Bridging the Gap Between Departments – COVID-19 Style

Organizations have a common goal of success, but departments also have their own set of goals to achieve the company’s overall goal. These can lead to competing interests or worse, departmental silos. This is why interdepartmental communication is key but throw a global pandemic into the mix and it can make things difficult. In traditional work settings, relationships can develop organically through eating lunch with coworkers, coffee breaks, in person meetings, etc.; but how can we foster similar trust in a remote working environment?

As someone who has worked remotely for five years with teams who spent their time together in the office, I have noted that relationship building and strong communication between departments is something that has to be done intentionally in a remote setting. I want to share some thoughts on how to continue healthy relationships in these unprecedented times.

Being intentional with these interactions may look different for everyone, but departments can do what works best for them. When possible, try building in a few minutes of social time into your calls or meetings. This offers a great opportunity to build or maintain relationships while developing trust in daily activities. It can also be as simple as turning on your camera on during a Zoom meeting, calling a coworker rather than emailing, instant messaging over the course of several hours or replicating social time in the office in a remote setting can all go a long way. Activities off the clock such as Zoom call happy hours, remote cocktail classes with a bartender from your local happy hour spot, a remote book club, etc. are also great opportunities to connect with your coworkers on a deeper level.

Another way to maintain strong interdepartmental communication is to have a position or person who maintains responsibility for bringing the departments together. This role can also serve as an intermediary when departmental goals conflict and the parties need reminded of the perspective of others or of the overall goal of the organization.

When coworkers work towards trusting relationships, it is easier for all to remember that everyone shares the same goal. With the sturdy foundation that you have created together, it is easy to figure out that people’s intentions are generally good and you are all working toward common success for the organization.

The bottom line is that when departments win and work together, the organization wins. While this concept is not new, the strategies needed to achieve this in the current environment need to be rethought and more intentional than ever.