Make fun part of your work routine
When the Coronavirus pandemic struck, I, like most others and everyone on my team at the time, found myself having to adapt to working remotely after years of working in a close, in-person, very collaborative manner. It’s fair to say adapting was tough on everyone’s mental health, including my own — unsuitable workspaces, tiring Zoom calls and difficulty disconnecting from work were just some of the challenges we all faced.
However reflecting back, I never felt disconnected from my team, and in many ways the pandemic brought us closer together — we saw people’s pets and children, what each others back garden looked like or how they someone a full wall of Funko Pops still in boxes behind their desk.
A big part of staying cohesive as a team and keeping people engaged despite the problems all around them was that we made extra effort to have some fun. So here’s a little story of one of the ways we did that, and also (unintentionally), changed the wider organisation a little bit for the better at the same time.
I think (if memory serves me correctly) the first thing we introduced was a few minutes of morning exercise into standups (totally optional). Whoever was running standup would pick a short activity to start with — sometimes it was breathing techniques like box breathing, other times it was something more active like jumping jacks or stretching.
The next thing we introduced was a short game at the end of standup — something that took less than 5 minutes and could be played together as a team. PuzzGrid was a particular favourite, and The New York Times mini crosswords and spelling bee were also common choices.
The Product Owner for the team (who worked for the client) also worked across another team, and at some point mentioned the routine of playing games we had to them. They took the idea, but adapted it to suit them as a team — instead of playing every day at standup they reserved a larger chunk of time on a Friday to play games together.
From there it spread, quite naturally, to the other teams — people working across multiple teams would mention it to the other teams they worked with, or a team lead would mention it to other leads at a leadership huddle.
I created a wiki page with a list of games our team had played, how long they took to play and how many players they supported, and other teams began to evolve it and add their favourites.
At some point, the other team our Product Owner worked with played a game with a high score like WikiTrivia. They mentioned the game they’d played with the other team and the score the team had gotten at one of our standups, and of course we just had to try and beat it!
That of course led to teams across the organisation posting their high scores on Slack, boasting and chiding their colleagues for their poor performance at GeoGuessr.
A game a day keeps people engaged, so add a bit of fun into your work routine.
PS: A couple of my favourites were Drawphone (you’ll find out some people are amazing artists) and Tsuro.