How to Creatively Connect with Employees During COVID-19

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Written by Tara Anderson, Bri Marshall, and Clare Pitera
on November 03, 2020

Editor’s note: While this advice is great for those looking to creatively connect during COVID-19 they would be great things for any remote team to implement anytime to create a great workplace culture of connection.

Finding ways to help engage and connect your employees has always been important, but with office environments suddenly going virtual, it has become essential. With COVID-19 impacting every company and industry differently, creativity counts. Here are a few unique ways we’ve been able to build, or maintain, strong connections with our employees.

SDG Employees Connecting at Night in one of our Communities

SDG employees enjoying the consulting cooperative learing community. Screenshot from a member of the community.

Invest in an internal communication platform

Slack is an absolute staple in keeping us connected at SDG, especially during this time. This tool allows employees to send direct messages, create different channels, make video calls and interact with peers in a variety of ways. At SDG, we’ve been able to utilize Slack in several creative ways over the last few months in an effort to encourage engagement and add a fun twist to the workday. Some things you might want to try:

  • Host themed trivia sessions for some awesome prizes. We created a #trivia channel for those who want to participate and change up the topics each time. Make the events 30 minutes over the lunch hour to get as much participation as possible. We promise, sometimes it’s worth it just to watch the conversation thread!
  • Post questions or challenges and ask people to share their responses in a thread. Just like on social media, it’s a quick and easy way for people to share their experience, photos, tips and tricks. It’s also a great way for employees to get to know each other.
  • Create channels around certain topics of interest. In addition to our #beer channel and #foodies channel, we recently added a #gratitude channel and a #humor channel that allows employees to keep each other uplifted and smiling when they need it most.

Host small virtual events

Although we certainly miss having in-person events for all employees, we all know the bigger the group on a video call, the harder it is to make meaningful conversation. We’ve found it helpful to host small virtual events by different groups or departments. A few we’ve had success with include:

  • Virtual happy hours, coffees, or lunches. It might not be as fun to participate via the computer screen, but it’s an easy way for people to connect virtually outside of regular work meetings. Consider bringing a few icebreaker questions for the group or designate a facilitator if needed to help lead the discussion.
  • Show and Tell/Lightening Talks. This is an awesome way for employees to share their interests, passions, and cool projects with others in the company. Whether your employees are talking about how to successfully pair ‘apps and taps’, showing off their new DIY golf simulator, or walking through the 3D resin printing process, it is a fun and engaging way to connect employees.
  • Bingo. no daubers necessary! (https://myfreebingocards.com/)
  • Host an Ask Me Anything, or ‘AMA’ session. This has been a unique way to open the floor to employees to ask anything they want to different AMA hosts from our leadership. We have found that consistent communication from leadership is especially important during this time and employees appreciate the transparency across the organization.

Encourage like-minded employees to connect over their shared interests

At SDG, we have ‘Communities’ that empower our employees to create groups around their passions or interests on a certain topic. Meeting in person isn’t a pre-requisite for these groups, so we’ve continued to urge them to connect by meeting virtually during these unusual times. Informal or formal, technical or social, there’s something different for everybody. Like beer? Board Games? Want to elevate your leadership or consulting skills? There’s a community for that.

Celebrate your wins

It might be different than before but continue to find small ways to celebrate your wins or appreciate each other. It’s more important than ever for people to continue to feel as if they are part of a team and doing a good job. Here at SDG, we have a few ways we like to recognize our employees:

  • Start with shout-outs. At the beginning of our weekly Operations meeting, we like to take a few minutes to give ‘shout-outs’ to one another. It might be just a public ‘thank you’, but it’s an easy, and meaningful way to recognize co-workers in front of their peers.
  • Consider a few recognition programs. One of our most widely used programs at SDG allows any employee to acknowledge another employee for doing something awesome throughout the year. We also have a few quarterly programs that recognize individuals for exemplifying our core values at their customer and within SDG. No matter the format, calling out the contributions of your coworkers is just a small way to celebrate each other and say thank you.

Connection has always been an integral part of our culture at SDG. The pandemic has certainly caused us to have to re-evaluate how we do that, but it has also inspired us to think more creatively and discover new ways to connect. We encourage you to think outside the box and find innovative ways to make meaningful connections.

Stay safe everyone!