Virtual Engagement Strategies to Keep Employees Connected

May 29, 2020 Grace Evanich

It’s been roughly two months since most of us have last been in an office, but thanks to video meeting platforms, messaging services, and modern-day technology, we can still have some sort of face-to-face interaction and continue to work alongside our teams. While most day-to-day responsibilities and projects are moving along, there are aspects of not being able to go into a workplace that are hard to replicate. Work-life balance is more easily distinguished by going into the office and returning home to unplug and focus on our personal lives. Now that employees are experiencing this new normal of working and living out of their home, that balance can diminish and cause burn out. Finding ways to engage your team is more essential than ever in order to maintain morale and keep everyone connected with one another.

Think back to what the typical workday looked like for those that came into the office regularly. Is there an open setup that naturally stimulates side conversations throughout the day? Are employees frequently spending their lunch hour together chatting and catching up on their personal lives? Recalling these moments and other interactions can help you pull together ideas of how to replicate this experience, even when everyone is working virtually.

As a company, we take pride in creating a culture that provides intimate get-togethers in the office to commemorate holidays and special occasions. Despite being apart from one another, Blackbaud’s YourCause team has continued to plan community-driven activities, just through a virtual setting. To help your team similarly during this isolating time, we put together some engagement ideas and activities to get on your employees’ calendars.

 

Virtual Happy Hours

Part of maintaining a strong team connection is breaking down the barriers and making everyone feel more comfortable and relaxed with one another. Arranging a virtual happy hour is more than just a way to unwind and kick off the weekend. This time can serve as an opportunity to develop and enhance relationships among the group.

Pro-tip: when sending out a calendar invite, try to make the event for the same time each week to avoid conflicts and keep it top of mind.

Incorporating certain topics or activities into the happy hours can keep the excitement going and drive conversation. With screen-sharing capabilities, you can open online Monopoly, JackBox games (a popular party game), or Bingo onto your desktop to allow for full participation. We may not get as lucky as these senior citizens, who had Matthew McCoughney calling their numbers, but you can still have just as much fun filling your card!

 

Virtual Show and Tell

Who said show and tells are just for kids? Hosting virtual show and tell sessions are a wonderful way for your employees to learn more about each other on a deeper note and share the things or people that hold special value. Going beyond that, being vulnerable and confident to share those intimate stories further enables us to bring our authentic, full selves into the workplace. Depending on the size of your group, it may be difficult to have each person present on one call, so try to break it up into smaller sessions over the course of a few weeks. 

 

Virtual Talent Show

Similar to the benefits of a show and tell, setting up a virtual talent show lets people showcase their passions to further understand who they are outside of the workplace. Keeping spirits high during this uncertain time is crucial, and chances are that hosting a show will make some smiles and bring your team together. It all goes back to the vulnerability aspect, and how empowering your employees to be open and authentic can really boost their morale and feel genuinely appreciated. Some people may be shy or slightly unmotivated to participate, so loop in some incentives for the winner. (More on that below)

 

Virtual Book Club or TV Club

If your company already has an active book club, it should be rather seamless to shift your in-office meetups to a virtual setting. Many post-work routines are put on hold, such as a lengthy commute, and in turn, allow schedules to be a bit more open for some new routines. So, make sure to extend an invitation to those who may not have initially been a part of the book club due to time commitment.

Chances are most of us are binging on Netflix or Hulu a bit more than usual, so why not try creating TV clubs? Following the same format as a book club, the group can get together after a season or a show wraps up. With the various streaming platforms available and array of TV show genres, creating multiple clubs can allow for more people to join the conversation so that the clubs are as inclusive as possible to people with many different tastes.

 

Fitness Challenges

Working from home can make it too easy to be on the couch all day not get the usual steps we get in the office. Gyms may be closed, but that shouldn’t prevent us from keeping up with regular exercise and prioritizing our health and well-being. Motivate your employees to get moving by sending out daily exercises through your company’s communication channels while remembering to be mindful of everyone’s busy schedules. Some practical ideas include a few reps every hour on the hour or setting up a video call with a brief workout. Encouraging people to send in photos of their gym set-up or logging their workout can inspire others to follow suit and hold each other accountable.

 

Some Helpful Tips

Whether it’s our favorite cooking tools or a candle with a dreamy aroma, there are those household must-haves that have been convenient and enjoyable as we stay home. Creating a central place to share favorite online orders allows for everyone to connect and benefit from one another. There may be an ideal place to pin this, such as within your organization’s intranet, but a simple way could be to email out a master Google Sheet to everyone. Tips can go beyond just your favorite take-out- sharing family-favorite recipes is a heartwarming way to connect as well!

 

So How Do You Drive Participation?

Contests bring friendly competition, especially when there are incentives that will motivate and excite participants. With the pandemic putting certain budgets on hold, you may need to think beyond awarding a gift card or anything else of monetary value. Below are some ideas of rewards that won’t break the budget:

  • Awarding a day of PTO or VTO.
  • A covered parking spot or reserved parking spot for a month
  • Company “swag”, such as a T-Shirt or a tumbler (if you have extra inventory)
  • Company shoutout on social media pages

If you are able to get a small budget approved, a wonderful incentive would be a donation on behalf of the employee to his/her favorite cause.

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