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How to be social when you’re distant

If you're wondering how to stay social while working from home, here are some activities we've found work well for the team.

Jo White · March 19, 2020
How to be social when you’re distant

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The majority of people reading this will have found themselves working from home and the novelty of being in your own environment may be drifting as you began to miss the social buzz of the office.

We all work remotely at some point at Capsule but we have a lovely city center office to go to for meetings or social interaction. Not having that central place at the moment is proving difficult for some of the team, so here’s what we’ve been doing to stay social with the remote team.

Zoom water cooler

We've set up a zoom call to run throughout the day for people to drop into whenever they feel like a chat. We’re trying to create those office moments of bumping into a colleague while you're making a drink. It’s been a nice way to connect face to face online at random times throughout the day.

It’s really easy to set up too. All you need is a licensed user to host and book a recurring meeting, making sure you enable ‘join before host’ so the host doesn’t have to be there all the time.

You can minimize the screen on your desktop and stay looped in all day if you like, handy if you're used to working in the communal area at work.

If you have a paid Zapier account account and you use Slack, you can link everything up so you get a Slack notification when someone pops into the water cooler. It saves people having to send a message if they're on their own. When it's set up it looks like this:

Here are some step by step instructions to set up notifications

  1. In Zapier choose ‘Make a Zap’ and the ‘Webhooks by Zapier’ app as Step 1
  2. Select ‘Catch Hook’ as the Trigger Event and click ‘Continue’
  3. Copy the ‘Custom Webhook URL’ to your clipboard
  4. In a new tab or window goto and sign in using your Zoom user details
  5. From the ‘Develop’ menu select ‘Build App’
  6. Create a ‘Webhook only’ app
  7. Enter a meaningful name for the app, e.g. ‘Water cooler notifications’
  8. Complete the required fields on the Basic Information screen then click 'Continue'
  9. On the ‘Add Feature’ screen toggle ‘Event Subscriptions’ on and then click ‘Add new event subscription’
  10. Give the subscription a meaningful name, e.g. ‘Participant Joined Events’ and paste the Zapier ‘Custom Webhook URL’ from your clipboard into the ‘Event notification endpoint URL’
  11. Next click ‘Add events’ under Event Types, check the ‘Participant/Host joined meeting’ event under the ‘Meeting’ Event Type and click 'Done'
  12. Click ‘Save’ on the Event Subscriptions screen then click 'Continue'
  13. Back in Zapier click ‘Continue’ on the Customize Hook screen. This will take you to the Find Data screen. Click ‘Test & Review’. Zapier will start waiting for an event
  14. Now join your water cooler Zoom call - this will trigger a webhook to Zapier which we can use as an example event to build the rest of the Zap. It’s OK to leave the Zoom call once Zapier shows a sample that contains the ‘payloadobjectid’ that matches your water cooler meeting ID.
  15. For Step 2 you’ll want to choose the ‘Filter by Zapier’ app - The webhooks set up in Zoom will send events for all meetings in your account. Use the filter to only pass through the events for the water cooler meeting.
  16. In 'Filter Setup & Testing', for the first box, select ‘Payload Object ID’. For the second box select ‘(Text) Exactly matches’. And for the third box enter the meeting ID for your water cooler without any spaces or dashes
  17. Finally for Step 3 choose the destination for your notification. At Capsule we use Slack

Online social

Once a month we get the whole team together online for a social and we’ve covered some of the games we’ve played in this blog. The one we've used most is Kahoot! as it is easy to set up and great fun to do.

Another is Jackbox. You simply buy a game and invite people in to play it. Some games have a limit on the number of people you can invite but any extras can usually be audience members and vote on answers. This video talks you through the easy set up. The games most highly recommended are:

Fibbage is a game similar to Balderdash (if you've ever played that), where you make up false answers to a trivia question and try to convince other players your lie is the truth.

Quiplash is a game where you say what you want. There are no rules or correct answers. Your answer goes head-to-head with another player and the winner is the one the audience votes to be the best. Simple and hilarious.

Civic Doodle is a creative game. Two players draw at once, adding bits to a simple starter drawing. Other players react to the drawings with on-screen emojis in real time. When time’s up, everyone votes on the best drawing, and the winner becomes the new “base drawing” that the next two players make additions to.

Stay connected to your community

If you can’t get out, there are community groups on facebook of course but the Nextdoor app focuses solely on your local area. Once signed up there’s a useful map that shows all the local people signed up. You can post messages to all your neigbors or just a selection and it’s a great way to stay connected and check everyone is OK.

Stay fit with free social workouts

There are a lot of live fitness streams at the moment, which are a fantastic way to release endorphins when you're stuck inside, even better when you know you're part of a global team doing it together. Here are a few the team have tried this week:

@thebodycoach, Joe Wicks is based in the UK and is doing a 30 minute workout each night on Instagram. It starts off steady then gets more advanced as the minutes progress. It’s free, just click on his account at 7am GMT each night. He's also doing a PE lesson every day at 9am GMT from Monday 23 March to keep our children fit too.

Daily Burn has a new live workout every day at 9am EST. They have a free 30 day trial and you can choose from a variety of strength, running, yoga, HIIT, and cardio classes.

If Yoga is your thing, Down Dog is free until April 1 and until July 1 for all students and teachers (K-12 and college). You get to choose where to focus the practice and for how long.

We'll be trying lots more things over the coming weeks and will share any stand out ideas we think you'll find useful. We'd love to hear how you're keeping up your team social life during these challenging times so please let us know.

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