a meeting and telling their stories may be uncomfortable and frankly not welcomed given the work tasks at hand.  This is why I have added opportunities for employees to share their triumphs, challenges, and even the mundane, as part of day-to-day meetings.  Any of us leading meetings can incorporate places where the team can interact.

 Here are three examples from virtual meetings I have led:

  • As a meeting kick off, I challenged project team members to show something from their home office.   We soon found ourself viewing a home workout area being built, some favorite family pets and even a half-eaten lunch. 
  • As part of a manufacturing plant leadership team, we explored the challenges that they are facing with their workforce given the pandemic.  Leaders shared stories and tips and techniques for helping employees who are struggling.
  • Team members talked about what they have learned about themselves from the pandemic.  The responses included funny stories about finding out that that their families despised their cooking.  Other discoveries included moving accounts of reuniting with family members that had formerly been distant.

These shared stories may seem small.  However, when people are staring at a computer screen all day, followed by being homebound by night, these very human interactions can take on expanded meaning.

The benefits are numerous.  Employees feel that they have been heard.  Peers have benefited from knowing that they are not alone.  Practical ideas for resolving challenges have been shared. 

Let’s be honest. At this point, even if all we do is help employees experience a sense of workplace normalcy, that is a job well done!

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.


Published by Kevin Anderson, Dr. Organizational Design (OD)

Kevin Anderson is a leading expert in organizational design and performance, leadership, large scale change projects, business process engineering and talent and culture initiatives. Kevin has over twenty five years of experience in designing and delivering high impact, global organizational solutions. He is a Senior Organizational Development Consultant at Cargill where he leads efforts around team effectiveness, organizational design, culture and change management. Kevin diagnoses, proposes and delivers solutions in the Talent Performance domain. He has also created and rolled out Leadership Development and Organizational Development for the City of Minneapolis. Before that Kevin successfully worked with Accelare consulting health care, retail and university clients to create actionable strategic plans. In addition, he has served as an organizational development leader at Thomson Reuters working with legal, financial and scientific products. Kevin has a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development and a Masters of Arts in Public Policy and Management from the University of Minnesota. His Bachelors Degree in Speech Communications and Political Science is from Macalester College.

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