Welcome to the new normal, where so many aspects of life have changed: the work-life balance that has completely morphed into one; social distancing, requiring everyone to stay at least 6 feet apart; and that BBC correspondent dad who got interrupted by his kids is no longer seen as a big deal or unrelatable surprise. As many people have adjusted to their work at home schedules and with parents trying to balance their children’s education on top of that – whether from home or at school – now, more than ever, they need that work engagement component and coworker bonding.
Despite all the quarantining and sheltering at home, we are social beings, and being virtual all day, every day is definitely having an impact. Science has proven that social interactions are important for one’s physical and mental health. And according to research conducted by Gallup, companies that have high employee engagement are 21% more profitable, with healthier and happier employees. This plays a big role in our current economic crisis, where productivity is needed more than ever, and when you need to retain employees.
In order to keep productivity and engagement up, your company should consider adopting a wellness program that keeps your workforce engaged (if you don’t have one already), enabling bonding between coworkers and providing the ability to include their families at home. Sometimes it’s about getting back to basics, and who better to reference then Maslow. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the more you are helping your employees meet their needs, the more productive they will be. By providing a program, you’re telling them how important their well-being is to you, and they will feel appreciated.
While we cannot address physiological or even safety needs (beyond tips on working from home), we can focus on the belonging aspect that so many employees feel when they interact with their coworkers. So, what can you do to keep them engaged? If your company is small and you worry that you may not be able to integrate a whole coordinated, global hackathon like Microsoft is, let us tell you that you definitely can. Below are a few that we tested within our company that you may want to consider.
After sitting for 8 or more hours a day, it’s a good idea to stretch your legs. Implementing workouts into your quarantine wellness program will not only facilitate bonding and engagement but will also allow your employees to keep healthy and perhaps burn a bit of the lockdown calories, like those from all the TikTok whipped coffee and banana bread making. These aren’t the only benefits, though. Exercise will also help lower your employees’ stress levels, which can help them clear their minds and get ready to take on the next day with full force.
Being stuck at home during quarantine, trying to keep active and engaged can at times be boring and not enough of a challenge, and it wasn't initially easy to keep up with a routine. When Viventium decided to add a workout class to our “QuaranTEAM” program, I was so excited to have some additional interaction with my colleagues – even though it was through video. Now, I look forward to these fitness sessions every week. I enjoy the exercise, especially seeing the physical results, plus I no longer feel like passing out – lol!
Currently, employees are dealing with tremendous amounts of stress. Not only are they worried about their own well-being and that of their loved ones but sheltering at home can also have a negative psychological effect. In order to keep a positive attitude, integrating a baking or cooking class can be an effective solution. I mean, who doesn’t love delicious food and desserts? Having a baking class has the potential to build great engagement and interaction, and you can keep the engagement high by allowing coworkers to share their favorite recipes. All you need is a computer, a platform like Zoom, and a kitchen with food and cooking utensils – this activity can and will bring your coworkers and their families together!
What one of our coworkers had to say:
“My family usually doesn’t take me for a cooking or baking type of person. I mostly over salt and am able to burn water – I mean, who burns water? But being able to get together and make the wonderful desserts that I have been able to create is fantastic. It’s good to see a different side of my coworkers, and I love when their kids help out; it creates the feeling of being a big, happy family.”
Cooking may not be for everyone, and that’s ok. Having a book club is another option to increase team bonding and engagement. Not only would you be able to discuss different topics besides work but you’ll also be able to enjoy reading a book and discussing it with others, with the chance to open new realms or learn a thing or two.
I had a fantastic time catching up with my colleagues during the Viventium QuaranTEAM book club. It was the first book club I’ve ever joined, and it was great to have an honest conversation with my coworkers on some challenging issues which face our society. I highly recommend starting or participating in one, as it was great to hear everyone’s voices once again.
Virtual happy hours have provided an opportunity for employees, from executives and senior managers to entry-level staff, to kick back, relax, and schmooze in an informal setting. They’re also a great way to get to know your coworkers and what interests them outside of work.
Organization-wide, happy hours have worked great at Viventium, as have more regular departmental and team gatherings. We even had a “summer kick-off jam session,” which was a great way to hear some of our talented employees (and their kids!) play great music as we kicked off a summer weekend.
As a company, we found it easiest to use Microsoft Forms to get employees to sign up and participate. For those baking, a list of ingredients and utensils needed is sent a week ahead of time. For the book club, feedback from employees is taken for which book to read next. And for our group workouts, a summary of the week’s exercises is provided. Even if you aren’t able to hold Zoom meetings with your coworkers, you can do virtual, healthy challenges through platforms like Strava or other intradepartmental activities that can allow for bonding.
A wellness program that facilitates bonding, engagement, and healthy behaviors will deliver positive results to your organization, especially now with the pandemic and data approximating that 69 million workers have missed workdays due to preventable illnesses in past years. You want to implement a program that will help you combat the statistics, keep engagement up, and have healthy employees that feel appreciated and will remain with your organization. So, get started with one now, if you haven’t already!
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