Remote employee engagement activities are getting a lot of airtime at the moment, and with good reason - newly distributed teams that aren’t used to working from home are fairly likely to feel a little meh after a while. This is especially true of workplaces where there is a thriving water-cooler culture and co-workers tend to engage with one another regularly.
Here’s some good news...
Remote working doesn't have to be a snooze fest. Take some inspiration from geniuses who created masterpieces in trying times.
Sir Isaac Newton came up with the theory of gravity when he was in isolation during a major epidemic of the bubonic plague.
William Shakespeare is thought to have done the bulk of the writing of King Lear while in quarantine.
And the always epic Frida Kahlo started a lengthy painting career when she was confined to her bed, flat on her back with a fractured spine and pelvis after a serious streetcar accident.
If these fine folks can use their time at home to volley their careers to new heights, who are we to wallow?
Here are 12 remote employee engagement activities to keep your team inspired and motivated while they work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
1. Digital dinner experiences
The hospitality industry has taken quite a knock during the COVID-19 lockdown, especially in South Africa where it is estimated that restaurants employ approximately 800 000 people.
Treat your team and do your bit to support innovative restaurateurs who are thinking outside of the box to offer socially distanced dinner experiences.
This includes clever folks like Chef Maynard who hosts virtual dinner experiences where guests receive their meal fully cooked, and then dial into a Zoom meet-up where he hosts the evening and explains his cooking inspiration and processes.
Or how about live stream cooking classes by a purveyor like Stir Crazy Cooking?
2. A glimpse into your home
Who remembers MTV Cribs? For those who are too young to remember a time when MTV was still awesome, it was a programme where celebs would take you inside their homes to show off their digs - pretty similar to the Vogue 73 questions series.
Stick to this tried-and-tested formula and task your team to show off their living spaces one at a time over your preferred online meeting platform.
Obviously plenty of lead-time is essential for this plan to work so they can put their best foot forward (and stow away their laundry basket!).
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3. Online music concerts
Video conferencing platforms are so versatile.
Since South African musicians can’t do any live performances during lockdown, many are choosing to host digital concerts via platforms like Zoom. Why not invite your team to join in on a concert after hours?
Here are a few examples of local online concerts you can enjoy as a team.
4. Introduce your pets
Many of your employees are likely to have pets and while they work from home, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to introduce their cats, dogs, turtles, fish and reptiles.
This is a quick, fun, fuss-free activity that doesn’t have to cost you a cent.
Employees without pets?
Have them introduce a houseplant, favourite spatula or perhaps even a child…?
5. Grow together
Challenge your team to do some home gardening while they work in isolation.
Send out kits with seeds, pots and potting soil, and check in regularly to see how everyone’s seedlings are doing.
If you choose to grow herbs or vegetables, you could even use it as part of a streaming cook-off somewhere in the future.
6. Daily shoutouts to top achievers
Activities don’t need to take a lot of time to make an impact.
Try starting your first virtual team meeting of the day with shoutouts to employees who did a great job the previous day.
Alternatively, if your team tends to get a little awks when compliments are thrown their way in person, you can also introduce a mobile platform that co-workers can use to give and receive props on the fly.
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7. Host a talk with an industry heavyweight
Rope in an industry heavyweight to host a Zoom call with your team. Start off with a short motivational speech from this popular figure, and then leave plenty of time for Q&A.
To keep things organised, have your employees draw lots before the talk to see in which order they can pose their questions to the speaker.
8. Rapid-fire random questions
Once a week, identify a team member who will be peppered with rapid-fire questions from their co-workers as a get-to-know-your colleague activity.
It goes without saying that the questions should be in good fun. Think along the lines of:
- ‘are you a cat or a dog person’,
- do bananas and pineapple belong on pizza - yes or no’,
- ‘where would you go on holiday if money was not an option’, etc.
9. Play 'explain that Insta'
Similar to the team building activity above, ‘explain that Insta’ is a way for your team to form a better idea of who their colleagues are.
Task an internal ‘snoop group’ to find funny or odd photos or status updates on their co-workers’ social media profiles and then put them in the hot seat unexpectedly to explain the origin of the pic or post.
Keep it light and fun - e.g. old school photos with funny hair, vague status updates that were clearly fishing for a response, etc.
10. Show and tell your worthy cause
Give each employee the opportunity to tell their co-workers about a charity or worthy cause they support.
This could be anything from environmental groups or animal welfare agencies, to entities that do work among the youth, etc.
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11. Untangle a problem
Many military outfits have regular simulated ‘war’ scenarios, where they task their team to solve a problem that might present itself in future, or a variation of something that’s happened in the past. Use this as a template to challenge your team to work together remotely.
For example, if your company focuses on PR, you could present your team with a scenario in which a client has managed to get themselves embroiled in a scandal, and ask them to plot out a response on a 24-hour timeline.
12. Host a digital book club
Okay, so not everyone reads. But most people should be able to sit through an audiobook, right? Sign your team up to a platform like Audible, choose a monthly book and have a discussion about it every two weeks.
This could be a non-fiction book with some bearing on your industry, or a highly-acclaimed fictional book with a cool storyline - the choice is yours (or put it to your team?).
Feeling inspired? Try these remote employee engagement activities on for size, and get ready to supercharge your team’s morale from the inside out.
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