We are in a time where uncertainty lingers on everyone’s minds. Managers and employees all over the world are concerned about the future, and may be distracted and unproductive, but they must also stay focused. How can a leader keep their team engaged?
At Mediacurrent we believe in our people and our culture. Culture is predicated around how a company consistently makes you feel, and we realized culture helps guide organizations during times of change. We have provided some tips and tricks on team building that we have used to engage with our team while maintaining and strengthening the culture.
Camaraderie in Communication
A great tool to utilize, if you are not already, is Slack. When it comes to managing a remote team, Slack keeps the team and culture connected at all times by acting as a “water cooler” spot. The team building happens naturally when people create conversation on their own.
We have a slack channel for practically any interest, and it goes a long way in connecting one person with the rest of the team. If someone doesn't see a slack channel related to something they like, we create one. Here are a few examples of Slack channels that connect our team and resonate in our culture:
#misc-gif-battle: a channel for having a friendly ‘gif battle’ with teammates—they speak to each other using only gifs (usually).
#misc-30daychallenge: a channel for completing 30-day, usually health-related, challenges.
#misc-walkingwednesday: a channel where we encourage team members to leave their homes, take a walk somewhere, and post about what they find or see.
#misc-presentationtips: a channel dedicated to sharing presentation tips for long-standing presenters to those that are presenting for the first time.
#misc-pets: a channel dedicated to pet lovers—our team members share pictures and videos of their own pets, sometimes in Mediacurrent Swag.
#misc-baking: a channel for those who like to bake or just enjoy food—usually this consists of our team sharing what they’ve made recently.
Encouraging your team to create and join different slack channels can boost productivity and help them feel like they are a part of your company’s culture. For those who sometimes feel isolated, they can visit any channel and connect with team members who share their interests, increasing familiarity with team members and morale. These slack channels act as mini team-building moments throughout the day in a passive way that reinforce your culture.
Acts of Encouragement
Our daily emails and slack messages are a direct dose of positive information and optional, mood-boosting activities. The messaging started shortly after the Covid-19 outbreak—we realized people were trying to find an understanding of how to cope with all the apparent changes, and we wanted to help. During the most difficult times, we send messages containing similar categories each day to our team:
Quote of the day
Free resource (this changes depending on what’s available that week)
Entertainment for families
Random fact of the day
Inspirational article (usually shared by a team member)
Reminder of the weekly team-building challenge (we’ve done pajama day, recreating art, and more)
(Optional) Reminder of weekly team-building activity
Weekly Team-Building Activities
Throughout the week we added several team-building activities for employees to participate in. Some are inspired by common hashtags, like #TastyTuesdays, and by participating in these activities as a group, we build team spirit.
Every Tuesday the team comes together for a company-wide knowledge share where their fellow teammates, or a local professional, present on an educational topic of interest. We’ve been doing this for years and have found our team thrives when sharing with each other and learning new things.
To encourage learning, and then sharing that new knowledge, each employee is given a stipend for continuing education. We recommend employees to use this stipend to take a course or training in an area of interest that could help them professionally. In exchange, we ask employees to share with the team what they learned during these weekly knowledge shares. During these meetings, the team is able to learn best practices from their teammate and the teammate is able to reinforce what they’ve learned and share something they enjoy.
While we usually have employees leading the sessions with topics that are considered helpful, we have also brought in guest speakers to cover other life topics for everyday living. These topics could cover wellness, fitness, financial responsibility and how to properly communicate. We have also hosted series that cover topics including Women in Tech and Diversity in Technology. The purpose behind having guest speakers come in is to help our team improve one aspect of their lives with best practices and provide them with the opportunity to get questions answered by a professional.
Inspired by the hashtag of the same name, we promote team-building through sharing recipes—after all, most people love food. The team shares their favorite recipes while parents contribute meal plans for their little ones, and others are encouraged to share their own meal plan or other unique eats. They can share these in the #parenting or #General Slack channels. While this team-building discussion is all about food, we don’t focus on ever telling our team what they can or cannot and should or should not eat.
Every Thursday in the afternoon, team members keep an eye on our #General slack channel as leadership and specified team members pass out trophies to other Mediacurrent teammates. These awards are given out to members who exemplify high level problem solving skills and teamwork throughout the week. The trophies can include:
The Presentation Award: for conducting a presentation, which impressed both the team and clients.
The Golden Ticket of the Week: for creating detailed tickets in Jira which is helpful for the team to get assignments completed in a perfected manner.
Strategic Thinking Award: for thinking outside of the box to solve challenges the team or the clients are facing.
Teamwork award: for exemplifying team effort on any given assignment.
Contrib Award: for taking something that others might find useful, and making it public for others to share and collaborate on.
Branch Manager of the Week: for a pet of an officemate that contribute positively to office morale.
