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Workplaces may be remote, but you don’t have to lose the opportunity to connect through events and activities. Easily adapt by planning inclusive remote events that everyone will enjoy.

Many of us have been working in a fully remote environment for years now. Something we originally thought would be temporary–just a two-week break from the office–has evolved into our new normal. 

In the past, companies relied heavily on in-office perks and events to retain talent and build culture. Some popular benefits included happy hours, free snacks, game rooms, and on-site gyms. Not only were these attractive benefits for employees, but these were primary avenues for coworkers to connect, collaborate, and build relationships.

With the switch to remote work, there’s been a clear gap around employee connection.

Although remote work has many benefits like increased productivity, we’ve also seen some downsides like an increase in employee burnout. According to a study by Monster in 2020, over two-thirds (69%) of employees are experiencing burnout while working from home. The culture and benefits that once kept employees engaged at work and provided balance are no longer part of the day-to-day work experience. 

So, how can companies continue to foster a strong culture, retain talent, prevent burnout, and keep coworker connections alive in a fully remote environment? 

Just because employees are working in a remote environment, it doesn’t mean events and interactions are gone; it just means you have to take a new approach. 

Companies have to adapt to this new way of working and building community digitally. There are many tools and tips you can leverage to plan fun events for your teams in a remote environment.

How to Plan Virtual Activities for Your Employees

In the office, you would have get-togethers, happy hours, and game nights. Those events weren’t a heavy lift because you were all already together in the same place at the same time. Even for larger annual events such as holiday parties, they were fairly straightforward to plan with a set location.

Now that employees are working from different locations, these events are still possible — it just takes a bit more creativity.

Get feedback from your team

3 people pointing at a laptop screen

When planning events, listen to your employees. Historically, it was a habit that we would fit our lives into our workday. Now, we fit our workday into our daily lives. 

When researching which events to plan, ask your internal stakeholders—your employees–for their insight before planning.

Try asking the following questions:

  • What types of events do your employees want to participate in?
  • Do they want to meet up in-person or have events be fully remote? 
  • What days or times work best for them? 
  • How frequently do they want to participate?  

Gathering insight on activities, events, and time commitment will help you get higher participation from your employees.

Pair internal feedback with external research

Conducting a quick Google search can provide you with inspiration around what other companies are doing to plan fun events in a remote environment. 

Beyond reading other blogs, tap into your own network. Ask your LinkedIn connections, run a poll on Twitter, or text a friend to get ideas you might not find elsewhere.

Recreate in-person events, virtually

Laptop screen with zoom meeting and a blue teacup.

Find what worked for you pre-pandemic, and tweak it to work for you now. Those game nights don’t need to be a thing of the past. You can take the events that your employees loved and put a new, virtual spin on them.

There are virtual options for many board games, trivia games, and other activities that have grown in popularity in recent years, such as Among Us and Jackbox Games. You can also recreate a happy hour by combining it with a game night, or just offering a virtual hang out to your team.

Three Ways to Increase Employee Participation

When you’re planning events in a remote environment, there are simple ways to encourage employee participation. Try these tactics to get everyone involved.

Make it a competition

Everyone loves a little competition. Try hosting an event that’s a physical competition, such as virtual races, or something more on the creative side, such as photo competitions. 

Mikita Mikado, CEO of PandaDoc, engaged his employees in a competition that focuses on physical health. “There’s been a competition over Slack where the team was divided into small groups, and we counted the number of exercises that each team posted within the Slack channel,” shared Mikado. Whichever team participated in the most physical activity won, and whichever team lost had to run a 5k. 

Friendly competition is a great way for employees to work together, build each other up, and foster new relationships with their coworkers.

Plan all-inclusive events

5 friends saying 'cheers' with their wine glasses.

While competitions are fun for some, it’s best to offer a wide range of events to keep employees engaged. 

A great starting place is building off your employee feedback. Let’s say you got feedback that some employees want to start a book club, some want happy hours, and others want to take virtual classes—that’s three great activities you can launch for your employees. 

  • Book clubs can be started at any time. Announce the book club to your teams and identify one or two people who want to be the book club leaders. From there, your employees can choose which book (or books) they want to read and kick off the discussion!
  • For those who want more happy hours, you can set up standing Zoom meetings — potentially at a similar time when you used to have happy hours in person. Try picking a theme, hosting game night or trivia, or keep it casual and let coworkers socialize for as long or as little as they want.
  • Virtual classes could be professional skill-building or something that’s not work related like a virtual cooking class, paint night, or yoga class. Try offering both skills-based and fun classes so your employees have more options.

It is important to offer a variety of events that are inclusive for all employees. Employees all have different likes and dislikes, which makes getting to know one another much more exciting!

Highlight employee accomplishments

No matter what activity or event you’re planning for your team, don’t forget to give your employees the recognition they deserve. Celebrating the team who wins trivia night or game night is a great example.

During virtual events, you can also encourage employees to share their personal accomplishments. During a happy hour you might go around the Zoom and each share a personal win from the week. Employees can acknowledge each other and bond over shared interests.

Planning Successful Events in a Remote Environment

By providing your employees with different options for engaging based on personal interests, you’re creating opportunities to get to know one another outside of work.

You’re also reinventing your company culture in our new remote world.

Companies that fail to prioritize culture and connection in remote environments will find that work becomes transactional. This shift can result in retention issues, productivity drops, and satisfaction challenges.

Remote workplaces aren’t going away — the companies who succeed will leverage opportunities to build culture in remote environments, like inclusive events. To kick-start your remote culture, try planning 1 event a month and gather plenty of feedback.

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