Communicate

Keeping social activities alive in a virtual workplace

Prior to COVID when all 70 Smokeballers worked in the office together, organising the social activities was straight forward. As a social bunch something as simple as Friday beer and pizza, or a monthly birthday cake and song went down well. Though in March, when we suddenly all started working from home, our humble social calendar simply didn’t work. Virtual social drinks were a flop, and singing happy birthday online was plain awkward. So, with much trial and error, here are my tips:

Prior to COVID when all 70 Smokeballers worked in the office together, organising the social activities was straight forward. As a social bunch something as simple as Friday beer and pizza, or a monthly birthday cake and song went down well. Though in March, when we suddenly all started working from home, our humble social calendar simply didn’t work. Virtual social drinks were a flop, and singing happy birthday online was plain awkward. So, with much trial and error, here are my tips:

1. Recreate natural conversations, with cameras always on

At our weekly office huddle, where all 70 Smokeballers meet over Zoom, we kick off with an icebreaker called ‘recommendations’. Each week a few people are nominated to recommend something, like a Netflix series or a local restaurant delight. It’s super easy to play and gets people chatting! While the ‘recommendation’ gives you a snapshot into a colleague’s life, it also connects people who have similar interests. It’s well worth the short 10 minutes it takes to play.

2. Get the time right

We run a weekly virtual trivia with a rotating host and theme. We purposely run it 15 minutes before our virtual Office Huddle, as most people have already blocked out this period in their calendar, so it’s convenient to play. We’ve found that a 15-minute game our sweet spot, as it’s fast and engaging without taking up too much time.

3. Provide a platform to foster common interests

We use Slack for our internal chat, so this is an ideal place for our virtual social space too. We empower our employee to facilitate group channels to share common interests and build community.

Some popular groups are:
#good_dogs
#recipe_exchange
#book_worms
​#new_babies

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4. Bring on competition

Our two most popular virtual games yet have been our team activities - an Olympics and an Escape Room. With both activities, employees were randomly divided into teams and went head-to-head. The friendly competition enhanced the team work and overall participation – lots of laughs, no cringes!

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5. Shout lunch

To balance out all the virtual activities, and encourage teams to spend a bit of in-person social time together, we shout teams a monthly lunch or group activity. This has proved to be very popular, last month we had a few teams get together to bond over axe throwing!

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