As we all reach the 1-year mark of a remote work environment and the shift to virtual events, there are a ton of learnings and takeaways that came from these challenging times. As we wrap up Q1 of 2021, we can now be proactive instead of reactive as we look forward to the year ahead.
This past year, events teams had to be super agile and flexible. It has become extremely difficult to plan a year ahead, the way we used to lock in events for months down the road. Being flexible and scheduling little by little is key during times like these.
With that, let’s talk about the best practices and tips! Read on for what we plan to bring into Q2 and what we are going to leave in 2020.
Learnings below are from conversations we have had with innovative and culture-obsessed teams from companies like Reddit, Zynga, Asana, and more!
TLDR: Less is more when it comes to planning events. What does that mean?. If engagement is running a bit low, consider crowdsourcing ideas directly from your employees. This is the best way to be inclusive and provide what employees want. Additionally, supporting a global team and working parents are crucial during these times to make sure everyone is looked after.
Wellness and mental health are also crucial during these times. Consider running regular events with this theme in mind as companies have been finding the most repeat attendance for these programs. Examples include meditation and yoga classes on a weekly basis.
Empathy Circles are also a great way to provide a support system for all employees and to create safe spaces for employees to feel connected and acknowledged.
Lastly, Zoom fatigue is always going to be a challenge. finding creative ways to improve it and create a motivation reset for employees will get everyone excited and connected again.
Less is More 🥳
- It is easy to think the more events offered the better, but it’s actually the opposite! It can become too overwhelming for employees with a ton of events happening at all times. Employees may also miss out on certain events due to scheduling conflicts if there are multiple happening at once.
- The best solution is having smaller, more intimate events that don’t overlap one another. By having these smaller events your team can narrow in on different niches and specific event types that cater to different groups of employees. It’s also a great opportunity to partner with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and set up regular themed events with them.
- Some examples to consider: 30-minute wellness workshops (i.e. nutrition, yoga, mindfulness), ERG to lead a speaker panel, or filter through Epoch’s list here.
Learn how to empower your virtual ERGs!
Best Ways to Boost Event Engagement 📈
- Providing tangible things in a virtual world has been very successful. Individuals have been loving events where they get sent goodie bags or activity kits beforehand. It incentivizes employees to participate and is a great way to drive early sign-ups. Saying things like “the first 100 employees to sign up will receive a watercolor painting kit for the art event” will boost excitement and engagement instantly by creating a sense of FOMO.
- Events that get employees moving or do activities with their hands are great as it is a fun break from the day-to-day desk work. This is a great opportunity for busy working parents on your team to get the whole family involved as well. Help keep kids engaged and act as a stress reliever for the parents by offering these more crafty, hands-on virtual events!
- “Challenge” events are a great way to bring out some friendly competition amongst the team. These are off-screen initiatives that only require a Slack channel (or Teams) and a fun idea. Some popular challenges include a 5km run/walk challenge, hydration challenge, or a steps challenge. All of these topics focus on wellness and by creating a Slack channel to go along with each challenge, other employees can share their progress and help motivate one another.
Crowdsource Event Ideas From Employees 🎉
- Since you are planning and creating events for your employees, it’s important to take the time and ask them what they enjoy and what events they want to see. Additionally, you can consider enabling employees to run small events that they are passionate about. To do this, you can provide the tools and resources to support them to organize the event they want.
- When an employee comes up with an event idea that they are passionate about, their passion will transpire to others and encourage more employees to participate or create their own events. A perfect domino effect to bring back the motivation for virtual events after a year while catering to specific groups’ interests. How can you support this? Provide small budgets to employees and point them to vendors (like Airbnb Experiences). If they have their own ideas and vendors, even better!
Best Practices for Managing a Global Team 🌎
- The best way to make employees feel engaged across all offices is by running asynchronous events! What are asynchronous events? It’s events that don’t have a set time and day - things like creating a Slack/Teams channel for individual 5k Run Challenges (i.e. as employees progress towards hitting their 5k goal in the week, encourage them to share pictures of their walk/run!). This will engagement employees that want that flexibility, especially for a busy global team. With asynchronous events, time zones are no longer a barrier.
