1. Startup Journey

How to have fun at work remotely

April 1st is known around the world as a day of harmless pranks and jokes. Although no one knows for sure how it originated, April Fool’s Day has been celebrated around the world for several centuries.

In more recent times, numerous brands have gotten involved with their own practical jokes or spoof ad campaigns. Take Marmite, for instance, and their flavoured Vaseline lip balm. Thankfully, that was very much a joke.

However, with Covid19 currently bringing the world to its knees, pranks, or worse – fake news, are the last thing we need right now.

But did you know that April 1st is also International Fun at Work Day?

It’s a worldwide event designed to get us having a little more fun at work. And with all that’s happening in the world right now, that’s definitely something we can get on board with.

But as a remote team, it’s a little more difficult to do. After all, it’s not like you can share a bottle of bubbles with your colleagues at your desk. Or have face-to-face team building exercises on a Friday afternoon.

Not that these are options for most office workers now anyway.

So to help bring a bit of fun to remote working and celebrate April 1st, we’ve spent the past week testing out a few different options. Here are our favourites.

Have a team virtual lunch

The sharing of food has long been a feature in the story of us humans. It helps us bond, mark milestones and relax.

It’s why so many of us prefer to eat lunch with our colleagues. But how do you do that as a remote team?

Well, as we found out, easily enough!

Simply set up a video call on your preferred work communication channel and spend the lunch break eating and chatting with your team. It’s really as easy as that!

For the EmailOctopus team, it was a quick and easy way to get everyone together, spending time chatting about our lives and experiences.

When you’re working in a remote team, most of your communication with fellow team mates is stripped down to the essentials and it’s more often than not work-related.

Our video call lunch gave us the space to talk to one another in a more relaxed environment and get to know each other a little better.

Granted, it was made easier by the fact that most of our team are all in the UK. (Our CEO in Canada no doubt had a massive case of FOMO – sorry, Jonathan 🙁 )

But even if time zones are an issue, you can still schedule a break in the day to get the team together. Though it may mean some people eating lunch while others eat their breakfast.

Why we like it: A virtual team lunch is easy to arrange (assuming teams are in similar time zones). It helps break up the day and creates an opportunity to bond socially. It’s also interesting to see your team mates’ home work set-up or even their gardens.

It’s easy to forget to take time out and socialise with your colleagues – the virtual team lunch was a great way to see how everyone was doing and just enjoy a bit of a chat.

Ben Scutt, Senior Developer

Would we do it again? Absolutely! This should be a regular fixture on every remote team’s calendar. We reckon once a month would be ideal but whatever works for you.

Turn icebreaker questions into a challenge

When you join a remote team, you miss out on the friendly introductions and ‘watercooler’ icebreaker chats that are integral to an office working environment. It’s possible you may never meet your remote co-workers in person, let alone get to know them properly.

It’s perhaps one of the hardest adjustments for those more socially inclined. And it does limit opportunities for fun with your co-workers.

That’s why QuizBreaker exists – to help teams get to know each other in a fun way.

It’s incredibly easy to set up. You and your team answer a set of icebreaker questions. Each week you all receive a different quiz question via email. And all you have to do is guess who gave the answer to the question.

It’s a great way to connect with your remote team on a more personal level. And learn a bit more about them outside the context of work.

It can also turn out to be a good boost to your general knowledge too. I, for one, would never have known unicycle hockey existed if it wasn’t for our first weekly quiz challenge.

Screenshot of our weekly Quizbreaker challenge - a regular way of having a bit of fun working in a remote team

Why we like it: We all found out new and interesting facts about our co-workers. And learning about your colleagues’ aspirations and experiences helps provide more conversation fodder for virtual team lunches in the future. Or general Slack chat.

I’m really enjoying learning more about the people on my team – their secret hobbies and dreams. It gives us a chance to connect on a more personal level.

Jonathan Bull, CEO

Would we do it again? Quizbreaker offers a 14-day free trial so we’re happily making the most of that. As it’s such an easy and convenient way to get to know your team, we’re seriously considering continuing with the paid plan and keeping this going.

Another good incentive to join is that the team at QuizBreaker are donating 5% of profits to the Coronavirus Relief Fund for the next six months. This is to help support the most vulnerable communities being affected by this pandemic. So if you do sign up, you’ll also be helping out.

Go head to head in a GIF battle

Despite evoking passionate anger among many web developers, the GIF reigns supreme on the internet today. Social media behemoths like Facebook and WhatsApp provide users with access to libraries home to thousands upon thousands of these little art forms.

And we’re lapping them up. Why settle on a static emoji when you can hold a conversation with mini animated clips that express exactly what you’re thinking?

GIFs have even crossed over into our work life. It’s likely that you’ve used a GIF at least once in your communications with colleagues. Even if it was only an elaborate face palm at spending all day working on something that could have been fixed in two minutes.

The team at Atlassian have taken this further and created an online game where you can test your GIF skills against your work mates.

Each player chooses a GIF from Giphy.com that best describes a statement or answers a particular question. Whether that’s the cutest animal in the world EVER or how it feels to be social distancing right now.

You can create your own board using their Trello template, which comes with instructions too.

Screenshot of our GIF battle board on Trello after the game - a quick and easy way to have some fun at work as a remote team

Why we enjoyed it: It brought out our creativity and made us think how best to communicate visually to a question. It also presented us with the opportunity to joke about each other’s choices. And once you’ve got your board set up, it’s easy to replicate and play again.

These activities were not only a welcome relief from the recent headlines, but also a great chance to chat with the team, who we’d otherwise only speak to during meetings and standups.

Tom Evans, COO

Would we do it again? Most likely. It was 20 minutes out of the day that gave us a chance to be a bit silly. But it didn’t appeal to everyone on the team. It’s probably an idea that we’ll use but reimagine – perhaps instead of one big battle, we’ll break it down into an ongoing weekly round.

Host your own virtual pub quiz

Friendly competition, camaraderie with your mates over a drink and the chance to show off your knowledge – who doesn’t love a pub quiz?

But when your team is spread out around the country or even the globe, it’s not feasible to get everyone together for an after-work play date down your local.

Plus, with pubs currently closed in many countries thanks to Coronavirus, it’s not even an option for office workers at the moment either.

So why not host your own virtual version?

Designate a quiz host to compile the questions. Set a time and date everyone can join in (taking into account timezones). Bring a drink. Set up a conference call and away you go!

Screenshots of the EmailOctopus team participating in our first ever virtual pub quiz - one great way to have fun at work remotely

OK, there’s a bit more planning that needs to go into than that. A great virtual pub quiz does require a fair bit of preparation.

But you’re in luck.

We’re giving you access to everything we used to hold ours. Check out our post on how to hold a virtual pub quiz where you can download quiz questions, a scorecard and step-by-step instructions on what to do.

Why we like it: Because it was so much fun! This really felt like a social experience and not just a work event. Everyone seemed relaxed and fully participating.

Setting aside an hour for a call with absolutely no work-based agenda and general silliness was a huge morale boost. I wish we’d done it sooner!

Jonathan Bull, CEO

Would we do it again? Most definitely! Everyone enjoyed it so much that we plan to hold these once every few months. We also think it’s a good way to welcome newbies to the team and help create a social atmosphere from the very start. So our next one will be held when our new customer service manager starts in May.

Check out this round up of 16 virtual team building activities for more ideas for your next work event.

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