The little things we're doing to keep our virtual teams engaged
Est. Read Time: 6 min.
We have a very social team. Everyone loves to spend time with each other inside and outside of the office; we often joke that “FOMO” must be one of our core values. When our New York City-based team was advised to work from home, the first thing we did was try to coordinate a date when we’d all be able to come in together during the following week or two. Of course, this was before we knew how quickly the COVID-19 virus would spread in the New York metro area and how seriously we should heed the “stay at home” warnings. As we’ve learned, things change quickly.
I lead the marketing team for the PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software products in North America, and I’ve been working at PeopleDoc for over five years. I feel incredibly fortunate to help foster the camaraderie our NYC team members feel each day—whether they’re in the office or working remotely. All of our people managers share my sentiment, so it was a no-brainer for us to commit to keeping the good vibes flowing for our teams during this time. We came up with some ideas, worked quickly to make them happen, and so far the progress has been great.
We’re all trying to make the best decisions for our teams at a time when nothing feels quite right, so in case it’s helpful, I thought I’d share what we’re doing to keep our peeps engaged and in the loop, both from a regional level and a corporate level.
Weekly motivation videos
At the start of each week, one person records a < 1 minute video. The message is simple and motivational, and meant to get everyone excited for the week ahead. We use Slack, so the video is posted to our NYC Office channel. The person who posts for the current week will tag another person for the following week to encourage participation across all teams. Our CEO inspired this idea—he’s been sending a short video update weekly to the entire organization from his home. It’s the most transparent way to communicate, and we find that it’s helping to remind everyone that we’re all in this together.
24/7 virtual break rooms
We’ve found that our team is beginning to miss their close social connection with each other—we’re now realizing how much we take for granted being in the office together. If you’re using a video communication tool, like Google Hangouts or Zoom, this is a really easy way to keep your team connected. Make a meeting that starts on Monday morning and doesn’t end until Friday evening, and repeat it every week. These are scheduled on a team level, an office level, and organization-wide. We find it to be a great replacement for those times we need a break from work in the office—like lunch breaks, coffee breaks, or desk-side catch ups with a colleague.
Creating and sharing playlists
Music streaming services like Spotify allow users to create collaborative playlists that teams can share and cultivate together. This is a fun way to capture the spirit of a team. We love to play music when we’re in the office, so adding the “fan favorites” to a playlist helps associate working from home with the feelings of being in our usual office setting. In case you’re looking for some upbeat tunes to energize you or you’d like to start a spontaneous dance party (I highly encourage it), here’s one of our PeopleDoc employee-curated playlists.
Similar to the virtual break room, this is for times when a celebration is in order (even if it’s just celebrating the middle or end of a week). Schedule these on the calendar for 30 minutes at the tail end of a work day, and make sure people know they can “cheers” with anything they’d like, as long as their glass isn’t empty. We make sure everyone has their cameras on, and you’re using a “grid view” which makes it easier to see people and moderate discussion, especially for a larger group. I recently came across some tips for hosting a successful virtual happy hour in the New York Times—it’s worth a read!
10-minute stretch sessions
While some of us are familiar with working from home, most of us are still adjusting to this new norm. Without regular reasons to get up and move, it’s easy to stay in one place for most of the day, which can mean tight shoulders, an aching neck, back pain, and more. We added quick 10-minute stretch sessions to our teams’ calendars. It’s optional, led by one of our employees, hosted on Google Hangouts or Zoom, and a really nice way to “wake up” your body during the day. Here are some of the stretches we did together.
Online games, Netflix parties, and virtual book clubs
Our team loves games. We play them in the office when we’re together, so we needed to figure out how to carry this to the virtual world. Online games like Quiplash have simple rules and allow players to join from anywhere. Employees can also partake in a “Netflix Party” by using a browser extension that allows them to sync movies with friends or co-workers and engage in a virtual chat throughout. Virtual book clubs are another easy way to keep teams connected socially, just start a group chat or Slack channel dedicated to discussing the latest chapters.
Daily COVID-19 status updates
Our CHRO sends an update every evening with pertinent information about actions being taken on a corporate level, new regulatory developments, preventative measures, and resources for employees. This helps employees feel safe, informed, and cared for. If you have an intranet or an employee portal, this is the best way to ensure all updates are seen by every employee (we all know how unreliable email distribution lists can be), and that employees can refer back to these updates easily.
Wellbeing webinars and virtual work resources
Providing your employees with tips and resources for working virtually or dealing with uncertainty isn’t required, but can help give them a sense of control during a time of crisis. We know that working remotely is new for many of our peeps, so our HR team regularly provides us with resources about how to work effectively, manage stress, avoid the pitfalls of social isolation, and seek help when we need it. Not all organizations are experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 in the same way, so think about what might be top of mind for your employees, and try to give them as much information as possible.
This time isn’t easy for anyone; we’re all trying to figure out how to get through this day by day. Please know that the PeopleDoc and Ultimate Software teams are here to help in any way we can.
We all know that we’ll get through this better together, so let’s not lose our social connection. Consider joining one of our upcoming HR Leaders Lounge virtual meetup events to engage with your peers. These virtual meetups are intended for you to forge meaningful relationships during a time when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, and the content will be entirely driven by you.
We hope to see you there, but in the meantime, be well and stay healthy.
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About Laura Zifchak (Poggi)
Laura leads the marketing team for the PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software products in North America. She joined PeopleDoc in January 2015 to help HR teams learn about HR Service Delivery technology, understand how it benefits their existing business strategies, and become expert users of our platform as customers.
Laura has experience with bringing technical software solutions to market with prior leadership positions at both IBM and RTTS. She has an MBA from CUNY Baruch Zicklin School of Business, and a BS degree in Marketing from Siena College.
With years of practice managing teams through rapid growth and constant change, Laura is passionate about employee and manager experience, and using technology to help scale and improve operations.