Team leaders, internal communicators and HR professionals have had a tough gig lately. We need to build culture and shared experience, but the usual ingredients are off the menu. No Friday night drinks, no morning run club or even so much as a shared birthday cake.
Virtual events are all we have and these can be tricky, especially for new people. Different personality types respond better to certain approaches and it's hard to know what will work and what will waste time and money.
Here are eight ideas, many of which we have tried at WebVine, that are guaranteed to get a few laughs and minimise the awkward moments.
Get Your Hands Dirty
The WebVine team recently enjoyed a creative afternoon of pottery and discovered that squishing, pinching and rolling clay is the perfect antidote to Zoom fatigue. For knowledge workers who don’t often see a physical product of their labours, pottery can be extremely satisfying. We engaged the services of Crockd but you could easily do this yourself, just mail everyone the raw ingredients and have a play.
For smaller teams who might normally slide off to the pub on a Friday afternoon, a sophisticated option might be a whisky, gin or wine tasting. You might have a resident expert who is keen to lead the tasting, there are lots of options for tasting flights to mail out to the team: rum, whisky, negronis, espresso martinis… Why not dress up and make it a real event? At least no one has to drive home!
It’s a classic for a reason – trivia can be super fun and a great social lubricant. Remote work has the effect of shrinking networks, so try to create trivia teams to connect people who don’t speak every day. Make sure they also have different age groups to answer music and movie questions! You can find trivia question sets on YouTube, or there are Teams apps like Kahoot!, Mentimeter and Trivia that make it easy.
Engage the Right Brain
Another winner from the WebVine team was a drawing event. Guided by an experienced artist, we applied inexpensive charcoal and ink to paper and cardboard using found objects like sticks, toothbrushes and sponges. It quickly became apparent who had skills and who did not, but everyone enjoyed the process and appreciated the break from analytical thinking. It was fun seeing everyone’s creations and we were eventually able to put them on the office wall.
Why not take the laptop to the kitchen for a cooking tutorial? Cupcakes, pies, biscuits, macarons… anything that can be made in one session is suitable – leave the sourdough for the weekend. Use the Microsoft Teams spotlight feature to follow the chef and then switch it off to see what’s happening in everyone’s kitchen.
There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition, especially if your sales team is feeling a bit flat. In days past (like in our picture here), this activity could have you out collecting ferry tickets, finding obscure landmarks or taking photos with good-natured pedestrians. To keep it indoors you need to be a bit more creative with challenges around logical puzzle solving, recording songs, household item construction, scavenger hunts or physical challenges. There are some great facilitated options for this style of event but with a bit of imagination you can make up your own for free!
After several espresso martinis and a chocolate swiss roll cake, everyone will need a bit of exercise. Motivate some healthy outdoor action with a step tracker challenge. It can be as simple as reaching the highest number of steps in a day or you could introduce extra rules like all steps must be taken in the morning WIP or create teams to reach a charity donation together. You don't need a Fitbit, there are many step-tracking phone apps like Google Fit, Strava or Apple Health.
Team members’ birthdays or work anniversaries are a good reason to stop and connect. For every WebVine birthday, we create a personalised e-card with messages from each of us. Then we have a little morning or afternoon tea and read out our messages. Singing happy birthday with video delay is also very funny! Larger teams could send the card on the day but then have one event a month to celebrate birthdays and just catch up.
Maintaining communication and culture in a remote or hybrid work doesn’t have to be all special events. There are many things that can be included in day to day work processes to help people make connections. Check out our Human Connection and Remote Work infographic or for 16 more ideas, request the full report