Having a little fun while working has been shown to boost productivity, reduce stress, encourage teamwork, inspire creativity, and to increase employee loyalty. In fact, many companies have begun to encourage fun in the workplace for these reasons, including Google, LinkedIn, and Zynga. Some of the ways their employees have fun are through activities like playing volleyball, ping-pong, or arcade games.
Of course when your company is comprised of mostly or all remote employees, it can seem difficult or downright impossible to engage in fun activities like these. Fortunately, there are still many ways to infuse fun into your virtual office.
When you work in a physical office with your co-workers, small talk and other forms of socialization happen almost naturally throughout the workday and often even after work. It’s important to encourage socialization amongst employees who interact virtually in order to take advantage of the documented benefits of workplace socialization.
Messaging tools like HipChat or Slack and social media platforms like Google+ are great options for creating spaces for not only work collaboration but also socialization. Employees can discuss a movie they just saw, share their children’s accomplishments, or vent about the crazy weather in their region of the world, and they can even spice up this interaction with things like HipChat’s emoticons.
Virtual coworkers may not be able to play an actual game of volleyball together, but there are many other games and fun activities that virtual employees can engage in.
Charades – Play video or audio charades. For audio charades, try to get your co-workers to guess what sounds you are trying to imitate (e.g., a plane, a mouse, someone on a scary water slide)
Photo games – Have a group submit photos of them as a child and have everyone see if they can guess who is who.
Build a story together – Whether via email or on a social community like G+, have team members build a story together by having everyone take turns adding a line.
Word game – Choose a word of the day and have employees see how many times they can work it into normal communication. It’s hilarious to hear people trying to work words like gobbledygook, malarkey, or lickety-split into normal communication.
- Design – Have employees submit a design for a company t-shirt or group logo.
- Riddles/Trivia – Post daily riddles or trivia questions for employees to answer and keep a running tally to track leaders.
- Daily themes – Institute a ‘Motivational Monday’ where people share their favorite motivational sayings or memes, a ‘Throwback Thursday’ where people share pictures of them at various points in their lives, or a ‘Fun Fact Friday’ where people share fun and random facts.
Regular video-based meetings are a great tool for virtual employees to connect and to collaborate. They allow employees to work together on projects in real time and provide a great tool for keeping employees informed and engaged in the company culture.
Ice breaker questions are a fun way to start any meeting. These questions are a fun way to not only engage coworkers but also to learn more about one another. ‘Would you rather’ type questions are a fun way to see the things that unite a group and also the things that make everyone unique. A fun example is, ‘would you rather be able to understand all animals or instantly know all languages?’
Google Hangouts is a great video conferencing tool that is not only free, but it also has features that will help you instill a little fun into any meeting. For example, Google Effects is an app that you can use in Hangouts to add fun headwear or an exotic background to your video. You can even draw on yourself or play fun sounds. The chirping crickets, for example, is a great and silly tension breaker when your virtual meeting goes awkwardly silent while waiting for someone to volunteer an answer to a question.
Virtual Parties and Celebrations
If you’ve ever worked in an office setting, you’ve probably attended countless work parties in and out of work. Just because you can’t pull all of your coworkers into the conference room for cake to celebrate someone’s birthday or out to dinner to celebrate the holidays doesn’t mean you cannot host parties for your virtual coworkers. The size of your company will dictate whether you can have small parties using tools like Google Hangouts or whether you need to scale it up by having it on Facebook.
Regardless of how you host the party, here are some ideas for things you can do for your next virtual party:
- Have a gift exchange. Assign everyone with someone to buy a gift for and have them mail their gifts out well in advance of the party, and then have everyone open their gifts together in real time.
- Instead of everyone bringing a food item to a party, have everyone bring their favorite recipe to share.
- Play music in the background to set the mood.
- Play games for prizes. Trivia and charades are great options for games. Google Hangouts even has apps, like Sporcle, that allow you to play games with the other people in your hangout.
- Choose a theme and have everyone dress accordingly. Wearing wacky hats or painting your face like an animal are some fun ideas and you can even give out prizes.
- Provide food for your team. You can either give everyone a gift card to order food or you can order pizza from everyone’s nearest pizza restaurant and have it delivered to them.