7 holiday-inspired remote team engagement strategies

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Teams are the bedrock of most modern businesses, but building a strong, cohesive team where everyone feels heard is difficult even under the best circumstances. If your team works remotely or includes remote members, creating that powerful team bond is even more challenging. As the holidays approach, now is the perfect time to bring your remote team together no matter how far away individual members live. Announcing a few holiday-inspired team engagement activities can help your team members bond and spring into the new year stronger and more connected than ever.

Remote teams are on the rise

Managing remote teams is a challenge that won’t be going away anytime soon. According to an analysis performed by Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people working remotely from 2005 to 2017 increased an incredible 159 percent. Currently, 4.7 million people work remotely in the United States, and that number is only predicted to grow.

While remote working offers a slew of benefits to companies – happier employees, less turnover, greater employee pool—it also presents several unique challenges. One of the toughest is how to create a cohesive team when members may live in different zip codes, different states, or even different companies. Developing team chemistry is something that happens gradually, and remote workers can’t exactly catch up over the water cooler or chat at each other’s desks. For these reasons, it can be easy for remote workers to feel isolated and disconnected from their coworkers in spite of today’s many team management apps.

That simply means managers need to take extra steps to bring their teams together and help bridge the digital divide. It can be done, and the holidays are the perfect time to try. (Take a look at our Essential remote team management tips to increase productivity.)

A quick note about cultural sensitivities

The holidays are a wonderful time to share and highlight traditions, but they can also be culturally tricky, especially if your remote team members come from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. As you develop holiday-themed team engagement activities, make sure to be inclusive of different beliefs and avoid the assumption that everyone celebrates the same holidays as you or in the same ways.

With that quick warning out of the way, here are our six favorite holiday-flavored remote employee engagement activities.

1.      Ugly holiday sweater video meeting

Today’s video conferencing software makes it easy to bring your employees together no matter where they live. (Just make sure you get all the time zones correct!) Set an all-hands-on-deck video conference and then add a holiday twist. Encourage all of your employees to wear an ugly holiday sweater to the meeting. Give each member the spotlight so they can show off their sweater, and then ask your team members to vote for the winner. Reward the winner for their creativity with a handy gift card or the hot new tech item of the year. If your team members need a little creative nudge, send them this great article from Good Housing with 31 Brilliantly Ugly Christmas Sweaters to Buy or DIY.)

2.      What’s your holiday tradition?

A simple-yet-effective team engagement strategy is to get your remote team together on a meeting and ask each person to tell a story about their family’s unique holiday traditions. This is a great activity for new teams where the members may not know each other well. This question lets each member talk about their family as well as the traditions of their belief and their community. You may be surprised by what you learn about the members of your team, and these stories can help team members appreciate their commonalities as well as their differences.

3.      Stream a holiday movie

If your team has done a great job this year, cut the workday short and invite them to jump on a group video conference. Give them a list of famous holiday movies and have the team vote on their favorite one. (Here’s a list of 75 great holiday movie options to choose from.) Stream the winning movie for everyone to watch. Keep the comm lines open, so people can react to the movie.

This is a laid-back and easy team engagement activity that everyone will love.

4.      Holiday trivia quiz

There’s nothing like a little competition to bring people together. Put together a list of holiday questions and then divide your remote workers into teams. (Here are 50 Christmas trivia questions to get you started.) Bring everyone together on a video call and put them to the test. Software like Poll Everywhere Competitions allows your team members to instantly answer questions using their phones or tablets. Just make sure to offer up a tantalizing prize to make sure everyone gives it their all. This team engagement activity creates lots of laughs and plenty of competitive spirit.

5.      Secret Santas

Who says you have to work in the same office in order to do a secret Santa with your team? A secret Santa gift exchange is a great way to spread the joy with a touch of mystery to your remote team. It also forces your team members to learn about each other. The key to pulling this off is to give your employees plenty of time to plan, assemble, and mail their gifts. Also, make sure to factor shipping costs into your maximum cost amount. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to put in place a mailing deadline and to send plenty of reminders so everyone ships off their gifts with time to spare. On the appointed day, gather the troops on a video conference call and perform a public unwrapping.

6.      Fly your remote workers into the office

If you want to be very generous this holiday season, fly all your team members to the home office to celebrate the holidays together. There really is nothing like face-to-face contact to help a team gel. Buying a couple of plane tickets and a few hotel rooms can be well worth the money if it breaks the ice between team members. The shared experiences and good vibes your in-person holiday celebration creates could help your team work even better in the new year. A happier, more cohesive team means a better work result for you! (Learn about 5 companies that excel at employee engagement.)

7.      Host a remote gift card exchange

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Host a remote gift card exchange that everyone can participate in! A gift card exchange is a fun and inclusive way to celebrate the holidays together and allow your in-office employees to mingle with remotes. To start, set a minimum gift card value and have each participant bring a digital gift card of their choice.

Pro tip: Ask your team to only purchase from stores that sell online (like Etsy) or have locations everywhere (like PizzaHut). Encourage participants to find the most unique or creative gift cards!

Choose a day and time to hold the gift card exchange. After a monthly meeting or during the company holiday party work well.

Here’s how we host a remote gift card exchange at Poll Everywhere:

  • Before the game starts, remind participants not to reveal their card until they are chosen and that they cannot choose their own cards.
  • Each participant is randomly assigned a number. Use Poll Everywhere’s clickable image poll type to hide random numbers behind pictures or emojis and have participants pick one. (Copy to your account here).
  • Number one chooses a team member and their gift card is revealed.
  • Number two either chooses number one’s gift or a surprise card from the pool of available options.
  • This continues until everyone has selected a gift card. Each individual can steal from anyone who has a revealed card or choose one of the surprise cards.

Once the gift cards have all been revealed and have found new homes, the purchaser of the gift card will send the card to the recipient with a nice message. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the exchange! Have a set theme or category (i.e. food retailers only, self-improvement software, a subscription service). This exchange is a great way to enjoy the holidays with your coworkers and make amazing memories.

Any one of these holiday-themed team engagement activities will help your remote team bond in new and positive ways. These activities will humanize your team members, allow them to spend time with each other outside of project work, and give them space to discover commonalities. When team members connect, they feel greater loyalty to each other and a higher motivation to support the team. So, start planning your next holiday-themed activity today. At Poll Everywhere we can help.