Here's a stat that won't surprise anyone living through the COVID-19 pandemic: Remote work is mushrooming. And its popularity will likely outlast the pandemic.
Take the IT sector as an example. According to a survey conducted by research firm Enterprise Technology Research of 1,200 chief information officers, the permanent remote IT workforce is expected to more than double (from 16.4 to 34.4 percent) after the pandemic because of increases in productivity.
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While remote work may boost productivity, it may not be a boon for morale. When employees transition to working remotely, many miss the camaraderie that comes along with socializing and celebrating alongside their colleagues. In fact, 2018 Buffer research found that more than one-fifth (21 percent) of remote employees cited loneliness as the biggest challenge to remote work.
But loneliness isn't an unavoidable outcome of working from home. A 2014 study of 676 employees found that participants were able to feel as close to remote workers as they did to co-located coworkers — provided they enjoyed frequent communication and activities that cultivated a sense of shared identity.
One of the best ways to bring team members together? Group celebrations. If you’re not exactly sure how to increase employee engagement virtually, team celebrations can work wonders. Just because your workforce has gone remote doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate together, albeit a little differently. In this article, we'll share everything employers need to know in order to plan virtual events that leave everyone talking for all the right reasons.
Why Are Virtual Events Important?
Virtual events can go a long way toward creating camaraderie among team members. A solid foundation of camaraderie can help minimize loneliness and maintain morale while boosting workplace engagement and productivity.
Case in point? Gallup research found that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged in their jobs versus team members who don't report having a close relationship(s) at work. So, if you've ever found yourself wondering how to improve employee engagement, the answer may lie in providing your team members with opportunities to develop friendly relationships.
Along with offering a forum for socializing, virtual events boast several notable benefits.
They help combat loneliness.
Research suggests loneliness could be just as bad for people's health as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. (Yes, you read that right!) The good news: social support can protect our bodies and minds from the negative effects of physical isolation from the workplace. Celebrating special events can help create a workplace filled with meaningful relationships that offer social support.
They provide an opportunity to recognize employees for birthdays and other work- and non-work-related milestones.
This allows coworkers to connect with and celebrate each other as individual people, not just workers, which can build feelings of trust and rapport.
They build community among colleagues.
A sense of community doesn't just arise because people work together. It needs to be cultivated in ways that allow people to forge meaningful connections. Virtual events can facilitate just that.
They provide networking opportunities.
When team members have a chance to socialize with other employees beyond their immediate teams, they broaden their networks within the organization. And who knows, those new connections may lead to innovative ideas within the workplace.
They could increase team members' engagement.
We touched on this above, but it bears repeating: By combating loneliness and promoting friendships among team members, virtual celebrations can enhance engagement. In turn, higher engagement can lead to lower turnover, increased productivity, and greater organizational success.
Fun Ideas for Virtual Team-Building Events
Now that you know how virtual events can benefit your team, let's get down to the business of having fun! It's easy to host a virtual celebration online using platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, or other similar meeting tools. Plan these events on your own or enlist the help of seasoned professionals who run virtual events for a living. No matter how you go about it, these ideas for virtual office events are sure to please.
Virtual escape room
The in-person phenomenon of escape rooms has gone virtual, and there are now a variety of (free and paid) options available to workplaces of all stripes.
Check out this list of virtual escape rooms for teams to get a sense of the many choices available.
Virtual scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts can take many forms and center around different themes, which makes them a versatile choice for an online celebration. Follow this detailed guide to create a virtual scavenger hunt for your team or let us plan one for you.
Laughter really is the best medicine; it can alleviate stress, relieve tension, improve a person’s mood, increase personal satisfaction, and more. Treat your team to these benefits by hiring a comedian to deliver a virtual performance. Laughing together is sure to bring your team closer.
Classic party games
There's no reason to abstain from more conventional party activities just because your celebration has gone remote. Many classic festivities can be recreated online, including bingo, raffles, trivia, and other games. Check out Jackbox or another online venue to get a feel for the many options available.
Invite your team members to learn something new while socializing together and mixing up some tasty cocktails. Ship everyone the necessary ingredients prior to the celebration, then hire an experienced mixologist to guide the group through a cocktail-making session. Just be sure to include folks who don't drink by offering a mocktail option. And don't forget a memorable toast!
Creative holiday festivities
The holidays don't have to be gloomy just because the team isn't sharing an office. Celebrate the holidays in style with any of Ten Spot's virtual holiday experiences, which range from gift wrapping and cheese board classes to holiday cookie decorating and game show nights.
Online cooking class
Tasty, social, and fun: What's not to like about sharing in an online cooking class? Online classes allow your team members to benefit from expert culinary instruction while interacting with each other and learning new techniques in the kitchen.
Even when your team works from their own respective offices, the odds are good that everyone eats lunch at some point. Consider turning that time into a virtual gathering by hosting a team lunch. Everyone brings their own meal and sits down for a video chat filled with casual conversation. (It's probably a good idea to bar work talk so the gathering feels like a celebration instead of more work.) To make the event even more special, send each employee a virtual gift card for Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, or the like so they can purchase takeout from a favorite restaurant near their home.
Creative staff awards
Remember yearbook superlatives from high school? Give that idea a work-related twist with creative staff awards. Then, dole out the awards during a virtual team celebration. Here's a fun list of superlatives to get you started; they range from the Proud Pet Parent Award (reserved for the team member who shares the most pet pics) to the Muted Award (most likely to talk while muted) and the Bucket Filler Award (most likely to make another team member's day brighter).
Virtual dance party
This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but the more gregarious members of your team may really enjoy it (and who knows, the wallflower could surprise everyone with their moves!). Invite music-savvy team members to submit playlists for the group sweat sesh, or hire a DJ so participants don't have to think about anything other than grooving.
Best desk contest
When everyone on a team works in the same office, they know exactly what each other's workspaces look like (and odds are good that the color beige heavily factors into everyone's décor). But when teams work from home, the options for personalized workspaces abound. Invite team members to share visuals of their desk spaces during a virtual group hangout, ask everyone to vote on the best workspace, and then award a prize to the winner.
This one takes some extra coordination, but it's worth it to see the look on team members' faces as they open thoughtful presents from each other live and on camera. To pull off a virtual gift exchange, remember some key details such as: providing everyone with a budget for both the gift and shipping; reminding everyone of the shipping date so gifts arrive on time; and inviting everyone to gift wrap their presents so the recipients can enjoy the full unwrapping experience.
Themed parties for offbeat holidays
December isn't the only time when it's appropriate to celebrate holidays. Keep the festive mood alive all year by celebrating wackier holidays, such as National Clean Your Desk Day (January 13), Donut Day (June 2), Relaxation Day (August 27), Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), and World Animal Day (October 4). Invite team members to go all-in on the chosen theme and consider awarding prizes to the most enthusiastic participant(s).
In the process of learning how to manage a remote team, make sure celebrations don't go by the wayside. While virtual celebrations may take some extra creativity and planning, they can effectively bring team members together, minimize loneliness, improve company culture, boost productivity, and increase engagement at work.