It’s no secret that the world has changed drastically since March. The days of chatting by the watercooler, walking to grab coffee with a colleague, and going to team happy hours seem like a distant memory after nearly 200 days of quarantine.
While those activities are of course fun, they also serve as a way to bond with coworkers and develop strong relationships with the people you work with.
So how do we keep that camaraderie going in a world that’s completely digital? The Drift team has been working hard to keep our teams close for productivity’s sake, but also because we genuinely enjoy the people we work with and want to stay connected with them.
Before I go any further, I want to give a big shout out to the person who’s responsible for planning these events and bringing our team together week after week – Liz Jerzyk 👸. (Pssst! See the image at the top of this post? That’s Liz, working her magic!)
Here are a few suggestions on what we’ve found works best and some fun tips for how you can keep your teams connected:
1. Partner with Local Nonprofits in Your Area
Prior to the pandemic, we built a great relationship with a local non-profit in Boston, Inner City Weightlifting. We were drawn to them for two reasons:
- Their amazing mission of using fitness as a tool to reduce youth violence and incarceration rates by fostering social inclusion and promoting economic mobility.
- Many of us at Drift love working out.
So, we partnered with them through their Corporate Wellness Solutions program. Back in 2019 (and early 2020), they would come into our office every other week to teach fitness classes to Drift employees. When we went virtual, we didn’t want to lose our great relationship with ICW, or the chance to bond through fitness with our colleagues. So we moved these classes online 💪
The response from employees has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s a fun way to virtually meet up twice a month to sweat out the day and support a local organization.
Pro-tip: Find an organization that aligns well with your brand values and the interests of your employees. If your employees can connect with the organization or nonprofit on a personal level, they’ll be more likely to show support and excitement for the events
2. Engage Employees’ Friends and Families
It’s no secret that we’re all spending a lot more time than usual with our loved ones – but sometimes it can be hard to explain what it is we’re actually doing all day 🙃
Back in April, we hosted our annual Friends & Family Day virtually. We encouraged Drifters to invite their friends, roommates, spouses, parents, siblings, children, etc. to join us for an afternoon of events. A silver lining of doing it virtually rather than in the office was that we had friends and family from all over the country join us.
Drift’s CEO David Cancel kicked off the day with a presentation on the history of Drift and his vision for where we are going. Then the kids of Drift (our colleagues’ kids!) stole the show by showing off their toys, siblings, and favorite hobbies.
This was followed by a number of breakout sessions we could choose to attend including Zumba, storytime for the kiddos, a conversation with two local psychologists about avoiding burnout, and yoga. We then came back together to watch Drifter submitted “make your own Drift commercial” videos before wrapping up the day. The variety of events and multiple breakout sessions gave us lot of different ways to interact with each other and made for a great bonding experience.
Pro-tip: There is truly nothing cuter than your colleagues’ kids 🤗 Make sure to give the kids a platform to show off a toy they love, or a special talent – you won’t regret it. It will also keep the kids engaged during the longer than usual Zoom call. Having a mix of activities also helps break up potential Zoom fatigue for adults.
3. Keep Networking with Your Colleagues
One of the best parts about being in the office is the camaraderie. Chatting while the coffee brews, eating lunch together, or even riding the elevator could be the thing that brings some positivity into your day. We miss that about not being physically at the office, and we wanted to find a way to still connect with our coworkers on a personal level.
So we introduced our “Senior Leadership Team (SLT) at Home” series to do just that 🏡
Every few weeks a senior leader invites us into their home, does a quick Q&A with the host, and then takes questions from the audience. It’s a great way to get to know our senior leaders on a personal level, while also having the opportunity to get some face time in with them.
Pro-tip: Find a moderator who can compile a list of questions that are both work-related and personal so that there is a good range of information provided. (Plus some back-up questions in case the crowd needs a little help).
4. Provide Opportunities for Your Team to Learn and Grow
At Drift, we like to say that we are curious learning machines. Learning together in the office is something that we enjoyed doing pre-pandemic. Now that we are apart we have still managed to offer employees a couple different ways to learn and grow from home.
The first is through the Drift book club. We have a list of books that employees can choose from and Drift will buy them that book. The list is constantly being updated with recommendations and new team favorites 📚
The other way we do this is through our Mentor Series. Once a month we invite a friend of Drift to come chat with employees through a Q&A style Zoom meeting. We have spoken with Pat Grady, Molly Graham, and Clint Smith to name a few people. Hearing about their trailblazing experiences (and getting the chance to ask them questions) has been an awesome way to bring the group together to learn something new 🤓
Pro-tip: Your network is full of people your employees want to hear from. Don’t limit yourself to just big names or people in your industry, think about people who have inspiring stories or unique insights to share. Bonus points if you encourage your employees to come prepared with questions.
5. Showcase Employee Talents
Our employees at Drift are really talented. Aside from being good at their jobs, we have amateur bartenders, piano players, origami artists, fitness instructors, near-professional level chefs, book connoisseurs, etc.
One of our favorite ways to stay connected during quarantine has been to let our coworkers show off their talents, while teaching the rest of us a little something too. We:
- Made Aperol Spritzes with an AI Conversation Designer 🍹
- Got our butts kicked in a barre class with a Conversational Sales Advisor
- Worked our brains during literary trivia with our Corporate Counsel
- Felt like pros when we mastered the paper swans during origami making with two Product Designers
While bringing in outside resources to host events can be a successful endeavor, it’s much more fun to support a coworker who is showcasing a special talent. The turnout is generally better and it’s a lot more fun to cheer on a friend while learning something new ✨
Pro-tip: Put the call out in Slack channels or company-wide communication channels to find out what your coworkers like to do in their spare time. This will give you an idea of who might want to lead a session that they are passionate about. And incentivizing people to host these events with company swag or a gift card can’t hurt either.