Savannah is a former People Ops Specialist at Bonusly. She's passionate about bringing out the best in others and loves seashells, cats and all things fitness.
I think we can all agree that nobody thought we would still be living in a pandemic, remote-work world. That’s the reality though—and we get the choice to make the best of it.
That being said, this is the time of year when team offsites usually happen at Bonusly. Offsites provide the opportunity for teams to take time out of their regular day-to-day activities for intentional team building and education.
We weren’t going to let the pandemic take that opportunity away from us—so we put our heads together to figure out how an offsite would work for the marketing team.
Each member of the team lives in Colorado, which made planning pretty simple in terms of time zone, venue, and travel. After the team voted to meet in person (while still following local COVID-19 restrictions), we decided on a socially-distant offsite.
Offsites should include goals aligned with the team’s mission, vision and values—sprinkled with fun throughout. A couple of the team goals were:
- Optimize collaboration by understanding each others' strengths and work styles
- Strengthen team relationships by having fun together
Below are some logistical steps we took, how we decided on activities, and the outcome from the offsite.
Since we couldn’t fit all seven members of the marketing team and myself safely in our office, and local guidelines discourage meeting in indoor spaces, a park was our best bet.
Boulder has some incredible parks, thankfully. We planned to arrive early to beat the August heat and secure a spot with enough space and shade. ☀️
Due to the offsite being outside, we got creative about procuring materials and keeping things sanitized. We went to a local grocery store to purchase some snacks and drinks for the team to help keep energy levels high throughout the day. We bought individually-packaged snacks and drinks and had plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to help keep each other safe.
For the activities, we purchased individual art supplies and created individual folders filled with each team member’s strengths assessments and resources. Everyone brought their own masks, blankets or chairs, sunscreen, and water bottles to help protect each other and prevent any germs from spreading.
For lunch, we ordered from a favorite local sandwich shop and treats from Crumbl Cookies. 😋 The team didn’t have any specific dietary needs, so we had everyone vote for their favorite places and flavors.
We learned deliveries do not allow parks to be selected as the delivery location, so we used an address of a nearby house and left detailed instructions that we were across the street and we would meet the driver.
💡 Pro tip: this can get a little tricky—be sure to leave instructions online anywhere possible and keep an eye on the house. A box of Crumbl got delivered to the house and we didn’t realize until it was too late. On the plus side, we got to make someone’s day with a surprise cookie delivery! 😅🍪
Every good offsite should help a team work better together. You should plan a directed activity to help people learn more about their colleagues and find optimal ways to collaborate. For our offsite, we opted for a Gallup CliftonStrengths session.
Gallup CliftonStrengths session
According to Gallup, when employees know and use their strengths, they are nearly six times more engaged, have higher performance and are more likely to stay with their team. The Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment provides insights on where each individual’s unique strengths are, and how they can be leveraged to work even better together. 💚
The CliftonStrengths assessment is the whole reason why I joined the Bonusly team in the first place. An amazing strengths coach at my previous institution taught me a skill is something you may be good at, but it’s going to drain you by the end of the day—a strength is something that will energize you and comes naturally to you.
After reviewing my own strengths and realizing what exactly energized me, I realized Bonusly was the perfect fit. Knowing the incredible impact strengths-based learning can make on an individual and an organization is what sparked a discussion around creating a strengths-based culture at Bonusly.
With COVID-19, strengths assessments can be even more impactful in increasing collaboration, engagement and innovation. The strengths-based learning aligns with the appreciative inquiry approach—where focusing on the positive (like a team member’s strengths), can help employees avoid getting stuck in a deficit-lens and open their mind to new possibilities, especially during these trying times.
Not only that, but CliftonStrengths aligns with our own product at Bonusly. We’re all about increasing employee engagement, retention, and helping people feel a sense of purpose and progress at work. It seemed like a perfect fit. 🤗
So, we researched steps to host an intro-session to CliftonStrengths for the marketing team. Thanks to an investment from our leadership, I took a four-day accelerated Gallup Global Strengths Coach course a week before the offsite so I could be a certified Gallup CliftonStrengths Coach. By taking steps to be a certified coach, we’ll be able to start introducing other teams to the strengths assessments and start our journey toward becoming a strengths-based culture.
