7 Industry Learnings from 2021 ✨

7 Industry Learnings from 2021 ✨

Another year has come and gone.

Before we move through 2022, we’ve taken time to reflect on the past year to serve our teams better. We learned that continuously enhancing organizational culture is paramount. Creative solutions to connect distributed teams have been essential, allowing companies to provide meaningful programming and social engagement amongst colleagues.

Read on for the seven main takeaways from 2021 after a year of industry round table discussions! ✨



In 2021 we discovered fun and meaningful ways to bring the team together and boost company culture:

  • Create a balanced work environment by implementing no meeting days and wellness activities.
  • Run events the team truly wants by crowdsourcing ideas and monitoring attendance. Consider hosting a team off-site to increase team bonding.
  • For in-person gatherings, following health and safety protocols is essential. Run in-person events for the in-person team and virtual events for remote staff.
  • Empower your Ethical Resource Groups to better company culture and event programming by listening to their needs and providing resources for success.

  • Streamline communication by sending fewer emails and instant messages. Take a moment at meetings to talk through questions quickly.
  • Give your team a holiday celebration they deserve with gifts to mark the occasion.

Learning #1: Burn Out the Burnout 🔥

  • Implement a no-meeting day. Without meetings, your employees can enter an undisturbed state of deep work and flow for a full day, increasing productivity. Like Facebook and Asana, many companies implement no-meeting days as a reprieve from being on-camera, decreasing Zoom fatigue.

  • Find balance through wellness. Encourage employees to prioritize balance in their workday by facilitating exercise and time away from their desks. Offer online or in-person wellness classes, like meditation, yoga, and HIIT every couple of weeks or more frequently (based on demand). Record and circulate these guided sessions for those with schedule conflicts to ensure equal access. Encourage a 5K run or walk weekly challenge for a screen-free activity and track results, photos, and routes on a Slack or Microsoft Teams channel.

  • Monitor engagement at events and meetings. If you or your team members struggle to keep up with the menu of scheduled events and meetings, this can be a tell-tale sign of over-programming. Continually monitor and then adjust by dialling back or adding events until you find the sweet spot.

Learning #2: Run Events Your Team Really Want 🥳

  • Crowdsource ideas. To ensure you’re planning events your team actually wants – ask them. Set up polls or event discussion channels to determine what truly interests your employees. You’ll be surprised at the variety of events suggested. Tap into key dates, like holidays and celebratory times, as well as your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), for meaningful event ideas.

  • Schedule the right number of events that keep everyone engaged and connected. Finding the right amount of events requires trial and error for most companies. If you’re struggling to find the right balance for your company, here are a few tips:

  • Determine a starting point. Most companies aim for one large event once a quarter, one or two smaller events per week, in addition to regular (ERG) programming.

  • Monitor attendance. Attendance is the primary indicator to help determine if you’re scheduling too many or too few events. If your team attendance drops off, chances are you’re hosting too many events or the wrong kinds of events. 

  • Leverage metrics. Look at both qualitative feedback from employees (e.g., post-event surveys) and quantitative numbers (e.g., attendance rates, unique participation, length of involvement, and repeat participation). This data will help you make informed decisions in providing engaging events.

Learning #3: Bring Teams Back Together – the Right Way 🤝🏿

  • Finding ways to bring teams together is vital for organizational culture with a pandemic still on our heels. Instilling a hybrid work structure and running employee events are fantastic solutions, but properly pulling off these tactics is still a grey area for most companies. The biggest thing teams can do right now is prioritize the safety of employees and have a plan for flex options when planning a hybrid event.

  • A safe space. Ensure your workspace is safe for return to office or gatherings. Make things easy when organizing employees entering and exiting the office. Use vendors like Space IQ or Envoy to help coordinate and book sections of your office (i.e., have employees book desks, meeting rooms, etc.). Additionally, revamping workspace layouts can be crucial for a safe return to the office. Consider spacious traffic flow when planning a new layout.

  • Snacks. For now, working with caterers to make individually packaged meals is the best solution for safe dining at events, workshops, or meetings. When providing food, serve individually wrapped options.

  • Legal help. The best way to prepare for office re-openings and gatherings–especially in the case of international teams–is to pair with legal experts. Your company’s lawyers can help you understand government laws and regulations for each office location. Design a plan for every office that includes a templated playbook with health and safety training, mandatory health checks, sanitization guidelines, and office etiquette.

