Team Bonding, Hybrid Work & Employee Engagement Resources

The Best and Brightest programs have always been a platform for dialog, education, and employee engagement tools. This guide is designed to help executive leadership, team leaders, and supervisors in virtual and hybrid environments with team bonding activities that amplify a healthy and uplifting culture.

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In-Person and Hybrid Employee Engagement Best Practices and Thought Starters

  • Involve employees in the decision-making process...

    Involve employees in the decision-making process by setting up focus groups and encouraging company-wide brainstorming before a big decision is made. Give rewards for big ideas that lead to change within the company and encourage employees on every level to contribute. Employees may win cash prizes if their ideas are implemented.

  • A company out of Milwaukee has a full-time...

    A company out of Milwaukee has a full-time director of training and development, who leads the creation of customized career paths, development plans, and training opportunities to help employees realize their full potential.

  • Identify and communicate key corporate behaviors.

    Create an engaging way to track when these corporate behaviors are exemplified among team members. Employees that achieve all of the desired behaviors can be recognized. One company designs PowerPoint a presentation about the employee and gives them a bonus.

  • Many businesses are moving away from performance reviews.

    Many businesses are moving away from performance reviews. Rather, a focus on each individual’s developmental needs, with a deep understanding of their specific talents, roles, and responsibilities, is the key. For one company, a minimum of once a year, Career Impact and Growth surveys are utilized, so that each person can express their desired growth plans. Others use facilitated discussion tools such as UMAP.

  • As a result of the pandemic, a company pivoted to becoming a...

    As a result of the pandemic, a company pivoted to becoming a continuous feedback company (versus filling out old-fashioned performance reviews) by using UMAP, a Best and Brightest recommended platform. This tool has made it much easier for managers to provide continuous feedback to their employees and also allows employees to provide feedback to each other, as well as their direct report. This tool has also significantly shifted their culture, as they are not just focused on business-related goals, but equally on employees’ personal goals.

  • For those in more skilled and specific industries, training and mentoring is a valuable tool for engagement.

    For those in more skilled and specific industries, training and mentoring is a valuable tool for engagement. One Best and Brightest company provides employees with specialized training in scientific, financial, and technical fields. Employees are then matched with other workforce talent from around the country, to ensure they are successful in every area of development.

  • Many companies are moving towards paid training programs prior to...

    Many companies are moving towards paid training programs prior to work beginning, as a way to engage employees from the beginning of their positions. A Chicago winner begins education and development with an extensive five-week training program at world headquarters. Senior leaders conduct a global onboarding calls with all new hires. Also offered are a structured career development program and a leadership development program. Employees are encouraged to build skills and increase networks outside the company, accomplished through an annual $1,500 per person training and development budget.

  • A Virginia winner has established “Next Generation Leaders,” for early-career...

    A Virginia winner has established “Next Generation Leaders,” for early-career staff to learn about leadership principals, as a way to engage and retain young talent. There are monthly team activities, as well as individual reading and assignments. The program is led by the company president and co-founders, and is designed for staff to develop new perspectives on leadership and to encourage new relationships and connections across the business.

  • A midwest winner trains leaders to take the time...

    A midwest winner trains leaders to take the time to know each team member’s strengths, preferences, and areas of development, to ensure employees are placed in assignments that best utilize their unique skills and experience. They use a tool specifically designed for their organization.

  • Many Best and Brightest companies anonymously poll team members on a regular cadence.

    Many Best and Brightest companies anonymously poll team members on a regular cadence. For one winner, results are provided to the company president, who uses them to shape the focus of the company’s annual planning session, driving a culture of continuous improvement.

  • One winner, in an effort to engage families, encourages work-life balance...

    One winner, in an effort to engage families, encourages work-life balance with its new-parent transition program, easing the challenges new parents face when returning to work after maternity, adoption, or parental leave. They offer a flexible return-to-work period during the first months back on the job, with a gradual transition from reduced hours to full-time.

