Categories
online meetings

10 Games and Icebreaker Activities to Engage Virtual Meeting Attendees

There was significant uncertainty during most of 2020 about how long employees would need to work from home, with many people anxiously awaiting their return to the office. A year into the pandemic with vaccinations on the rise, workers hope to keep these flexible working arrangements, ushering in the era of hybrid work.

As we navigate this transition, companies will increasingly focus on combining the in-person and remote working experiences and improving the remote work employee experience. Notably, loneliness is one of the top three challenges for remote workers, meaning there is an opportunity for companies to connect their teams and build genuine and fulfilling work relationships. 

Online Team-building Games and Activities for Virtual Meetings

There is no single way for companies to effectively address the range of concerns for employees associated with returning to office work. However, an excellent place to start is to assess how your team can build and reinforce a positive culture in both physical and digital environments. 

Consider implementing these simple team-building games and activities at the start of your video conferencing calls to strengthen your team dynamic and lessen feelings of loneliness for your remote workers. Here are ten virtual meeting icebreakers and team activities to consider:

  • 20 Questions: Provide a series of creative questions for guests to get to know each other better. Compile your list in an easy-to-access document that all team leads can access ahead of their meetings. Realistically, 20 questions are too many for any single call, but you can aim to explore at least one or two questions each meeting.
  • Ad-Lib Games: Similar to Mad Libs, you can play any variety of free online ad-lib games, like Mad:)Takes. Simply select your word game theme and have meeting attendees contribute words to fill the story. 
  • Desert Island Scenario: In this game, team members must choose three of seven optional objects for them to use if they were stranded on a deserted island. This is simple to play, and you can share the list of options in your video conference platform’s chat box so everyone can quickly review their options.
  • Desk Show and Tell: Give attendees advanced notice of this activity, and have them point their camera toward their desk to show their workspace. Encourage them to share any funny stories about the items within their reach, or explain why certain items are significant.
  • Hybrid Work Bingo: Provide your team with a new bingo card at your regularly scheduled meeting. During the week, they will fill out that card based on their work activities. At the start of your next meeting, have team members share if they got bingo and encourage them to share a story or two about the items they checked off. 
  • Name, Place, Thing, Animal: Similar to Scattergories, provide attendees with a random letter to then list a famous person’s name, a place, an animal, and a thing that begins with that letter. Allow one minute for people to write their answers, and then have everyone share their responses.
  • Rank It: Provide a list of five random objects and a fictitious scenario, and ask meeting attendees to rank those items in terms of usefulness in the scenario. The goal is to provide a diverse range of options and out-of-the-box scenarios, including objects like “hairdryer,” “overcooked spaghetti,” or “a blue marker that only works half the time,” and scenarios like “ski vacation,” “year-end review of results,” or “space exploration.”
  • Scattergories: At the start of each call, give attendees one letter and five categories in your video conferencing chat window. Give them one minute to come up with a word that starts with that letter and fits within the category, and then have everyone read their answers.
  • Two Truths and a Lie: Ask guests to share two truths about themselves and one lie. Then, have the other attendees vote on which of the three statements is the lie.
  • Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Ask guests to find obscure items in their homes within one minute. You can grab a variety of free lists here.

Whichever game(s) you decide to play, remember that consistency is vital to establish a new pattern for your employees. Encourage all people managers and team leads to start their calls with a five-minute activity and solicit new icebreaker ideas from attendees.

A Hybrid Workforce Needs Modern Video Conferencing  Solutions

Evolving your workplace culture to support a hybrid workforce is an exciting opportunity, and directly ask your team about how you can improve their experience.

Continue to introduce new games and activities during your conference calls to keep ideas fresh and provide new ways for team members to get to know each other.

Even the best efforts to connect a team can fall flat, though, if the right technology isn’t in place. Some video conferencing solutions are clunky, unintuitive, and will crush even the most fun team-building activities. 

Learn how Team.Video and Socialhour.com can support your team’s video conferencing and virtual event  needs.

Categories
remote work

Data Roundup: Employee Surveys Show Increased Support for Remote Work

The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were overwhelmingly uncertain for businesses forced to test remote work arrangements. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, employers are still making significant changes to their remote work arrangements, suggesting that hybrid working models are here to stay.

