Managers, then, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Employees want more remote work for its flexibility, but many are unhappy with how their companies handle company culture online. Even with platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack facilitating communication, maintaining a strong company culture remotely requires more than just efficient work chat.
According to a report by McKinsey and Company, over half of the employees want to either stay remote or want a more flexible working model. In fact, since the pandemic started, employees who want to stay fully in-person decreased from 62% to 37%, a whole 25% decrease. Plus, roughly 30% of employees said they would even consider switching jobs if they had to return to on-site work full-time. Even if we no longer have to socially distance ourselves, your remote happy hours are likely to continue in the future.
So, remote work is most definitely in the cards for your company. That being said, it’s no secret that employees are starting to experience greater levels of burnout because of remote work. Polls from Mental Health America reported that 70% of employees had experienced burnout, with a majority of the respondents claiming that it was due to remote work. Blurry lines between personal and professional life, as well as the general isolation that comes from working at home alone, were among the biggest drivers of dissatisfaction. We’ve also found that forcing ideas that work best in-person to become virtual events can be grating as well.
The Dilemma With Distanced Offices
Managers, then, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Employees want more remote work for its flexibility, but many are unhappy with how their companies handle company culture online. A strong company culture is crucial for any organization, but in a remote setting, it becomes even more important. Remote happy hours can contribute to building a company culture that embraces collaboration, inclusiveness, and fun, fostering a sense of belonging among employees and making everyone feel part of a common purpose.
One straightforward, but vital, solution is to focus on remote team building. Even if you can’t see your team members in person, that doesn’t mean managers can’t improve company culture. 90% of remote workers feel they don’t get enough time in meetings to really get to know their colleagues. Without that water cooler conversation, your employees don’t get a chance to get to know each other in any other environment than, well, work. According to a survey of over 19,000 workers by the ADP Research Institute, workers who felt like a member of a team were twice as likely to be fully engaged. A sense of communication and collaboration in your team will boost employee engagement – it’s just a matter of getting the ball rolling.
This Is Where Virtual Happy Hours Come In
While virtual gatherings might seem a little unnatural at first, there are numerous benefits that come with connecting socially from a distance, even on platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. Depending on the company’s goals, remote happy hours can improve team spirit and even provide opportunities to network. Teams that are more engaged with each other are much more likely to take initiative in projects and suggest new ideas.
Other benefits include improving employee morale, team building, increasing productivity, fostering a healthy work environment, instilling confidence in your employees, increasing employee satisfaction as well as showing your employees that you appreciate them and care for their wellbeing.
In addition to the sense of camaraderie and boost in productivity that comes with better relations between coworkers, there are a ton of practical benefits that employees enjoy. For example, it’s much less expensive at home and also, no one will know if you’re wearing sweatpants instead of business casual on a video chat or facetime. We here at LEAD.bot have loved meeting everyone’s pets, too!
Now that you know all the benefits of the remote team happy hours and virtual hangouts, here are a few pro tips to get you and your organization started.
Keep it Comfortable for Everyone
While in an ideal world, all of your employees feel comfortable enough with each other to share a drink and Skype after work, the reality is that some may feel stressed or pressured into participating. It’s important to foster open communication channels on platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack, where feedback can be provided and considered, ensuring everyone feels comfortable.
To support this, HR needs to develop a clear framework and manage expectations. They should explain why virtual happy hours and team-building activities are vital for peer interaction, team cohesion, and overall company culture. The communication should be somewhat guided, with the objectives and benefits of these interactions clearly articulated.
In order to make sure everyone is comfortable, emphasize that these happy hours or team-building activities are voluntary and that no one has to drink if they don’t want to. Some employees might have other obligations that make it hard for them to carve out time – communicating that start and end times are flexible will also help keep the atmosphere light.
Recognize that some employees might prefer not to turn their videos on during virtual social gatherings. While this preference should be respected, HR and managers should encourage team members to show their faces when comfortable, as this enhances the sense of community and helps build better peer relationships.
Finally, try to keep the groups small. We’re all familiar with the chaos of people trying to talk over each other on a video call. Too many participants can be overwhelming, and make the experience less intimate. For us, we’ve found that 10 people talking at once was a little too chaotic and that around 5 people hit the sweet spot.
Provide Structure to Keep Things Fresh
Hosting a meeting on Microsoft Teams or Slack is just the first step; the real challenge is making these virtual happy hours engaging and unique. With video call fatigue being a common issue, it’s critical to make these social gatherings stand out from regular work meetings and transform them into events your team looks forward to.
It’s not enough to merely gather people online; a structured and well-planned agenda can help keep things fresh and engaging. HR plays a crucial role here, educating managers and culture champions on the expectations, establishing a code of conduct, and providing conversation sparkers. Giving ample notifications and encouraging employees to share their experiences before and after events can create a buzz and foster an open culture of sharing and learning.
Structuring virtual happy hours around a shared activity or game is an excellent way to ensure engagement. There are plenty of online games and resources for shared activities that can be leveraged for this purpose. For instance, a trivia night about your company or industry knowledge, a throwback game of virtual werewolf, or even a themed night can transform an ordinary virtual meetup into an event to remember. Remember, non-alcoholic activities can be just as fun – consider virtual book clubs, charades, online board games, or even mocktail-making sessions.
Consider incorporating educational themes into these gatherings. For example, a discussion around a relevant topic like Asian history month, tips for writing effective internal communication emails, or even tips for new parents can not only break the ice but also provide a learning opportunity.
As for the refreshments, consider services that send out matching gift baskets, ensuring everyone at the happy hour enjoys the same experience, albeit from a distance. The famous Milk Bar offers a delicious sampler box of sweet treats, and Good Taste provides a flight of wine samples for a virtual wine-tasting night. For non-food-related activities, Ryptic team building hosts a fun virtual paint night where participants receive art supplies in the mail and engage in a session guided by an expert artist.
Streamline Your Virtual Happy Hours with a Dedicated App
Executing engaging virtual happy hours on platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack can initially appear daunting. However, applications like LEAD.bot are designed to simplify this process, ensuring your remote team’s social events run smoothly. As an integrated tool for Microsoft Teams and Slack, LEAD.bot enhances team bonding by intelligently matching employees into smaller groups.
Every week, the bot initiates a new chat with different group members, ensuring your team continually connects with a diverse range of colleagues. With its unique algorithm that identifies team members who share fewer common channels, LEAD.bot promotes interaction between employees who might not have had the chance to connect otherwise.
Integrating LEAD.bot into your social routine is simple. All it requires is inviting the bot to a Team or channel and customizing its settings according to your preferences. Whether you desire smaller groups, varying meeting frequencies, or specific match times, the bot’s flexible configuration caters to all. For instance, for a team of 15 people desiring monthly meetups, the bot can schedule virtual happy hour invites for three groups of five each Friday at 5 p.m.
With the built-in video chat capabilities of Slack and Teams, starting the hangout is a breeze. And if your team prefers other platforms, it’s just as easy to migrate the party over to Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Discover more about how LEAD.bot can bolster your organization’s team building efforts by visiting LEAD.bot.