With a year of remote working under our belt, chances are it’s time to find new and creative ways to recognize your team for a job well done, connect after a long week, or just hit refresh on that Zoom happy hour.
Your employees have spent the past year adjusting to new work styles and juggling the blending of their personal and professional lives. They’ve been dealing with burnout, struggling with dependent care, financial insecurities, racial and social unrest, and of course, a worldwide pandemic. They’re likely feeling farther away from their teams than ever, so investing in fresh ways to incorporate employee recognition into your day today, and finding ways to connect beyond the regular old virtual happy hour can go a long way for morale.
Recognizing your employees is one of the most valuable ways a company can retain good talent. Teams recognized for their hard work are more engaged, happier, and have a greater chance to develop further within the company. So what are some employee recognition ideas? We’ve put together a list of ways to add personal value to your meetings.
Make it personal
One significant way of acknowledging your employees for their work is by making them feel seen. So much of our personal lives have blended into our work lives, so why not pay attention to those personal lives? Spice up your virtual meetings by making them a little less about work and a little more about what is going on outside the (remote) office. You’ll connect with your teammates on a more personal level, and you’ll get to know each other a little bit better.
Rotating recognition: Each week, nominate someone on your team who has gone above and beyond and show them how much you appreciate them – you can give them a public shoutout, a gift card, or a small token of your appreciation. Then, have them choose and recognize a new person the following week. It’s a great way to raise morale and show your team you are grateful for their contributions.
Other ideas to bring some fun into your virtual meetings:
Photo sharing: A fun icebreaker to start or end team meetings with a more personal note is to encourage everyone to share a picture relating to a weekly theme. Your theme of the week could be sharing a photo of you as a baby, you at prom, something you recently cooked, the view outside your home office, your coffee mug, etc. For added fun, you can keep secret who sent in which photo and guess who took it.
Two truths and a lie: Can you tell the truth from a lie? At your next team meeting, have everyone share two truths and one lie, but don’t reveal which is which. Your other teammates then have to try to guess the lie. Don’t worry, even if you don’t get it right, odds are you’ll still learn a thing or two about your coworkers in the process!
Party animals: Go wild and invite a farm animal to your next team meeting. Sweet Farm’s Goat-2-Meeting program lets you rent a goat, llama, or another farm animal for your next Zoom call.
Rose & Thorn: Rose & Thorn is a fun way to kick off a Friday standing meeting. Go around your video call and share the best (rose) and the worst (thorn) parts of your week. Your answers can be personal or professional, whatever you’re willing to share. It helps you take a quick pulse on morale and learn a bit about your colleagues.
Build up your team
Team building can increase communication and morale on any team since it’s a crucial part of an ongoing employee engagement strategy. Team building events are a great way to welcome a new colleague, celebrate surpassing your team goals, or just to get the team together. They let your employees socialize outside of a work environment, develop existing relationships, and get to know teammates they might not interact with regularly, which can improve workplace collaboration and increase team performance.
Whether your team is temporarily or permanently working from home, you don’t have to be together in-person to have fun and blow off some steam. Waiting until you are together might be too little too late. Studies show that if employees feel disconnected and isolated from their teams, 27% don’t make it beyond their first year. For those who do decide to stick things out, their productivity can drop by up to 21%.
Plus, now more than ever, your employees need something to look forward to after a long week. Planning a cookie decorating event or low-key team trivia night is sometimes all it takes to bring the team together for much-needed bonding and socialization outside of work. A virtual team event could be just what you need to raise morale, increase motivation, boost engagement, and improve collaboration.
What Culture Amp does:
Online games: Everyone loves a little “interoffice” competition. Go old school with charades over Zoom, try online cards, Pictionary, or an online multiplayer game from Houseparty or Jackbox.tv.
Virtual coffee date: It can be hard to meet new people, especially when working remotely. Help your employees connect with their colleagues through a coffee and donuts program. Each week, program participants share a 15-minute conversation over a cup of joe with a randomly-selected coworker. It’s an excellent way for employees to expand their professional networks and meet people from other areas of the business.
18 additional ideas for remote team building activities
If your team loves to read, you might consider hosting a monthly or quarterly book club. Vote on a book to read and discuss what you thought of it over video chat.
Or, if your team is more into Netflix than novels, grab some popcorn and pop on a flick of your choosing. While there’s no talking during the movie, Netflix Party lets you all chat about what’s happening on the screen or catch up while the movie plays in the background.
When it’s your turn, think of an object and tell your opponents whether it’s an animal, vegetable, or mineral. From there, the group can ask 20 yes or no questions to try to figure out what it is you’re thinking. If, after 20 questions, the group still can’t figure out what your object is, you win!
