soft skills sociability

Remote work stories during the quarantine

By Merhawi Kidane on October, 28 2021

5 leaders find cheap, fun ways to stay connected with their teams

With millions of employees suddenly working from home -- many for the first time -- leaders are scrambling to find ways to keep them engaged. And most have figured out that a daily Zoom meeting or conference call isn’t enough.

Employees want to feel the connection and camaraderie that they are accustomed to in the workplace. And they are looking to their leaders to get those feelings back.

We found a number of leaders who are rising to the occasion, implementing fun, entertaining and inexpensive events to stay connected with their people. Here’s what they are doing:

Game night

Sean Pour, co-founder of SellMax, a car buying service, wanted a fun way to keep his remote workers engaged and upbeat through the crisis. So, he launched weekly online “game days” to bring the team together. Employees gather online to play virtual checkers, League of Legends, and any other team-based online games they can find.

“They use Zoom, order food on Grubhub that the company pays for, and even drink a beer while spending time together online,” Pour says. “It’s a way for them to have a good time and really get to know each other better.”

Virtual cafe

Ethan Taub, CEO of financial product and services websites, Goalry and Loanry, has been hosting daily remote lunches with his entire team since they began working from home in March. “It has made for some very fun and entertaining video calls, with cats jumping on screen, and kids singing happy birthday in the background as they wash their hands,” Taub says. “Sure, this is not a situation we saw ourselves in, but we have decided to make the most out of what we have. As long as we work together, and laugh where we can, we will get through this.”

Lunch and learn

Cohere, a creative design studio in Philadelphia, recently opened glossy new offices that include a flower shop, test kitchen, photo lab, and other spaces designed to inspire employees. They also hosted a weekly 'Lunch & Learn,” where experts from various fields taught classes on their topic of choice. “Now that we're all stuck at home, they moved the Wednesday Lunch and Learn to Zoom and opened it up to the public,” explains Antoinette Marie Johnson, Cohere’s founder and CEO.

The first week, Chef Erik Oberholtzer, founder of Tender Greens, demoed recipes for making plant-based lunches using biodynamic and organic ingredients. For their next event, Chef Oberholtzer and Chef Eli Kulp will host a lunch conversation on how COVID-19 has impacted the restaurant industry and how communities are collectively moving forward. “It's casual and fun, and breaks up the day,” says Johnson. “And it definitely provides a needed sense of community.”

Virtual support groups

Professionals in Transition is a support group that offers hope, help, and emotional support to people who are out of work. When the coronavirus shut down its group meetings, founder Damian Birkel took the support system online. “It’s been a blessing in disguise because we have been able to increase the number of people we serve exponentially through LinkedIn and Facebook,” Birkel says.

In addition, he created a list of high-risk people – members who are sole providers, have run out of savings, or are deeply discouraged -- and he checks in with them every week. “These are the folks who I am really worried about,” he says.

Netflix for all

To help employees get through the boredom of quarantine, Brett Downes, founder Haro Helpers, an editorial pitching service, bought four full Netflix accounts to share with his 10 employees so they can all be entertained during their downtime. “Each day, one of us picks a comedy series and we all sit down to watch it at the same time while messaging on a Whatsapp group on our phones,” says Downes. “It costs me less than $50 a month, but it keeps all the staff in touch with each other and we muddle through this crisis together, keeping morale levels up.”

None of these events are expensive or difficult to implement, and they all serve the same goal –bring people together. Togetherness gives everyone a sense of hope in the face of uncertainty. If you are struggling to maintain connections with your remote teams, try copying one of these strategies.

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