  • Achieving ambitious goals is rewarded by a Chicago winner with incredible trips...

    Achieving ambitious goals is rewarded by a Chicago winner with incredible trips, such as Napa Valley wine tours, South Beach deep-sea tours, and relaxing Cancun retreats.

  • Many winners are enhancing their DEI efforts to engage team members.

    Many winners are enhancing their DEI efforts to engage team members. One winner has a strong emphasis on diversity, with six committees to recognize the needs of specific groups, including Associated Women’s Network, Young Professionals, Cultural Awareness Network, Veteran’s Network, Pride & Equality Exchange, and Forward Abilities Network, serving individuals with disabilities. Feedback from these groups is communicated to leadership for changes and improvements in the company culture and policies.

  • One way to engage the team is to train and certify “playbook coaches” to teach new hires.

    One way to engage the team is to train and certify “playbook coaches” to teach new hires. Bonuses are provided to those who are certified to teach new hires after they submit a completed 90 Day Success Plan for the new hire at the end of the training period. They recently expanded this playbook concept to include Client Service Playbook Coaches with a similar approach.

  • High scoring companies believe that health and wellness correlate to a more engaged employee.

    High scoring companies believe that health and wellness correlate to a more engaged employee. An example of a best practice is offering team members up to $100 reimbursement for wellness-related expenses, such as gym memberships, Weight Watchers, yoga pants, or new athletic shoes. Other examples include a focus on stress reduction by providing workplace massages; a room for meditation, prayer, and yoga; and by being a dog-friendly workplace. Some have wellness coaches as an on-site resource offered to all employees, available during or after work. One company out of Detroit offers an in-house certified nutritionist who oversees all wellness activities for the company.

  • Post pandemic, many CEOs are working diligently to have more creative...

    Post pandemic, many CEOs are working diligently to have more creative and ongoing communications for in-person and hybrid work. Examples include digital weekly video, fireside chats to answer any question, and weekly emails. For example, one CEO emails a weekly “Lesson of the Week,” which provides motivation or tips on teamwork and how to be a good leader from their own experiences. Another example at one Chicago Best and Brightest winner is a weekly five-minute training program conducted by leaders in the organization. The sessions are quick and to the point, and are recorded so they can be reviewed at any time.

  • An Atlanta organization focuses on work-life balance solutions for team engagement.

    An Atlanta organization focuses on work-life balance solutions for team engagement. They have a concierge service for team members who travel or work additional hours. Concierge services include dry cleaning, house cleaning, car detailing, catered meals, childcare, yard services, and more. This has helped them retain and engage team members.

  • A creative Rhode Island Best and Brightest Company offers employees a voluntary subscription...

    A creative Rhode Island Best and Brightest Company offers employees a voluntary subscription to a faith-based video library, which includes thousands of leadership videos, such as those of Patrick Lencioni and John Maxwell. They also offer an onsite corporate chaplain, weekly prayer meetings, a financial literacy and budgeting course, mindfulness, and meditation.

  • On the west coast, this Washington-based organization has a “Happyologist”...

    On the west coast, this Washington-based organization has a “Happyologist” on staff, who focuses on celebrating achievements and works with HR to understand what makes each employee tick and to guarantee that they feel appreciated with custom employee experiences.

Join the Best and Brightest Community of Winners to view more Best Practices and Thought Starters. Nominate your company!

Hybrid Work – The Basics

This guide is designed to help executive leadership, team leaders, and supervisors in virtual and hybrid environments with team bonding activities that amplify a healthy and uplifting culture.

  • 25/45 Meetings

    Allow meetings to end either at 25 minutes or 45 minutes, depending on the importance of the conversation. This allows team members to transition between meetings, get water, take a bio break, and have breathing room between digital meetings.

  • CEO Q&A Coffee Hour

    Host a monthly coffee hour with the whole team and the CEO of the company. Questions to the CEO could be submitted in advance anonymously or directly at the coffee hour. The goal is to create a safe environment for questions to be answered and to get clarity on company objectives.

