How to engage your online team during lockdown lulls

Creative | Marketing | Technology

Whether you’re a Zoom, Teams, or Hangouts kinda girl, working life is all about video calls.

Large scale remote working has altered the way we interact. We see our colleagues less, our routines have gone awry, and those quick moral boosting ‘watercooler’ chats are now reduced to a GIF in Slack. That’s why it’s important to find new ways to maintain team morale — and no we’re not talking about a Zoom quiz (but events are important).

Firstly, you need to identify someone in the team who is the social glue. Who’s the one cracking jokes and sending memes in the group chat? It might sound absurd but finding this person is paramount; they are already engaged in stimulating conversations and they’ll be a helpful presence, encouraging the team to engage. Organised fun doesn’t feel like fun until one or two people start getting involved.

Recreate the watercooler

Whether it was a chat by the watercooler or while they made a cuppa, people would regularly have catch ups in the office, which helped to break up the day. Luckily in this day and age you can still foster an environment where the team continues to engage with each other in ‘small talk’ while working from home. There are a couple ways to do this but the two we’ve found most successful have been:

Organising 15 minute ‘coffee break’ calls once a week between 3 members of the team. They can use this time to chat about whatever they want. Starting or finishing off any internal call with a question unrelated to work. They can be as simple as “what’s your favourite cocktail” or bizarre as “what would life be like without pockets”.

Both have helped our team engage with their colleagues, build rapport, and most importantly have a good laugh.

Celebrate success

Celebrating team or individual successes is easier when you’re all in the office but much harder when conversations are often limited to one-on-one messages. That’s why it’s important to not just put time aside each quarter, but making time more regularly to highlight successes.

A simple way can be creating a group channel where anyone can shout out a team member for their work. Keep this an informal place to regularly celebrate the small wins. Be sure to mention how these small wins have impacted the team, after all it’s easy to forget that these wins are part of something bigger.

Set up an events calendar

Organised fun is hard and there is no foolproof way to create events that everyone on the team will engage with but that shouldn’t put you off. You’re bound to have some losses when it comes to events. From our experience quizzes just don’t cut the mustard anymore but there have been some great wins.

We’ve had events from creating tiers of our favourite biscuits, pumpkin carving sessions, and wine tastings evenings. Our most popular event is Toastmasters, where each member of the team prepares a 5 minutes presentation on a topic of their choice. We’ve had topics ranging from the history of cowbells to the cockatrice, a mythical beast that’s half chicken and half dragon.

Our rankings from best to worst biscuit. Who knew people had such disdain for the humble Rich Tea?

Whether you think the new ways of working are for better or for worse is a different story and, no matter how you feel about working in your Disney print pyjamas, these new ways of working are here to stay.

It’s important to find new solutions to the age-old problem of growing a business. In short, adapt or die… Ok perhaps it’s not that extreme when it comes to employee engagement but retaining your best employees is still important.

After all, an engaged team is a happy team.