But how are employees coping with working from home? Is there still enthusiasm for workplace flexibility, or do employees want to return to the office when this is all over? 

We’ve gathered recent data suggesting that workers are increasingly comfortable with—and in favor of—remote work. 

Categories
remote work

Will Remote Work Usher in the Era of the 4-day Workweek?

Nearly a year since its onset, COVID-19 has upended the traditional way of working for most industries. Despite some early hesitation about how the way of work would shift, many companies now embrace permanent work-from-home policies. Employees increasingly hope to continue this workplace flexibility once the pandemic is over. 

The thought of only 41 percent of the U.S. labor force working in a physical office all the time would have seemed ridiculous at the start of 2020. Now, though, companies realize that the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility make these arrangements a competitive essential, not just a perk based on the employer’s trust in their team and goodwill.

As companies continue to explore ways to optimize their business and increase their team productivity, no matter where they are based, does this mean that we will also see the end of the 8-hour a day, 5-day workweek?

Categories
remote work

Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Corporate Office?

In 2017, many companies made headlines for doing away with remote working arrangements, including IBM, Aetna, and Best Buy. While working remotely had previously been seen as a driver of employee satisfaction and better business results, these high-profile flexible work program cancellations caused many companies to question their work from home policies. 

Then came 2020. The business world experienced a significant shift toward remote work because of COVID-19. The data we’ve seen a year into the pandemic reinforces what studies have suggested for the past decade: yes, remote work can boost productivity. 

But does this mean that companies will continue to embrace flexible working arrangements even when offices reopen? 

Tech Companies Signal Hybrid Work Futures

Increasingly, leading companies are introducing policies supporting a hybrid work future, where in-person and remote work opportunities are blended at the company. Some roles will need at least some in-office time to complete critical tasks but otherwise enjoy greater degrees of flexibility than before—and employers are making lasting decisions about their office spaces because of it. 

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, brands made significant moves that signal it will become increasingly uncommon for a company’s entire team to work under one roof:

  • Cloud computing trailblazer Salesforce announced in February 2021 that it will offer three ways of working going forward. The company even went as far as to say the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and only a small subset of the Salesforce team will work in the office four to five days per week.
  • Internet staple Google will keep its employees remote until September 2021 and then experiment with a new hybrid work model giving employees the flexibility they desire.
  • Trillion-dollar company Microsoft announced that the majority of its employees can work from home half of their time (or permanently, with manager approval) and that its US offices won’t reopen until early this year at the earliest
  • Tech giant Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its lease with a soon-to-be-built complex near Pinterest’s existing San Francisco HQ
  • Retailer REI announced its plans to sell a newly finished corporate campus in Washington, which was once called “like summer camp for grown-ups.”
  • Nationwide will work out of four main corporate campuses, exiting most of its other buildings and workly entirely remotely in all other areas.
  • Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman expressed uncertainty about the future of work but noted that the bank would need “much less real estate.”
  • Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, recently announced it would “focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office” in measuring worker performance. 
Categories
productivity

Enhancing Workplace Productivity In The Age of Remote Work

In the past, many companies equated “working from home” with “slacking off from home,” fearing the potential productivity losses their company would face if employees had greater workplace flexibility.

Now, a year into the largest remote work movement the business world has ever seen, these fears have been largely overcome. Productivity in the U.S. rose 4.6% in Q3 of 2020, marking the largest quarterly productivity increase since 2009.

But there’s a catch: not every company is seeing productivity boosts with its mostly remote workforce. One study of 800 employers found:

  • 67% of companies reported similar productivity levels as pre-pandemic days
  • 27% reported an increase in productivity 

So what’s separating those seeing gains in productivity from the rest? It could be in how they define productivity and the tools they’re using to track it. 

Categories
online meetings

How To Combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’ For More Fulfilling Video Meetings

The rapid shift to online, remote-based work provided many benefits for employees and employers alike. These flexible working arrangements are here to stay, even once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. 

