Ryan and I moved to Austin a year ago. In that time we never did a virtual happy hour with friends, we never had a virtual game night with family, we never had a shoestring conference with co-workers. But why?
Simply put, it never occurred to me.
And now that the whole world is sheltering in place, I can't imagine saying goodbye to these "new norms" when we get back to our "real lives."
Here are some things from a company perspective that I've learned in the last few weeks to help company culture stay strong while everyone is working out of the office. I hope you find them as helpful as I have.
Virtual Happy Hours/Coffee Breaks
Use that Zoom or Google Hangout for a little bit of intentionally "non-productive" fun. Send out the calendar invite and tell everyone to BYOB. Once everyone is logged on get the party started by having everyone share what they're drinking and why they chose it (is it their favorite, is it the only thing left in their house, is it the only thing they could grab without waking up the baby, etc).
Once you've all shared, if the conversation hasn't naturally picked up, have some topics prepared to discuss. Here are some suggestions that can help you keep the conversation light (remember, it's happy hour, not depressing hour):
What's the funniest distraction you've experience working from home so far?
What's something that was on your to-do list FOREVER that you finally got done?
There's a meme going around that says, "Congratulations, you've completed Netflix!" What have you been streaming?
When the shelter in place is lifted where will you go first?
Host a Shoestring Conference
In episode 67 of The Vendor's Daughter, Alejandro Barreto, shares that before shelter in place, every Tuesday his team would meet during lunch for a shoestring conference.
A shoestring conference, is a term created by his team. It essentially is a time to come together to listen to a keynote speech or a lesson on a shared topic. In their industry of tech engineering, there are a lot of conferences available for attendance; however, to go to them all would require time, money and resources that aren't available. Instead of paying for airfare, hotel rooms, etc., they meet every Tuesday at lunch to stream a lesson of their choice.
Like the idea but not sure where to start? Maybe start with some TedTalks, watch a documentary (you could go for something inspirational like Made for More by Rachel Hollis or could go with something more pop culture like Tiger King).
As a team leader you may want to pick the first few showings to set the tone and then open it up for other team members to start "hosting."
Food is comfort as well as energy and the same reasons you supplied snacks in the office would be true for employees working from home now: more energy, feeling cared for, a shared experience for co-workers, a good reason to get up from the computer and take a stretch break.
Let your team members know that just because they are out of sight does not mean they are out of mind.
I have a bias on this one in that my family's business offers snack care packages you can send directly to your employees. You can order here but know that you have options. Just Google "at home snack delivery."
Use your Slack Channels now more than ever! Make sure employees are sharing about more than just work to keep the LOLs going throughout the day. To be honest, my team doesn't use Slack, although I'm trying to make it a part of our culture after listening to Episode 139 of The Rise Podcast
A Few Extra Notes
When having virtual anything make sure:
all participants have a web cam - it's really important that you can see each other not just hear each other
you have a shared screen - you want their to be shared point of focus
have fun - things might not go perfectly and that's okay. The goal is to have a shared experience, to have a good laugh and to remember that you work with good people