Employee Connection Is Possible Remotely

CUES managing editor and publisher Theresa Witham
Theresa Witham Photo
VP/Publications & Publisher

3 minutes

From the editor

Happy holidays! I hope you are enjoying a joyful season. At this time of year, we naturally tend to think about how we can thank employees for the good work they’ve done. 

Sending a thoughtful gift along with a handwritten note is a wonderful way to express your appreciation. I encourage you to think of and implement additional ways to celebrate and make connections with your teams, even if you can’t all be together.

As a member of the CUES Fun and Staff Recognition Team, I have some experience with facilitating group celebrations and connections. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we would plan our annual staff party and several other in-person events, including regular potluck lunches, outings to local hockey and baseball games, paint and sip nights, axe throwing and more. We did try to include our remote employees (who work everywhere from Baltimore to Texas to British Columbia). For example, we played bingo over email (when your card got close to full, you hoped you didn’t miss your winning ball during a meeting!) and, of course, everyone who could flew to Madison for the big “Spring Fling” party. 

In March 2020, we were in the middle of planning our May party when the pandemic shut our world down. We had to pivot quickly to a new kind of celebration. We put together a month-long event that included shipping gifts to each employee, sending gift cards for dinner and playing a fun trivia game on Zoom. Now that CUES is a remote-work-first organization, we have doubled down on our focus on supporting remote celebrations and connections. And we are killing it, if I do say so myself. Here are few things we have done to keep us feeling like a team.

First, we use remote videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to host monthly drop-ins to chat, check in with each other and play games (including Pictionary, Heads Up!, bingo and trivia). Plus, a lunchtime crafting circle meets to knit, crochet, needlepoint or do a puzzle together while we chat. 

We sponsor friendly competitions with prizes, including a water-drinking challenge, a Halloween costume contest and an ugly holiday sweater contest.

We send gifts, including seasonal packages with small treats and stickers, gift cards for lunches, a CUES-branded backpack for when we do get to travel to see each other in person, and a puzzle with a photo of every staff member designed by one of our talented graphic designers.

We also make use of our time in full staff meetings to bond:

  • We asked team members to fill out a PowerPoint slide of what they did over the summer, then shared them in the meetings.
  • We celebrate “High Five” recognitions to thank co-workers for extraordinary work. 
  • We recently added a short, five-minute section where staff are randomly placed in Zoom breakout rooms and given possible questions to discuss. (Favorite recent book? Best show you’ve binged lately?) This helps us connect with co-workers we don’t regularly see during meetings or in the course of our normal work.

I’m proud of our team. We were always good at creating fun in the workplace, but the past two years have taught us how to keep our culture thriving and our employees feeling connected—no matter where they work. In fact, many remote employees tell us they feel more connected than before the pandemic. I encourage you to steal these ideas and would love to hear more about what your credit union does. cues icon

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