Building Agile Teams

10 Ways to Have Fun with Your Remote Coworkers 

How Sharing Joy Can Help Your Company Thrive Now and in the Emerging New Normal

Editor's note: This article is one of a series designed to be At Your Service as we all learn to connect with one another even while we're remote. Because together we are not alone.

Right now, the world is a scary place. Our way of life has been disrupted and those among us who were already vulnerable are being most impacted. Many of us are left feeling stressed, isolated, lonely, and afraid. At Scrum Alliance, like so many other organizations across the world, we’ve had to “flip the switch,” changing things up from what we’ve normally done, to ensure that our people and communities have what they need to stay connected and engaged. We’ve found that while it’s essential to hold space for teammates with empathy and authenticity, it’s also incredibly important to remember that workplaces have the opportunity to provide more than just income during this difficult time, they can be platforms for joyful human connection.

Employee engagement and connection at work are essential to an organization’s success. “When employees are engaged, they display high levels of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation, which translates into higher levels of job performance, creativity, and productivity,” say Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Lewis Garrad and Didier Elzinga in Harvard Business Review. “This means not only higher revenues and profits for organizations, but also higher levels of well-being for employees.” Now especially, companies need engaged employees and employees need to feel supported and uplifted.

When creating opportunities for fun and connection in the workplace, it’s important to remember that not everyone craves connection in the same way. Working parents with young children at home may not be able to attend virtual happy hours. Individuals with physical impairments may skip out on physical activities. Think introverts want to avoid connection altogether? Think again! Introverts may be feeling lonely too, though they may not be fans of an hours-long zoom call. At Scrum Alliance, we’ve come up with a myriad of ways to share fun and connection with all of our teammates. Here are ten of my favorites, in no particular order:

1. Create Space for Smiles
If you build it, they will come. Sometimes the best employee engagement tools are unstructured and require no more effort than a purpose and a place. At Scrum Alliance, we use a communication tool called Slack to send short (and sometimes loooong) instant messages to each other, post updates, and stay connected. One of my favorite and most-used areas in Slack is a channel called funstuff. Though our funstuff channel existed long before COVID-19 was a glimmer in a bat’s eye, it has quickly become a shining star in our socially distanced world. Our team members use this space to share (work appropriate) uplifting links, funny pictures, brain teasers, memes, and get to know you prompts daily. It’s often the first place I look in the morning when I open my laptop and I’m usually rewarded with a grin. 


2. Find Your Zen

Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of fun, but they pay in spades for helping to manage and alleviate stress and anxiety, both major factors impacting people during COVID-19. At Scrum Alliance, we have a weekly lunchtime yoga practice led by one of our team members over Zoom and have incorporated mini meditation and breathing sessions into some of our team meetings. Don’t have any on-staff yoginis? Never fear! There are countless apps for both meditation and yoga, many of which are temporarily giving free or discounted rates.


3. Boogie Down

Dancing’s not only good for you; it’s also fun! Try choreographing an easy dance and teaching it to coworkers or putting on jams and having a video conferencing dance break. Keep your music and your dance moves clean, inclusive and work appropriate. We’ve also experimented with dance video challenges and salsa lessons. And if dancing alone isn’t enough of a challenge, break out your inner Rupaul with a lip syncing competition! We recently did our own dance video to showcase how we're flipping the switch to a more virtual and online resources for our community. You can view it below.

4. Host Happy Hour Trivia

This is hands-down a crowd favorite at Scrum Alliance! Each week, we start happy hour a little early as individuals self organize into various teams, hop onto Zoom, and spend the next hour laughing and connecting over diverse questions covering pop culture, sports, history, geography, and science. To make our trivia night really interactive, we curate bespoke music playlists that go with each question. Did you know that the original working title of “Yesterday” by theBeatles was “Scrambled Eggs”?


5. Grab Lunch

Wishing you had someone to chat with over whatever strange “what can I find in my cupboard” quarantine lunch you’ve pulled together?  Drop a message to your work bestie or in the main company chat and pull up a virtual chair. You never know who might be feeling the same way. 


6. Give Back

Did you know that giving back to others is actually good for you? The best part is that you don’t need to leave your house or have lots of money to spare in order to make a difference. There are countless virtual volunteer opportunities available right now. Collaborating with coworkers to champion a single cause expands the impact that you’re able to make.


7. Share Gratitude

Want to sleep better and feel happier? Try practicing gratitude. At Scrum Alliance, we incorporate gratitude into the ways that we connect with one another. In addition to our funstuff channel in Slack, we also have a gratitude channel. Each week, our Chief ScrumMaster, Melissa Boggs, drops a prompt in the channel (Ex. A friend for whom I am extremely grateful is _____ because they______) and individuals from across the organization share their unique stories. But, our folks also know they don’t need a prompt to tell their stories. Some of the most heartwarming connections I’ve seen have come from moms sharing pictures of their babies sleeping for just long enough to let them finish their Zoom call or from individuals thankful for sunny afternoons working outside after a long, snowy winter.


8. Play Games

When my team decided to host a virtual afternoon game time as a way for us to connect and de-stress, I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. My world already feels like I’m playing Jumanji. The idea of forced, structured fun sounded like the last thing I wanted. But, as I watched the faces of my coworkers light up over terrible drawings and silly words, I felt myself begin to relax too. After all was said and done, and Mike in IT had proven himself the reigning champion, we decided that this was definitely something we wanted to do again. If you’re interested in setting up a virtual gametime, I recommend checking out Jackbox Games, which allows individuals to play remotely from a web browser while sharing the main screen over Zoom or video conferencing. 


9. Get Creative

Creativity has long been heralded as one of the most valuable skills to companies. It’s no mystery as to why. When the world changes as drastically as it has in the last couple of months, organizations and people who demonstrate innovation and adaptability are more likely to weather the storm. Getting the creative juices flowing for you and your colleagues can be more than just good for business, it’s also fun! Host a “Nailed It” competition where employees are challenged to bake an elaborate dessert, while you won’t be there to taste each others’ creations, you can judge them on looks. Or, challenge your coworkers to a TikTok video competition. Some of the folks at Scrum Alliance have even used the whiteboard feature in Zoom to draw with one another.


10. Be Silly for No Reason

A fun and easy way to add some joy to an endless barrage of video conference calls is to just be silly (while still being professional). Invite everyone on your call to change their Zoom backgrounds to your favorite place in the world and spend the first two minutes of the meeting guessing where you all are. Turn yourself into a virtual potato for a day. Schedule theme days: Favorite Hat Day, I Miss My Sports Team (Jersey) Day, or a Prom Day. Or, if you want to be honest, have a PJ day and everyone can show up wearing the same pants they’ve been wearing for the last three weeks. The joy that you feel from connecting in a fun, nontraditional way may just make for a more productive, upbeat meeting.


Alex Arbuckle is a strategic and creative Human Resources leader with a passion for people. She believes in empowering people and leveraging culture for organizational success. Aside from cultivating joyful workplaces, Alex finds joy in traveling to far off places and hosting absurdly fancy dinner parties. She's probably dancing right now.

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