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Twenty Employee Engagement Ideas To Connect Your Remote Team Through COVID-19

These are unprecedented times, not simply because none of us have experienced a virus shutting down the world and our economy before, but we have also never undergone a global shared experience quite like this. Our employees need us now more than ever. Taking the time to create opportunities for connection and support will help […]

These are unprecedented times, not simply because none of us have experienced a virus shutting down the world and our economy before, but we have also never undergone a global shared experience quite like this. Our employees need us now more than ever. Taking the time to create opportunities for connection and support will help your team, their families, and your organization navigate this surreal landscape stronger than ever. 

Before delving into the fun ways to support and connect your geographically distributed team, it’s important to lay the foundation. No team building exercise can repair a fractured employment relationship that is not built on strong communication and trust. Before all else, every employer must ensure they are embracing what I like to call the communication hat-trick

  1. Frequent communication – Communicate regularly. Now more than ever, your employees need to understand the support and programs available to them, as well as how the organization is being affected by this global emergency.
  2. Transparent communication – When connecting with employees via email, over the phone, or video chat, speak openly. Your employees deserve transparency. You can maintain a level of calm and confidence, while still being open and honest about the fact that nobody can predict how this will all play out. Trust is vital.
  3. Humanized communication – Lose the corporate-speak and communicate like a human experiencing a global pandemic. This is another opportunity to break down barriers and connect as people, regardless of hierarchy.

Now that we have the fundamentals covered, let’s dig into all the ways you can use this time to unite as a team and build a workforce that is stronger than ever.  

Team Building Ideas For Remote Teams

  1. Personal training sessions/yoga – Send out an internal casting call for fitness lovers open to leading a virtual class. Set up a schedule, share, and sweat as you come together as a team. From cardio to yoga, leverage internal talents to build wellness and community virtually.
  2. Family meet & greets – Consider a family get-together where you introduce families to one another. Kick it “Kardashian style” by conducting a round table and asking each child to share their “peak and pit” of this unprecedented time. You are bound to hear cheers of no school, endless video games, and heartfelt moments of family togetherness.
  3. Virtual happy hour – Wine a little, laugh a lot. We all need to decompress. A weekly team get-together with no talking shop and just some straight-up adulting can do a team some good. 
  4. Cooking show- Raise your hand if you are out of cooking ideas. You are not alone. There are now COVID meal planning Facebook groups popping up to help the culinary challenged. There are likely several members of the team who have mad skills in the kitchen. Consider a lunch and learn and spread the ideas and knowledge, not to mention nourish the need for connection in times of social distancing.
  5. Trivia contests – Who doesn’t love some friendly competition!?! Send out trivia with prizes to be raffled off each week. You can live stream the raffles on Instagram and Facebook. You can also have a “kids edition” and build employee pride throughout the entire family.
  6. Emotional wellness, meditation training, etc. – There is no better time than now for mindfulness and emotional wellness. Scout out employees knowledgeable about meditation, personal development, etc. and encourage them to lead a session.
  7. Pic of the week (kids and/or pets) – Bring the team together through capturing funny moments with kids and/or pets. Highlight the pic of the week on social media and award prizes to winners. 
  8. Designated “no meetings” hour/s – Carve out an hour or two where internal meetings are temporarily off the table. Employees are encouraged to use the time for homeschooling, self-care, or independent work. This small gesture shows you are putting the needs of your employees first.
  9. Scavenger hunts– Build scavenger hunts to unite the team. Capture and share the interesting findings!
  10. Talent sharing – Put out a casting call for hidden talents and showcase one per week. You can even build lunch and learns around what you discover (yoga, cooking, painting, etc.)
  11. Favourite band t-shirt day – Consider theme days such as wear your favourite band t-shirt day. Yup, that’s right. The perfect excuse to wear your jam band t-shirt to work! Yay!!!
  12. Good vibes sharing – Got good news? Great, share it on an internal social feed called “Good Vibes Only”. From community news to personal wins, it’s all about the silver linings right now.
  13. New hire team lunch – Send some love to the newbie with virtual team lunches. There is no question that now is a strange time to start a new job. It’s time to get over it and celebrate the power of technology. Book that team lunch and welcome your new family member in with virtual open arms.
  14. Spotify playlists – It’s time to build some serious playlists for the team. From reggae to jam bands, it’s all house music these days!
  15. Bingo – B4, during, and after this global emergency, the world loves Bingo. From custom cards to trolls and daubers, you can’t go wrong with bingo!
  16. Netflix watch parties – From binge-worthy TV shows to amazing movies, create another shared experience with a watch party. Be sure to select content appropriate for work.
  17. Book clubs – We’re tipping our hat to Oprah with a book club recommendation. This is also a great way to connect cross-functional teams with shared interests.
  18. Essential skills – Welcome to the world of YouTube haircuts! There are likely people internally that know a thing or two about the realities of our new normal like DIY hair-care, homeschooling, etc. Tap into their expertise and help your organization adapt.
  19. MTV cribs – Spent the last 4 months building your new kitchen? Got an amazing media room, nursery, etc? It’s time to show that baby off a la MTV Cribs style!
  20. MacGyver home office set-up awards – Necessity is the mother of invention! Show off awesome DIY home-office set-ups and let others learn from innovative thinking.

Being in the employer branding, content creation space, I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to take photos and build shareable content that can be repurposed across platforms. Not only will this help unite the broader team who may not have participated in a specific event, but it will also help tell your story. To paraphrase Mark Cuban, how organizations navigate these challenging times will define their brands for years to come. Use social media to help bring the team together, lead by example, and share your culture of people first even in the most challenging of times with the external world. Do so with a sensitivity towards the current landscape. Organizations that put their people first, help them adapt, and stay connected can help others learn to do the same. The outcome is a richer, more connected employee experience despite physical distance.

Most importantly, make the twenty ideas above voluntary. This is a challenging time for so many managing elder care, home-schooling, self-care, and illness in the family. Be sensitive to how a virtual happy hour is a nice-to-have that some may not be able to enjoy right now. This will mean a lot to those who need the time to manage other more pressing matters.

You can grow employee engagement even in challenging times. It takes effort, empathy, and compassion. There is no better time to focus on the employee experience.

Be safe. Be well. 

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