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I work on a project of ~50 people, split across 4 sites. To maintain employee engagement, we have various long-running employee engagement activities, including:

  • Team morning teas/coffees
  • After work drinks
  • Out-of-office activities (e.g. volunteering, escape room, etc.)
  • Town halls (whole project updates)

However, with the onset of COVID-19, we are making the switch to working from home arrangements. Obviously some of our current activities can translate to this model, such as having coffee catch-ups over video conferences, but I was wondering if anyone has any innovative suggestions for other activities? I have looked at this question on general engagement but feel it doesn't quite apply. One current plan we have is to mail a "care package" to team members and have everyone open it during a team meeting.

Note that we are tracking and managing people's personal circumstances during this time (e.g. carer responsibilities with schools closing) to cater to more practical engagement needs.

Edit:

The specific problem I'm looking at addressing is the risk that team members will feel isolated and disengage. This is in part due to the removal of their every-day interactions with colleagues, as well as the broader social isolation resultant of COVID-19 ("social distancing" campaigns, mandated isolation, etc.).

In this context I'll limit the definition of an engaged team member to one that feels personally connected with the rest of the team/project. This connection could be at the one-on-one level (previously improved by coffee catch-ups), one-on-many (drinks or morning teas) or one-on-project level (project updates).

  • Even though it’s a useful question, it’s very open ended. Do you have more targeted problem you are trying to solve? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 25 at 1:52
  • How are you defining engagement? That is so broad. – Matthew Gaiser Mar 25 at 2:54
  • Thanks both, I have added an edit to try and address your points – TheOmegaPostulate Mar 25 at 6:19
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    How often did you had "out-off-office activities" and "town hall meetings"? It might be some cultural difference but I'm not used to have such things more frequent that once every 3-4 months. – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 25 at 7:56
  • Project updates were monthly, then we typically have one larger event and one to two smaller activities (e.g. coffees) per quarter. The concern is based around the wider loss of interaction though, the specific events are more for context about our current state. I agree with your point though, I find in my current industry (tech consulting) we have more events than in my previous positions. – TheOmegaPostulate Mar 25 at 8:10
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I don't know if this is what you're looking for or is at all helpful - but since I'm in the same boat and just decided on a course of action earlier in the day, I figured I should share in case it might help someone else.

Our group used to do a monthly game-lunch. Last month, we all ate pizza and played a casual game of Settlers of Catan.

Well, obviously that's not a possibility now. So I started thinking: is there any way to play a game with that same sort of atmosphere but with everyone being remote?

I ended up deciding on Quiplash, but the general thought is: if you can find an online party game that's accessible via phone, you can:

  • Have everyone join a Skype/Jabber/Zoom/Whatever meeting on their computer
  • Have everyone also join the game on their phones
  • Have everyone kicking back and chatting/etc while also playing the game and eating
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  • FWIW, sites like boardgamearena allow quite a lot of games to be played online - I don't think they have Catan, but they have others of that ilk. – Geoffrey Brent Mar 25 at 9:02
  • I've done this with my friends during the quarantine, it works rather well. There are other choices to hold these online gaming sessions, such as Tabletop simulator and someone made an online edition of Secret Hitler – Draken Mar 25 at 9:20
  • I quite like this answer as it's a fun way to get the team together. Worth noting that jackboxgames.com is giving away Drawful 2 for the next two weeks, and has a pinned article that steps through how you can play it remotely with people. – TheOmegaPostulate Mar 31 at 6:25
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A virtual happy-hour can replace the after work drinks. Zoom, Google Hangouts etc can provide video conferencing which many companies are already using as part of group work from home scenarios.

People can join the call with their beverage of choice, if the weather is nice people might be able to do it outside. Tried this with my team and it was a great way to informally wrap up the week of isolation, no talk of work just hanging out enjoying a drink with the team.

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We are in the same boat, 350ish workers all from home now. We have talked about doing a 30 or so minute virtual happy hour 15 of which would involve our end of day check-in/daily status meeting with our team and possible doing some kind of quick online multiplayer board game. Think trivia/risk/other free games while on camera and having a beer. Of course it's optional but everyone seems pretty up for trying to set something like that up this week.

HR also set up an all day zoom meeting for breaks during the day that you can just drop into after you get some coffee and see who else is taking 15 minutes after grabbing a coffee or doing a big code push. And probably end up shooting the shit with someone that you might not have directly worked with before, much like running into someone at the coffee maker.

The upper management is also scheduling a end of week wrap-up meeting every Friday afternoon to keep everyone in the loop, shoot down any rumors that might have started and update everyone on the situation in the company/county/state and what the steps forwards for the next week are.

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