Written by Joel B. New – Manager of Employee Experience for Roland Foods LLC and Disco customer.

“We are all in this together.”-High School Musical

That’s right. I’m starting this article with a Disney song quote.

Like many Disney protagonists, I feel trapped in a tower. Locked away, forbidden from contact with the outside world. I sing a lot to myself. I do what feels like endless housework. I think my dog talks now.

As an employee (and a human) whose work life has been turned upside down because of COVID-19, it may be easy to focus on making the “business things” happen and lose sight of what used to make our work days so special: our fellow employees (humans). It’s more important than ever to make sure every employee feels seen, heard, and connected. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your organization’s culture and loyalty came out of this stronger than before? There are many ways to engage effectively that are quick, easy, and free. Here are five ideas to help everyone work happily ever after:

#1. Adapt Traditions

We are creatures of habit and familiarity. No doubt your office has built some simple rituals and traditions many have come to enjoy and expect. See if you can adapt any of them for the virtual office. For example: if your office plays music on Fridays, share out a playlist so everyone has the option to enjoy the same music at the same time. These shared experiences may even feel nostalgic, and nothing bonds people and culture together quite like nostalgia.

#2. Meaningful Meetings

Your team might be having more frequent check-in meetings. Because our daily structures are a little more malleable right now, these meetings can meander and eat up a lot more time than they need to. If you’re running the show, consistently build and share out an agenda in advance, and then conclude with specific action items. Even if the agenda is just to talk about what everyone had for breakfast (perfectly valid), set that expectation up front. Your team will appreciate the structure.

#3. Lunchtime Question of the Day

If your company has Slack or a similar platform, designate someone to ask an engaging question for anyone online to answer during their lunch break. The types of questions can range from practical (“What’s your favorite WFH hack?”) to the absurd (“Which way do you refill the toilet paper roll?” Sidebar: the only correct answer is “over.”). Just keep them suitable for work. Ideally, the question should warrant very short answers, possibly even answering in GIFs. Encourage everyone to submit future lunchtime questions for consideration, then be sure to give them direct credit when you use them. Include and engage is the name of the game. You will probably learn a lot about everyone’s interests and commonalities, which is good research for planning future employee experience activities.

#4. Employee-Led Lunch & Learns

Employees are passionate about stuff. Give them a chance to shine and share that passion with others. You’re not only utilizing an existing resource to enrich and educate your employees, but you’re giving that employee an opportunity to work on public speaking and organizing their ideas in a concise, impactful way. These don’t have to be long TED talks; 15 minutes of content, 15 minutes for questions and conversation should suffice. As for subject matter, encourage them to tie it back, even indirectly, to the business, employee performance, or company culture. Need more parameters? Use your company’s Mission Statement or Core Values as an organizing principle.

#5. Planning the Organic

Missing those run-ins with coworkers and organic conversations by the coffee station? First, accept that no one has time or bandwidth to check in with every person every single day. Then, use a site like Wheel Decide, upload a list of your coworkers, and spin that wheel to find out who you’re going to “organically” run into virtually that day!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joel B. New is the Manager of Employee Experience for Roland Foods LLC, as well as an award-winning songwriter, podcaster, and educator. www.JoelBNew.com