When you think of workplace culture, birthday cakes in the break room shouldn’t be at the top of the list.
However, celebrating at work is an important part of maintaining morale, engagement, and productivity in the workplace. And as more teams are figuring out how to do remote and hybrid work well, it can be difficult to keep up the same traditions of celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, and other special moments.
However, with a little creativity and technology, teams can still make sure their colleagues feel appreciated, even when they’re celebrating at work remotely.
Before you dive into planning celebrations, it’s important to determine which milestones and anniversaries you will acknowledge company and team-wide.
Workplace celebrations are an important part of creating a sense of belonging, community, and recognition for a team. In the office, these moments come in the form of physical gatherings – think happy hours, birthday celebrations, and holiday parties.
However, when teams work remotely, maintaining a positive and connected culture is difficult. Remote work can be isolating, so it’s even more impactful when employees can connect with each other through virtual office celebrations and events. It’s therefore imperative to make an extra effort to adapt common in-office norms to your new virtual environment.
Luckily, teams have developed lots of virtual-friendly rituals for celebrating important milestones over the past several years. Here are a few of our favorites:
A personal message from people that matter can go a long way. When the employees at Hilsoft Inc. celebrate work anniversaries, they open their online workspace to find a collection of thoughtful notes from their closest colleagues in their feed. The message is scheduled in advance to ensure that it’s the first thing the team member sees in the morning.
When Warby Parker employees hit their three year work anniversary, they receive the gift of an international trip. The present isn’t just a vacation, but rather an opportunity to engage deeper with the mission-driven aspects of the company. Third-year team members are grouped together on a handful of trips a year to see the international operations of the company’s “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. The connection to the organization’s greater purpose is a way to keep tenured employees engaged with their day-to-day work.
There’s always a reason to celebrate, and at ChartHop, we make sure to do so once a month so people feel appreciated. With budget and guidelines in tow, department social chairs plan monthly events to foster connections and allow people to spend time with one another – no work-talk needed. From ice cream tastings to virtual escape rooms, these optional activities are offered on a regular cadence to boost morale, collaboration, and engagement.
Consider sending employees a $500 stipend toward an online personal development course for major achievements. Or, in the spirit of celebrating the person and not the job, allow them to choose an experience unrelated to their day-to-day job (like brushing up on that high school French).
There are few chances for top leadership to reflect on the individual contributions of individual employees. At TenantBase, the management team uses birthdays as a recurring opportunity to foster a more in-depth personal appreciation. As the day approaches, the CEO, COO, or CTO writes a thoughtful card to thank people celebrating birthdays and remind them how important they are to the company. This approach also works well for other milestones like work anniversaries.
Everyone likes receiving a birthday card, but unfortunately, snail mail doesn’t cut it with a remote team. Create virtual cards using a tool like Kudoboard that allows employees to post notes, videos, photos, and gifs (a must!) in a shared space that’s sent to the recipient on their big day.
When your team starts growing, Slack channels become crowded. If you want to recognize birthdays publicly across the workspace but need to make sure the messages don’t become lost in #general or #random, consider creating a #celebrations channel as the primary location for sharing the love. That way, no team achievement or special day goes without notice.
Choose a people data platform that integrates with Slack so you can still celebrate your people online, without the manual lift.
Sometimes the best gift is the gift of personal time. At Ghost Marketing, employees celebrating an anniversary get the day off to do whatever they like. Allowing people to spend their day with family and friends (or alone at the spa) shows that you value work-life balance. Additionally, it’s a good practice to allow people to cash in this free day at another time if they so choose.
Creating a culture of celebration and recognition can be a challenge when your team is working remotely. Without the ability to have an in-person team event, it’s not as easy or natural to celebrate individual achievements or work anniversaries. However, creating moments of celebration for remote teams is still important to improve team morale, encourage team collaboration, and strengthen team bonds.
At the end of the day, celebrating at work is essential to keep your team connected and engaged while they’re working remotely, and should be a focus as you strengthen your workplace culture.
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