How It Started
What started as a 9 pm daily online get-together for friends during lockdown turned into a six-figure revenue-making stream this year. The ESFP in me, which is constantly evolving, by the way, wanted to bring people together while we were growing physically apart. From Antakshari to memory games, storytelling to a scavenger hunt — we tried it all. Like an Eklavya, I learned from the international hosts who were doing commendable work hosting engaging sessions in Creative Mornings and other communities.
As a relationship coach, I also started hosting weekly virtual events for a women’s-only international community. Women joined in from SF, NYC, LA, Chicago, and other cities to seek dating and relationship advice. Within a few weeks, I rolled it out as an offering — virtual employee engagement activities for companies. Since I wasn’t the only one working from home, missing out on conversations and serendipity that comes from a socially active life, I realized there would be others like me and I wanted to help. With my Zoom calls, I bring in an element of fun and play and surprise and break the monotony of everyday lives.
What It Is Now
A session is typically 50 minutes long. No additional preparation is needed from the HR/ Founder setting up the call. The ideal group size is 30 people on a call. The maximum number of people I’ve had on one call ran up to 220 folks. While the number is not an issue, the engagement is certainly higher in intimate groups. People know each other, they show up for each other knowing that it is a team event and engage in conversations beyond the prompts or the game format.
Flavour of formats
- Scavenger Hunt: A game of show & tell where you barely have 30 seconds to bring a household item in front of the webcam and show us to earn points. Also includes breakout room activities for collaboration among people of different teams.
- Social Mixer: Leveraging breakout rooms heavily, expect conversation prompts that allow people to get to know each other at an accelerated pace in a brief period of time. It has worked beautifully for interns who started planning their trips when remote work ends and they meet offline. It has helped cross-team conversations by adding a friendly vibe to the interactions. It has also enabled team leads and managers to be seen beyond their work designations. Expect fun games sprinkled with surprises along the way.
- Pitch: We are making a pitch all the time — to a prospective client or a prospective date. Flipping this into a fun format — pitch an alternate use case to an object on your desk, a holiday that should exist on your organization calendar, a role your colleague would rather be in (based on your interaction in the breakout room) and much more.
- Dating 101 — On dating at the workplace, Do’s and Dont’s, best practices by industry leaders, how to meet people outside apps and in real life. I can also distill down my cohort-based course on dating in a one-hour session here. Please note that there will be no recording, no screenshots and everyone gets to rename themselves to an asterisk. Attendees may turn off their video if they like.
End of the day, everyone wants to be seen and heard. We are social beings and we want to belong. Therefore, no matter what the format is, the focus is on making everyone feel at home on that call. Welcoming new joinees, running a mood check, ensuring it is inclusive and allowing everyone to make memories and have them as a takeaway in the form of a video clip — all this is important to me as a host.
Enabling the HR with a creative, Zoom link, description for the calendar invite and feedback form, along with screenshots, video clips, capturing the sentiment from the call and relaying back — all of this ensures that everyone can sit back and relax while I do my work. Your ROI is being measured and your team will tell you what they want next. Win-win!
As for the pricing, it’s way less than what a team lunch/ beer party would cost your company. So the next time you’d like to have a team-building session, celebrate birthdays or just have an element of fun added to your Town Halls, reach out with a Direct Message on Twitter or LinkedIn and I’ll be happy to help.
A lot of you have reached out asking how to create a sense of belonging when the team is all remote and company is fast growing. Here are a few ways:
- Affirmation words: Does everyone know what’s the company’s vision statement? Can you say it out loud together every morning? I’ve witnessed this at Shop Kirana office and loved it. Beautiful way to reinforce what everyone is working towards and WHY.
- Gratitude Notes: Operating from a place of abundance and thanking each other while noticing the kind gestures is a beautiful way to connect better. Friends at SAP post screenshots from their internal portal when they are thanked for their actions.
- Personality doc/ user manual for humans: Each one of us is a one-of-a-kind or so we’d like to believe. Just the way electrical devices come with a user manual, you could have your own user manual that includes your MBTI, interests, quirks, napping hours, communication style, recommendations et all. It’ll help newbies have a jumpstart on you as a person.
- Slambook-ish presentation: One slide with your journey so far, weirdest stuff, most useless skill and more + four pictures that give a glimpse into your life. Antler India had this in their onboarding for new founders and I loved the presentations that came up with pictures of Shadow, the dog and someone knowing the names of 150 Pokemons.
- Weekend Recap: Everyone is excited about their weekend. Why not bring everyone in to the work week by getting to know what fun things they did over the weekend? Spend one-minute per person on one picture that matters to them from the weekend gone by. Let people bring their authentic selves to work.
- Divergent thinking budget for experiences: To think that task-oriented, focused work can be carried out 40 hours a week is a myth. How about giving BookMyShow vouchers to enable people in attending a painting workshop, a stand up comedy or do something non-work and fun?
- Weekly 1:1 with a colleague: Matching two people for a 30-minute catch up with no agenda works well to to break the ice with folks you do not neccesarily work with right now. Friends at PayPal tell me this helps them get to know their colleagues and their lifestyles from across the globe.
- Honouring family: Behind every person is a village that has made them who they are today. Can you honour their sacrifices by reaching out to them with a surprise? I remember one Valentine’s Day when Scripbox sent a Ferrero Rocher chocolate box to parents of all the employees with a letter from the CEO. It thanked the parents and acknowledged the family’s efforts. WOW.
- Activity kits: Actively engaging in doing something kicks in the IKEA effect and then you love it more. Isn’t it? Scripbox gave away edible Diya-shaped cookies with edible paint for families to paint their own Diya and eat it. Freddies did a good job with this.
- Support a cause your employee cares about: We are humans and we have feelings. Would you like to acknowledge that by supporting what your people care about? Google does this every year to match donations with where their employee’s heart is. It doesn’t have to be a Google-sized cheque. It could be a small amount for an animal shelter followed by a digital certificate or receipt in your employee’s name. Make them look good in front of others. Yes, we live in a capitalist society, yet this matters.
- Volunteering together: In case some of you are in the same city or have an offsite, it’ll be good to volunteer your time together for a cause. While I was leading the Marketing Communications team at The Akshaya Patra Foundation, we’d meet folks who loved helping in tasks such as offloading vegetables and dehusking coconuts. Their companies would match their time with a contribution to the non-profit. You can check Give India for various causes.
- Wellbeing budget: Healthy mind lives in a healthy body. Friends at On Deck receive USD 100 per month for their wellbeing, Numbers could vary, but you get the gist.
- Permission to fail: Scheduling ‘How might we do this differently’ and sharing failures and setbacks would allow everyone to have the permission to fail, not gloss up everything and share learnings from their journey.
- Coworking space access: Remote does not mean everyone has a home office that’s conducive to work. How about getting a WeWork monthly pass for your employees so that they have good wifi to turn video ON during meetings and some social interaction in the day?
- Social media: Welcome them on company’s LinkedIn page. They’ll feel good and commited to the organisation. Think of all the possibilities where they could be your brand ambassador on their social media -merchandise isn’t all. Think more.