If you’re not familiar, a PowerPoint party requires every attendee to create a five-minute presentation on a subject of their choosing. It can be anything from your dream screenplay to your favorite conspiracy theory to why you love chocolate chip cookies. The sky’s the limit, and the more out-there your topic is, the better the event is.
The team that sweats together stays together. Get those endorphins flowing with a virtual team workout at your favorite studio. If you’re worried about jumping headfirst into HIIT or a Bootcamp, try something low impact, like yoga, barre, or pilates.
Show off the internal talent on your team by hosting a team or company-wide talent show. Whether they’re the office comedian or just a shower singer, encourage all your employees to take to the virtual stage to showcase their talents and cheer on their colleagues.
Show off your random knowledge with a team trivia night. Elect a quiz master to lead the evening, or have everyone on your team come up with questions for one round.
At-home scavenger hunt
Give everyone a time limit and send them off to find something in their house that matches a clue. Every item someone brings back counts as a point, and the person with the most points at the end of the game wins. Some ideas for clues are: “something that makes you happy,” “something that starts with F,” and “something cold.”
Host your own Nailed It! or The Great British Baking Show contest by picking an ambitious baked good recipe to recreate. Share photos of your creations and vote on who won. Unfortunately, you can’t taste everyone else’s creations, but you can enjoy your own!
Murder mystery party
Host a classic who-dun-it with a virtual twist. Companies like The Murder Mystery Co. can help you host a live, interactive murder mystery party with your team. Everyone has to get into character, interrogate suspects, and try to identify the killer before time runs out. Costumes are highly encouraged!
Remote gift exchange
A gift exchange can be a fun way to bring everyone together, especially around the holidays. Set a budget, assign everyone a teammate to buy a gift for (Elfster is a helpful tool if you want to keep the pairs a secret!), and then go shopping! Schedule a virtual meet-up to celebrate, open gifts, and reveal who had who.
Nothing brings teams together quite like being stuck in a Zoom room together. Work together and use your problem-solving skills to solve clues and win your freedom. Companies like Puzzle Break and The Escape Game make it easy to share an exciting adventure with your team, even when you’re all at home.
Hire a magician
It’s always good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to spice up your weekly team meetings. A magician can be the perfect way to liven things up. A few interactive card tricks and illusions are sure to have your team buzzing with excitement the rest of the day.
“To celebrate the successful completion of a challenging team project, I booked a virtual Airbnb experience and had a magician join us one evening after work,” said Iryna Halaway, Senior Marketing Project Manager at Culture Amp. “It turned out to be even better than anyone expected. The show was highly interactive, and the tricks were unimaginable. It gave a much-needed distraction from the turbulent 2020.
If the key to your team members’ hearts is through their stomachs, plan a cooking night! Have someone lead the rest of the team through their favorite recipe and then sit down and enjoy the meal together. Some recipes that are friendly for all kitchen comfort-levels are a massaged kale caesar salad, carbonara, or tacos. Whatever your team wants to try, the possibilities are endless!
“Our team organized a virtual cooking class to celebrate exceeding our goals for Q3,” said Sahra Kaboli-Nejad, one of Culture Amp’s senior people scientists. “It was a great chance for us to take a step back from work and focus solely on team bonding, especially for those of us who don’t always work together directly.”
Sommelier-led wine tastings
Learn how to sniff, swirl, and sip fine wines with a private online course led by a master sommelier. You can all relax and unwind after a long week and learn a thing or two about wine. Don’t forget the cheese!
Paint ’n sip
Express your inner artist with a paint ’n sip night. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, everyone paints the same painting with their own artistic license. The host walks everyone through how to paint your subject step-by-step, so even non-artistic teammates can enjoy themselves. Once you’re finished, everyone reveals their paintings, and it’s fun to see how everyone’s pieces turned out.
The perfect excuse to order takeout. Have everyone expense dinner from their favorite local spot and share a bite to eat virtually.
Shake things up by sending everyone on your team a cocktail-making kit and having a professional mixologist instruct everyone how to whip up a few elevated cocktail recipes. Or, keep things low-key and have an amateur cocktail maker on your team walk you through their favorite drink recipes. Just be sure to include a mocktail recipe for any non-drinkers on the team so everyone can participate.
Just remember, employee recognition programs and team-building activities don’t always have to be big or expensive to be great. Get creative, think outside the box, and ask your team what they want. That’s the easiest way to make sure everyone feels engaged, motivated, and part of a team. As long as you’re focused on recognizing your team for a job well done, you can’t go wrong.
Learn how to map your employee experience