When was the last time you visited another city not to run errands but just to hang out? Over the pandemic, people got so used to keeping to themselves that even personally meeting with friends has become rare. Maybe you also got used to people canceling plans in your group chat. Of course, people want to be included in meetups and gatherings, but they’re also okay if they aren’t.
Even at work, it may be a challenge for some teams to connect regularly, especially when everyone’s on a flexible schedule. People disappear and reappear in your virtual office at all times. If you have new colleagues, you may find it difficult to get to know them that you set multiple meetings or virtual activities so that you can spend time together. If you do, that’s great and thoughtful of you. However, are you certain that all of your teammates share your enthusiasm?
Let’s Talk About Fun in a Virtual Office Setup
People may miss out on multiple casual gatherings in a virtual office. It could be because one of you is out doing grocery shopping or attending to your family’s needs at home. These little things and more can make building a sense of comfort between colleagues difficult.
A Slack study discovered that 85 percent of employees want to be closer to their remote coworkers.1 Being isolated within your home and connected only by a screen can lead to a disconnect or detachment. In this setup, it may take longer than usual for some to warm up with another employee for a casual conversation.
What Employers Try to Do to Boost Engagements
An engaged employee is someone who feels involved, committed to their work, and excited about it. Employers would like to address a few workplace concerns at the same time as they are engaging their employees. They want these activities to help decrease stress, increase productivity, and enhance creativity to better their retention rate. They also understand the importance of having friends at work and hope that fun activities will help develop these relationships.
Why Mandatory Fun Isn’t Working, According to Employees
Despite the company’s efforts to get its members on the same page, these people at work feel forced and disengaged. Here are some reasons office engagements feel like mandatory fun for most employees.
1. Employees want to keep a work-life balance.
People spend 1,795 hours with their colleagues in a year, so some employers think seeing the whole company as a family will make sense. But unfortunately, it can lead to a toxic environment where personal and professional lines are blurred and unhealthy relationships force employees to make themselves available at any time. It exaggerates what loyalty to the company means and can eventually lead to burnout.
63 percent of the US workforce says they will prioritize work-life balance.2 The definition of work-life balance may vary from one employee to another. One of them is clocking out from work at the right time.
There’s always a looming deadline for anyone to meet. However, if you’re the kind of employer who is very strict about your set deadlines, squeezing in some mandatory activity may only push your people into a more stressful situation.
It would be best to consider everyone’s schedule when organizing office gatherings. Identify which day has the least deadlines or be amiable to reschedule your event or the deadlines themselves.
2. Employees find the activities uninteresting and thus a waste of time.
Being pushed to participate in an uninteresting activity can make a person anxious or, worse, they may resent it. Thus, when choosing activities to do together, make sure that it’s something easy to participate in and not a niche interest.
According to Dr. Brown, founder of the non-profit National Institute of Play, individuals develop a preference for certain types of plays as they grow old. This was based on an observation of a hundred candidates. The eight play personalities help determine which activities can excite a person.
A Collector type will enjoy gathering things. A Competitor will enjoy playing to win and compare their scores and accomplishments to those of others.3 Thus, it pays to be creative in coming up with activities while also considering what each group of employees would enjoy doing.
3. Employees can be intimidated by activities organized by their bosses.
Being told by a supervisor to join something fun may sound like being assigned a new task. In France, a consultant fought for his right and sued his previous firm for his wrongful termination due to his refusal to join certain workplace engagements. After seven years, he won before a high court.4
If not communicated well, office fun may end up intimidating people, and it would only look like an elaborate assignment that needs to be accomplished by a deadline without the option to decline. Lesson learned from the France workplace story: Employees’ productivity and contribution at work shouldn’t be measured by how much fun they get involved in at the end of the day.
Adjustments to Make the Most of Your Virtual Engagements
Let there be real fun! If you know how to involve people properly, you can engage them in office activities and make it worth their time. Your ideas are limitless, but your people’s energy isn’t. Here are some changes you may apply to have everyone genuinely want to attend your gatherings:
1. Involve everyone in your structured planning.
Let everyone who participates want what they’re joining in. Now that you know your team better be sure they can maximize their skills and ideas at your event. No one wants to start dancing in front of the camera for a virtual performance when they don’t have that type of talent.
Give your employees options. If you’re forming clubs, ask what everyone’s interests are. Even within a club, identify what they want to do first. For example, if people want to read a certain book together, ask how many chapters they can read in a week. If they want to cook, let the team suggest their favorite recipes that everyone can try preparing. Be as specific to make your activities more firmly structured.
2. Be creative and organize non-traditional events.
You most likely have heard of social media and marketing holidays. These are mostly made-up holidays and trends that celebrate certain values and interests. These playful holidays include National Hat Day, Love Your Pet Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day.
Choose a few of them to celebrate at work. Encourage people to dress up or prepare something they can bring to the front of their screens. Be as creative as possible so everyone can have fun without stress.
3. Digitalize your rewards.
If you’re organizing games and competitions, keep it light and make the rewards easily accessible from within their homes. You may choose to send out e-gift cards and digital subscriptions or enroll them in a short online class of their choice. You don’t always have to pay delivery fees for your prizes.
Digitalizing the rewards shows you are adjusting to your team’s work-from-home setup. It says you understand how much time they spend indoors and on their screens. Digital rewards also add to the fun. In effect, employees won’t feel obliged. Rather, they’d be excited to engage.
Keep Every Moment Productive and Meaningful
Start engaging your remote employees by involving them in decisions about office engagements. This way, you’ll encourage conversations and friendships built on trust and authenticity. With genuine connections, your team can forge better workplace relationships that defy physical boundaries.
DEVELOP YOUR MOST ENGAGING BRAND WITH ALLIED INSIGHT
Allied Insight, a full-stack marketing agency, can help you reach your audience and clients through authenticity and uniqueness. We can help you by establishing a formal brand identity guide, extending your corporate canvas, and MarCom & Content auditing.
1 Slack Team. “Remote workers care about employee engagement too”. https://slack.com/blog/collaboration/remote-workers-employee-engagement . Published last November 21, 2018. Accessed last March 10, 2023.
2 “What does work-life balance mean in a changed work world?”. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20230227-what-does-work-life-balance-mean-in-a-changed-work-world . Published last February 28, 2023. Accessed last March 27, 2023.
3 “When Fun At Work Backfires”. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lindsaykohler/2020/11/20/when-fun-at-work-backfires/?sh=5c2f479e2181 . Published last November 20, 2020. Accessed last March 27, 2023.
4 “French court rules employee was wrongfully fired for not being ‘fun’”. https://nypost.com/2022/11/29/french-court-rules-employee-was-wrongfully-fired-for-not-being-fun/ . Published last November 29, 2022. Accessed last March 27, 2023.