Over the past week I've had ex-colleagues reaching out to ask what we're doing to keep staff engaged during the lockdown. It occurred to me that jotting our plans down and sharing them may be helpful to anyone looking for ways to boost their team’s wellbeing during these extraordinary times.
At MPULL (now merging with The B2B Marketing Lab to become Huble Digital), we have a Staff Experience Committee that meets monthly. Their sole mandate is to build team spirit and contribute to making MPULL/Huble Digital a great place to work.
With the lockdown in SA, we’ve become a 100% remote workforce. While the daily work of the company continues without a hitch, we’re no longer able to enjoy those daily, informal interactions that help us connect with each other as people — like those quick morning chats around the coffee machine and many of our team are also quarantined alone. So, the Staff Experience team met last week to brainstorm ways to pivot on their annual calendar (compiled in the days before COVID-19!) and to plan a series of virtual events to keep us connected as a team, and interacting on a personal level.
With the recent merger, our team now includes staff based in South Africa, the UK, Germany and Singapore. It turns out that this remote programme is also a great way to start introducing the different teams to each other in a fun virtual environment.
Here’s what we’ve planned — feel free to use these ideas as thought starters, and as activities that connect the team at your own company:
Every 2nd month, we host an event called ‘Mystery Dinners.’ We pick two restaurants around a theme, and keep them a secret up until the day of the event. Staff try to guess the venue through a set of clues released in the lead up to the event. They also only find out who they’re dining with when they arrive at the venue! It’s a great way to get the team to mingle with colleagues they may not usually socialise with.
During the lockdown, we’re hosting mystery Zoom events instead. A few different Zoom links get shared amongst the team randomly, after our virtual staff meeting on a Friday. Once everyone has “arrived” (and found out who they’re playing with), they’re introduced to the rules of a game or activity to enjoy over a beer or glass of wine. For our first ‘Remote Wine(d) Down’ we played an online version of ‘Cards Against Humanity.’ Check out some other card games you can play virtually as a team, here.
Virtual Group Exercise Sessions
We’re arranging regular online exercise sessions for staff to attend together over Zoom. Think yoga, Pilates, fitness workouts, meditation, etc. Some classes may be “live” and led by an instructor in real time, while others are pre-recorded sessions we’ve found online. For example, we’ve been chatting to Yanna Romano of Emerge, who offers daily live online yoga classes. She used to instruct us at the office once a week, and migrating online was a great way to maintain a personalised team wellness program with her. Here are some other resources we’ll be tapping into:
- Fitness Blender has loads of free workout videos, as well as yoga and Pilates
- This Goop blog post has a comprehensive list of great streaming workout resources
- Meditation classes are also an effective way to beat stress. Find free classes at My Virtual Meditation, or tap into Tara Brach's pandemic resources page for free guided meditations and talks that focus on remaining mindful during the pandemic
- Contact your gym! Many, like Virgin Active SA, are creating resources to help their members continue their daily workouts at home
Many companies and institutions have opened up free virtual sessions of their offering for online viewing during lockdowns across the world. These are a few of our favourites that you can attend as a team, or alone:
- Virtual museum tours: Timeout.com and The Guardian each list more than a dozen inspiring tours of world-class museums and their rarely-seen collections
- Live streamed game drives: Tune in daily for a sunrise or sunset game drive with LiveEarth, on their YouTube channel. Live streams are recorded, so you can enjoy some game spotting at your leisure, if either 06h00 (CAT) or 16h00 (CAT) don’t suit your schedule
- Live streamed concerts: Classicfm.com has a comprehensive list of orchestras and concert halls sharing classical music concerts during lockdown
- Live streamed theatre and more: Timeout.com is a great place to find more than just museum tours — their listings include theatre shows and city views, amongst others. And we love how they’ve changed their logo to read “Time-In” for a while!
More resources and ideas
- Virtual cooking classes:
We’re hosting a ‘Don't Come Dine With Me’ virtual cooking class this week! One of our team has a brother who chefs at a local wine farm, and he’s agreed to host our first class. We’ll be sharing an easy recipe ahead of time, which uses simple ingredients people are likely to have at home. On the night, we’ll connect over Zoom and cook together under his guidance (and the kind of banter that flows with a lot of wine!). Remember: You don’t need a chef to lead class — any staff member could share their favourite recipe, or you could tap into online resources too. Check out:
- Remote movie nights:
Why not pick a movie or series to enjoy together as a team? Here are two options:
- Online games and online team game leagues:
- Thenextweb.com lists a range of online games you can play with friends and colleagues
- Meet the team on HouseParty app and play quick games like Heads Up, Trivia, Quick Draw and Chips and Guac
- If your team includes a sizeable number of dedicated gamers, why not set up a Minecraft realm, or form a guild in World of Warcraft? PlayStation and Xbox also has a great selection of single-session games that can be played virtually with others
- Playingcards.io has games like Checkers, Go Fish, Match Up, Crazy Eights and Remote Insensitivity (a.k.a. Cards Against Humanity)
- The US version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire is now available to play free online
- Virtual team building:
Miro.com and Museumhack.com have both shared great lists packed with activities that help remote teams break the ice and get to know each other
- Online book club:
Start your own virtual online book club with colleagues, friends and family or dive into these resources here
- Online pub quizzes:
We’ve hosted our own pub quiz before, and threw in questions specifically related to our company and industry. This was heaps of fun! These resources help you create your own quiz or point you to a remote-hosted event:
- Techrader.com lists a great live online quiz for every day of the week
- The DailyMail.co.uk shares some questions you could use at your own event
- Find an extensive list of live quiz events here that are based on a range of themes like The Lord of the Rings, Disney, and 90s trivia
By working together we can support everyone in getting through these uncertain times with a bit more fun, and lots more human interaction. We would love to hear your ideas as well! What are some things your company is doing to keep staff engaged and happier during this time? Get in touch or comment on our social posts (Facebook and LinkedIn) and let us know.