The course provided SO MANY resources, and I was able to modify many of the strengths-based activities to fit our socially-distant offsite needs. Team members took the assessments prior to the offsite and received their top five strengths the day before. Activities included an intro to strengths, round robins of each team member’s strengths and insights, a team grid discussion, and the “Best of Us” activity. The “Best of Us” activity includes four topics:
- You get the best of me when…
- You get the worst of me when…
- You can count on me to…
- This is what I need from you…
We left with a better understanding of each team member’s unique strengths and how to collaborate in a way that allows each of those strengths to shine through. Stay tuned for more on this topic. 😉
We believe that having fun is an important piece of workplace culture. Having fun (especially during these trying times) improves employee morale, strengthens team relationships, and boosts the team culture. Gallup found employees with friends at work are twice as likely to be engaged than those without friends at work. Basically, fun at work = better engagement overall.
The team voted between park games and outdoor art as a follow-up activity to the team strengths session. Outdoor art won, so we got individual canvases and acrylic paint sets for each team member to let their creativity flow while being socially-distant. Everyone got to paint anything they were interested in, and it was the perfect way to show off some artistic talent and wrap up the offsite. We learned a lot of new things about each other during this activity, including that one of the team members used to be an abstract artist. 🤯
Other fun socially-distant activities you could try:
- Outdoor movie
- Park games (ladder ball, cornhole, etc.)
- Scavenger hunt
- BBQ cookoff
- Community service
Outcomes from hosting a socially-distant offsite
We lucked out with the perfect weather and location for the offsite. Even though we had to be socially-distant and keep our supplies separate, the team left with a better understanding of how they leverage their strengths to feel more energized and optimize collaboration across the team moving forward.
The team created a shared doc with their strengths grid and “Best of Us” activity from each team member. Members of the team have become strengths champions and are following up to ensure they’re leveraging their strengths and sharing the experience with other departments.
Offsites are still possible during this pandemic—whether they happen virtually or in a socially-distant environment. Remember, it’s all about focusing on your goals and having some fun while you’re at it.
Have any questions about CliftonStrengths or hosting an offsite? I’d love to chat. 😊
10 Great Culture Building Activities for Remote Teams
Early into the COVID-19 quarantine, our team learned just how forced conversations can feel during remote social activities due to the fact that our day-to-day lives are limited to our new at-home routines.
Sometimes, there's just not much to talk about. 😅
In order to enhance our organizational culture and keep the team upbeat and engaged, we brainstormed a list of inclusive activities and conversation prompts. These have helped spice up our work-from-home life, keep our company culture alive, and connect the team like never before.
Want more? Check out our Essential Guide to Employee Engagement every HR leader should read!
Bonusly teams are based across the United States, which means four different time zones and many different interests across the board to keep in mind when planning activities.
Remote Organizational Culture: 10 Unique Activities
Need new ideas to enhance your remote company culture? Here are the activities we’ve used to build and sustain our team culture while we're working remotely:
- Show & tell
- Goat 2 Meeting
- Wellbeing meetings
- Special interest Slack channels
- Birthday celebrations
- Donut chats
Thanks to our diversity, equity, and inclusion advisory team, we selected Bonusly Afterhours as our form of a “happy hour” social activity space. Not everyone is on happy hour time when this activity happens due to the various time zones, so we wanted to be sure to include that difference in the name. We also respect individual choices to drink alcohol or not, so Afterhours seemed to be the most inclusive choice.
Every week, we use Polly to decide when the next week’s Afterhours are going to happen. We originally set a recurring time/day of the week for consistency, but after receiving low attendance and feedback from team members who had other obligations during that time, we opted for it switching up every week.
