Organisations worldwide have been impacted by COVID-19 and had to switch to a new remote way of working practically overnight. While some people are more familiar with working from home, for many it is a completely new way of working. Companies and IT teams have had to quickly rollout new technologies so that staff can work productively from home and ensure they have the devices, apps and access they need to replicate working in the office as best as they can.
There is one area that is difficult to replicate at home though: the office atmosphere and social engagement. Employee engagement is a key part of any organisation – building a team spirit and sense of internal community leads to great teamwork, motivated people and overall, better job satisfaction and wellbeing. With everyone suddenly working from home and being cut-off from both professional and personal socialising, it is easy to feel disconnected. Team meetings, chats whilst making tea, drinks after work and even just simply overhearing colleagues in the office builds engagement - but how do you create this connection when working remotely? To do this, you’ll need to use technology and some creativity. In this article, we will share some of our ideas for the creativity and we will be using Office 365 as the underlying technology.
Many organisations are already using Office 365 (or Microsoft 365, which combines Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security) and with the lockdown, many companies have rolled out more of its applications – particularly Microsoft Teams. Within Office 365 there are some great apps and features that you can use to for staff engagement – and we want to highlight these below.
Ideas for remote staff engagement
Team video meetings – Microsoft Teams allows you to organise virtual team meetings and with video abilities can make it feel like you’re all together. If you're new to Teams, check out our Beginner's Guide to Teams to get the most from it. Teams allows you to see up to nine others on the call (this used to be four but has just been updated and is rolling out now) and you can even change your background image or apply Snapchat filters for fun internal catch-ups. Whether you organise a regular morning stand-up, weekly team call or one-off catch up with colleagues, using video for your calls will instantly feel more personal.
Team socials – The above is more work-based, but it’s also important to organise some social activities where you’re not talking about work. Some ideas that you can try are:
- Daily tea breaks – At Chorus, we have a daily tea break for 15 minutes that is open to everyone and anyone can join. Some days there will be lots of people and some days only a handful, but it means that people can pop onto a daily call and know they’ll have someone to chat to. Some staff won’t have regular calls or meetings each day (while others may be in back-to-back calls) so having at least one daily call means that anyone always has a chance to see others and enjoy a chat. We recently discovered the SnapChat filters which have made some fun tea breaks.
- Drinks/happy hour – Why not set up an after-hours work drinks? Fridays tend to be the best for this, and allows everyone to have a drink, chat about their week and basically acts as a virtual post-work pub drink. We tend to do ours with a quiz or a game so that there’s something that everyone can get involved in. Here’s a picture from one of our recent quizzes (Top tip – we did a baby photo round of staff members, which went down brilliantly.)
- Workouts – Give the gym lovers something to enjoy at home with lunchtime workouts. You’ll need your own company ‘Personal Trainer’ to lead the session but it’s a great way to keep people active. You can set up a Teams Meeting for the whole company and people join if they want to – you can keep your camera and microphone off. We’re lucky at Chorus as we have our own Crossfit extraordinaire/Service Delivery Manager, Mike, who runs a weekly class (40 secs on, 20 secs off, a few exercises for 3 rounds).
Team announcements – As part of Microsoft Teams, you can also create ‘Live Events’ – you can read more about how to use Live Events in our article here. Many will use this for webinars or external virtual events, but it’s great to use for internal company-wide announcements or updates. Rather than a Teams meeting, attendees will join muted without video to avoid background noise and allow the presenter to clearly speak and stream themselves, slides and switch between presenters. You can hold Q&A’s, download the recording and see who’s attended. This is ideal for company-wide updates so that everyone stays in the loop of any company news and allows transparency during this difficult time when many are worried.
Quizzes – Quizzes are a fun way to do something together and you can use Microsoft Forms as part of Office 365 to create quizzes with scoring. There are also other free online quizzes, but as Forms is included with Office 365 any Office 365 user will already have access. They are easy to set up and you can make them anonymous or track usernames to be able to name a winner.
Social posts – Within Microsoft Teams you can create separate teams and channels. It’s a great idea to have a team dedicated to the whole company where short updates can be shared – such as client wins or awards to keep spirits up. It’s also worth considering a non-work-related channel or team to share social posts – such as lockdown activity ideas, music suggestions or even jokes. If people have a place that they know is open to sharing anything non-work-related, then they are more likely going to independently share. We’ve created collaborative Spotify playlists where everyone can add songs based on themes and posted them here, or even just shared home working photos so everyone can share their working from home life.
SharePoint intranet – Your intranet is a great place to share updates out – whether news posts, announcements, or simply sharing the latest activities. The fairly recent updates to SharePoint means that it is much easier to create a modern, mobile-ready intranet with modern SharePoint sites. Creating and share news and information is similar to how you might update your website or social media. As SharePoint is included with Office 365, it’s worth considering taking advantage of it if you aren’t already to give staff a central go-to place to find out key internal information.
The key the engaging remote workers is realising that people enjoy different things and providing different ways to engage. Some people are more talkative and want to chat, while others might not be as chatty but still want to feel involved in activities. Alongside social activities, giving staff visibility is key to keeping them engaged. Whether this is via company announcements, short update posts, or via your intranet – keeping staff informed is vital during a challenging time filled with uncertainty.
We’d love to hear your ideas for how you’re keeping your teams engaged! Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and sharing any ideas or photos. If you want to discuss implementing any of these technologies or how to get the most from them, please get in touch.