From impromptu happy hours to trivia nights to our weekly MentorLunch, we pride ourselves on having a very social work environment in all of our offices. But, how can we maintain our social workplace during the age of social distancing? Simple: by taking things online.
While we’ve previously identified several essential collaboration tools to use during this time, one tool in particular is crucial for keeping us social: Google Hangouts. We utilize Hangouts whenever possible to connect with one another outside of the usual stand up or work meeting. So far, we’ve managed to stay just as social as ever.
Prior to the current circumstances, whenever I needed a refill on coffee or had a case of the elevenses, I was practically guaranteed to run into a co-worker in our office kitchen. We’d have a chat, share weekend plans, or debrief about whatever show we’re currently binging. You know, water cooler stuff.
These personal interactions throughout the day are easy to take for granted until you suddenly find yourself without them. It only took a couple of days of everyone working from home for this to become very apparent. As a solution, we set up a virtual lounge that appears on everyone’s daily calendar. Throughout the day, whenever someone needs a quick break or wants to chat, they can jump onto the Hangouts meeting to catch up with whoever else is in there.
We love a good happy hour at MentorMate. Whether planned or impromptu, our happy hours give us a chance to decompress from the day or week, share some snacks, and connect with coworkers over a beverage or two. More often than not, we never even leave the office since we have such a great sound system for whoever wants to play DJ.
Now, without access to our office and said sound system, we’ve turned to hosting virtual happy hours via Google Hangouts. We have a standing weekly calendar event every Thursday afternoon (arguably the best day for happy hour). The occasional impromptu event still pops up on other days after work as well.
In our Minneapolis office, our weekly Wednesday lunch is an opportunity to sample whatever delicious meal our HR Manager Brittany Duggan (aka MentorMom) has whipped up. More than that, it’s a chance for the whole office to take a break from work and share a meal in the middle of the week.
While we all have to fend for ourselves for lunch now, we still have a way to connect with our coworkers over a weekly lunch — again in the form of a standing Wednesday lunchtime calendar invite. Every other day of the week, our “Lunch” chat group is usually a buzz around lunchtime with photos of what everyone is eating that day.
Virtual Cooking Class
On the topic of food… Before we all switched to a dedicated work from home model, Brittany cooked up the idea to host, well… cooking lessons. Since a number of our coworkers are pretty talented in the kitchen, the idea was that each lesson would be led by a different person to teach everyone else a new skill.
How are we planning to move forward with this idea now that we aren’t all able to be in the office together? You guessed it. Now, instead of holding these cooking lessons in our MentorMate kitchen, we’re hosting them via Google Hangouts. Not only does this still allow us to learn from one another but it also allows those leading the class to cook in the comfort of their own kitchen.
Increased Google Chat Chatter
In addition to all of the above virtual initiatives, our Google chatrooms have never been more active. Irreverent memes, music videos, and the aforementioned lunch photos mix with the more serious news updates about newly announced social distancing guidelines or press conferences. There’s also a lot of chatter around tips and tricks for working from home as well as a lot of photos of pets and WFH offices.
MentorMate WFH Challenge
The MM WFH Challenge is a three-week initiative that the Bulgarian HR team put together. It aims to keep our 550+ member community in Bulgaria connected during this time. Via a closed Facebook group, MentorMate team members can discuss topics related to working from home, post photos of their home office setups, or share screenshots of online team meetings. Each Monday, a group admin shares a photo, opens a discussion, or posts a challenge relating to a different weekly theme.
For the most part, we’ve tried to keep a “business as usual” mentality while keeping a safe distance. Since our teams are already used to spending much of their day in virtual meetings, taking our social ventures online was a fairly easy transition. Not only are we still able to meet and connect with one another but happy hours and lunches have become a family affair. Kids, partners, pets — everyone’s welcome to join in the fun of these virtual events, which adds an extra layer of community.