Australia and New Zealand are easing COVID-19 restrictions and people are heading back to work. For a lot of workers, however, the switch to remote working may become permanent.

Businesses have discovered, thanks to the crisis, that many jobs they thought couldn’t be done remotely, can. For those employees, not having to commute means more time for family, exercise or sleep, reduced public transport costs and more flexibility in how they do their job.

With large numbers still working from home, and with the trend likely to continue even when things get back to ‘normal’ (after all, COVID-19 is still an issue until an effective vaccine is available), we’ve put together a list of HR initiatives designed to help you build culture and make your disconnected workforce more connected.

The following are initiatives we’ve actually implemented at HR Assured and FCB Group – our parent company (they’ve been tried and tested and proven to work!):

1. Set a physical activity challenge

Set a daily or weekly challenge with the team to ensure everyone gets involved and has a laugh to start the day. Some ideas: virtual squats; hit 10,000 steps each day; take walking meetings where possible; do 20 push-ups on the hour. Get creative with whatever activities you and your team enjoy!

2. Set up a platform where the company can share hobbies or interests and chat about them throughout the day.

You’ll be surprised how many people are watching the same TV shows, doing creative activities at home or recommending cool books or podcasts these days – so why not share internally!

3. Virtual gatherings

Imitate in-person social situations by using technology like video apps (HouseParty), online games (QuizUp, or PC/console video games), virtual trivia or bingo, or cocktail making sessions. Try selecting a topic to discuss over a cup of tea or coffee, or craft/paint together over video.

4. Host a ‘meet the family’ session

This is where kids and pets are welcome to meet the rest of your team.

5. Ensure all employees set a profile photo in their email or chat platform

This brings an additional visual connection when we are spending all day staring at the screen and not real faces.

6. Create virtual DJs

There are a few music streaming programs that you can sign up to and listen to the same music as your colleagues. Select a daily DJ and have some fun with it!

7. Promote online learning

When a team member has learnt something new or interesting from any courses and lectures, encourage them to share some facts with the team.

8. Celebrate small milestones over video/chat

Any work-win should be shared, and don’t forget work anniversaries and birthdays!

9. Start online meetings with a Question

If you have regular stand-ups or morning meetings, nominate someone ahead of time to choose a question that everyone has to answer at the beginning of the meeting. Here are some example questions to get you started:

  • what was your favourite movie as a child?
  • what’s your favourite book (and why)?
  • what’s the most outlandish thing you’ve done on an overseas trip?
  • if you ever got a tattoo what would it be?

Asking questions is a great way for colleagues to learn more about each other and warm up to the meeting. At the end of the meeting, nominate someone to think of a question for next time.

10. Take requests

Ask teams what they’d like to participate in, what will get them involved and feeling connected to the business and colleagues, what times work best to connect, and what they want or need to see from the business during these times.

These are just some starting ideas, so feel free to create your own! A good place to start is to think of initiatives that imitate the kinds of things you were doing before the pandemic, then go one step further and take them into the digital realm. The key is to keep them fun, engaging, and something that won’t exclude one or more members of the team: for example, running a physical activity challenge where a team member can’t participate due to a disability.

The types of HR initiatives you implement will depend on what type of business you are. Don’t be afraid to have dud initiatives, where you organise something but only a few people attend – you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll have made a difference to the people who were there!