  • Charity Bonding Activities

    Find a charity and set up a volunteering day for all team members to volunteer together by dropping off donations or whatever the charity needs that can be done remotely. Some companies with hybrid environments are creating “all team” charity activities in person, as a way to engage team members that normally do not see each other.

  • Comfortable Days

    Whether in-person or hybrid, schedule Comfortable Days, where employees have the option to not do their hair or make up and to wear comfortable clothes. Many companies require that cameras be on for digital meetings; on Comfortable Days, employees aren’t asked to turn their cameras on.

  • Giftboxes

    If budget allows, send gift boxes or gift cards to make home offices more comfortable. Holiday cards are also appreciated. Some companies are sending food kits, such as cookie design kits, to be delivered at home, and scheduling a decorating day with best cookie contests. Others are sending delivered meals for team meetings and social hours. “Sunshine gift boxes” can be sent at stressful times or in the winter to brighten employees’ day.

  • Impromptu Rewards and Incentive Ideas
    • Treat employees to a long lunch; send them a delivery or food gift card.
    • Send snacks to home offices and/or stock up the break room with a variety of healthy treats.
    • Provide gym membership or stipend for fitness equipment.
    • Welcome pets, both digitally and onsite, if feasible.
    • Design branded merchandise that is fun to have; send something fun for pets or kids.
    • Personalize appreciation gifts; know team members’ favorite things and send them specific items that they will enjoy. Examples: favorite candy, gift card to a favorite local shop, a bulk order of their favorite snack, etc.
    • Write an appreciation letter and mail it to their home.
    • Pay for team members, as a reward, to do something fun with their family or spouse (date night, dinner, etc.)
    • Impromptu day off or close early on an individual basis.
  • In-Person Meetings, Outings, or Volunteer Activities

    As a way to preserve culture, some companies are hosting in-person activities in addition to their hybrid work. These meetings are focused on team building opportunities and are set in advance throughout the year. Ideas include volunteering at a local charity, craft facilities (such as painting), nature walks/hikes, or fun group activities at a local business.

  • Lunch Overs

    If a meeting is scheduled to go over the lunch hour and budget allows, offer Grub Hub or Door Dash for employees to order food. Everyone can share what they are having for lunch during a break in the meeting.

  • Mental Health Days

    In addition to PTO, the company can offer a Mental Health Day each month for employees to be able to unplug. These days can be taken at any moment with no questions asked.

  • Meeting Schedule Management
    • Mental Health Time Blocks
      Allow team members to block calendars for mental health breaks on their own or set a company policy that no internal meetings happen between specific times, so that employees can focus on e-learning, childcare, lunch, or daily walks or wellness breaks.
    • No Meeting Days or Weeks
      Choose a day in the week where meetings are not allowed, so employees can get work done without disruptions.
    • Required Time Off
      To ensure team member is taking advantage of non-screen time, a required time off policy can be created on specific days. For example: Monday – Thursday work hours are 8-5 PM, and Fridays are 8-1 PM, or random days can be assigned throughout the year for reduced hours.
  • Nimble and Transparent Status Messages

    Whether in person, hybrid, or at home, ensure communication within the company, to allow all employees to know their colleagues’ work status, using whatever communication platform the company provides. Employee status messages should change often throughout the day. Encourage team members to communicate wellness breaks or when they are “out for a walk,” to show support of wellness and well-being in the workplace.

  • Team Chat Channel

    Have a chat channel that is created for fun and social updates. Leave this chat open for anyone who wants to share announcements, celebrations, or photos. Ask weekly icebreaker questions, such as “what are you grateful for” or “what’s for dinner tonight?” to encourage social conversations. This open channel creates an opportunity for employees to feel stronger relationships, not only with each other, but also with the company.

  • Virtual Buddies

    Randomly assign pairs of employees to match together for two weeks, asking them to check in on one another and help stay connected while working from home. Change the employees on a rotational schedule.

