Remote Team Engagement: How to Create a Lighthearted QuaranCulture Amidst COVID-19
March 24, 2020 •Ashton Adair
Warning: this is a spirit-lifting blog. Stop reading if you’re seeking more yucky news in the world! In all seriousness, if you stumbled upon this content seeking facts, resources, and aid as it relates to COVID-19, please visit the World Health Organization.
If you’re a leader, manager, supervisor, an HR specialist trying to rally a remote culture, or just a person of the human race right now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, listen up: YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB COPING, AND YOU’VE GOT THIS! As we like to remind one another at Mojo, this too shall pass. But when this does pass, do we want to lose sight of some of the amazing displays of humanity we’re witnessing during this time? Absolutely not, and our remote workplace culture is just one of those displays.
One amazing aspect of our ever-evolving remote workplace culture (that I personally do not want to see go away) is my team’s strengthened connectedness. I’ve never been more impressed with a group of team members in the face of adversity. Their tenacity, positivity, and ability to band together is something for the history books.
We are a Results Only Work Environment™, which means that we fortunately didn’t need any ramp time to go 100% remote for social distancing, as suggested by the Center for Disease Control. We know many organizations did not have this fortune, and we do not take for granted what a mature and autonomous team it takes to run a business in a virtual setting. To our team, we thank you!
Meanwhile, something we are very much used to is connecting with our local peers. We do have two “hubs/offices” in Dallas, TX; and Indianapolis, IN that we use as tools. Even still, we do have remote team members in almost every North American time zone, so our latest culture challenge prior to COVID-19 has been creating a holistic, inclusive culture and mitigating risk of unhealthy “sub-cultures” from creeping in. We encourage local rituals, but never “you/y’all/they/them/here/there” divides… which I’m proud to say our team is AMAZING at.
So, with COVID-19 pushing us out of our offices (also something we support, as we take health and wellness very seriously), we’re seeing a huge shift in our team dynamic — one that I would love to share with you, mainly because I couldn’t have Googled any better remote engagement ideas than what our team has organically come up with. To say I’m proud to be a Mojo Maker through this pandemic is an understatement.
Before I share what the team has done in just a few short days (3.0125 to be exact), I want to encourage you to walk away from this read thinking about the following:
- What rituals do we want to retain that have organically occurred during COVID-19 remote working? Think about what has already been institutionalized within your teams, and come up with an intentional plan to carry these through.
- Allow for organic culture to be cultivated (policy-compliant, of course, but organic nonetheless): No one likes a contrived culture, so encourage your team to run with their ideas to boost engagement as well as grassroots culture efforts - even if the idea is not your cup of tea. For example, I can’t video game to save my life (re: #2 below), but our team could probably win Mario Kart World Championships, and yes, I did have to look up if it was spelled with a C or K.The point? Don’t shut down an idea because of preference or fear of lost productivity; it could evolve into something really special.
- Bring the Families In! For appropriate, internal virtual calls or casual touch-base calls, know that your team has heightened anxiety around working and caring for their children, whose schools are closed. The same goes for helping with fur babies, elder parents, and helpless spouses looking for what to make for lunch (couldn’t help it), so when it’s acceptable and appropriate, bring the family in on the conversation. My owners say hi to my son and husband when they inevitably creep into the backdrop of Zoom no matter how much we try to plan for productive timeblocks. We all love to see Olivia, Lucy, and Juliet (to name a few future Mojo Makers) sneak into Zoom windows when we’re on a quick internal huddle. There’s nothing more motivating than a greeting from a bright face proud of their mama or dad hard at work! AND for a very fun way to make the family part of your culture, see #6 below.
8 Remote Team Engagement Ideas to Create a QuarAnCulture
The below ideas are real-time, ever-evolving engagement practices the Mojo team is putting into place (or growing as I type this blog). I wanted to share so that more teams can come together like this — not to boast, but to offer positivity in a time of uncertainty. This is not a repurposed list from a blog or an article. True, authentic culture ideas start now, and our door is open to you and yours (but virtually, until further notice).
1. Virtual Standups
In a matter of two days, our many teams and departments have created daily, cross-functional team standups to keep lines of communication flowing and prevent silos. The structure they are following mirrors that of a quick scrum huddle, and this was a suggestion that turned from a grassroots effort to a cross-functional adoption in a matter of hours. Seriously, if you haven’t signed up for Zoom, Skype, or your video conference tool of choice yet, you have to ditch those conference calls for human interaction.
2. Slack Interactions
Our team utilizes Slack as an internal communications tool. Whether you use Slack, Lync, Lotus/IBM Notes, or email, try some of these internal conversations that our team created to keep the cortisol levels down in the evenings:
Our Mojo Makers asked to create a new channel in our Slack workspace that allows for anyone who games to pin their online credentials to the channel. That way, they can add one another on Nintendo, PS4, and Xbox to game together at night. They’ve begun to use the channel to plan meetups and see who’s online.