Depending on the type of activity each week, we schedule about an hour to an hour and a half in the afternoon/early evening. We randomly select an activity from our brainstormed list of activities, including:
- Arts & crafts
- A specific department hosts a social hour with a theme (e.g. design can host a collaborative design session around a prompt like “photo dinosaur”)
- Virtual museum tours
- Mixology competition
- Online games (card games, board games, puzzles, etc.)
- DIY project
- Scavenger hunt
- The most random thing you have in your house
- Most ridiculous outfits (Tiger King, handmade, etc.)
- Dress like a favorite TV or movie character
- Talent show
- Pet social hour where all pets can Zoom with each other and their owners
So far, we have hosted a dress like a tv/movie character competition, trivia night, Starch Madness cooking competition, and arts & crafts night. Each winner or participant in the event receives a bonus as a thank you for helping keep the team’s culture alive. If you don’t have a budget for a prize, check out these ideas for free or low-cost custom rewards.
These activities provide a weekly dose of positivity for the team and help us get to know each other better rather than your typical remote happy hour chat. We use remote team tools like Zoom due to the size of our team, the grid capabilities, and being able to use Snap filters and change backgrounds. During the dress like a tv/movie character competition, it was fun for team members to change the background of their meeting to match the character they were dressed as.
— Bonusly from Home (@bonusly) April 15, 2020
Every Wednesday, the team gathers virtually for Bonusly Commons. This space has replaced the Boulder headquarters weekly team lunches in an effort to stick to some of our habits and increase connectivity with the satellite offices.
Every week covers a different prompt or topic like:
- A question
- One new thing you’ve learned this week
- Plant/gardening tips
- Best movies of all time
- A skill you wish you had/want to learn
- Never have I ever (e-rated edition)
The hour flies by thanks to these prompts and it’s fun getting to know more about your teammates in a laid-back setting. We post the prompt in our #general Slack channel an hour before Bonusly Commons begins so the topic is fresh in everyone’s minds.
Show & tell
Learning about your teammates’ subject knowledge or passions provides new perspectives, free professional development, and helps you gain more insight into who they are. Plus, you may learn you have similar interests and create an even stronger bond with your teammates.
We started show & tell shortly after quarantine began. Every other Friday, we dedicate an hour to present and ask any questions. We created a basic shared document with a date, speaker, and topic for the team to sign up for through the remainder of the year.
So far, topics have included daily happiness tracking, the Start Today Journal, a cooking class, a knife class, and a makeup tutorial.
Each session is recorded in Zoom and saved in a shared folder in case anyone is unable to attend. These sessions end the week on a fun note and each presenter receives a bonus for their participation and vulnerability.
Our team is fortunate to have a yoga guru on the team (and she happens to be the head of people ops). Employee wellness is something we value at Bonusly and this free activity helps get our bodies moving and our minds clear.
The sessions are open to any and all levels of experience. Personally, I never really participated in much yoga prior to these sessions, and they definitely push me in the best way possible. It can be difficult to remember to move your body throughout the day when you’re working remotely, so being able to have these sessions is such a blessing.
Every week, the team votes on time for yoga in our #yoga Slack channel. Participants can choose to leave their camera on or off depending on their preference. Each session is recorded in Zoom and shared in the channel afterward if anyone missed it.
Goat 2 Meeting
If you’ve never heard about Goat 2 Meeting, you’re missing out. For less than $100, you can request a farm join your video chat to see goats, pigs, cows, llamas, chickens, sheep, or any other animal they may have at the time.
SweetFarm is a nonprofit sanctuary in California that started Goat 2 Meetings as a way to support their sanctuary and educate on the global impacts of factory farming. You can select which animal you’d like to meet, read a short background about them, and see some adorable photos on their website.
Our team recently created a Goat 2 Meeting as a custom reward and we were surprised with it during our last all-hands meeting. SweetFarm was booked during the time of our meeting, so we got a tour of their sister farm, Catskill Animal Sanctuary. They have over 300 rescue animals and the team got to meet over 20 of their goats––all with the cutest names like Edith, Tracy, and Ferguson.
