How to have fun with your remote team
"I work from home." That statement would have been an outlier a couple of years ago, but now it's a norm. This shift for remote work has been welcomed by many; for others, it is a challenging space.
Loneliness in the Workplace has been a big topic, and some recent studies have shown that loneliness can directly impact performance and motivation. Making work 'fun' can seem cute, but beyond creating a more enjoyable space for folks, it can affect the company's bottom line.
As an extrovert known for his love of play and laughter, creating fun at work comes naturally. I have been asked by many how to foster this. So I wanted to jot down my thoughts for making fun, energetic, and life-giving spaces for my teammates. Hopefully, some of these ideas can improve your team's connection and work life.
My go-to ideas for making work fun:
Question of the day/week
This is an easy one. Ask your teammates a question and have them answer it. It is perfect for asynchronous communication channels like Slack. Some ideas:
- What is the strangest thing you've witnessed recently?
- What is the worst shaped pasta?
- What is better? Sparkling water or flat?
- Out mundane each other. What is the most ordinary thing you did this week?
- Name your biggest food-related unpopular opinion
- Name the worst superpower?
- What made you smile this week?
- What was the band you were listening to in high school?
Here is a list of ice breakers that Know Your Team put together.
Fun lunches and happy hours
This one can be a little trickier with time zones, but it is possible with flexibility. Set up a recurring team lunch or time to hang out and talk about non-work stuff. It could be as little as 30 minutes every other week.
Creating space in meetings
In a remote environment water cooler moments don't happen naturally. I am a big fan of not expecting every meeting to be 100% efficient. In my opinion, creating 5-10 minutes of space in select meetings to catch up can be very healthy.
Another idea for creating space and connect is to have others describe the color they feel at the current moment:
- Green: optimistic, great, happy
- Yellow: tired, lethargic, mediocre
- Red: frustrated, angry, sad
The status color can be an effective tool in understanding and supporting your teammates. However, don't force people to elaborate if they aren't willing to, as it creates an unsafe space.
As a designer, this is one of my favorites. I like to make space for my teammates to create non-work-related things together. Recently I hosted a session with the prompt "make a mustard cat." Our team opened up a Figma doc and had a blast making weird things. Another session was about rethinking our company logo as a mash-up with Nic Cage.
Another way is to hop on a call and doodle while you talk. Turning your cameras off can be highly effective.
The idea is to create space for people to break out of their everyday routines and ways of working or thinking. Have fun, and keep it light-hearted, and laugh together!
Activities and games
This one can take a little more budget and coordination. But they can be a whole lot of fun:
- Among us
- Jack box games, one of my favorites is Tee K.O.
- Skribbl.io (free)
- Virtual escape rooms
- Virtual cooking classes
- Origami classes
Free time 'open Zoom rooms'
I've found that starting a Zoom call and opening it up to the team can be fun and refreshing. In these calls, there are no expectations. People can keep their cameras and mics off and work. Then, if someone has something to say, they can speak up.
It isn't 100% sustainable for an everyday rhythm, but my team seems to enjoy it on Friday mornings as a way to end the week.
One of our team's practices is to save space on Fridays to work through ideas as a team. We typically block off an hour and jump into Figma, a collaborative design tool. We call these sessions 'Figma Jams'.
The idea is that one person each week can bring a conceptual prompt to the group. This works well when a project is in the early stages, and teammates are looking for a bunch of divergent and diverse perspectives.
Whoever leads the session creates a prompt for the team to work through for 20 minutes and then discuss and present ideas. It is low stakes but allows everyone to share perspectives and ideas.
Make space for play
When I say play here, I am referring to deep work. So often time we can be bombarded by meetings, messages, and distractions. Do your best to carve out time for yourself and others to make space for undistracted work. This can be as simple as looking at someone's calendar and asking if they had a time preference before you book a meeting.
Are you working with a designer, engineer, or someone who needs large chunks of time to create? Don't drop a meeting smack dab in the middle of a morning or afternoon that they have free without running it by the.
So go out there and make work as fun as you can.