Before COVID-19, “Summer Fridays” equated to team lunches sharing weekend plans to hit the beach, barbeque outdoors, or venture out of the city for some fresh air and nature. With the warmer weather also came more team outings from mini-golfing to picnics, pool days, or impromptu drinks with coworkers to cap off a Friday before going off to everyone’s respective weekends.
Welcome to the socially distanced summer of 2020, where many circumstances have changed, but team bonding is especially important in the virtual settings we operate within these days. Beyond the physical and mental health benefits of social interaction, creating virtual team bonding activities is important to maintaining an engaged corporate culture. Not only are engaged cultures more productive, but according to research by Gallup, companies with high engagement are 21% more profitable and report better health outcomes. In an economic environment where budgets are tight and every dollar counts, productivity is more important than ever.
Even without the ability to connect in person, there are team bonding events that companies can easily implement to get their teams moving, laughing, and get that Friday Feeling activated.
“Sweatwork” with your team
Sweatworking is an easy way to turn a team event into a workout that everyone can participate in from their respective locations. Group classes from popular studios like Barry’s or Fhitting Room LIVE can be done over Zoom, and it’s a great way to build some exercise into the day and the energy boost is guaranteed.
Taking everyone’s stress levels down is paramount with no separation between work life and home life. Together, teams can work out the knots from sitting at makeshift home offices with a group stretch or chair yoga class. All employees can participate in this type of activity regardless of their fitness level, and it is powerful in reinvigorating everyone for the rest of your day.
Get your Zen on
Mental health has become a major focus for employers as people are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress due to quarantine, a lack of social interaction, and other external stressors. Setting aside time for mindfulness shows employees that a company is dedicated to their well-being and helps everyone start meetings with a clear mind and positive attitude.
For instance, bring some calm into the next team meeting by starting with a 10-minute guided meditation from an app like Calm or Inscape, or join a breathwork collective, through which you can join a breathwork-focused Zoom class. It’s an easy way to help people reconnect and quiet their minds for a more focused and productive discussion.
Prepare a meal together
Cooking classes are great ways to build engagement and interaction when done live, but these can be moved virtually as well. Pre-order meal kit boxes from Blue Apron or HelloFresh (make sure your team selects the same recipes) and then get prepping and cooking. Teams can enjoy the meal together, or surprise their families with dinner.
For a less time-intensive option, turn it into a smoothie bar by ordering pre-frozen smoothies, such as from Daily Harvest, and prepare beverages together. Whatever a manager or HR team decides, having everyone engage and learn something new together can support team bonding and provide a shared experience , even from a distance, which can bring people closer.
Virtual musical chairs
Have everyone submit their favorite song for a playlist and pick one person to DJ the tunes, for a combination musical chairs and dance party. Everyone can start dancing when the music starts and when the music stops, the last person who sits is “out.”
Letting people bring their guards down and be silly is a great way to not only connect with others but also to bring some levity into a remote workday.
Virtual petting zoo
There’s a good reason that pet adoption has skyrocketed during quarantine—animals make people feel better.
Give coworkers with kids a breather by inviting their kids into the action. Have everyone join a Zoom with their pets and show-and-tell. Not only will you earn major points from your coworkers for helping to engage their kids for an hour, but it’s a great way to get to know your colleagues better too and invite pets to a meeting without an accidental interruption.
Share fun, personal stories
While working remotely, this can be a great time for new (and old) colleagues to get to know one another.
Bring a photo or video of yourselves doing a favorite summer activity, and tell a personal anecdote about it. This is a great way for team members to learn a little bit more who you are and what you enjoy to do in your spare time.
Moreover, this is a perfect time to share any new hobbies you’ve developed since sheltering in place, like gardening, baking or biking, and get new ideas from your coworkers that you haven’t thought of yet.
Plan a scavenger hunt
Make a list of 10-15 items commonly found at home and team up with up to four people, and each team gets 30 minutes to gather as many items as possible. Not only does this get people moving, but it’s a great way for people to put teamwork into action. The winner or winners get to plan the next team activity!
Summer Fridays might not be the same, but with a little creativity, your company can still bring some fun and much needed social connection and stress relief to all team members working remotely. Hopefully, by getting into the summer spirit, we can all return to the office feeling more connected with our coworkers than before.
Erika Zauner is the founder and CEO of HealthKick, a corporate health and wellness platform that provides employees with access to over 500 leading consumer health, fitness and wellness brands, personalized to their individual interests and goals. She is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and is fortunate to share her passion for helping people thrive through well-being with HealthKick.