Are You Having Fun With Your Remote Team? Part 1 of Best Practices for Remote Work
Updated: Apr 14
Now that many of us have settled into remote-work quarantine life routine, a couple of work trends are emerging:
People seem to be working more than ever (numerous recent studies highlight burnout as a major problem for 20-80% of work-from-home employees).
Many report feelings of loneliness and isolation from colleagues and miss the informal work interactions around the water-cooler.
As more companies extend their work-from-home policies (like Google, Twitter or Siemens) or go remote-first (like Shopify and Coinbase), they will need to think further about how to recreate some of the important social connections that previous work environments provided.
In a benchmark with six remote-first startups on how they create effective cultures, time and again, leaders and individual contributors in those companies highlighted the importance of quality bonding time. This means both face-to-face (through annual or quarterly retreats) and virtual interactions with various activities through which people can share common interests and get to know each other.
In his book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle talks about the importance of building safety through belonging, connection and identity:
"Successful leaders understand that humans are built to be all in or all out; there is no middle ground. Thus, they flood their groups with belonging cues."
One way to create a sense of belonging is through a shared experience.
Face-to-face can be quite challenging during these uncertain times, but there is an abundance of easy social interactions that can help your colleagues feel more together while being apart. Here are some examples I recently sourced from my network:
1. Start a meeting with a team exercise to get to know each other better:
Ask people to bring a photo that shows something that coworkers don't know about them
Play a fun-fact quiz when people share interesting facts about themselves anonymously and others have to guess the owner
Create a 5-minute "This is My Life" presentation to share with team members
Do an adult show-and-tell: favorite hobby, favorite memory, favorite trip, etc.
Here's a huge list of icebreakers in case none of the above speaks to you
2. Do an activity or take on a challenge together as a team
Team health challenge (stage a competition where people get points for things like meditating and drinking lots of water and lose points for excess alcohol and chocolate consumption)
Walk together during staff calls (one team walked over 150 miles together this way)
Do volunteer work (another team adopted an elderly care facility and does monthly video chats with seniors)
Learn something new as a group over Zoom (like: how to make gnocchi!)
Go on a virtual tour (like visiting a llama farm)
3. Setup a virtual water-cooler: reserve a regular weekly time slot when the company as a whole (depending on size) or individual teams can get together for an informal conversation and share a meal or a drink over Zoom or another video conference tool
4. Engineer new connections: Create a virtual nudge to help employees from different departments meet each other. There are various apps, like Donut, that can regularly match random employees and encourage them to set a time to chat more.
5. Play games together: during these crazy times, sometimes what people need is a fun distraction. There are many online games that will make adults regress to happy childhood within 5 minutes. You can either create your own activities like a work-from-home scavenger hunt, photo competition and trivia night, or use platforms/apps like Kahoot, Sporcle, Bunch (pretty cool game + video chat features) or Drawize (for the Pictionary lovers).
What about you, has your team done anything fun and/or really creative?