16 creative ways companies are keeping employees happy at work right now — from virtual paint nights to a free stay in an Airbnb

Getty ImagesEmployees are using video conferencing tools like Zoom to connect virtually.
  • The coronavirus pandemic shut down offices nationwide and is fundamentally changing how employers shape their culture.
  • To adapt, companies have gotten creative with ways to help workers feel like they’re part of a team.
  • Some 16 company leaders shared with Business Insider what they’re doing, including everything from hosting remote painting nights and Bingo games, to sending employees meals and increasing parental leave time.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus threw a wrench in traditional office culture. When offices were shut down, millions of workers were forced to work from home. All of the in-person events and opportunities to connect face-to-face disappeared.

HR teams across the country were faced with a big question: How do you keep employees engaged while working from home?

Some companies have found a way to do it. In a May survey, Gallup found the percentage of “engaged” workers in the US — those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace — reached 38%, the highest it’s been in several years.

Here’s what several companies have done to make workers feel like they’re still part of a team.


Miami-based rbb Communications hosted a “pet show” and a number of virtual wellness events.

Gina Halley Wright/rbb Communications

In addition to a fun pet show, where employees got to show off their animal friends, rbb Communications employees were given access to a number of wellness events to help manage stress and anxiety. The events include yoga classes, workout sessions, and stress management webinars.


Los Angeles-based tech company GroWrk Remote sent all of its employees a workstation complete with a sit-stand desk, chair, and monitor.

Carlos Escutia

Carlos Escutia, CEO of GroWrk Remote, knew his employees would soon be looking to make their at-home workstations more permanent. So he sent his workers a complete workstation to make sure working at home was comfortable for them.

“Companies usually spend hundreds of hours and millions of dollars equipping and decorating their office spaces to capture the company identity and build culture. We are doing the same with the remote office,” Escutia said.


Video technology company OneDay gives 4 employees per month the opportunity to work from an Airbnb in the US of their choosing.

Airbnb

Clint Lee, cofounder and CEO of video technology company,OneDay, spent a few weeks this summer working remotely from a cabin in Colorado. After leaving refreshed, he wanted to give that experience to other employees. He came up with an idea called “New Digs.” As part of the initiative, four employees are selected each month to work from an Airbnb in the US of their choosing.

“As business leaders we must find ways to ensure our people are supported, even when they don’t see each other every day,” Lee told Business Insider. “While our ‘New Digs’ program can’t solve all the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic and all its side effects, it is something we can offer right now to support our employees and prioritise mental health for our team members.”


Drone manufacturer Skydio is hosting a socially distanced drive-in movie night.

Martin Meissner/AP

In addition to hosting a virtual book club, a guided cooking class, and a few Netflix watch parties, drone manufacturing company Skydio is hosting a socially distant drive-in movie in October.

“Company culture is important to us and we don’t want to lose that due to the new change,” Jacqueline Sharma, the company’s vice president of communications, said.


Video-software company Wistia hosts weekly New York Times puzzle solving time.

Alistair Berg/Getty Images

Wistia has a number of fun, intellectually stimulating activities for employees to partake in. Every Friday afternoon, the company hosts a New York Times puzzle and crossword-solving event, where colleagues work together to complete the challenge. On occasion, the company will also host a remote “Jeopardy!” game with a section on company trivia.

In addition, Wistia gave employees a gift card/voucher for either Amazon, a local plant shop, or the Caviar food delivery app to make the working at home experience a little more enjoyable.


Technology consulting firm Veracity sent its employees care packages.

Veracity

The team at Veracity knew the switch to remote work was an adjustment, so to make it easier, they sent employees a care package with small gifts like a company T-shirt, hand sanitizer, and more.

They also started hosting small “round tables” within the company, where eight employees were randomly selected to join a Zoom meeting with the CEO and talent director to learn more about one another and have a direct line of communication with the leadership team.


Consulting and marketing company LMS, Inc. set up virtual happy hours with games and gift cards.

Photo by Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Leaders at LMS knew employees needed some time to blow off steam, so they started hosting “Zoom Happy Hours” where employees participate in non-work related games like Pictionary and trivia.

The winner of each weekly game gets a gift card, adding some more incentive for employees to join in.

“This has given us an outlet to connect and have a bit of fun while we’re apart, and keep our team-driven culture at the top of what we do,” a company spokesperson told Business Insider.


Advertising data company Simpli.fi runs a monthly gif contest.

Getty Images

The team at Simpli.fi has gotten creative with its virtual events, hosting virtual happy hours, encouraging team members to take “brain breaks” during the day and video chat each other, and even setting up a monthly gif contest. (A gif is an animated photo that plays on repeat.) For the competition, a member of each team competes to find and use the best gif on a number of themes. The team with the most likes on their gif wins bragging rights for the next few weeks.


Cybersecurity firm Cyborg Security has monthly dinner calls where the team gets food delivered to their homes.

Marina Herrmann/Getty Images

Once a month, workers at Cyborg Security get to dine and chat with their colleagues over Zoom. The best part? Food is comped and delivered to them from a restaurant. While eating, the group also plays games with prizes.

“Most of the team will stay on past the allotted two hours to stay up and talk about work-related and non work-related things with each other. This brings us together even when we are all so far apart,” Jordan Zadeh, marketing coordinator at the company said.


Accounting software company Freshbooks hired a children’s entertainer to livestream content for preschool-aged kids.

Westend61/Getty Images

It’s not only workers who need to keep engaged while at home, kids need to be, too. Freshbooks hosted an early childhood education and singer-songwriter for a few storytelling, learning, and music sessions. The perk was perfect for employees with young children.


Commercial real estate firm SquareFoot gives employees every other Friday off.

Getty

To promote rest and relaxation, the company has made every other Friday a company-wide holiday since April.

“It’s been a boon for people, sending the right message about the importance of recharging,” said Danny Groner, director of growth PR at the company.


3D-printing company Carbon Inc. hosted a paint night for its interns

Crista Farrell/Carbon Inc.

Group outings and activities came to a halt when the pandemic hit the US. So to boost camaraderie among interns, Carbon Inc. sent them canvasses and painting supplies. Then the group got together and painted the The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.


Software company Fivetran held a virtual Olympics.

Fivetran

To encourage employees to stay active during the pandemic, Fivetran hosted a virtual Olympic games event. Pictured is one employee participating in the 15-mile bike ride as part of the event, posing on a kid’s bike just for laughs.


Insurance company Thimble has organised a number of virtual visits and retreats for staff.

Lindsey Cosgrove/Thimble

In addition to seeing a goat farm remotely, and taking a virtual look inside the Vatican museum, employees of the insurance company worked on getting out of a virtual escape room together for an evening of fun.


At marketing platform and app developer InMarket, one employee has taken Zoom meetings to the next level.

InMarket

At InMarket, Jason Krane, a senior account manager, regularly attends morning meetings as a different fictional character to boost company morale and encourage a good laugh. Some of his most notable costumes have been Marvel’s Captain America and Nintendo’s Mario.


Personal finance company Quicken hosted a virtual tropical company retreat complete with a box of goodies.

Danielle Duchene/Quicken

To encourage employees to reset and recharge, leaders at Quicken organised a virtual “getaway” to Bora Bora. Employees received welcome boxes “from the hotel” on their doorsteps including a hula hoop, leis, and other beach accessories.

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