When remote work became the norm during COVID-19, gone were the days of gathering awkwardly in the break room for a group to sing “Happy Birthday” (mostly out of tune) and pass party plates of cake slices around. Virtual birthday parties and teambuilding exercises were no less awkward. The well-intentioned but painfully boring virtual happy hours are burned into the memories of every profession.
But companies still need to develop a healthy company culture. That means employees getting to know coworkers, interdepartmental gatherings, and so on. But with all the old tactics out the window, where do they turn next? How can employers find a new way to engage their employees?
Even Milton would be glad to hear this: the pandemic may have ushered in the demise of office birthday parties, arcade rooms, and Hawaiian shirt days.
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If employees are no longer willing to tolerate conventional team-building exercises and after-work happy hours, why not try a new path to building a work culture? Borne out of the extraordinary need for compassion toward workers’ family obligations and mental health during the pandemic, workplaces now are looking at empathy in the drive to design a more meaningful work structure.
And when you think about it, of course, we should be focused on what our employees’ needs are! We know that leads to better outcomes and improved results, but it took a pandemic to really highlight the shortcomings of the modern workplace. In a survey from Businessolver, 74% of employees say they would work longer hours for an empathetic employer. Now you just need to figure out how you can make your financial institution the next best place for top talent to hang their hat.
Try finding ways to encourage empathetic interactions among your employees that lead to understanding and compassion: active listening, encouraging different perspectives, and pausing conversations for reflection and response.
With these “soft skills,” your bank or credit union will have an advantage over your competition in attracting and keeping team members. And to make these interactions happen, whether virtual or physical, you need an environment that will help employees feel connected, comfortable, entertained and informed – whatever is necessary to enable productivity and collaboration.
During the pandemic, did you find your employees leading what were previously considered "un"-work-related activities, such as virtual talent shows, crafting, yoga and karaoke? While they may not meet the old criteria of teambuilding activities, these get-togethers offered employees the chance to explore and learn what evokes passion and inventiveness in one another – and avoid the loneliness of remote work. This brings us to…
Okay, so you've found these new ways of teambuilding. Now you have a mixture of hybrid workers and 100% in-office workers. And you’re thinking, “We loved those virtual sessions! How do we reproduce that experience in the office? We can't go back to the old way.” Well, you’re completely right.
To ensure the best collaboration between both virtual and in-person workers, you need flexible, tech-friendly spaces.
Flexible Space for Meaningful Interactions
It’s not just a matter of plopping laptops on conference tables. You can help your employees make these get-togethers both productive AND fun with flexible meeting spaces that can be easily reconfigured to work for everything from an escape room to a meditation session to a board meeting:
Huddle rooms, smaller collab spaces for meetings between 2-4 people, spark creativity and team bonding.
- A variety of workstations, like flex spaces, rolling tables, phone booths, sit-stand desks, and outdoor workstations can satisfy a desire to move around.
- Incorporating open workspaces, benching stations, meeting rooms, and breakout rooms into your headquarters shows that your institution values in-person communication.
- And don’t forget digital screens and meeting software for the virtual attendees.
New Teambuilding Experiences
Now that we’ve given you some ideas on creating new space for these hybrid/in-person collaboration sessions, where your employees will feel comfortable and engaged, how about sharing some of our favorite out-of-the-box ideas? Here are a few:
- No smiling: Before starting a meeting, tell the attendees that they are not allowed to laugh or smile. See how long it takes before someone breaks the rule.
- Active listener: During a regular meeting, add random, unrelated words or phrases into your presentation. See who notices the most at the end of the meeting.
- Pictionary: Divide your employees into teams. Provide them with a random object, celebrity or event and ask them to draw it for their team. The team with the most correct guesses wins.
- Memory wall: Gather your team together and have them write down positive memories of working together or special team accomplishments on sticky notes. They can use words or pictures to record these memories. Then have everyone share their memory and post it on the wall, forming a positive memory cloud.
- BlockBusters Remote: Teams are challenged to come up with scripts, storyboard and film that translate their company’s business messages into dynamic, attention-grabbing movie trail
Amplify your Message
For remote workers your intranet is a great way to promote the culture you are working toward. Measuring success and traffic to the site, gathering feedback, and regularly updating messages will help keep your hub humming.
For in-person and hybrid workers corporate communications on digital screens is the a completely underrated strategy to create conversation and influence company culture in a positive way. With the right content and screen placements and content corporate comms can make a huge impact.
- Welcome new hires: put a face to a name literally and give your current employees the confidence to walk up to a new person and start a conversation.
- Promotions: celebrate internal promotions and keep the momentum going strong.
- Team Building Events: publish photos of the event, quotes from employees, and help everyone relive the fun while getting excited for the next event.
- Announcements: get the word out faster and more often than the last company-wide email.
- Company Mantras: share your mission or mantras regularly and you’ll notice more and more people remember and even start using them!
How has your team transitioned back into the office? Upload your photos on the form below. We may pick your entry as our Summer Collab of the week. If we do, you’ll win an Ideation Center Experience for you and 2 other team members.
And whether you’re planning to offer more hybrid work opportunities or bring everyone back to the office (eventually), DBSI can help you to determine how to create the ultimate design-build experience. Contact us to start your project!