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Hanging Out is Never a Waste of Time

Hanging Out is Never a Waste of Time

Personal or professional, unstructured time with others is vital to our relationships — in any medium.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one recently caught my ear. This episode of The Big Story featured Sheila Liming, author of Hanging Out: The Radical Power Of Killing Time who believes that hanging out in an unstructured way creates a culture of care among people.

Adulting, the pandemic, and a host of other realities have caused our connections to be scheduled, brief, and punctuated by "hard stops," which limit relationship building and the meaningful connections that we need from others. Liming encourages everyone to get back to connecting in-person and invest in relationships once again.

While I couldn’t agree more, in-person connections aren’t always possible. I believe there are ways to bring her suggestions about personal and social connections to life in a virtual and professional environment that creates a corporate culture of care too.

I work on an international team that rarely has the opportunity to connect in person. When we do meet live, we make it count by catching up on months of laughs and nuances that are hard to capture on screen. But day to day, we also employ some important tactics that keep us connected and thriving in the same unstructured ways that this podcast highlighted.

Here are three things our team does remotely that contribute to a corporate culture of care.

1) We pick up the phone.

"Got a sec?" is a message I often send on Teams or by text. Before I book a meeting or draft a detailed email, I ask myself “Could this be a phone call?” and if the answer is anything close to yes, I do that instead. Whether it’s an impromptu call or video chat, it’s often a faster way to get whatever info is needed, and it comes with added benefits as well.

With a scheduled conversation, you know exactly what the meeting is about and how much time you have, while an impromptu connection can lead in many directions. Calling someone out of the blue is a great excuse to ask what they are up to, and spend a few unplanned minutes digging in.

How is their day going? What are they working on? Maybe you’ve caught them in the middle of solving a problem that you can collaborate on. And as a 1:1 chat, you can check in on people’s mental health and personal lives in ways that aren’t always comfortable in a group setting.

These unstructured connections are exactly what Liming believes contribute to caring for others. Sure, you might have only called for a quick question, but the broader interaction you’ve enabled is what will take your relationship to the next level.

[Related: How Vulnerability in Leadership and Creating Psychological Safety Can Unlock True Potential in the Workforce]

2) We keep it casual.

On the podcast, Liming talks about the importance of casual social structures (like friend groups) in our lives. I believe that making our formal social structures (like workplace teams) feel more casual, contributes to a culture of care in any environment.

Even when our team holds scheduled meetings (and there are many), our casual vibe contributes to the culture of the team. As a team based in geographies the world over, we are never short on things to chat about off the top. A sandstorm in Dubai today? Thunder snow in Canada? Another rail strike in London? Before we get into the agenda, we check in on each other and the world around us.

Keeping things casual also means that even though we’re on camera, the vibe is often more "networking event" than "formal meeting." The dress code is casual. Someone always has a coffee in hand. There’s a dog or a child in someone’s background (often making their way to the forefront). While these are business meetings with clear outcomes and objectives, the "hanging out" vibe is part of what makes our team so effective, and keeps everyone feeling connected and cared for — even from afar.

[Related: How to Digitally Transform Your Company Successfully]

3) We care.

Liming makes the point that loneliness is on the rise, which makes casual connections and hanging out more important than ever. For those who work remotely, these connections can be harder to achieve, but are just as important.

While Liming’s work focuses on our social lives, I believe that work environments benefit from the same foundational dynamics. Your colleagues may not be your friends, but employing the same level of care and concern is a critical way to foster effective connections and achieve your collective goals.

When someone mentions an upcoming family event or milestone, I make a note of it and ask how it went next time we casually connect. Reminder features and calendar flags are simple ways to track birthdays, anniversaries, and personal milestones that team members share, and then acknowledge or celebrate them one-on-one or as a team. Caring for what’s going on in other people’s lives is part of what Liming suggests casual hang-outs foster, so when hanging out isn’t possible, it’s important to find other ways to achieve this important social dynamic.

For those who want to create meaningful relationships and a corporate culture of care, hanging out is never a waste of time. Bringing a casual and caring dynamic into unstructured connections and day-to-day ways of working has kept our team vibing — and thriving.

What does your remote team do to stay connected and create a culture of care? Be sure to share your tips below!

[Related: Millennials Want a Healthy Work-Life Balance. Here's What Bosses Can Do.]


Miranda Steele is a strategic business leader and passionate communicator known to lead high-performing teams to exceptional results in fast-paced, creative, and ever-changing environments. She has extensive experience leading communications strategy, managing issues, driving stakeholder engagement, and developing executive profiles. She is a tireless protector and driver of brand reputation.

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