Remote-work flexibility has become increasingly popular over the last year, and has presented itself as a new “normal” of corporate job culture – according to Gartner, demand for remote work is set to increase by 30% by 2030. While there are many benefits to working from home, one frequently-cited issue among top-level executives and leadership is the difficulty of managing company culture and expectations. Working independently in different time zones can cause social friction and Zoom fatigue across remote workers. There is no go-to space for casual conversations, water cooler chats and team bonding activities, given that virtual meetings are typically saved for important work-related discussions.
To avoid the aforementioned pain points of remote-work, make time for virtual team bonding activities to ensure that your remote employees and colleagues stay engaged and connected. A study by Gartner shows that employee engagement reduces absenteeism by 41% and increases profitability by 21%. With this data in mind, below are some creative ways to engage your remote workers and improve team bonding:
Host a fashion show with fresh company merchandise
Because who doesn’t love free company swag? A fun and inclusive way to foster connection among virtual teammates is to provide company and/or department-specific t-shirts to wear during all-hands meetings, team bonding events or new-hire onboardings. Send the shirts (or whatever apparel you chose) as a way to celebrate a successful year or to simply show appreciation for your remote teams’ hard work. After everyone receives their shirt, schedule a meeting for everyone to show off their new swag – this provides a great opportunity for a group photo, OR even better: a fashion show.
Pick a theme and challenge your team to take the most creative selfie using their new t-shirt. Compile the selfies into a slide deck, present them at your next meeting and have your remote team vote for their favorite selfie using Poll Everywhere. Outfit and photo themes to try:
- Business casual
- Work from home glam
- 80’s or 90’s fashion
- High school yearbook photo
- Dress like your role model
Find a fun virtual class or workshop
Virtual meetings and presentations can be mentally draining, and we all know those awkward Zoom happy hours are starting to get repetitive. It’s time to reconsider how to actively engage employees with your company culture.
An excellent way to engage your remote team is to provide them with a new skill or tangible takeaway via a workshop or class. AirBnB and OnZoom Experiences offer unique, memorable and entertaining virtual team events that allow colleagues to spend time together on enjoyable activities outside of work. Below are a handful of remote workshops to consider, some vetted by our own Poll Evians:
- How to be a magician with David (pictured above)
- Think on the spot with improv acting classes
- Happy accidents with Bob Ross paint nights
- Become a mixology master
Engage asynchronously with debatable poll questions
Controversial ice breaker questions are a surefire way to facilitate conversation and get your team talking after months of working apart from each other. Instigate some friendly banter by sending your team a poll in Slack or Microsoft Teams or send a response link to get answers asynchronously. From there, present the results and debate live at your next virtual meeting or hangout. Prepare for silly yet heated debates if you use any of the below ideas:
- Please rank the following foods from most sandwich to least sandwich. 🥪
- Please rank the following french fry types based on your preference.
- Which way do you place the toilet paper?
- What are your thoughts on TikTok? Would you use it?
- What is your favorite “weird” food combination?
- Do you think pineapple belongs on pizza?
Gamify your regular meetings with Competitions
Competitions are often used for dedicated trivia nights and virtual happy hours, but have you leveraged them at the start of your regular meetings? Here at Poll Everywhere, we kick off every workday with a company-wide standup meeting where we share upcoming releases and general announcements. Historically, our standups were very routine and rarely over 3 minutes. In 2021, our People Ops team has taken the initiative to revive our daily standups by trickling in mini-engagements, such as bite-sized trivia Competitions about random topics. A regular Competition typically has 6-8 questions, but mini-Competitions can be 2-3 questions long with a shorter duration to encourage quick responses. (Read more: Competitions from Getting started with Poll Everywhere.)
Incorporating Competitions early in the morning can set a positive, uplifted tone and energy for the day. Many Poll Evians look forward to morning standup Competitions because they help us learn new things about each other and connect more authentically. One Poll Evian said it best after winning a Competition recently: “I feel so alive!”
Coffee in my kitchen
In-person chats around the water cooler seem like a distant, faraway memory for most companies. Poll Evians used to trickle into the office kitchen every morning, prepare their coffee and hangout with colleagues from different departments before standup. These days, working remotely makes it hard to spend time with coworkers who aren’t part of your immediate team.
Our People Ops team identified these pain points and gathered feedback using Poll Everywhere’s Survey tool, then went back to the drawing board to find a solution. They ideated “Coffee in my Kitchen,” a biweekly casual morning hangout with no specific agenda or structure other than to, you guessed it, hangout! Here’s how it works:
- Every other Friday, schedule a 30 minute AM Zoom meeting open to the entire company.
- As people trickle into the virtual meeting room, use breakout rooms to divide people into smaller groups.
- Provide prompts as conversation starters if needed.
- When the 30 minutes are up, bring everyone back into the main room and go about the rest of your day!
Poll Everywhere’s Coffee in my Kitchen program is so enjoyable and successful because of how completely voluntary and laid back it is. There are no expectations or agendas during Coffee in my Kitchen other than to be ourselves and partake in some much-needed, genuine human interaction. Coffee in my Kitchen is one of the easiest ways to replicate casual water cooler chats virtually, and is a great program to consider if your organization will offer permanent remote work.
If you really want to elevate your Coffee in my Kitchen program, consider sending a coffee or tea set for your virtual team to try together at your next session.
What are your thoughts on these virtual team bonding ideas and activities? At Poll Everywhere, we value authentic employee engagement and scaling our company culture even while operating remotely. We hope that our product can help others do the same. At Poll Everywhere, we value employee engagement and scaling our company culture even with a remote team. If you try any of these engagement ideas, share it with us on Twitter (@polleverywhere) and LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you!