  • Wellness Checks

    Have a point person that can call each employee for a check-in. This gives employees the opportunity to communicate any frustrations or changes needed to their schedule or style of working in a hybrid, in person, or digital environment. Many employers are allowing employees to set their own work schedule and style; it is important to check in to ensure success.

Wellness Team Bonding Ideas & Thought Starters

Please note that there is an additional resource guide dedicated to Wellness and Well-being in the Workplace. These are a few examples of group wellness activities for team bonding.

Goal Sharing Sessions

Goal sharing is one of the activities in a wellness program that can enhance sharing of personal milestones and a collaborative spirit. Regular checkups with the team ensure they encourage each other towards accomplishing goals.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Walking Wednesday

In a virtual world, allow time each Wednesday for employees to go for a walk around their neighborhood at the same time or anytime during the day. Employees can then share photos of their walk paths via email or the wellness chat channel.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Healthy Cook Master Classes

Set up virtual cooking classes with an experienced chef or with a team member that cooks healthy food. There are also free online cooking resources to stream or share with the team. This is one suggestion: https://onsite.fun/activities/categories/cooking-baking-classes/locations/online
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Wellness Challenges

Decide on a sleep, step, and/or water challenge and invite team members to participate. Set the daily/weekly goal and have everyone keep track of their progress. Challenges can last anywhere from three weeks to two months. A group chat channel can be created for participants and/or specific challenges can have separate chats. The challenges are not designed to produce a “winner,” but to motivate each other in reaching goals.
September 26, 2022/by Lora Wild

Virtual Standup Comedy

Look for a workplace-friendly comic for a team celebration, virtual hour, meeting, or wellness activity. A budget-friendly version is to share workplace-friendly “dad” jokes, with everyone bringing three of their favorite jokes to share.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Therapy Sessions

If budget allows, hire a therapist for a lunch and learn to provide tips and tricks on how to de-stress, relax, and unplug.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Dance party

If there is a dancer at the company, ask them to host a virtual dance party. The team can dance together with the same music and instructions or they can dance separately with their own music.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Virtual Workouts

Have a team member who is a fitness guru host weekly virtual workouts. The sessions can be held for 15-30 minutes and can start at an easy difficulty level, using any equipment attendees have remotely. Cameras should not be required, for employees’ comfort. There are many free online streaming workouts that can be screen shared, as well.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Nutritional Consultations

The goal of this activity is encourage employees to eat healthier. To that end, consider hiring a nutritionist for a one-on-one consultation or set up several virtual workshops to support dietary well-being. Cooking, shopping, and healthy recipes can all be shared digitally.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Group Meditations

Goal sharing is one of the activities in a wellness program that can enhance sharing of personal milestones and a collaborative spirit. Regular checkups with the team ensure they encourage each other towards accomplishing goals.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Walking Meetings

If meetings don’t require computers, or note taking, encourage employees to go for a walk during the meeting with video/sound turned off. They can move their bodies and listen to important announcements at the same time. Another concept is to encourage employees to pick one meeting a day during which to walk, if appropriate, or to take a walk after a meeting. Encourage status messages that show they are on a walk or attending the meeting while walking.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Social Distanced Walk/Hike

Pick a park or other walking location and invite team members that feel comfortable to go for a group hike.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Virtual Yoga

If there is have an avid yogi at the workplace, ask them to host weekly 15 to 20-minute yoga sessions virtually. Breathe and stretch for a relaxing moment. Keep the difficulty at an easy level to ensure participation.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Wellness Chat Channel

Create a wellness social chat channel(s), where employees can share healthy tips, workouts, inspiration, and motivational quotes, as well as random stretch and water breaks throughout the day. Channels can have wellness related themes.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Moments of Gratitude

