We’ve all experienced those virtual happy hours with so many talking-heads you can’t get a word in edgewise. How about those remote yoga sessions where everyone has their cameras off not wanting to sport their workout gear in front of colleagues? Or, maybe you’re on your tenth wine and paint night - running out of wallspace for your latest “masterpiece”... If one thing is certain, as remote work trudges on, finding new and creative ways to engage employees is becoming increasingly difficult, but it doesn’t have to be!

With 2020 in the rear view mirror, it’s time to leave certain work-from-home social trends behind us as well. We’ve had a whole year of virtual meetings, hangouts, presentations…pretty much, well, everything, if we’re being honest here. It’s 2021 now, we’re older and wiser, so let’s shake things up a bit, shall we? It’s time we take what we learned last year and use it to make working remotely actually advantageous to building positive company culture. With that in mind, here are Moniker’s Top 5 unique, effective and, most importantly, enjoyable, ways to connect virtually with your employees in 2021.

Monthly Photo Contest

As the adage goes: “it’s the little things in life”. So, let’s start off small and simple, quick and dirty. Your remote employees are working hard and may not have a lot of time on their hands for extra social events or activities. If that’s the case, then this monthly photo contest is just the ticket for you.

Whether it’s Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, or any other workplace messaging app, it’s easy to set up an extra channel solely for the purposes of this contest. Each month, choose a theme and encourage employees to submit a photo of theirs that fits the bill. Keep the theme broad to allow for multiple interpretations and diverse submissions - really allow the creativity to flow.  

Over the course of the month, participants will vote for their favourite photo. When the contest comes to a close, the winner will receive a prize of your choice (everyone loves a gift card or meal kit, hint hint). This activity is great in that it adds a fun little boost to everyone’s day, while at the same time allows employees to engage on their own watch, making it relatively low commitment but high reward. Everyone is sure to get a laugh in, and learn a little bit about each other through commenting and voting. A monthly photo contest is an easy way to foster connection with your team and is sure to get everyone involved.

Looking for some theme ideas to get kick-started? How about: Throwback Thursday, Work From Home Problems, Funny Pet Photos, Most Epic Travel Pictures…the world is really your oyster here.

Rotating Happy Hour

We all miss the after work drinks, coffee breaks, and fun lunch outings. Try as we may, the value and connection these activities brought us has been difficult to replicate in a virtual setting. These were the times when employees got to know each other on a more personal level, which definitely boosted the overall workplace morale. Well, 2021 is time to bring that personal connection back to the virtual work space. No, we’re not talking about a massive Zoom happy hour, we’re better than that now!

Introducing: Rotating Happy Hour (oooh, ahhh). Every month, employees can sign up to be randomly placed into groups of four people. Each group will then choose a time for virtual coffee, drinks or lunch, and enjoy getting to know their colleagues outside of the regular 9 to 5. The best part is that each month the groups can change, allowing remote employees to connect with each other wherever they are in the world. Take it a step further by offering a random draw each month for a gift card that groups can put toward cocktail kits or food deliveries for their hangout.

Giving employees the chance to choose their participation month to month removes the pressure of constant commitment. By the same token, smaller group meetings create a more comfortable environment and allow for genuine conversation to flow. Give it a try, and see what amazing connections can be built, even virtually.

Start a Fitness Club

Let’s be honest - without a regular commute to work, our daily step counts have taken a bit of a downward turn. While the convenience was nice for a while, the trip from the kitchen to the home office simply isn’t cutting it anymore. Another great way to engage remote employees in 2021 and get everyone moving again is to create a fitness club.

By using social fitness apps like Nike Run Club, FitOn, and Strava, employees can easily set up a variety of personal wellness goals, and check-in to see how their colleagues are doing. These don’t necessarily have to be exercise related (eg. workout 5 days per week). Instead, employees should be encouraged to work towards bettering themselves in whatever shape or form that takes for them personally - whether it be reading one book by the end of the month, practicing meditation for 10 minutes each day, or drinking at least 3 liters of water by 5:00pm. What’s key, is that goals fit the SMART method, that is: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Once the goals are set in stone, consider adding an incentive for anyone who reaches their target by the month’s end. This could be a charitable donation, gift card, afternoon off, etc. - whatever will get people motivated and supporting each other. 

Take it from us! At Moniker, we’ve recently started the “New New You Club”. Using a Google spreadsheet, employees outline their wellness goals for the month and update their tracker daily. For every wellness “task” accomplished that day, employees get one point. If they reach their target by the end of the month, they qualify for the associated incentive. 

Hosting a fitness club is a great way for employees to motivate themselves and each other, while at the same time working together towards a common goal.

Spice Up Your Weekly/Monthly Trivia

Step aside humdrum trivia! Let’s use virtual workplaces to our advantage. Creative trivia and online games have exploded during the pandemic, giving us a whole lot more variety from the comfort of our own homes. Rather than trying to emulate in-person pub trivia, lean into the virtual setting by choosing unique trivia games optimized for remote teams.  

Try a music quiz where players have to guess the song and artist from hearing only a 10 second audio clip. You can also do this with audio from popular movies! Or, try GeoGuessr, a fun, interactive game that involves being dropped into Google Streetview and having to guess where in the world you’ve landed. Better yet, offer your employees a chance to design and run a trivia game for themselves. Allowing them to shape their own experience will up the excitement and interest in the games.

Set an optional lunch hour once a month, include a few prizes for incentive, and you’ll be sure to have a lively game and great connection with your employees.

Have a Night Out (In)!

Give your employees an experience to look forward to by opting for a unique virtual game run by Moniker. With tons of variety to fit your company’s needs, these virtual experiences are sure to help your employees relax, connect, laugh and feel appreciated. Take an afternoon or night off to enjoy a game that not only engages your employees, but strengthens your team culture at the same time.

Whether it is a challenging virtual escape room, an exciting game show filled with twists and turns, or a thrilling murder mystery set in the ‘80s, there is something for everyone. By the way, that last experience is a great opportunity to dress up for a costume competition (no, for real, people love showing off their ‘80s wear!). Live actors, start-to-finish entertainment, and unique team building opportunities... our virtual games are sure to be a memorable experience for all!

Optional Add Ons: 

  • Want to make your night even more fun? Add on a custom cocktail kit for your employees to enjoy creating… and drinking!
  • Add prizes for the first place winners or best dressed stars!

Make it Your Own!

If there is one major takeaway from 2020, it’s that we can keep a community thriving, whether we are near or far. A strong culture has always been the lifeblood of successful companies, and a remote workforce is no exception to this rule. It’s easy to foster this connection through creative yet simple team building engagements.

When choosing a virtual activity, remember this: you know your team and colleagues best. With a seemingly endless array of choices, you’ll want to pick something that caters to your company. Whether it be funny photos, online coffee dates, a fitness club, unique trivia or epic virtual games, you’ll be able to continue building a strong and happy team, wherever you are in the world!