illustration depicting working fro home on a virtual team day

Working from home: planning a virtual team day

Arkin shares why it was so vital that the NKD team got together for a virtual team day last week despite the team still working from home.

Why we decided to run a team day while working from home during lockdown

At NKD we pride ourselves on our culture and employee experience – ensuring that every member of the NKD family feels connected, energised and empowered to create incredible work. We are an employee engagement agency after all, so we really do have to practice what we preach!

2020 however, certainly has kept us on our toes.

Like many organisations, since mid-March when we sent the team home with laptops and computers under their arms, and office chairs in the back of a taxi, we’ve been working from home. And again, like a lot of other companies, we’ve managed to stay connected using technology – ensuring we can still chat, meet and work like we would have before.

Keeping the team connected

We have ensured that our usual team meetings have continued, including our Monday morning projects update, weekly team meetings, and monthly business updates. Collaboration on projects has continued through virtual creative labs. And personally, I think lockdown has been where Thrive, the NKD performance management approach, has really come in to its own – ensuring that those of us who are line managers are connecting with our teams on a human level rather than focussing purely on tasks and outputs. After all, we’re not just working from home; we’re all living through a major global pandemic that has impacted us all differently – for some, in unimaginably difficult and heart-breaking ways.

We’ve tried to keep the social side of things – a big part of the NKD culture – alive during lockdown too. We have a free weekly yoga session on Wednesday mornings, virtual team drinks for birthdays, and even a team baking session led by yours truly in lieu of the baked treats I’d usually bring into the office. And recently, we have started to open up the office, so that the team can use it as an optional ‘drop in’ space, or for some meetings that they’d like to have face-to-face – all socially distanced and with strict safety protocol, of course.

The need for more

And yet, as we entered month five of lockdown, it was starting to feel like all of this wasn’t quite enough anymore. Our logical brain was telling us that we were lucky – our client work was continuing, we’d avoided any difficult decisions around furlough and redundancies, and we were all safe.

But we were starting to get restless – staring through a screen in order to see each other, typing into a keyboard instead of grabbing a marker pen and scribbling on a flipchart together, waving at the camera instead of hug. We’d started craving more, and it seems we weren’t the only ones. A recent Harvard Business Review article described three positive motivators that often lead to increased work performance, but are in danger of disappearing during the current situation we’ve all found ourselves in.

  • First, the need to collaborate and be together, whether that’s sociably or to problem solve.
  • Second, remembering your purpose, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and the impact it genuinely has.
  • Third, the opportunity to keep developing and learning. 

What to do? The answer was deceptively simple, and again we needed to practice what we preach. For months, we have been helping our clients to innovate – we’ve run online hackathons, facilitated online workshops, and even created a virtual train-the-trainer programme. If we’re doing this for others, we needed to do it for ourselves! During normal times, we would down tools and shut up shop once a quarter for a team day; we hadn’t had one since before lockdown, so we were long overdue. 

The virtual team day

So, we ran a virtual team day, and it was a great success. We took time to pause and look back on the last few months; we acknowledged what had been tough, including losing one of the NKD team suddenly in June; we celebrated successes and new team members who have joined. We reflected on how we’ve responded to the past five months, through the lens of our MBTI profiles and Gallup Strengths. And we took the time to look forward and collectively shape what the next four months will look like.

Food is usually a big part of our team days, and in order to make sure this wasn’t missed, everyone in the team received a personalised mini hamper containing their choice of breakfast, lunch and sweet treat, delivered to their homes in the morning, curtesy of Pure. Finally, for those who were happy to travel, we had some socially distanced team drinks in the afternoon.

Was stopping work for the day the right thing to do? Yes. Was the cost of the hampers worth it? Absolutely! There is no doubt in my mind that the day gave everyone in the team a boost, me included. We connected, we chatted, and we shared. We had ideas and we planned. We let off steam and we laughed. Perhaps most importantly, we realised that we’ve actually been coping brilliantly, as a team, as the NKD family, and we can deal with whatever the next four months throw at us, together.

If you are thinking of doing something similar – do it. Just do it. If you’d like to but are stuck on ideas, give us a call or drop us a note. We’d love to talk to you.