Gratitude reflections are a great way to maintain a positive outlook. Before or after a meeting, open up the floor for conversations about things the team is grateful for. It’s important for leadership to participate, as well. Supervisors can provide journals to log moments of gratitude to each team member and can provide time on a routine basis during meetings to journal gratitude.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Hybrid and Digital Team Bonding, Virtual Games and Activity Ideas

Show and Tell

Create a themed “show and tell” and give team members at least one week to select their item. Each team member is given time to show their item and tell stories to go with it. This will spark engaging conversation and create fantastic team bonding. Some show
and tell ideas:

Favorite childhood items
Vacation memories
Family photos
Can’t leave the house without...
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Virtual National Park Tours

https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/national-parks/virtual-national-parks-tours
September 27, 2022/by Lora Wild

Werewolf

Werewolf is a game of wits, deceit, and skillful manipulation, as one seeks to survive the night. The entire game is based on speaking, careful listening, and voting, which can be run virtually.
September 27, 2022/by Lora Wild

Spot the Difference

To play:

The group will split into teams of two to five.
All teams will have one minute to study the screen before entering breakout rooms.
Within breakout rooms, the teams will decide one background object to change.
Teams will rejoin the main room.
Players will hunt for differences, and make guesses by typing in the chat box.
The first player to spot the difference wins a point for the team.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Virtual Travel with Your Team

There are several tour companies that are streaming virtually. Team members can either book a tour on their own or the company can purchase a private group live tour. Places like Belize, Paris, Prague, Amsterdam and other wonderful travel can be a shared live experience. https://hopatour.com/
September 27, 2022/by Lora Wild

Dessert Themed Trivia

Over 20 trivia questions and answers about desserts.
September 20, 2022/by Lora Wild

Beverage Themed Trivia

Over 21 trivia questions and answers about beverages.
September 20, 2022/by Lora Wild

Team Social Hours, Coffee Connections, and Meeting Ice-breakers

Host a social hour, with one person in charge of having 4-6 open-ended questions ready for a relaxed discussion that participants can share stories about. Each social hour can have a theme about specific topics or can be generic. Here are example questions:

If you could have your own TV show, what would it be called?
September 27, 2022/by Lora Wild

Guess That Song

Prior to the game starting, have a play list of popular songs. Have all participants be muted and play a song. Ask the players to unmute or use the chat feature and shout the name and artist of that song. The first person that guesses correctly gets a point. Include all genres and generations in the play list.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Five Things in Common

As the host, pair up people that work in different departments or that work on different teams. Give each team 15 minutes to chat in a break-out room and find five things in common that they share outside of work. When the time is up, bring everyone back together and let team members share what they’ve learned.
September 27, 2022/by Lora Wild

GIF Story Challenge

Using Microsoft Teams, you can play GIF Story Challenge, which compels players to tell a story using only GIF images.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

MTV Cribs: Remote Team Edition

Colleagues can still open their homes to one another and participate in some MTV style fun. Employees can give a house or office tour while they share stories about different parts or things in the house.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

The Price is Almost Right

The Price is Almost Right is a game where the host of a virtual conference call holds up household objects and other attendees shout out prices. The first person to guess within five cents of the actual retail price without going over gets one point for their team. Anyone that guesses over the retail price is out for that round.
September 27, 2022/by Lora Wild

Guess That Movie

Prior to the game starting, curate a video playlist with movie scenes. Mute all participants and play the movie scene without revealing the film the clip is from. Ask the players to submit the name of the movie to the facilitator in chat. The first person who guesses the film correctly wins the round. A suggestion is to use “best movie scenes of all time” or “top movie clips” on YouTube to put together the list.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild

Lunch and Learns with Employees and Their Families

This is a great way to highlight individuals in the organization and learn more about team members—their backgrounds and family members. Invite team members to select a lunch date that works best for them to tell a story they would like to share. This could include sharing about their religion, cultural background, a fascinating life story, etc. For example, team members who are parents with adopted children might share their adoption story, or ethnic team members might share about different cultural traditions.
September 21, 2022/by Lora Wild
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