  • Don’t try to mix and match. While some companies have opted to be remote-first, many offer employees a hybrid option to go in-office or work virtually. Some companies are splitting up budgets for in-office events and virtual events. This decision to keep programming separate for in-office versus remote is a great way to keep employees connected and engaged without attempting a fully hybrid model. It can be said that separating virtual and in-office events is the best approach for distributed teams.

Learning #4: Empower your Ethical Resource Groups (ERGs) 🧑🏾‍🤝‍🧑🏾

  • Set them up for success. Ensure there is a process in place to create and maintain ERGs. If you’re considering starting ERGs or want to polish up on your organization’s current ERG structure, check out the blog 5 Tips to Create Successful Employee Resource Groups. Take the legwork out of their planning by creating a playbook for events from low budget, low lift ideas to larger-scale events. Include vendor recommendations, event communication templates, and other resources to help pull off successful events.

  • ERG listening sessions. Sit down with each ERG to gauge where they’re struggling in providing meaningful programming. Discuss what’s going well and what needs to change. Take the time to figure out the support they require to thrive. Listening sessions can be scheduled meetings with executive management or more casual, recurring workplace office hours with the whole team.

  • Dedicate a month to your ERG. To empower your ERGs, dedicate an entire month to these employee-led groups so they can host a slew of meaningful events that reflect their purpose. For some ERG’s, timing is relevant; for example, Pride Month in June celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. This is an opportunity to spotlight your LGBTQ+ ERG for the month. Check out Epoch’s list of Workplace Events for 2022 for ideas.

Learning #5: All the Reminders without All the Pings! ⏰

  • Streamline communication. Communication in the virtual space is full of emails, instant messages, texts, and video chats. This mixed bag of constant communications can lead to unnoticed notifications and overwhelm. Find ways to avoid piecemeal contact, like sending one email with multiple questions rather than several emails or IMs per question.

  • Talk it out. Steal a moment to communicate verbally with your team. Add a couple of minutes to meetings for clarifications, questions, and broadcasting information about upcoming events and initiatives.

  • Leverage pre-existing newsletters. If your organization already has an internal newsletter, use it to distribute company-wide news and reminders. If not, consider creating a culture newsletter campaign on Mailchimp.

Learning #6: Tackling Holiday Parties 🎁

  • Planning large holiday events is a big part of healthy organizational culture for most global companies. Planning is a significant undertaking and can be a challenge for a distributed team – especially when considering whether to host virtually or in-person.

  • Virtual. Most global companies hosted their 2021 holiday celebrations virtually. But with employees tired of remote work, it’s challenging to find new and unique ways to celebrate the occasion. Companies choosing the virtual holiday party path doubled down on gift boxes and held a menu of virtual events throughout the season. Invest in high production value to make these events magical and keep things short and sweet–1-hour maximum–to avoid Zoom fatigue.

  • In-person. For companies that can create safe in-person events, policies need to be implemented. For example, those wishing to attend in-person events must be fully vaccinated and submit to a pre-screening questionnaire at the time of entry. Lean on health consultants to advise on event safety.

  • Gift boxes. When it comes to gift boxes–whether in person or remote–your team will appreciate a thoughtful token to mark the occasion. Companies including GetUpside and Zynga recommend the following gift items:

  • MasterClass subscription
  • DoorDash gift cards or meal subscriptions from local caterers 
  • Company branded yoga or sweatpants
  • Cocktail Kits
  • Personal notes from the CEO
  • Movie night-themed items, like popcorn, movie posters, and a mini projector.

Learning #7: Connect Off-Site ✈️ 

  • Deviate from day-to-day humdrum happenings by hosting a team off-site. Gather the team somewhere new for a workcation or bring something new to the Zoom room that simulates an excursion.

  • Go off-site. Travel to a destination for a workweek together at a rental home or hotel–great options are available on Airbnb. Build connections with your team by working and playing together. The blog 10 Activities to do on a Team Offsite provides fun activity ideas to try on your off-site!

  • Virtual off-site. Host a company-wide virtual off-site event. You can add a theme to the event, like ‘picnic party’ – send a picnic basket with food, drinks, and a checkered blanket and tune into a video chat together. Participants can sit on their floors or take it outside on a nice day.

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