A big concern for companies when it comes to remote working is keeping their employees engaged. Many studies already show that employee engagement is closely linked to employee well-being and productivity, even more so in times of uncertainty. This makes it crucial for HR practitioners and Internal Communications teams to find new ways of keeping strong engagement between teams even while they are physically apart.
If that’s you, here are some employee engagement ideas that you can run with remote workers to keep everyone connected and motivated - whether it's to start a meeting on the right foot, do something completely different, or be constantly connected in ways that don’t necessarily involve more screen time.
Icebreakers to start the meeting
Starting your meetings with a simple but fun activity can really help to draw everyone’s focus (especially if they’ve had back-to-back meetings that day) and put them in the right frame of mind for a productive discussion. You can get your remote team to warm up by doing the following exercises.
1. Run a fun poll
Mood checks, also known as mood meters, are a courteous and fun way to check-in on how your team is doing at the start of the meeting. You may not have time to hear about everyone’s week. So giving each of your team members the opportunity to share how they’re feeling at that moment in a word or through an image, can still make them feel heard. To spice things up, you could present surprise treats that are suitable for how the overall results turn out.
The Multiple Choice Poll feature on Pigeonhole Live is a great tool for this activity. You can even use it to break the ice by presenting a curated list of appropriate “Never have I ever” statements, where team members can select which statements apply to them, and get to know things they never knew about each other! More ideas here.
2. Open mic sessions
Everyone has hidden talents. Giving your team a platform to shine can boost their self-confidence and discover shared common interests. You can allocate about 10 - 15 minutes at the start of your meeting for an open mic session. Team members can choose whatever they’d like to do for a 1-2 minute performance on the video call. It could be poetry reading, singing a song, playing an instrument, dancing, or impersonating a famous person.
3. Pop a pop Quiz
Surprise pop quizzes are great when you’re not being graded for it like in school, but a little leaderboard to spark friendly competitiveness won’t hurt either! You can start your meeting with a 5-minute pop quiz using our Pigeonhole Live quiz and make your questions revolve around general knowledge, fun facts about the team, company history, or famous movies. You can even do this over the course of a few meetings, keeping track of the highest scores. Just remember to make the grand prize worth it!
Team building activities
Sometimes being apart from each other for a prolonged period can decrease a team’s engagement. While work still gives everyone a good reason to stay in touch, it helps to have occasional activities that focus on simply valuing each other’s company and getting to know people better. Here are some ideas that could help boost teamwork online.
4. Lunch: show, tell, eat
Eating lunch together as employees is a big part of building a healthy company culture and strong teams. It can still be done virtually! Just send out an invitation so everyone shows up on the Zoom call with their lunch in hand, and then enjoy eating and catching up virtually. For multicultural teams, you could take it a step further and make it a learn and share session with a traditional-themed lunch. Team members come prepared with a traditional meal from their own culture and take turns to explain the history, how it's made, and any fond childhood memories they might have of their meal. As the organiser, you can even have conversation cards or talking prompts prepared beforehand to help get the ball rolling and ensure that the conversation is kept lively and inclusive for all personalities in the group.
5. Teams who play together, stick together
Not every reason to jump on a Zoom call with your workmates needs to be work-related. Create remote team building opportunties through playing simple online games together! games like Jackbox Games have plenty of fun and short games that don’t require anyone to be an expert at gaming. There’s also colonist.io which is a free digital alternative to The Settlers of Catan board game - a great strategy game that is family-friendly. The fun is really in seeing each other’s expressions so keep the Zoom call running simultaneously.
6. Scavenger hunt
Get your team out of their chairs and moving, by organising a virtual scavenger hunt. You can do this manually by giving them a checklist of things they can find around their house. For example, take a photo with a houseplant or pet, assemble five different household tools, find a family heirloom, etc. There are also a few virtual scavenger hunt apps available that compiles all the data and tracks scores for you. A bonus idea: Set the challenge with a specific theme and tie it back to a takeaway lesson that relates to a value or vision that your company has.7. Bake together
Think out of the box and make use of everyone’s kitchen by doing a baking session together! It’s like learning techniques from an experienced chef but live on video. Appoint a team member with more baking experience to facilitate this session. Cookies or bread is a good start. As the organiser, you can pre-pack portioned ingredients and have them delivered to each person’s home before the session. Then schedule a Zoom video call and have everyone go through the motions together. Once the pastry is done, the team can pack half of the baked goods to give a charity of their choice or just enjoy it with their family.
These ideas are for collaborating creatively throughout the week on a non-work-related project. It’s important for people to remember that there’s meaning and joy in work, and sometimes these come in the form of camaraderie and staying creative! These ideas are especially handy for team members who are still new to each other and may still be rather reserved.
8. Daily writing prompts
Send a Whatsapp message to your team members with a daily writing prompt. Each person is to create a short 1-2 paragraph story from that prompt. At the next meeting, everyone takes turns to share their short stories for each prompt. It’ll be interesting to hear everyone’s different thoughts. Here are a few writing prompts to start with.
9. Film / Book club
Keep group learning going with a film or book club. Write down a list of must-watch movies, documentaries, or books with a variety of genres. Ask everyone to pick one that they’ve never watched / read before. At the end of the week, take turns sharing a quick synopsis, what they would hypothetically award the book or film for (best script / best actor / best cinematography) and what their personal lessons were from the content, if any. You can learn a lot from films and books, and this means the team gets to collectively learn even more by doing it together.
10. Collaborative art & craft
Teams that need to stretch work from home arrangements over a month or two might find this more applicable. Everyone picks a material of their choice - cloth, paper, or a lightweight item, and decorates it using paint, beads, buttons, magazine scraps, and bits and bobs to express their creativity. You can plan ahead to make it form a specific mosaic pattern or a symbolic picture if you like. They can do this gradually in their free time. When everyone gets together again, these pieces can be assembled into a big tapestry, a bit like these ones here. Frame it up nicely and place it in the office panty or one of the meetings rooms as a reminder that even though we are apart, we can still achieve great things together.