I’m going to ask something that might seem a little strange, but bear with me – are you having fun yet? 

Perhaps that isn’t a fair question to pose these days, but if the answer is a resounding “no,” I challenge you to think outside the box a bit – at least as it relates to working remotely.

Collectively, the reality is that many people who are hunkered down at home right now due to COVID-19 are feeling socially isolated – and maybe even stressed or a bit depressed. While no one is sure what’s next and how long this isolation will last, we all continue to press on with life and work.

Employees who are used to working in an office, but are now relegated to remote roles, might feel especially distant and disconnected from co-workers whom they normally see every day. But thankfully, there are many virtual communication mechanisms and resources available to help ease this burden and set employees up for successful remote work. Stress levels are high, anxiety is prevalent…but technology can come to the rescue.

There are many ways to lighten the mood – and hopefully even have a little fun – while teams are working remotely. Maintaining a semblance of the culture of your organization during this time of change and distancing might seem challenging, so I urge you as an HR professional to consider some virtual steps you can take to encourage interaction among your team, between departments, and even company-wide. This could even be an unconventional opportunity to improve your company’s culture.

Read on for some ideas on how to foster unity, promote laughter, and brighten the workday during this uncertain time.

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1. Hold virtual team lunches

If the culture of departments or groups of employees in your organization has traditionally been to have lunch together each day, consider setting up a virtual lunchtime during work hours where everyone can congregate on a video platform, eat together, and interact with one another.

Not only will this encourage social interaction, it could foster a greater sense of inclusiveness among employees who aren’t normally invited to lunch with certain groups. New friendships may be formed, ideas may be shared, and interdepartmental collaboration may be bolstered through the new connections made.

To take virtual lunches even further, consider having themes, sharing recipes, and getting creative – we’ve all heard of “taco Tuesdays,” so why not make it virtual? 

A word of caution: be mindful of different time zones. If most of your employees are on the east coast and only a few are on the west coast, perhaps send the west coasters a separate “brunch hour” invite for the same time slot instead.

2. Promote inclusion and team bonding with a question of the day

Effective communication is always critical, but it becomes even more essential during times of social distancing. Managers should consider taking the lead on posting a “question of the day” each morning on virtual communication platforms. Involve employees in coming up with questions to ask to promote inclusivity.

For example, my remote team has tackled questions such as “what is your favorite candy bar” and “if you were stuck on a desert island, what are your three must-have items?” Not only is this a fun and light-hearted way to start the day, it also helps employees get to know others on the team on a different level, learn about similarities, and celebrate differences.

3. Assess other virtual culture-building activities that might be a good fit

Here's a list of some other fun video activities you might try based on the employee composition and cultural norms at your organization: 

  • Tours of home offices 
  • Bringing your pets on camera 
  • Dress-up theme days (think: favorite sports jersey, everyone wears the same colors, company gear, etc.) 
  • Virtual scavenger hunts 
  • Play your favorite song 
  • Tell your favorite  joke (HR-approved, of course) 
  • State what you are grateful for today 
  • Tell a piece of good news
  • Introduce your children on camera

These are just some of the many ways you can keep building a community for your employees even when you're all working from home. I'm sure you can come up with even more ideas beyond the ones I just listed if you brainstorm a little.

Conclusion: Preserve the culture you have and keep building it remotely

Ultimately, my advice is to get creative in making remote work fun. Think of your in-person culture, your employee value proposition, and your company norms, and do your best to continue them virtually. Remember that perspective is everything and taking this time as an opportunity for your employees and your team to grow together through remote interaction will only strengthen your team when you return to in-person work and company norms.

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Published: Monday, March 30, 2020