As we adapt to the impact of COVID-19, many organisations have asked their workforce to work from home. Building and maintaining relationships with your colleagues is important, and it can both help productivity and improve mental health while practising social distancing. Interacting with your coworkers virtually with platforms such as Slack (an online chat platform) and Zoom (a video meeting platform) can help you maintain a sense of team camaraderie as you work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article, we'll discuss what online social activities are and why they’re important with nine ideas for online social activities that you can try with your team.
What are online social activities?
Online social activities are any activities that you might typically participate in face-to-face, done virtually. With technologies such as online chat and video conferencing, you and your colleagues can continue having meetings, celebrations, happy hours and water cooler conversations as you weather the impact of COVID-19.
Why are online social activities important?
Online social activities can create an energised and positive work environment while your company practices social distancing. Research shows that they also help reduce stress levels, which is especially important during an uncertain and challenging time.
Social activities you can do by online chat and video
Here are nine social activities that you and your team can try to remain connected and supportive of one another while working separately:
1. Set up a lunch date with your coworkers by video call
Many coworkers eat lunch together when in the office. The good news is that working from home doesn’t have to disrupt your previous daily routines. Make a habit of scheduling a video call during lunch hours a few days per week to interact with your work friends just as you would in your office break room or cafeteria. This is also a good way to ensure that you take a break from work during the day to reset and recharge before a productive afternoon.
2. Throw a party
Give yourself and your officemates something to look forward to by celebrating a coworker's upcoming birthday or work anniversary over a video call. You can send a meeting invite as you would for an in-office get-together or pin a message about the party in your chat room(s).
To distinguish the party from a meeting, encourage attendees to make their screen background festive, either by hanging available decorations in their home or customising their virtual background. Consider establishing a theme for the party and ask attendees to participate by bringing a certain drink, snack or another item.
3. Schedule a happy hour
Happy hours are a longstanding workplace tradition to build relationships with colleagues over non-work-related conversation in a casual setting. Consider scheduling a weekly or bi-weekly happy hour via video call with your teammates, encouraging them to bring a snack and drink of choice. Try to avoid talking about work too much, or at all if possible, to keep the call relaxed and structured for team bonding.
4. Start a themed chat channel, programme or competition
To learn more about your colleagues and have fun while doing so, consider putting together regular programmes or competitions. One example is a regular 'pet of the day' showcase so you and your team can show off your pets as you're able to work from home with them. Create an online chat channel for your programme (such as 'pet-of-the-day') and invite colleagues or leave it open so that they can opt in themselves. Each day, for example, participants can post a picture of their pet with a creative or funny caption.
5. Create a 'good news' channel
Staying positive is helpful during this challenging and unpredictable time. Make an effort to highlight joyful news by starting a 'good-news' channel on chat. You and your coworkers can share hopeful and uplifting news articles or stories that help keep you motivated and productive.
6. Create a fitness group
When working from home, it can be helpful for your mental and physical health to schedule regular exercise time. In addition to going for walks or runs on your own, you can work out with your colleagues by sharing in-home workout routines over chat or doing them together on an online call.
If one of your teammates is an avid or certified trainer in an activity, like HIIT or yoga, perhaps they might be willing to lead a virtual class. You can set up a webinar-style video call so that the instructor is the only one who can be seen and heard, while participants remain muted with their video off throughout the class.
7. Start a digital book club
You may have more time for reading now that you don’t have a commute. Consider creating a book club using online chat or email to decide on the title you want to read that month. Although many local libraries and bookstores are closed, you may be able to borrow or buy the title online or locate an audio version of the book.
Set up a bi-weekly or monthly video call to discuss a few chapters at a time, or the entire book. Depending on the size of your team or company, you may want to encourage the formation of multiple book groups focused on different genres so no one group gets too big, which can make discussion difficult.
8. Host a digital viewing party of a film or TV show
Watching a TV or film with your work friends can be a great way to bond over topics beyond work. Connect to a streaming service or download a film and share your screen in your online call. You can also use your video platform's messaging feature to chat about specific scenes during the viewing.
9. Play games
You can also encourage team building by playing games with your coworkers online. While there are many free virtual group game options available, you can also keep it simple by playing games within your chat room, such as trivia.
By providing opportunities for your teams and company to connect through these online social activities, you can help ensure they remain positive and productive in their new work environments.