- For events that aren’t able to be run asynchronously, consider recording the event and then sharing it with all office locations afterward. Encourage viewing parties for each timezone so employees can watch along with others in real-time. This turns the past event into a resource for employees who couldn’t attend and allows the flexibility for them to still be included and engaged. For example, companies have been recording their special speaker series and sharing it globally.
- Another option for managing a global team is to rotate synchronous events for different time zones. This gives each office location the opportunity to attend the event during their preferred time. By keeping events equal for all time zones, it shows that you value each office location equally.
Learn more ways on how to successfully support a global team!
Support Working Parents 🏠
- Working parents have a lot more on their plate in our new virtual world. It can be a struggle for working parents to balance their home life and their work office from the kitchen table. It’s so important, especially during these times, to provide support and resources to busy working parents that allow them to be more productive.
- Support working parents by creating engaging events for them to de-stress along with family-friendly events to keep their little ones busy.
Some ideas can include:
- Virtual talent show
- Storytime for kids on a video call
- Fun crafting activities like painting or making puppets
- Family cooking class
- The most important learnings are to encourage constant communication, support a flexible schedule that emphasizes balance, and give parents access to online emotional support resources.
Continue reading on more ways on how you can support the working parents on your team.
Wellness + Mental Health 🧘♀️
- 2020 really helped to start and reinforce the conversation of mental health. Companies are doing a great job at reminding employees that it’s okay to be feeling many emotions during these difficult times. It is very important to create a safe space for employees to be able to take a break and talk about everything they are experiencing with those who will listen.
- Regular wellness events were a huge success as they helped to bring routine back into people’s lives while working from home. Activities like weekly yoga or meditation classes will help to destress employees with everything going on and allow them to take a moment for themselves and just breathe. Employees resonate with this topic and it is very important to offer consistency and promote a sense of balance.
- Some companies are even rolling out ‘no meetings Mondays’ (or 1-2 times a week) to give employees space to be off their cameras and calls.
Empathy Circles 💙
- Given that this year wasn’t like any others, and there are so many awful things going on around us, Empathy Circles are a great way to act as a support group for all employees.
- Allow for each employee to have their voice heard and the opportunity to listen and support each other. Open it up to your team and make them voluntary, but host them consistently. That way, employees know Empathy Circles will always be available to them. Ideally, do not put any pressure on employees to share, but focus on creating an environment where employees can share anything on their mind in a safe, judgment-free space. Here’s how Zendesk does theirs!
- D&I is also at top of mind, especially with all the timely events happening like Black History Month, Women’s Month, AAPI Heritage Month, and Pride (to name a few). Offer listening sessions for various ERGs based on timely days and also open the conversation on the negative issues that are happening to these groups around the world and how to support them.
- A big learning is being compassionate and having empathy for employees as they all have many things going on behind the scenes. It may take longer for some employees to respond, but being patient will go a long way.
Tackling Zoom Fatigue 🖥
- Almost everyone has felt the effects of Zoom fatigue. It is very easy to overdo virtual events after a full day of virtual calls and this is not a sustainable approach for employees. They need proper breaks from screen time meetings, but this doesn’t mean you can’t keep them engaged in other ways.
- A great place to start is by creating a Slack or Teams channel for mini-challenges that employees can participate in when it’s convenient to them. Employees can engage in the channel by adding small conversation starters or sharing photos.
Some Slack challenge and channel ideas are:
- Dad joke channel
- Pet channel
- Parenting channel
- Book or movie club channel
- New recipes channel
- Healthy eating challenge
- Daily get outside challenge
- Cooking new recipes challenge
A Motivation Reset 🌟
- To say it has been an exhausting and draining past year would be an understatement. Employees are in need of a motivation reset to help bring back the joy and get them excited about the new and upcoming virtual events. Reinvigorate employees by having an event for the entire team and bring everyone together. Many teams did a Q1 kickoff which was very successful and drove a lot of engagement!
- Worried about employees losing interest in the events? Ensure the events you are planning are timely with holidays, important events, etc. Be intentional about doing things and planning fresh new events, as it’s easy to get mechanical and repetitive. Source internal influencers who are leaders in all of your internal departments or global offices. They will help determine what events employees are wanting and spread the word to build up excitement around these events. Lastly, never shy away from crowdsourcing events that employees will resonate with.
- All of these actions will continue to create a strong company culture through the screen.