Don’t let a global pandemic stifle the culture of your workplace – keep things flourishing with a little bit of creativity, fun, and teamwork!

We’re over a year into this global pandemic – there are some glimmers of hope that work will soon return to “normal” (is that even a thing anymore?). Those of us who have adapted to remote work have seen a giant, unspoken crusher of work culture. All those Friday lunch meetings, convos at the watercooler, and nerf wars were gone.

We like our teammates. And now we’re just seeing them on MS Teams. The lost personal connections have introduced a grief we have been forced to confront.

At Blue Margin, one of our core values is “Be Positive.” In the HR department, we needed to echo that value in a big way in 2020: keeping our work culture intact and thriving as we’re all at home. With positivity in the forefront, we set to address waning work culture head on. The results? It was a pretty fun year last year. It wasn’t perfect, but we made the best of the mess, looking for all the good in 2020 so life and work could be a little more enjoyable.

GAME PLAN

Pre-pandemic, we enjoyed monthly activities called Employee Appreciation Events. The fun consisted of happy hours, renting food trucks, bowling, laser tag, pinball, and holiday celebrations. Senior Leadership wanted our employees and their families to know they appreciate them and their work. And we just wanted to have some fun together.

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Insert global pandemic. These beloved events came to a screeching halt. The game plan for getting together needed to change.

STARTING SMALL

First, we adapted virtually. Were else could we begin? Since MS Teams is one of our normal, day-to-day communication platforms, a virtual Break Room was born. It became a place of celebrations, laughs, quizzes, announcements, and sharing. There were adorable baby pictures, napping doggies and kitties, home office get-ups, recipes, birthday announcements, and work anniversary shout-outs. A simple change became one of the lifelines for our work culture.

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Just a sample of all of our virtual Break Room fun on MS Teams! 😂

Teamwork took a new meaning with a virtual trivia night. With Teams, Zoom, and a crazy list of trivia questions, a trivia night for 30 people was a great success. The winning team “took home” none other than a gift card to a favorite meal delivery service. This was 2020 after all.

The HR team organized an Exercise and Wellness Challenge, promoted with this really professionally made video. Lasting thirty days, the team wellness portion of the challenge measured various healthy activities ranging from drinking more water and less alcohol, to eating fruits and veggies and even flossing our teeth (we’re really a wild group)! In addition, the individual exercise portion measured physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day. Everyone logged their time and activities on MS Forms, and we held weekly drawings for participants and the team with the most points. The prizes ranged from gift cards to smoothie bars, outdoor stores, and a local farmer’s market. It was a friendly competition for any fitness level.

SANITIZED DRIVE-BY

After that, we experimented with a physical drop off at our employees’ homes. After a Christmas in July Trivia Night, we thought a little gift (company t-shirts designed by our very own, Paul Van Ryn!), delivered in person, would bring some joy. Sanitizer and masks were required, but this was arguably the first face-to-face interaction with fellow teammates in months and It. Was. Amazing!

MASKED UP & MEETING

Safely meeting in person was the next natural step. Our normal company picnic at the end of summer needed some covid-friendly adaptations. Instead of a large 60+ gathering of our employees and families, we needed to divide up to comply with our local regulations. Three mini picnics were organized! Everyone signed up for a day that would work best. A deli catered our dinner (sandwich boxes complete with plastic ware, napkins, and dessert!). Each family unit was instructed to bring lawn chairs or picnic blankets and remain socially distanced. And use sanitizer and wear masks. We safely and successfully spent some outdoor time with our Blue Margin family.

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Having fun, socially distanced of course, at our three mini picnics!

In the coming months, there would be similar gatherings at one of the golf courses and even the movie theater!

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Taking a break from the computer screen to enjoy Happy Hour at the golf course!

END OF YEAR ADAPTATIONS

As we entered the holiday season, our company party had to look different. We dropped off end of year swag to everyone’s doorsteps in a giant and festive dollar store gift bag and hosted yet another virtual trivia night (Can you tell we love trivia?).

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I like big (holiday) bags and I cannot lie.

Part of the swag included either a tea sampler box from Amazon or a kombucha or craft beer sampler from one of Fort Collins’ amazing breweries. Holiday party attendee and trivia team prizes included none other than a gift card to a meal delivery service. We’ve come full circle.

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Holiday Party shenanigans!

If 2020 taught us anything, it was a lesson in resiliency. One of positivity. Scheduled events provided stability to our changing times and fostered true community in our company. Our work culture is stronger than ever because we’re investing in our employees and their families.

Employee Appreciation Events are still happening on the regular. You can bet that we are still searching, adapting, planning, and preparing for more fun things to help bolster and encourage our employees, showing our appreciation one event at a time.

Amanda Mann

Written by Amanda Mann

Amanda Mann is office administrator at Blue Margin Inc., and manager of the Community Works initiative at BMI as well.