Keeping your team connected when they’re working remotely

Steven Morrison
April 20, 2020
Steven Morrison | OptimalBI

Lockdown started on the March 26 here in New Zealand, and following the Prime Minister’s announcement on April 20th, we’re looking at just an extra 2 business days in Level 4, before we move to Level 3 after the ANZAC long weekend.

Level 3 means that our team will continue to work from home.

It can be hard to keep people engaged during periods of uncertainty, so we set out to increase the number of times our team interacts with each other during the time when they might see a reduction in human interactions.  We wanted to keep things light, fun, not too taxing on effort or time and that people would actually want to participate in.  

Here’s what we have been doing, what’s worked well for us, and what hasn’t.  You might also find this useful not just for when we’re in lockdown, but also for remote team engagement anytime.

Show and Tell

Bronwyn Scott | OptimalBI Here’s some delicious bagels that aren’t as tricky to make as you’d think.  Recipe here.

Taking a note out of our younger years we have just started show and tell, where you simply share a photo of something you saw today, that cake you made, your cat not really enjoying having you around all the time at the moment, etc on Yammer.  This has worked pretty well for us, with flurries of ‘Hey check out what I just made’ appearing every time one person remembers to share.  It’s great to see the projects people have done, and thought about contemplating doing maybe one day.

Did you know that one member of our team is growing pineapples in Wellington?!

Photo challenge  

Something which evolved from the sharing idea above was a photo challenge.  This small competition  runs for a week with a different topic for each week. The idea is for people to upload a photo that fits the topic for the week and after that time everyone gets to vote on what one they like the most. The person with the most votes overall at the end of the lockdown time will get to choose the cake for our first team meeting once we can do that again in person.  This is going pretty well too, except for our first theme we chose people… That’s right, in the middle of a lockdown where you’re supposed to stay away from people.  Woops!

Bronwyn Scott | OptimalBI Tied for first place in our ‘people’ themed photo challenge.  Are they people?  Are they ants?  Who would know!?

Bets are on for the winner to choose a massive cake, or carrot sticks, depending on how tight those stretchy pants get…

Daily desert island discs

This one is basically a carbon copy of the BBC radio show which started in 1942.  Each day one person puts together a playlist of 8 songs that they would like to have on a desert island, and shares some memories and a Spotify playlist for everyone to listen to.  This does two things; it lets people get to know more about the people they work with and could start a conversation about why they chose those songs, and is good fun even if people don’t really consider themselves muso’s.   You also choose a book, and a luxury item to take to the island with you.

A “Dessert Island” spinoff naturally spawned off this.  Currently it’s a tie between lemon meringue pie and cheesecake.

Yoga with Imogen

We’ve been lucky enough to have Imogen teach us yoga for a while now, pre-lockdown she’d come into the office and we’d all pile into the training room twice a week for some gentle yoga (Bronnie would even join us remotely from her lounge in Christchurch).  Continuing yoga was a no-brainer for us, especially as we knew it worked remotely.  While doing the yoga isn’t so much about the connecting with your team mates as it is for all of the other benefits the practice brings, it is nice hearing how others enjoy it around the virtual water cooler afterwards.

Here’s a link to the Yoga with Imogen Facebook page and website.  Get in touch with her if you’d like to join a pre-existing class, or you want to set up some remote yoga for your team.

Jackbox Games

We have a few people in the team that play games regularly so trying to find a game we could play with more of the team was something we wanted to do, this is how we landed on the Jackbox games which is a mix of trivia games that people can join via a website.  

Learning NZ Sign Language

Tuning in each day to see the update from Parliament and those happy sign language interpreters made us interested in learning NZSL.  This one can be a bit tricky to facilitate, but they way we’re going about it is to work through the lesson by yourself, then video call a buddy to show off what you’ve learnt.

Here’s the link to the online learning resource we’re using.

Telephone Whispers didn’t work so well

Remember that game played on school camp, where a message gets passed along and the final person in the chain has to say it out loud.  It’s never the same message.  Well, we tried that as a way to talk to people we might not usually engage with daily in our team.  We have 17 team members, and it took 2 days to complete.  The message was in two parts, and at the end, the second part was lost, however the gist of the first part was still there, although incorrect.  It didn’t work so well for us, and we won’t be doing it again.  Nice trip down memory lane though.

Do let us know if you try any of the ideas here, or want to know more about how we make it work.  We’re also interested to hear what you’ve tried to keep team engagement up this lockdown.


Image of Steven Morrison with the OptimalBI logo in the background.

Steven Morrison is a design innovation grad who’s part of the team here at OptimalBI, so you’ll find him squirreling away working on stuff that helps make us look good. 

Connect with Steven on LinkedIn, or read some of his other blogs here.

Copyright © 2019 OptimalBI LTD.