People Ops’ priorities have quickly shifted since the beginning of the year. The health and wellbeing of employees is the top concern for many People Ops professionals right now, and managing remote work is a close second. People Ops professionals are compiling health resources, activating employee assistance programs, updating remote work policies, and sourcing the right tools for a remote workforce, among other things.
With so many of us in crisis mode as we adjust to life during a pandemic, it’s easy to overlook the little things that could enhance the virtual employee experience. Promoting a little bit of fun could do wonders to decrease employee stress, which is known to have a positive impact on health. It can also help employees transition to the (sometimes lonely) world of remote work.
15 ways to brighten spirits and enhance the virtual employee experience:
1. Virtual happy hours
Wind down at the end of the week by hosting a team happy hour on Zoom or Google Hangouts. Each employee can grab their own drink of choice and transition into the weekend. Try to keep groups on the small side by organizing different happy hours by department, or randomizing groups of people from throughout the company. This can also be combined with other ideas below, such as a game of Pictionary, if you want to have an ice breaker.
2. “Take your Family to Work” Day
As many of us have learned during Shelter in Place, kids love interrupting virtual meetings to say hi (or ask the parent to come wipe their butt). Host a virtual “Take your Family to Work” Day to get to know your employees’ children (and partner). Invite them to participate in a craft, meet their parents’ (or partners’) colleagues, and discuss the latest episode of Paw Patrol.
3. Pet parade
Get your pets all dolled up and introduce them to your colleagues. You could even vote for the best dressed pet, and the best dressed pet and owner combination. Cat owners: please use caution.
Host a game of trivia, where one person comes up with the questions and all other employees write down their own answers and track their score. You could even do a multiple choice, where each employee answering can hold up a card to indicate their answers. The winner then becomes the quizmaster for the following week.
5. Game night
Host a game night (or afternoon). Pictionary is great for small groups of employees. You can use a random word generator, and either draw on a piece of paper taped to the wall or on a virtual whiteboard. You could play a game of hangman on skribbl.io, or try Jeopardy, Family Feud, Bingo, or Wheel of Fortune. And Jackbox has several party games that employees can play from their smartphones.
6. Escape room
Introduce a little friendly competition with an escape room challenge. Beat the Lock Escape Room has gone virtual for remote team-building. This is great for larger teams, as they can accommodate up to 120 people at once.
7. Scavenger hunt
Host a virtual scavenger hunt, asking employees to take pictures of things found in their house or neighborhood, then invite everyone for a show and tell via Zoom or Slack. This might include: something homemade, oldest technology device in their house, favorite junk food, SWAG, their desk, the view from their desk, or their most used household item.
8. Daily theme Slack channel
Create a Slack channel with a different theme each day. One day might be for Netflix recommendations, while another could be for your scavenger hunt. Run contests for best work-from-home set-up, best dinners, or funniest jokes. You could also do a recipe exchange, or Quarantine Memes.
9. Donut Slack integration
Donut is a Slack app that matches people up and encourages them to meet virtually or in-person. You can set the group size, frequency, and introduction message, and add conversation starters to help employees break the ice. Employees can then set up virtual coffee meetups, remote team lunches, or peer mentorship programs. Again, this can be combined with other fun ideas on this list like a virtual trivia get-together.
10. Online workouts
Virtual workout classes, like online yoga, can be a fun way to de-stress as a group. You could use free fitness classes on YouTube, ask an employee to lead a workout, or hire an instructor to lead a live workout. You could even keep it quick (or not) with a Zoom plank challenge or burpee challenge.
11. Quarantine plants
Mail each of your employees a little pot with soil, and a packet of seeds, to grow a plant. Compare your plants each week, and plan to bring them into the office when Shelter in Place orders have been lifted.
12. Bake some fun into the meetings you’re already having
Show up to your next meeting with a fun costume or funny shirt, or invite your entire team to dress up with a common theme (wacky hat, power clash, disco inferno). You could even use your favorite vacation spot, dream home, or movie set as your Zoom background.
13. House tours
Create your very own “MTV Cribs” show and invite employees to give video tours of their homes. Bonus points if someone can edit the videos to create a “TV episode” for employees to watch later.
14. Book club
Create an office book club, and pick titles that can be found in eBook form through your local library or other online channels. Decide as a team whether you’d like to stick to work-related books, fiction, or a combination of genres.
15. Talent show
Book an online talent show to get to know your colleagues better—and have some fun entertainment. Employees may want to play an instrument, cook something, or create some artwork. You may even uncover talent to lead another fun virtual employee event, like a paint night.
Final thoughts on enhancing the virtual employee experience
Many of us are under a lot of stress, and a little fun can lighten the mood and help life feel more “normal” right now. Poll your employees to see what kinds of activities they may be interested in, make them optional, and try to be inclusive. Keep in mind that your more introverted employees may not be interested in things like a talent show, and working parents may not be able to attend after-hours activities. Offer a variety of ways to enhance the virtual employee experience, in addition to other initiatives that will help support your employees during this time.