Are virtual events the answer to having fun with your team while socially distancing?
The challenge of effectively leading a team though COVID-19 is something that cannot be taken lightly. Gone are the days where everyone is in the same office 8 hours a day, working closely together and meeting at the water cooler for breaks. The biggest noticeable change in losing those things is the loss of relationships that people once had with their boss and co-workers.
Pre-Covid I spent 13 years as a part of an organization where the staff worked hard but also found time to play together. We regularly had both structured (Staff Retreats, Fantasy Football Drafts) and unstructured (random lunch gatherings, game nights, office nerf battles) time where we stopped what we were doing and just enjoyed being a team.
While the focus was just having fun, it accomplished so much more for the team and the parts or the organization they were leading. They developed shared experiences for people to look back on when frustrations arose. They allowed the team leaders to build relational capital with their team members. They brought joy to the workplace that carried teams through stressful situations and hard projects. They broke up the day to day and made going to work exciting because you never knew what was going to happen.
I think out of all the things that COVID-19 has taken from organizations, a leader’s inability to “have fun” with their team has to be at the top of the list. The list of apps and services available to leaders that help them assign tasks and keep their people-focused is endless. What is harder for leaders to find are strategies for having fun with their teams, finding time to play, and building comradery and it is showing amongst their team members.
I regularly coach leaders from organizations across the country and the overarching theme for most of those phone calls has become an awareness that due to lack of relationships their job has become less enjoyable AND a fear that the people they lead are feeling the same way. Both are major issues and the root cause that makes leading during COVID-19 a challenge.
So, how do we give our teams time to play in the midst of the season we find ourselves in? Here are a few simple ideas.
- Lunch Dates: Just because your team can’t gather around a physical table, does not mean they can’t share a meal together. Schedule in advance so that everyone can participate, then use the office’s favorite restaurant to have lunches delivered to each team member. Invite everyone to a Zoom call and make sure everyone knows that talking about work is off-limits and you just want to spend time with them.
If it has been a while since your team has been together, give each of them time to share how life is going.
If your team does better with activities, play a round of Scattergories with them.
Before your time together is over, make sure they know how much you appreciate them as an individual apart from their roles on the team.
- Book Club: There is no need to recreate the wheel here. Find a book (something not work-related) and give people the option to read it together. Take an hour once a month DURING THE WORKDAY to get everyone together to talk about the book.
Added bonus if you can pick a book that is getting made into a movie so your team can watch the movie together after they are done reading the book.
- Outdoor activities: Depending on the part of the country you are in, fall is a beautiful time to be outside. Take advantage of it and find things for your team to do DURING THE WORKDAY outside.
Take your team on a hike or on a fishing trip. Find a place to play disc golf or just have a large picnic where everyone can have their own space.
- Partner with a company like LetsVidya to hold virtual social events for your team. Once you move to the virtual space, the possibilities of what you can offer your team are endless.
LetsVidya offers everything from trivia nights, to murder mysteries and escape rooms, to cooking classes and craft mixology classes. All led by a professional host that is passionate about what they are doing and making sure your team has a great time.
At the end of the day, the message I am giving leaders over and over again is,
“Do something instead of nothing, your people will appreciate it.”
As leaders, it is time that we step up and do something for our teams – they need it.
One event won’t completely fix the relational disconnect team members are feeling, but it is a step in the right direction and will go a long way in building team morale.