How to Build a Sense of Community When You Can’t Be In the Same Room

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The last year has been… weird. To say the least, everyone has had to make adjustments to their work and daily life. For some of us, we were lucky to be able to switch over to working from home full-time and stop going into the office or client site every day. There are a ton of positives that came from this, including more time with animals, only having to commute from one room to the other, and not needing to wear real pants every day. It also came with some unexpected changes, including shifts to company culture and both social and community involvement with each other.

When we suddenly and unexpectedly needed to turn all of our upcoming events and activities into remote events and activities, we felt a little bit of a panic. How do we make activities fun, engaging, and not just another Zoom meeting? Everyone burned out on the remote happy hours pretty quickly, but we still wanted to create opportunities for our company to bond, be together, feel like we all belong, and make a difference to our employees and our communities. I’m going to highlight five (of the many) things we did in the last year to help keep our employees engaged and make a difference in our communities (did you know TE has a big presence in both Denver and Dallas?):

1. Remote Walks for Charity (Furry Scurry): We participated in remote walks for charities in our respective cities. We created a team to support Denver-based animal shelter the Dumb Friends League’s annual fundraiser, the Furry Scurry. Our team (“Flock of TE-gulls,” which won us an award for most creative name!) was comprised of employees and their families. We asked our team to pay for their own registration, and then made a matching donation on behalf of the company. While the actual date to walk was flexible, we targeted all doing a walk with our animals on the same day. For the folks with kiddos (or who were feeling young at heart), we sent scavenger hunt printouts that had clues to things most people would see when walking in their neighborhood or community.

2. Halloween Trivia: Oh, the joys and pains of remote trivia. We wanted to avoid the trap of it feeling like a forced happy hour that had you Googling answers and trying to get it over with. A few of us created the Halloween-based questions structured in three main rounds with a final bonus round. We’re consultants, so you better believe our trivia lived in PowerPoint. In addition to the spooktacular questions, we also created a competition around best costume and best virtual background. The winning costume included hair that was dyed with food coloring, so it’s safe to say we had a good number of people really get into it!

3. Painting Party: Some people are more artistic than others. That’s an obvious statement. We pushed people out of their comfort zones and tried to unlock the creative juices in our company with a remote, follow along painting party! Hosted on Zoom by Paint the Town, each employee was mailed the supplies they needed to create a masterpiece. The party took place live over Zoom, with a helpful instructor showing us what to do and answering questions as we went. The paintings all had their own unique features, including one mountain scene featuring a Death Star

4. Airbnb Experiences: Wow, Airbnb was definitely a company that reacted and pivoted with the world closing! Our company did two private “experiences” through Airbnb: laughter yoga and a virtual magic show. Both were incredibly interactive (especially considering our large group), hilarious, and downright magical! We had five employee spouses request the link to the magic show experience after hearing about our event!


5. Leadership Talent Auction: Ok, this sounds odd. We auctioned off a talent show? You bet we did. Around Thanksgiving, we saw a need to help folks in our communities who were struggling to make ends meet and were relying on food banks to feed their families. Do you remember seeing the lines to get food? We knew we could help, so we got our leadership team to record videos of their secret talents. Based on teasers and clues, our employees pledged donations to the leaders whose talents they wanted to see (which were all of them, let’s be honest). After a week of campaigning for donations, we released two videos per day to our Ensemble. The amount of random, amazing, and diverse talents we saw from the leadership team were unexpected and unmatched! It helped us learn about, and connect with, our leadership team in a very unique way. Six months later, the talents and videos are still referenced frequently! And because it was to help charity, TE matched the donations made by our employees to raise enough funds to provide over 13,000 meals to food banks in Dallas and Denver! That’s enough meals to feed 12 people three full meals a day for a full year! OR that’s enough meals to feed 36 people every night for a full year!

One huge advantage to having remote activities for the last 18 months has been our ability to connect with the entire company at once. Since we traditionally plan activities in each market, this year had a new twist of being able to do most/all activities as a full company. We got frequent and consistent time together outside of project work and created bonds across both cities. While we hope to return to in person activities safely and soon, we will continue to do a few of these kinds of activities remotely in the future!

What remote activities were most successful in your company? Would you keep doing remote activities once in-person activities are an option? If you want to hear how we tactically pulled any of these off, reach out and I’d be happy to connect and help you plan!

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