Other Team Building Events
Some of our team-building activities don’t happen on a particular day of the week. For these ones, we typically give our team advanced notice the week prior, and then leave reminders to post on a chosen day of the week (we usually do Thursdays). Our team is prompted to share their fulfillment of the challenge on our #General Slack channel, a specific Slack channel that is topic-related, and on social media using certain hashtags in their posts. Here are the team-building challenges that we use to incentivize creativity:
Recreate Art Challenge
As mentioned before, we were inspired by the contest thrown by J. Paul Getty Museum. Following suit of many others on social media, we ask our team to recreate a portrayal of their favorite artwork using just 3 items found around their house. They have a week to prepare, but all submissions are sent in on one day.
MTV is well known for their show “MTV Cribs”, which sparked the idea for us to host a version of our own “Cribs”. Our team uses 1 week to show off their workspaces by submitting a brief, fun video no more than 5 minutes long. The video includes some of their favorite items on their desk and shows how they stay motivated and on target for work. We have a lot of fun with this one, and our team really gets into it, making full productions of their workspace.
Mediacurrent Pet Day
With most of our team working remote, bring-your-pet-to-work is an everyday affair. Even so, having a designated Mediacurrent Pet Day gives our employees an opportunity to show off their pet to the rest of the team. The in-office team is allowed to bring their pets into the HQ office, and the remote team can participate posting photos of their furry friends in the #General channel and on social media. Our team members love this day because it provides a chance for people who don’t often post pictures of their pets to our #pets Slack channel to highlight their fur-family. And even our remote team gets a kick out of seeing pets at headquarters.
Bring your family to Work Day
One other team-building day we do during the year is bring-your-family-to-work day. Just like with the pet day, teammates are encouraged to post pictures of their families, no matter the size or who makes it up, and have fun celebrating those we love. Sweet pictures are adored and funny pictures are relished.
Company-Wide Team-Building Games
Team-building activities can give employees a much-needed sense of security, and while a lot of the weekly activities are more calm, sometimes a crew just needs something a little more competitive and chaotic. These company-wide games are essential in establishing a culture where people enjoy coming to work and can build trust with each other.
We play these games in such a way that teammates get to participate with employees they’ve never worked with before. We also encourage friendly competition. Most importantly, we schedule these games when a Knowledge-share would normally take place, ensuring that nearly every single employee has already set aside the time and will be able to participate.
One piece of advice for all of these—stay on top of your time. It’s easy to let one team have another second or two but then another team may lose out on time. Keep your rounds precise and only give each team a specific amount of time. As much as you want to, no pausing! This will throw you off and before you know it, someone has to drop because they have another meeting! Below, we will tell you which games have worked for us and which have not.
This game was fun, but be prepared for chaos. For the game, our employees are put into 8 groups, with one person from each team acting as Team Captain. The responsibility of the team captain is to represent the team in answering the questions and is the only one shown on camera. The host then reads the questions and calls on the team captain to answer.
What we learned from this game: we advise you to do a mock practice before the game with the team captains. You can go over the rules and structure. You also need to have assistance with hosting—someone dedicated to monitoring the individual teams and another assistant to help keep score. We also advise getting a functioning buzzer for the team.
Tools needed for this game: a PowerPoint Jeopardy template, Slack for the team's communication (each group gets its own private channel), and Zoom or any other video conferencing tool.
This team-building game is a classic favorite. Teams are randomly selected and each employee is placed into 1 of 8 teams. Teams are matched against each other in a bracket system like so: Team 1 vs. 2; 3 vs. 4; 5 vs. 6; and 7 vs. 8. Each team selects 3 team captains—one for each round. The team captain is notified by the moderator’s assistant via Slack the word or phrase. We play 3 rounds with each winning team advancing to the next round until a champion is crowned. The team who gets the most funding wins a $15-$20 gift card.
What we learned from this game: make sure to cover the rules in full. There is a lot of misinterpretation of what words are considered acceptable answers when teams guess. While we have a hard time getting people to act silly on camera, this game is another winner with the team. It sparks a lot of creativity and those who end up acting the parts love being able to be silly on camera.
Tools needed: Zoom, a list of words (we have easy, medium, and hard words for each round), and slack (each group gets its own private channel).
Pictionary has a similar set up as Charades. Separate the teams into 8 groups, for about 90 employees, with 3 volunteer team captains per group. We have a host and 2 assistants—one assistant to monitor the different groups and another to track the score. The team is given an assigned word but is asked to draw their depiction of the word or phrase, rather than acting it out. We conduct a trial run prior to the gameplay to ensure the game runs smoothly and captains know what to expect.
What we learned from this game: make sure the host communicates with the assistants on structure and rules.
All of these are activity ideas that have worked for us in reinforcing and continuing to build our company culture. They have formed a sense of camaraderie during difficult times and pull our team together in creative and interesting ways outside of customer projects. While some or none of these might work for your team, the goal is to find activities that will help your team come together and strengthen your culture.