The meeting was full of smiles and laughs thanks to the goats, 10/10 would recommend. 🐐
— Bonusly from Home (@bonusly) April 24, 2020
Thanks to feedback from company-wide remote work retrospective meetings, we realized there needed to be more communication from leadership on the current state of all things Bonusly and the new normal amidst COVID-19.
Our CEO immediately jumped into action, hosting weekly Ask Me Anything meetings for the team. These meetings happen every Friday and last for about an hour. One person collects questions in the Zoom chat and reads them off to our CEO to answer.
Transparency is a core value of Bonusly and a big part of our organizational culture; these sessions have helped the team walk the talk. We’ve covered topics like what productivity looks like during these times, when we can expect to go back to the office, various business models and forecasting for the future, updates on the livelihood of the team, and even current Netflix binging.
Talking openly about what’s going on helps ease the nerves of teammates and removes room for assumptions, which helps everyone in the short and long term. If your team is struggling with what to expect from each other during these times, try creating working agreements to help everyone get on the same page.
Holding onto stress hurts productivity and is detrimental to the physical and mental health of your teammates. A working group has dedicated their time to providing a safe space to virtually facilitate team gatherings to talk about how they are doing personally with the coronavirus situation.
There has been one session so far and more are being scheduled after receiving positive feedback on the first meeting. Being able to share or listen to others and how they’re struggling or coping helps each other feel less isolated and gain insights on how to approach what’s been going on.
Although this is an unprecedented time, creating this support system has helped build trust and camaraderie throughout the team.
Special interest Slack channels
At a grassroots level, Slack channels have served as micro-communities within Bonusly. We have channels like #running, #books, #yoga, #fitness, and #terrace-house that all serve different interests throughout the team. I joined #running shortly after joining the team and it has been a great source of inspiration and motivation to get back into running. There are various ranges of experience in the group and being able to receive tips on running from Bonusly’s more seasoned runners has helped immensely.
These grassroots efforts are free and make it easy to connect in smaller groups over similar interests. There has been an increase in the participation of the channels since the beginning of quarantine and hopefully, this will continue as the COVID-19 situation improves.
No matter what age, I love celebrating other people’s birthdays. It’s a chance to recognize how much we appreciate team members’ impact and to show gratitude for the fact that they have made it another trip around the sun and engage our team. While we can’t celebrate in person together, we still want to make birthdays feel special!
At the beginning of every month, we reach out to each team member who has a birthday to learn what their favorite birthday treat is. Then we schedule a special delivery at the beginning of the month to kick off birthday celebrations.
Although they aren’t big surprises, they help show we care and are happy to have them as part of the team. Plus, who doesn’t like getting special treats delivered to start their birthday month off on a fun note? We also give each employee a bonus on their actual birthday and team members add to the bonus throughout the day, full of fun GIFs and warm wishes.
If your team doesn’t have a budget for delivered treats, consider sending a card or special video from the team, or a bonus or gift card of some sort. You can get creative with the surprise—it’s the thought that matters most.
Donut integrates with Slack to randomly pair teammates to share a virtual coffee or donut and chat socially. There are a variety of pairing programs to choose from like larger or smaller groups, CEO lottery, cross-departmental selection, and more.
Donut chats happen weekly and last for 30 minutes. It’s a chance to get to talk to your teammates about things outside of work, and enjoy a coffee or donut while you’re at it. At Bonusly, we allocate a stipend for each donut chat as an effort to incentivize the chats even more. We have found this to be an excellent way to increase cross-departmental socialization, especially when we’re all working remotely.
Donut can start the conversation for you and also checks in to make sure meetings happen. It also shares stats with the entire team on how many chats happened the prior week. These chats have become even more valuable during this time in facilitating one on one or small group conversations that may be awkward to initiate on your own.
Turns out, these company culture ideas and activities have brought our team closer together than ever before. We had previously struggled with hosting social activities that included each satellite office, and social distancing gave us the change we needed to finally include each office in team bonding activities.
We have bonded over potato competitions, trivia, remote work struggles, goats, goal setting, and so much more. Finding the silver lining during these times and planning fun activities have strengthened our team in so many ways and is setting an even stronger foundation for our future.
