My lockdown birthday went without much hullabaloo at home. It was a low-key family whatsapp-call marathon kind of a day and I enjoyed spending time at home. On the contrary, my birthday was a big affair for my team. It was a regular Monday evening at work and I was about to sign off for the day when I received a message from my team to join a hangout session. I asked them what for? And they replied that it’s something urgent. “Just hop on to the call”, they said.
When I joined in, everyone started singing birthday songs, wishing me a happy and cheerful year ahead. They didn’t just stop there. My team members surprised me with an amazing video message from my loved ones. I was moved to tears! And at that moment, I just wanted to hug everyone for being so thoughtful and creative.
Sadly, I couldn’t.
With Work from Home as the new normal, we all have been confined to our homes and forced into a virtual world, devoid of human connection. Truth be told, it wasn’t so bad in the first few months. Although it was a sudden transition, I enjoyed WFH as it meant no traveling, no distractions and no unplanned meetings. But now that the lines between ‘work’ and ‘home’ are blurring, I often feel reminiscent of the good old office times. I remember the engagement activities, the festive mood and the happiness in the air when we celebrated a new project. I remember the buzz whenever someone ordered food, I remember the hooting whenever someone got engaged/married.
All of this, and so much more, has suddenly become obsolete.
I am sure the situation is no better at your end. And that’s why it’s the right time to rethink how we engage people in a way that keeps them sane throughout this pandemic. We need to think of ways to overcome this crisis situation and come out stronger than ever. It’s time to think of creative ideas so that isolation doesn’t take a toll on a team member’s mental health.
The People Experience team at Quovantis was very proactive in taking the leap and thinking of creative ways to keep the feeling of ‘we’re in this together’ alive. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they have outdone themselves in making it clear that they truly ‘care’.
Here are some of the ideas that our team executed in the past few months of the pandemic. Feel free to borrow them and make your own–
Spot the Difference championship
Quovantis is a Product Design and Development company. We help startups realize their dream of launching a well-designed and engineered product. So, we have an unwavering commitment towards delivering quality products.
We designed the Spot the Difference championship for our developers and QAs to have fun while learning. We divided teams into groups and made them compete against each other. The idea behind running this championship was to make our teams more cognizant of the UI errors that they make when a product moves from design to development phase.
We came across a few incidents where the implementation and the design of the product didn’t match. As a result, a lot of quality issues piled up in the QA phase. In retrospective, our team leaders figured out that it was because developers lacked a design mindset. To help them close this skill gap, we introduced this championship where we used UI screens from our products (a correct one with the other having deliberate mistakes) and motivated them to participate.
The championship went on for 1 week where 14 teams competed against each other for 3 rounds. It was a unique experience as it brought out teams’ competitive streak and helped them improve a crucial skill.
Virtual Fun Fridays
Back in the office, we often had Fun Fridays. We did a small activity for 30-60 minutes that would get us into the right mood for the weekend. After we started working from home, Fridays became boring. One couldn’t tell when Monday came and when Friday went.
To fix this, our People Experience team brainstormed various ways on how they could bring the FUN back in FRIDAYS. Remote Tambola was one of the many ways that brought back the fun.
It’s also important to remember that not every engagement activity would receive a great response. Every team member is different and people like to participate when it fits perfectly in their time, space and schedule.
So we designed these physical activities for people who love to dance. Once in a month, we gather together to do some kind of dance-related activity where one of us moderates the sessions while others follow. So far we’ve done a bhangra, yoga and dance fitness session together and all of them were amazing.
Our office in Noda is relatively new. We had moved in June 2018, so all our infrastructure is new and cosy. Whenever a new member joined us, our People Experience team would take the new person on a tour to both the floors, introducing them to everyone personally.
After the lockdown happened, we thought of replicating the same experience. So our People Experience team decided to conduct a remote Hot-seat (we had one in normal times too) where we welcome our new team members on Google Hangouts. We introduce ourselves, we ask funny questions, we laugh and pull new team member’s legs. It’s not the same as the old experience where a HotSeat meant a riot of laughter. But I am glad that everything is not lost on us. We are still holding on to our old methods and still having fun.
If work can be done from a remote location, then birthdays and anniversary parties too can happen over Hangouts sessions. We decided that we wouldn’t let anything dampen our spirits and would celebrate every small-big occasion.
Just as we went out for office parties whenever we wanted to unwind or celebrate a milestone release, we decided to celebrate the same with virtual celebrations from our home.
It’s hard to believe that life has come to this arrangement now. My heart aches to go back to the old ways of celebrating, and working. But, like they say, it is what it is. So, till then let’s not forget to have fun while working. I hope this blog gives you ideas to introduce some new engaging activities in your team.