The strength of an organization is the trust and kinship employees feel to each other. Companies are desperate to find ways to make employees enjoy each other more. That's why the global corporate wellness market is $53B.
Remote work has great benefits. More flexibility for employees. Employers are able to hire from a greater talent pool. But the sense of belonging people have for their companies has decreased with remote work.
Solutions that are skeuomorphic to reality (like VR), aren't the best way to bond people. To do it over the internet, you need something different.
Have you ever thought why it's "just not the same thing" to have dinner in real life VS a Zoom call?
Going to a restaurant is a complete user experience. The restaurant has a smell and a vibe. You admire the decoration. You have a nice conversation with the waitress. You eavesdrop what the couple on the other table is arguing about.
Video-conferencing technology isn't there yet. VR isn't there yet. Trying to bond people over a virtual dinner is cumbersome. Leave alone the fact that you don't have eye contact and that your face is being projected at a weird angle.
We also know that Zoom town hall meetings are the most popular practice, and also the worst one. A few people speak while the rest listen and clap. We doubt that this is the best we can do. Here you have 4 ideas that work:
This practice works for all tastes, group sizes, and time budgets.
If you want to organize people into groups of 3-4 (up to 8 in the paid version) we recommend Colonist. It's a free-to-play version of the classic euro-game Settlers of Catan. Great if you guys want to play something strategy-oriented. Play this one if you like a negotiation-oriented game where you have to optimize a bunch of things pretty fast.
If you prefer social deduction and would like something for 5-10 people, we recommend Secret Hitler. In summary, everyone gets secretly assigned to a faction. Then you win by guessing who is lying and who isn't.
If you want to laugh at your co-workers drawing skills, go for Skribble. It's a free-to-play version of Pictionary.
Host a talent show
We all have talent. It doesn't matter if your teammates know how to sing, play the guitar, do magic, or know how to make everyone laugh.
Make it generic. It doesn't need to be around a certain discipline.
Make everyone post their video on your Slack channel destined for this. This activity is great because everyone gets a chance to talk. It also works well for synchronous and asynchronous teams.
Organize reading clubs
This one requires a lot of effort but yields great results.
The idea is to build book-specific reading clubs. You guys will read fractions of a book on a certain frequency and then gather together to discuss.
A general book club won't work. People have different interests. Some might not be willing to read a certain book. Others will get demotivated if they were forced to a certain book.
Create virtual breakout rooms around shared interests
Use surveying software such as Survey Monkey or Polly. Analyze the results. See who responded what. Intersect people into Slack channels based on their answers.
To do this well you need to take into account two things.
First, comply with Dunbar's number. In Layman's terms: Make sure that groups have a size of 6 (or as close as you can get). Why? It's how the human brain is wired in. Have you ever heard that quote that says "you are the average of your 5 best friends"? This is because according to science, you spend 80% of your time with these people. Because of this, virtual breakout rooms should be of this size. A water-cooler bigger than that won't make everyone talk and break the ice.
Second, carefully select what you're going to ask. We can learn a lot from online dating. Online dating bonds people around shared interests. This is why eHarmony's divorce rate is 3.86% compared to the 50% national average. You can ask about hobbies such as music and sports. You can also ask about work culture and professional development. All categories are valid. The substance goes in the wording rather than the structure.
In fact, this practice will also allow you to nurture the previous 3. Build virtual breakout rooms for those who like to read sci-fi and another one for those who prefer non-fiction. Build a water-cooler for those who like to listen to Rock music and another one for those who prefer Pop.
The idea of this practice is to ignite the other ones. Let your teammates talk about soccer, let them later coordinate a soccer match. Let your teammates talk about video games, let them later virtually gather for a Call of Duty match.It might be time-consuming to sustain this practice over time. But we can assure you it works. If you want to do it automatically be sure to checkout Watermelon's Slack application. We're on public beta and building fast.