We have also pushed creative limits to find better ways to serve our customers and support each other. We have brainstormed more creative custom reward ideas to support those who no longer have a budget for bonuses, created a comprehensive guide to remote work, and continue to collaborate to find ways to positively impact workplace culture for organizations across the world.
“In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”
We are all in this together, keep going. 💚
For more tips on working remotely, check out our guide:
Moving an entire office like a pro is possible, all with the right planning, execution, and celebration strategy. No matter how big or small your team or space is, an office move should include these seven elements in order to to be successful:
- Communications plan
- Team analysis
- Logistical plan
- Feedback strategy
Our team moved into a new building last fall and recently expanded our office space even further. We had plenty of learning experiences throughout the process and we’re here to share our tips with you.
I was a little nervous as I had just joined the team three weeks prior to the move, and wasn’t sure what to expect or how the dynamics were going to be. Thankfully, the team was extremely helpful and we were able to get through the move an hour earlier than originally planned which left more time for our celebratory lunch!
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."–Helen Keller
An office move has many moving parts (literally). Creating a task force saves time, brings new ideas to the table, and helps with breaking the project into smaller, more manageable chunks.
A task force could be an internal team or include external partners like realtors, designers, and movers. Either way, you’ll want representation (or feedback) from all departments, someone who has experience with moving, someone with an eye for design, and someone who can help plan the logistics of the move.
Creating a task force is one of the first steps that should be taken when you know there’s a move in the future.
2. Communications Plan
A thoughtful communications plan is key in any sort of major change in the workplace. An average full-time employee spends 2,040 hours working a year, and a change in their environment could greatly affect their performance.
Radical Candor is a communication strategy we use at Bonusly. It’s a guiding star to care deeply and challenge each other directly in an effort to better the team as a whole. Radical Candor helps your team throughout an office move to focus on the task at hand and let all voices be heard.
A communications plan should have the following:
- Intent - why are you moving?
- Audience - who are you trying to reach and why?
- Goals - what do you want to accomplish?
- Logistics - what’s the timeline, new office plan, what needs to be done, and by who?
- Invitation for feedback - how can we improve this plan?
- Celebration - once the move is complete, how will you celebrate the hard work?
You’ll need to consider which medium to use to communicate the plan. Is it during an all-hands meeting, a Slack channel, an email, or something else? What time/day will it be announced? Who will be the point person for questions? How will you communicate it with external stakeholders?
Communication is essential for team buy-in. Frequent, open communication will help ease any concerns related to the move and create better opportunities for feedback.
3. Team Analysis
A team analysis will look different depending on the size of the team, space, whether it’s a satellite office or headquarters, and the number of departments.
A member of the task force and/or department leads should talk with their teams about their wants and needs for a workspace, and any other factors that could affect their work. This could be in a survey, face to face conversation, group conversation, or whichever method works best for your team.
In Bonusly’s case, we split our headquarters into two office spaces within our building. After looking at the current team size, projected growth, and collaboration between the departments, we decided marketing, product, and customer success would share the larger space, and sales and general administration would share the other space.
Transparency and feedback throughout the team will ensure team members feel heard and comfortable with the outcome of the move.
- External help like movers, cleaners, interior designers (or use volunteers from the team)
- Supplies (tape, boxes, dolly, roller carts, bubble wrap, cleaning, etc.)
- Furniture/equipment (couches, desks, rugs, decoration, shelves, curtains, etc.)
- Food (snacks if using volunteers, a celebratory meal, drinks, etc.)
To help you get started, here's our very own Office Move Budget Template!
5. Logistical Plan
Creating a timeline with logistics for each step will make the moving process smoother, help the team stay on budget, and provide a realistic idea of what to expect. The following factors should be included:
- Day-of plan
A timeline includes expectations on when packing will start and when the team will be moved into the new space, with milestones for tasks throughout the process. This timeline should be shared with the entire team. Another aspect to consider is when the actual move will happen. Is it during the weekend or weekday, end of day or morning, will you close the business for the day or will the team need to work remotely? Do you need to notify other tenants of the building?
