Play is an important component to our creative, emotional, and problem solving capabilities. Yet, it is probably one of the most overlooked features in our everyday work lives. At Symba, we promote play to keep our team feeling engaged and energized. As Head of Culture and Operations, I’ve worked closely with our remote team to create genuine connections, cultivate a positive environment, and bring fun occasions to our day-to-day agenda.
If you’re new to remote work, it can seem like a challenge to form connections and feel comfortable in a remote workspace. If you are a new team that has never met each other in person, it can pose a unique challenge to get to know one another and build a sense of culture right away. From my experiences at Symba, I’ve realized that one of the best ways to connect with people on your team is through shared laughter and play. During shared laughter, not only does your body get a psychophysical boost of happiness through the release of endorphins, it also allows your brain to recognize shared beliefs between you and your connections. These fun moments together create understanding to strengthen relationships and can ultimately improve team collaboration and increase productivity in the workplace.
Why is this important? Because connection is everything when it comes to a healthy workplace culture. It allows others to feel safe and comfortable with their team which opens the doors to sharing innovative ideas and propelling your business’ growth. An article featured in Harvard Business Review presented data showing that disengaged employees had 60% more on-the-job mistakes, and companies with disengaged employees experienced an 18% decrease in productivity and 16% decrease in profitability. Scheduling small, frequent, and non-work-related meetings is essential to keeping your remote team engaged and connected. If you’re a larger company, it’s great to have these interactions intersect different departments to create a wider community feel.
What should these meetings look like? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few ways we bring play, laughter, and connection to our remote team at Symba that you can try out with your team:
- Organize Weekly Wellness Sessions
Get up and get moving together! At Symba, we have revolving Wednesday Wellness sessions over zoom. These can include: Meditations, yoga, Zumba, Thai Chi, and acupressure tapping. We like to explore the vast wellness landscape and switch between inviting guest hosts, following YouTube videos, or having one of our team members lead the sessions. Some wellness sessions can help to invoke tranquillity, others can leave everyone feeling a bit silly, and all can be beneficial in bringing your team closer. Be sure you are capturing connections by gathering virtually, rather than sending a video link for people to do on their own.
- Encourage Coffee Chats
Grab a coffee or tea (and maybe some snacks) and sit down to have a virtual conversation. At Symba, everyone makes time to meet new team members via a one-on-one coffee chat within their first two weeks. A great way to start a coffee chat is to simply ask, “How are you feeling today?” This question sets the tone and communicates care for your coworker. These meetings should be kept to 2-3 people and have a relaxed feel to them. Try to avoid talking about work and get to know the other team member’s interests, passions and hobbies. It’s a good idea to have your team engage in 1-2 coffee chats each week, and they can be as short as 20 minutes!
- Host Monthly Socials
Symba Socials are one of our favorite remote events! Once a month we take turns sharing a skill, teaching everyone a new recipe or leading a DIY project. Some of these activities have included: a ceviche making class, building gingerbread houses during the holidays, and pumpkin carving during Halloween. It’s fun to have creative freedom and experience things together that you are excited about outside of work. By having different team members host socials it helps to give you insights into the various backgrounds that make up your work community. You can also prepare questions and prompts to ask during the activities to get people talking about their lives and experiences. Socials can vary in size depending on the activity and level of interaction you desire your team to have.
- Plan Game Nights
Friendly competition is a well-known way to bring people together, and what better way to entice some but to plan for a game night? Try playing Bingo, 20 questions, or check out some game options on the Houseparty app. You can even play charades or Pictionary via Zoom, find out how here. The Game Gal site even offers word generation for these types of games. These are super fun ways to bond with your remote team and you can get creative with prizes!
- Get Moving with Group Zoom Walks
Grab your mobile device and headphones, put on some walking shoes and get outside with your team -- just like you might if you were on a break at the office. Hop on your preferred video hosting service and get to chatting. Walking helps to relax your mind and body and can make conversation seem less nerve-wracking, plus it’s healthy and fun! You don’t have to keep your eyes on the screen but you can share views of your walk during this time.
Caution: Make sure you are in a safe, hazard-free area to walk during this activity. We recommend a paved park trail where traffic isn’t present. Don’t forget your mask if you’ll be near others and take all social distancing precautions.
- Make Slack Fun and Engaging
If you're one of the 12 million users surfing the channels, you can suggest adding a “Jokes” or “Laughs” channel to your team’s Slack. You can even make it a routine to post a comic or meme once a week. As a reminder, make sure to remain professional and considerate of your company’s policies and approved culture. At Symba, we added a few channels just for fun, we have “Symba Jams” to share playlists and songs, “Adventures” to share weekend and after work events, and even a “Random” channel if there is an undesignated topic we want to share with the team. If you really Slack, you should be putting this tool to use to promote fun forms of engagement.
- Start a Book Club
A book club is a great way to ease into a discussion and unite your team members who have a shared love of reading. At Symba, we have a smaller team and instead of seminars and specific training, we like to read books with topics that will enhance our culture and promote forward-thinking when it comes to all aspects of our business. The book club conversations can provide insight to each other’s upbringings and conditioned thoughts. However, in the spirit of fun, an after-hours or lunchtime book club can be anything you want it to be. If your group wants to take a trip to Middle Earth via the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien, there is nothing stopping you!
- Celebrate the Unique “Days” of the Year
Did you know there is something to celebrate almost every day of the year? My advice is to let your team pick a few random days to highlight throughout the year. Send your team gift cards, ecards or set up an activity in observance of your special day. In fact, the reason we are writing this blog now is because it just so happens that January 29th is Fun at Work Day. You can find a full list of Days of the Year here.
To sum things up, remember that fun and play have a purpose and place at work. So even though celebrating a seemingly random day and hosting wellness sessions, book clubs, and game nights don’t sound like work, they can have many benefits at work and strengthen our teams. Investing in these day-to-day moments help to lay the foundation for your workplace culture and invigorate your team. We hope that you will take these insights and bring more joy to your remote work. Thank you for celebrating Fun at Work Day with our team at Symba!
Looking for more fun ideas? Check out our post with 10 creative ways to engage remote interns.
Watch our Fun at Work Day video here.
By The Riipen Team