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11 Fun Ways to Engage Your Remote Team Right Now

January 25, 2021 Deana LaFauci

Remote work is here to stay in 2021, with many organizations opting to keep their employees at home through the end of the year—and beyond. New research indicates that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% increase from prepandemic levels.

Engagement matters: Gallup’s recent meta-analysis shows that teams in the top quartile of engagement have 23% greater profitability. In addition to factors like increased transparency, people-first policies, and an inclusive workplace culture, employees also want to feel connected personally with one another.

As we head into our second year of remote work, we all need new ways to add a little fun to our work week.

Check out these 11 fun ways to engage a remote team right now:

  1. Recreate the water cooler in your digital space. We need to be able to connect with one another informally, so be sure to create a virtual space that allows for this. Use Microsoft Teams or a slack channel just for the internal “buzz”—pet photos, humble brags, and favorite recipes are all welcome here.
  2. Bring the (in-person) fun to your teams by sending them a care package filled with goodies to enjoy on your next team meeting or send them a fun activity you can complete together. Don’t overthink it—it’s just a conversation starter! A fun kids terrarium kit or a rock painting kit can be a great way to engage folks in an activity that will get them laughing.
  3. Spark inspiration by being purposeful about how you assign work. Have you ever run into a colleague in the hallway—someone you don’t normally get a chance to work with directly—and uncovered a process enhancement or a new product offering idea, just from chatting? These moments of inspiration happen in the breakroom, while waiting for a conference room to open up, or while standing in between cubicles, but they are harder to come by in the virtual world. Be strategic about how you bring teams and employees together, to help them connect with people outside their functions and departments, to spark inspiration.
  4. Empower employees to recognize one another. Create your own star award or kudos that allow employees to recognize one another. This can be informal and defined by your employees. Whether small or large, giving teams the ability to recognize someone in this way is meaningful, especially in a remote workforce. (A great place to recognize team members? The Virtual Water Cooler!)
  5. Play an interactive virtual game. Get your most creative crew together to write funny or inspired trivia questions related to your teams or your work. Or, hit the easy button and use Jackboxgames to host your own fun question game. Check out the Quiplash game, which allows team members to flex their creativity to answer simple prompts.
  6. Free up people’s calendars when they need it. By allowing your teams and employees to set aside time for deep thinking and uninterrupted work, you create a healthy and productive environment—and you allow employees to take a few minutes for fun, because they know they have the time they need to do their work!
  7. Host a “Superpowers Showoff” and allow your employees to show off their skills. With everyone stuck at home this year, many of us gained new skills—like baking the perfect loaf of sourdough bread, becoming an amateur gardener, or sewing our own face masks. Schedule 15 minutes on the calendar once a week to allow one or two employees to share their skills with the team in a fun and informal way.
  8. Zone out with a little guided meditation. Schedule an optional “Mindfulness Moment” on the calendar for your teams once or twice a week, allowing them to tune in to participate in a 10-minute, guided meditation from Headspace.
  9. Give back, together. It feels good to give back, and it feels even better when your team or organization comes together to help your community. Nationwide, more than 80% of food banks are serving more people now than they did a year ago. Consider local options to give back to, and help make an impact in 2021. You can also “gamify” a giving campaign through a match or incentives to get teams involved and engaged.
  10. Hear us out: Themed Zoom backgrounds. Everyone’s doing it, but is creating a fun Zoom background even fun anymore? Yes, if you make it an activity! Send out a theme or an inside joke ahead of the meeting and have employees customize their Zoom background to the theme. It can be heartwarming or hilarious—and have people vote on their favorite.
  11. Ask aroundand keep trying. Not every activity or connection point will float every employee’s boat, and that’s okay. Keep your lines of communication open and ask employees and teams how they’d like to connect with one another. And, don’t be afraid to copy a good idea: Ask your network how they are creating human moments with their teams and copy what works.

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