Take a tour of your new space to check the dimensions, outlets, HVAC vents, lighting, and any other physical features that will affect your design and team layout. If there’s a kitchen, check if there’s anything that needs to be bought or donated. This will help inform the design of the space.
Our team realized there were only outlets on one side of the room two days out from our move. This created a bit of panic on the team and nearly put a halt on the entire schedule. Thankfully, some innovative team members figured out a way to safely utilize extension cords and power strips so each team’s pod would have power just in time to stick to our original schedule.
Office design can improve productivity and purpose at work. Your office should reflect personalities, work styles, and goals for each space. This article covers the ins and outs of designing office space to maximize productivity and help team members feel a sense of purpose.
As for mapping out the new office spaces, we used a Mural Board with dimensions, standing/seated desks, conference rooms, and other furniture like couches so the team could easily visualize what was to come and execute the plan on the day-of.
Ensure hard-copy files with any sensitive employee or business information are hand-delivered by your people ops team or assign someone on the task force to take ownership of the files. By doing so, you’ll prevent loss or misplacement of those sensitive files.
Keys, security systems, parking passes should be collected from the previous office and set up for the new office space.
Laptops, drives, and any other tech or company data should be backed up and locked in a secure location during the move.
SnackNation suggests starting the packing process early and categorizing items by level of importance/usage. For example, you'll want to treat the office air purifier differently than holiday decorations that you only bring out once a year. You can also share an example of a packing list for employees and provide boxes/packing supplies to make this process smoother for all.
This is also an excellent time to evaluate current inventory, tidy up, and donate items that are no longer needed.
Be sure to clearly communicate when items need to be packed or cleared off desks by, and provide support for those who are unable to help move.
Hiring a moving truck/crew could save your team a lot of time and effort, but can get expensive quickly. Surveying your team to see who would be willing/able to help will be key in the planning and budgeting process. Rallying a team together to help move can be a great team bonding activity (as long as it’s volunteer-based). Teammates can get to know more about each other during this process and share some memories that will last a lifetime.
You should also evaluate whether you’ll need to hire a cleanup crew for the space you’re moving out of or if anyone is willing to do it themselves.
Some may not have an eye for design on the team or have a real estate background, so be prepared to do some research if you do not have those resources on your team.
A day-of plan needs to be communicated clearly and most likely, multiple times. By this point, you should know who is willing to help, what day/time it’s happening, and have a solid game plan for the design. Remember to include details like:
- Who will provide a fun playlist/speaker for move music
- Who will print out the new layout and display it for the team
- Where will recycling or donations need to go
- What food/drink will be provided for helpers
- Will there be teams dedicated to moving specific categories of items
Creating a checklist will help ensure nothing is forgotten and give a sense of accomplishment for those involved.
Once everything is said and done, it’s time to celebrate the great work that went into such a big process. Consider sending a bonus to each team member involved, or it could be a team meal, game day, thank you letter from the CEO, or another reward.
Employee recognition is a crucial part of organizational culture––and an office move most definitely calls for a celebration of each team member.
7. Feedback Strategy
Last but not least, providing a platform for employee feedback will be crucial in creating the most effective workspace for your team. After moving in, there may be changes that weren’t obvious at the beginning for improving collaboration or design or employee comfort levels, and inviting feedback will help bring those solutions to life. The feedback could be collected in the form of a survey, small groups, Mural Board, or 1:1s with direct reports. Whichever method, collecting the feedback will help everyone feel heard and appreciated. Check out these tips for giving constructive feedback if you’re struggling to provide feedback on a situation.
An office move is an exciting milestone for your organization. With proper planning, open communication and a positive attitude, you will help set your team up for success throughout the entire process.
Remember to praise team members during all of the steps. These little wins will help boost enthusiasm and motivation for the project.
Feel free to change any of the steps to best fit your organizational needs and desires. If you have any questions, please reach out. Best of luck with your move!