What’s that we see? Is that… wow, is that the sun? And is that forecast really showing sun across the lower mainland for the next few weeks? Could it be that summer is actually, finally here? All joking aside, it’s been anything but a normal summer, so far. Kids were out of school, then they were partially in school, now they’re out of school again. And despite some businesses being typically slower in the summer months, many employers who experienced unexpected downturns in the Spring are beginning to ramp back up and tackling things they usually would have done prior to now. While we all know the pandemic and its impacts are far from over, businesses are doing what they can to move forward, however possible. As they do so, it’s also important for organizations to maintain and even strengthen their culture of appreciation during this time. Pandemic or not, it is still summer and a good time to show your staff some love.

Depending on the nature and size of your business; i.e. whether you’re back in the workplace, partially or otherwise, there are still some fun events you can arrange. The opportunity to be outside is a great way for smaller teams to get together in a park or on a beach, which could be catered with individually wrapped meals, for example (and the option of employees bringing their own, if they prefer). Keep in mind that comfort levels with any sort of gathering, even with strict precautions, will vary. Be aware and sensitive to these concerns and, of course, don’t make these events mandatory.

While there are ever-increasing options for virtual teambuilding out there, Zoom and video-conference fatigue is becoming a concern for many. Though there may be few ways around it, consider how you can facilitate and encourage some fun at the same time. For instance, while getting together may not be an option for everyone, consider an afternoon where everyone (either alone or in small groups) goes to their neighborhood park or beach (or even backyard/patio/balcony), atop the Sea to Sky Gondola or Grouse Mountain, or otherwise, their favourite outdoor space. Provide a small budget to each employee that they can use for food/drinks, admission, etc. and then have a set time for the get-together, with check-ins throughout encouraged (i.e. an open Zoom room for the afternoon). Imagine popping into the Zoom room halfway up the Grouse Grind, while visiting the otters at the Vancouver Aquarium, from the ferry deck on the way to the Sunshine Coast, or while lounging under a cherry tree in Queen E. Park.

If in-person get-togethers are simply not in the cards, there’s also value in carrying out quick, random acts of fun, such as providing ice-cream bars, frappuccinos, or other hot weather treats on the hottest of days. Engage your managers to send/deliver individual random acts of summertime fun or kindness to their team-mates. Or better yet, engage your entire team to do so on a broader basis; i.e. have a summer “random acts of kindness/fun” challenge – with a small budget to go with it. For example, you could give everyone $20 – $50 (depending on the size of your team) and tell them they have until Labour Day to spend it doing fun, kind, special things for their co-workers, clients or even strangers, documenting and capturing it as they go.

If virtual is the only way to go, in addition to the challenge outlined above, other fun things to do – in the summer, or otherwise – include:

  • Virtual Games: There are tons of virtual games out there – some new and some virtual spins on the classics. These can be fun ways to engage your team. Some of the current faves include: Drawize (like Pictionary), Codenames and Words with Friends (like Scrabble). Jackbox Games also has a bunch of online games that can be accessed for a small fee. For larger teams, you can even host a tournament using the break-out rooms feature in Zoom (available for business plan holders).
  • Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour & Learns: Another spin on the traditional onsite “brown bag lunch & learns” is hosting virtual opportunities to get your teams together and learn something useful, healthy, innovative, or just plain fun. These sessions are ideally led by one or two employees on your team (or it could be a team working together). It could be work related, or it could be based on something folks on your team have a specific interest or skill in, such as a fitness/yoga class, mask-making workshops, vision-boarding, baking power muffins, or karaoke.
  • Speed-Chats: This works especially well with Zoom break-out rooms, but can be set up with other apps as well. Just like speed-dating or other speed business events, the idea is that employees are randomly set up to have short (e.g. 5 – 15 minute) chats about a given, random topic (ideally not work related, political, etc.) such as: elephants, bicycles, wine, parking meters, etc. At the end of each chat, the host randomly re-orders the pairs and it goes on for X number of sessions until, at the end, the group reconvenes and shares the highlights.
  • Show & Tell: Just like many of us used to do in school. If employees are working remotely, they could either bring something into their workspace to show and talk about (e.g. favourite possession) or carry their phone/laptop with them to a place in their home to show a prized/memorable piece of furniture or area and explain the background/what it means to them.

There’s clearly no doubt that things are different this summer. But they need not be boring and all business as usual. In addition to the ideas above, consider how you can think outside the box in a way that makes sense for your business/team specifically. What will infuse smiles, laughter, tension release and even a little sparkle?