The Coronavirus drastically changed the way we live, interact and work. Non-essential businesses have forcibly been closed and innovations on how to conduct business and work keep emerging. Telecommuting was glorified and took everyone by storm.
A survey by Owl Labs, (2020) gave insights to the state of remote work in the United States. Findings were that in the pandemic, close to 70% of full time workers are working from home. Post-pandemic, 80% of those surveyed expect to work at least 3 days from home per week. With these numbers, it is quite evident that this work setup is favored even when things get back to normal. If it will ever be.
While it is easy to see how rewarding working from home can be, we cannot deny the fact that it can get monotonous at times especially when you are doing the same thing daily without the element of human interaction which supposedly helps ease the feeling of loneliness when it is just inexplicably rough. Employees from home might miss Friday night cocktails downtown or a simple deli lunch down 4th Avenue. It is the interactions between these scenarios that are just hard to imitate in the virtual world. It just does not feel the same virtually.
Social interactions play an essential role in wellbeing, which, in turn, has a positive impact on employee engagement. Organizations with higher levels of employee engagement indicated lower business costs, improved performance outcomes, lower staff turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents (Gallup, 2015).
This is why human resource departments continuously come up with unconventional ways to make room for employee engagement. When employees are given an avenue where they can have fun, interact and collaborate, even virtually, the happier and more loyal they can be. Hosting a virtual event is a great way to give a total employee experience. Here are a few tricks to jumpstart your next meetings:
1. Lunch time raffle
Break the ice by starting small with a little lunch time raffle. Start your event by doing a check-in, let the employees share their struggles, questions, dilemmas, accomplishments, new series on Netflix they are up to or anything they just want to share. With this, you can establish an environment where their voices can be heard and listened to. Once the check-ins are done, you can announce your prize. Prizes do not always have to be expensive, it could be a small car wash money, a coffee coupon or a $15 iTunes gift card. Then set your random name picker platform, share the screen, and take it for a spin. Schedule a lucky pick at least once a week and post the “lottery” winner on your work chat. A little prize and recognition can go a long way.
2. Art gallery and chardonnay o’ clock
When it all gets too stressful, find an emotional release. One way to do it is through art. Art is a great stress reliever. The brush strokes, color and its creation can generate a state of “flow” which can be restorative in different ways. It is a perfect distraction from stress and anxiety. For this, you might need to pre-announce that everyone joining the next meeting should make something out of a copy paper. It could be a drawing, sketch or slogan that follows a theme. Make sure that the theme is interesting and something that can indirectly reveal their current mental state. At the virtual meeting, ask everyone to share their work while they are seated comfortably with a glass of wine like you would in an art gallery. You may also call random names so they can comment on their peer’s work. Let them explain what they made, take a group photo with their artworks and post it on a platform where everyone can see. Art, wine and a speech form a triple threat as all these are known to relieve mental strain. It is also a good setting for everyone to just have fun and have a great time.
3. Host a murder mystery Zoom party
Send out invitations to a Zoom meeting. You can also ask your colleagues to be in their formal dinner attire. Prior to the meeting, get yourself, as the host, your murder mystery package and analyze the game. Then, launch the game. Encourage everyone to formally introduce themselves in character. Afterwhich, they will work together to solve a fictional murder that occurs in the “party”. Moments later, you can ask everyone to jot their guesses on a paper and show it on screen at the count of three. In unveiling the fictitious murderer, ask him or her to announce in the same meeting after all speculations have been aired out. This type of event allows for recreational remote collaboration and will reinforce the importance of effective communication, logic and critical thinking. It also helps in improving memory and cognition, boosts productivity and strengthens relationships.
These are only a few virtual event ideas among the many that can be utilized in your next meeting. You can actually tailor your own depending on the area you wish to develop; just do not forget that each must foster a sense of belongingness and camaraderie to build stronger bonds between you and your colleagues or employees. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing that there is a support system that cares for how we feel is more than enough comfort and heals more than the warmth of a hug.