There is an unintended side effect of this new way of work, though, and it stems from ineffective, badly designed tools and misguided approaches to handling meetings with a remote team: “Zoom fatigue.” But by understanding the cause of this fatigue, you can adjust your approach to online meetings in a way that better engages your team.

What Is Zoom Fatigue And Why Are Video Calls Tiring?

Despite being a convenient replacement for our in-person interactions, video calls require a more significant effort to truly process the conversation (the primary cause of Zoom fatigue).

That’s because a great deal of crucial content is communicated not in what we say, but instead in how we say it, with nonverbal cues like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Intrinsically, video calls make it difficult to absorb these nonverbal cues. Only so much of any given speaker can be seen, spotty internet connections can distort speech, and grid-style views can easily send an attendee into sensory overload. 

Categories
remote work

When You Can’t Measure It, You Won’t Fix It

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

According to Google Trends data, as much of America’s knowledge workers settled in for the second month of working at home under the COVID-19 work from home mandates, ‘Zoom fatigue’ hit an all-time high. But the truth is, it’s not just being stuck at home and having most of our socializing taking place over video conference calls that are to blame for our dissatisfaction with workplace meetings.

Whether it’s 9 million versions of conference call bingo or 21 million views of a conference call in real life, poorly-run company meetings have long been a source of employee dissatisfaction. A 2017 study published in Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries to gauge how meetings impact their work:

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together

Many factors contribute to this negative outlook on workplace meetings, but one that has bubbled up significantly over the last few months is meetings are often where the lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace shows up.

Categories
online meetings

3 Online Meeting KPIs That Can Uncover a Toxic Workplace Culture

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

With an estimated 42 percent of the U.S. labor force currently working from home full-time, your online meetings have become how you keep your workplace culture alive. Unfortunately, these same virtual meetings may also be contributing to creating a toxic workplace culture that leads to employee disengagement.

The good news is, unlike those in-person meetings held in your company’s cleverly named office conference rooms, your online meetings give you the potential to gather and measure data that can be used to identify and address potentially toxic workplace issues in the making. Here are three questions to ask your team members to weigh in on, and measure through your online meeting platform.

Categories
online meetings

Introducing now.me

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

Today we are excited to share now.me — a way to get right to the meeting you’re supposed to be in right now. At any given moment, if you visit the site, it will look at your calendar, see what video call you’re meant to be in, and take you right there. It works with most video call providers, including Zoom, Google Meet, Whereby, team.video, and others. We have been using this tool internally for a while now, and thought we might as well share it with the world.

In a way it seems like a small problem to solve. It’s not so hard to open up your calendar, find the meeting you’re supposed to be in, find the link to it, and open it up. But at that moment when it’s time to get together with your clients or colleagues, that time is precious. We want those brain cycles in to go toward preparing for the conversation that is about to take place. Especially if we’re running late, or if we’re trying to get together materials to share, or deep in thought pondering whatever trade-offs we are about to weigh — it can make a big difference not to have to context-switch at that moment.

As we use now.me, we find ourselves dreaming of next iterations: Beautiful as it is in its current state, it could be nice to add support for custom themes where we could set our own images, or toggle dark mode. Another idea we’ve pondered is an option to keep a now.me tab open, and then when a meeting is about to start, it would show a notification and even automatically join the meeting in a new tab, with no interaction required.

We’d love to hear your feedback! Try it out at https://now.me

Categories
online meetings

Zoom treats you like a child

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

Deeply ingrained in Zoom’s defaults are choices that do not encourage us to expect the best from each other. We spend such vast amounts of time in video meetings now that we should question what behaviors our platforms are driving us to, and how they affect our interactions with our friends, family, and colleagues at work.

“Waiting for the host to start the meeting”

This message can be infuriating. The host is on vacation, or they’re in a car somewhere, or they’re there but having trouble logging in. Or worse, everyone wonders, who is the host of this meeting, anyway? Is it me? Am I holding us back at this moment? For God’s sake, when will we be able to get on with the actual work we have to do?

And really, why can’t we just carry on without the host? Of course if you go into all the right admin screens and click all the right buttons, you can turn this off, but since it is the default, this experience inevitably creeps in.