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Despite managers’ best efforts, after months of remote work, many employees are feeling isolated, unacknowledged, and burned out. Teams are feeling disconnected. And, for many companies, there’s no end to remote work in sight. 

It’s time to put some fun back into the workplace.  

To keep employees engaged and working together productively, they need connection—not to mention a respite from all the COVID stress. While traditional teambuilding activities and office camaraderie might be off the table, there are lots of entertaining (and productive) ways to get the workplace gang together. (We guarantee they’re more fun than trust falls.) 

New and improved virtual happy hour  

By now everybody’s heard of the virtual happy hour, but why not spice it up a bit with:

  1. Virtual Pictionary: Drawing is even harder (and more hilarious) using a mouse
  2. Movie night: Watch a movie simultaneously online (or, create a drive-up theater in the office parking lot); if it’s an old or well-known movie, you can add accompanying trivia or games
  3. Mystery happy hour: Randomly assign employees to small-group online meetings, don’t tell them in advance who is at the meeting or what the activity will be
  4. Special delivery: If you have a small team, you can deliver pizza or takeout to each team member’s house at the same time 
  5. Monday morning happy hour: Instead of doing the traditional Thursday or Friday after work, kick off the week with a coffee date

Recognize each other

  1. Surprise celebrations: Invite employees to a regular meeting, but surprise them with a party instead—whether it’s for a birthday, work anniversary, team milestone, or company victory  
  2. Peer recognition: Encourage employees to recognize each other by submitting examples of how coworkers have been smart, helpful, or innovative each week
  3. Gratitude spotlight: Highlight a few employees each week and ask their coworkers to say something nice about each person; continue until everyone has been recognized

Collaboration challenges or competitions  

Have small groups work together on fun tasks like: 

  1. Irrelevant presentations: Give teams a random topic (e.g., monster trucks, wombats, or accordions) to research; have them create a presentation about it, with points for silliness, bad PowerPoint effects, and trivia quality
  2. Online scavenger hunts: Compete against other teams to search the internet for specific bits of information or images—extra points if there are Easter eggs on your company website
  3. Solving riddles or cracking codes: Start meetings with easy riddles you find online or create longer, more elaborate code-breaking exercises
  4. Online escape rooms: Create a simple “escape room” with a story and questions in a Word doc or use an online escape room service to make it more interactive
  5. Knowledge quizzes: Have groups of employees compete on general (or company-related knowledge); make your own questions or crib questions from Trivial Pursuit or online sources 

Submission contests

Employees can work individually or in teams, to submit entries that the whole team can enjoy, including:

  1. Disguises: Go all “Masked Singer” and have employees volunteer to submit pics or videos of themselves in costumes; others guess who they are (singing is definitely optional)
  2. Photo contests: Ask employees to submit pictures of pets, workspaces, things that make them happy, etc.
  3. Mad-libs: Send out a Mad-Lib worksheet to employees and post the best submissions

Health and wellness ideas

Getting employees moving has many benefits. Exercising with coworkers (even online) adds connection and motivation.

  1. Epic feats: Challenge teams to climb the equivalent of Mount Kilimanjaro in stairs or walk the equivalent of the Boston Marathon—it can be a one-day relay or week-long challenge
  2. Team exercise opportunities: Schedule time to get healthy together—whether it’s online meditation with a live instructor or a fitness workout from a free, online video
  3. Personal health challenges: Tracking minutes exercised, numbers of steps taken, personal bests achieved—employees can work on health-related challenges on their own or with a team
  4. Outside hikes or walks: For employees that are comfortable meeting outside, plan a time and place to see each other in person … from a safe distance and with masks

Learning together

Give employees opportunities to explore new things together:

  1. Travel club: Escape to another place when employees share pics and insights about places they’ve been—or better yet—where they’re from
  2. Virtual museum tours: Enjoy a tour of world-class museum tours online together—pick one that is relevant to your organization… or something completely different
  3. Cooking classes or recipe swaps: Get culinary tips and tricks from employees, online videos, or a live video instructor; get employees to share their successes and funny failures   
  4. Book club: You know the drill: Choose a book, read it, and discuss with colleagues

Activities committee

  1. Put employees in charge. One last way for teams to collaborate is to assign groups of employees to plan, design, and create the activities each week. Some people are good at creating codes. Some are great at cooking. You’ll be surprised at how creative they can be. Just be sure to have guidelines and a review process in place, to make sure everything stays workplace friendly.

Want some help creating activities? Here are some services that specialize in online teambuilding activities, including many of the options above: 

You can do it

Organizing these teambuilding and connection activities will take some time but it can help employees feel less isolated, teams feel connected, and create a semblance of normalcy in this long-term period of uncertainty.


About Salo

If you’re looking for senior leaders to help your remote team succeed, Salo can help. We provide senior- and executive-level consultants expertise in HR, finance, or accounting for organizations of all kinds. Contact us here. We’d love to learn more about your needs.