Overheard At Mojo:
Overheard at Mojo is my favorite long-standing Mojo ritual. It’s a Slack channel meant for hilarious overheard anecdotes. If you hear something totally left field or seemingly odd-sounding said by a Mojo Maker (or if you witness someone just having a momentary brain malfunction), you quote one another in the “Overheard at Mojo” channel. Then, you tag the person and ultimately give no context so that others can enjoy, wonder, and ask where in the world did that thought stem from. It’s a great way to provide laughs, stay humble, and prevent ‘inside jokes’ since everyone’s brought in. While we’re all remote right now, Overheard is evolving into comments said on Zoom meetings (Zoom is not a paid sponsor of this content :)), comments said by family members, or even those said in other Slack conversations. I love that the team is keeping Overheard alive and not taking ‘Overheard’ so literally!
We also have a random slack channel for when your thoughts just don’t align with a topic that has a channel home. Here, the team has begun:
- HR gold-star-approved meme sharing about toilet paper and home school fails
- The “My Coworker” game where you vent about what your kids just did or said, but in place of “kids,” you say “My coworker just…”
- Sharing lighthearted demonstrations of public health, safety, and good hygiene tips (particularly from our marketing strategist team lead, James, who shared a photo example of safe social distancing, and what I’ve been promised to see today? A hand-washing best practices video…Stay tuned!)
3. A Video Message from Our CEO
Our CEO sent a very heartfelt video message out on Wednesday evening that immediately washed over the team and alleviated anxieties and fears, but delivered a very honest, powerful, and transparent message brimming with leadership! (Sorry to boast, Mike, but you’ll get over it :) - take the compliment!) One team member told me verbatim, “I needed that so much. Mike is an angel.”
4. James and Ashton in the Morning News Segment
Much to our team’s surprise (including those who will be proofreading this blog), the aforementioned James and I finally began a video news recording (a dream we’ve had for the last 3 years, no exaggeration), that mimics a bit from Community’s Troy and Abed in the morning, a popular NBC sitcom. This short 30-minute period of our own morning time spent recording allowed us to decompress and bring others laughter. Our segments included the Weather in All Mojo Locations, The Happiness News - only positive headlines in the world, a fake commercial, QuaranCrafting with James and Ashton, and a completely blind sneak attack ask of a Mojo Maker guest to join our Zoom with zero idea of what’s going on on… think an unplanned SNL Weekend Update style interview.
5. Dress-Up Days Don’t Subside!
Social distancing can’t stop our team from sporting the flare! Encourage your team to keep their spirits up by keeping observances and dress-up days virtual. There’s no shame in wearing a costume when you’re home alone, right? And heck, talk about the low hanging fruit that is Pajama Day!
6. Thirsty & Thankful Thursday and Virtual Learning Sessions with Mini Mojo Makers
Mojo Makers + family + hot toddies + gratitude reflection = something we’re going to try out for the first time the very afternoon I’m writing this blog! Our culture committee decided we should have a Zoom-based happy hour together to take a break as a team. Our CEO had the idea to have a family-welcomed group call to connect and share our gratitudes for the week. Mix those together, and we have our first Thirsty & Thankful Thursday Huddle set for today! Also hot off the presses is another way to engage family: planning and coordinating different levels of guided crafting or Marketing 101 lessons for our mini Mojo Makers, hosted by any roles that aren’t delivering on client work or on client calls. It’s all about using this time to help teach our kiddo community!
7. Reminder Time blocks
For certain locations, we have Master Calendar time blocks for working out and taking breaks. Since we can’t be together and we can’t get out, our culture committee wants to always ensure our team is practicing self-care. So, we have placed reminders on the Master Calendar (free space, no mtg conflict mayhem needed) that plug simple reminders into our team’s days like:
- Stop & Stretch
- Grab a Cup of Tea
- Dance to a song - Alexa play…!
- Slack someone you hardly get to talk to!
- Stop, Have Lunch, or Go for a Walk!
- Light a Candle or Open a Window!
Mental breaks and physical surroundings are imperative for your team’s health, and boundaries can be very hard to draw in a remote setting. Help encourage those boundaries!
8. Send your Team a Surprise Delivery
We are sending a gift from our owners to the households of all Mojo Makers, just a little something to brighten their day. Of course, if you leverage this idea, do advise that the delivery should sit on porches for 24 hours before bringing inside. This blog will be amended when I can allude to more. Oh how the suspense builds… Hmm, perhaps this is an easter egg for Mojo Makers? They don’t know what this is...yet. :-)
What new rituals has your team created that will become part of your culture? We want to know! Share your ideas and positive, inspirational stories about your teams with us. If you’re curious about what a Results Only Work Environment™ is, we’re here to help!
Need help with internal communications, external communications, or want to discuss consulting support around culture and remote work? Check out Mojo’s reviews from our amazing community and let's talk!
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