How we connect and gather at work has been drastically disrupted after COVID-19, and new ways of working have been introduced. With the emerging remote working and hybrid models, how will companies create a positive culture in 2023 and beyond, as we move towards a more digital age? Read on to learn more!
Why is it important to connect and gather your teams?
After being forced to work more digitally (zoom fatigue, anyone?) during the worldwide COVID-19 lockdown, new ways of working emerged as people realized that working in a physical office from 9-5 might not be a good fit for their productivity or efficiency. People wanted to have the freedom to work wherever they wanted, at whatever time (allowing employees to stay true to their nocturnal and diurnal patterns) and started to demand that their jobs adjust to their lifestyle – and not the other way around. This is a trend that’s unlikely to disappear, according to a World Economic Forum report that finds that 73% of employees desire permanent flexible work options.
As the work environment shifts to accommodate flexible, hybrid and remote working patterns, a robust infrastructure for asynchronous work is required.
Teams have identified other new needs, too: after distancing and connecting over zoom, employees craved intentional and meaningful connection with their colleagues and/or teams from afar. Inclusion and a sense of belonging became crucial to empower employees to feel autonomous, seen and heard.
To adjust for flexible work options while maintaining a strong culture, meaningful gathering is crucial. If done properly, it will unlock myriad benefits, such as: enhancing connectivity and culture, strengthening the sense of belonging and kinship, better collaboration, and the creation of a safe space to discuss ideas and show up as your authentic self, which in turn can increase employee engagement.
Wouldn’t you be more inclined to spitball more ideas if you knew that you were accepted fully for who you are amongst your colleagues? I mean, daring to share foolish ideas is definitely so much easier when I know that my abilities won’t be questioned just because I present some wild ideas!
Next steps: The how and the what
Ok ok, so we’ve established the importance of gathering. But how do you ensure you arecreating meaningful connections for your team? What tools should you use? What apps exist? It can be so confusing to find the proper way for your teams to connect digitally, but it’s something that’s so worthwhile if you ace it! Here are some steps for you to follow, to help you along:
Step 1: KYC (know your customers!)
Whether it’s about producing impactful events or designing better products or services, we all know it’s important to understand your clients and customers. Who is your target group? I experienced that applying the “KYC (know your customers)” approach to your teams was pivotal in choosing the right tools and format for gathering to help you achieve intentional connectivity.
So go ahead, get to know your team better! Observe them (although not in a capital surveillance sneaky way 😇). Who are they? How do they interact with each other? What ways do they want to be connected? What do they geek about? What topics and activities excite them? Are they a creative bunch who like to draw, or do they like to solve mathematical riddles? Or both? Are they distributed across different time zones? How much are they able to dedicate their time to an activity? How much time are they “allowed” to spend to sign in? Do they need to spend time on installing things? How tech savvy are they? And how interactive do they want to be?
Step 2: What do they need?
Once you get a strong idea of who they are, identify what their needs are for connecting. What is the purpose of gathering them? Is it to introduce them to each other, if they are a new team? To welcome new joiners? To connect team members across departments, who have yet to speak with each other? To facilitate deeper and more intentional conversations that go beyond surface levels?
If you get Steps 1 and 2 right, you can choose the right tools to create the most impactful gatherings and facilitate the right connections. Look at it as if you’re creating a date: if you want to make the person feel seen, you want to make sure that you create a date that excites them and is customized to who they are, right? I mean, if you know your date is scared of heights, you’re not going to take them out to sky-dive. Unless you want to break up with them 😈
Step 3: Choose your weapon
Choose an activity, determine the duration, your budget and how to be a host to guide them through the activity. Below are some suggestions on what to choose, given how your team behaves and what their needs are:
Trivia & quizzes:
- If your team is a bunch of geeks who want their knowledge to be tested and challenged, choose to play a topical quiz.
- If you want to facilitate team bonding, where people can work together to find the right answers, choose some more obscure trivia.
Icebreakers & matchmakers:
- If you have new joiners, icebreakers are good for introductory conversations that go beyond “Hi my name is X and I do Y”
- If you want to connect colleagues across teams and departments, who haven’t spoken together before, icebreakers are good to facilitate that conversation. It can potentially help them detect common ground beyond the company they are working at.
- If you want to facilitate more meaningful and deeper conversations within teams, for a chance to get each other even more, choose some more personal icebreakers.
- Icebreakers are helpful for those who are not naturally talkers and need to have their conversations guided by questions to help them come out of their shells.
- If your team is more private and don’t want to be forced to open up, playing games can be a natural conversation starter for them. For some, it can be easier to open up without having to share details from their private lives.
- If your team has been through some intense deadlines lately and needs to let loose, games are a good activity to have them use other parts of their brains in a more relaxing yet stimulating way.
- If you want to facilitate team bonding, find out how competitive your team players are by playing games in teams together and against each other.
Live classes, e.g. cooking classes, croquis drawing, poem writing, journaling exercises:
- If your team is keen on doing something beyond the screen together, you can book a live class to learn a creative skill – or encourage someone from your team with hidden talents within the arts to host an activity themselves! Learning something new together is a great way to create common ground.
Live entertainment, e.g. magician, hypnotist, comedian or artist:
- If your team just want to let loose, not use their brains, but still share an experience beyond work, hiring a live entertainer might be the right choice. Having your team be baffled by how they got tricked by the magician or hypnotist will be the talking points for ages!
Final point: don’t let it get boring.
Keep the type and format of the activities varied, so you don’t repeat the same activity again and again and avoid boring your team (we all reach a threshold of how many quizzes we can bear!) Other than that, your task is simply to make sure that they have fun and get to know each other. Ready, set, go!