Online team meeting activities that support staff mental wellbeing

With some workers returning to the office, while others continue to work remotely, maintaining meaningful connections with staff can become more of a challenge. Miranda Coates – Programme Manager for the Supported Employment Network at Hackney CVS– suggests some easy ways for employers to ensure their staff stay mentally well and connected with their colleagues.

“The media may be full of ‘back to work’ stories, but if staff have continued to work throughout the last six months, talking about ‘back to work’ can devalue their achievements while working remotely. Perhaps you are gradually moving back into the office or making changes to working patterns. Other businesses may be welcoming staff back after a period of furlough.

  1. Icebreakers: If your staff are working from home, can you build in quick social check-ins when meetings start? You could ask everyone to share one habit that they will keep from lockdown; a local green space that they have discovered; something/someone who has made them smile this week. It may feel like an unnecessary addition to a packed agenda, but it gets everyone talking and could highlight unexpected things people have in common.
  2. Interaction: Many managers find it hard to engage staff in team meetings in regular circumstances, so make the most of the technology available. Using a tool like Mentimeter to ask questions or poll staff in real time during the meeting may be one option. Using breakout rooms to discuss questions in more depth and record ideas using tools like Google’s Jamboard could be another. Can you encourage questions using the chat function on Zoom? Plan time for engagement, questions and your reaction. Clearly engaging with and responding to staff takes longer than simply ‘talking at’ them, but it can bring about big payoffs in terms of staff-manager relationships.
  3. Light-hearted competitions. At Hackney CVS we have had a “guess the adorable baby” competition; posted photos of our lockdown baking efforts (with prizes for best and worst); and added links to our favourite pieces of music. Ask your team to take turns to suggest things that might amuse or engage, while being mindful of your organisation’s values.
  4. Employee Wellbeing Online Noticeboard. Encourage all staff to add ideas and resources to a “Wellbeing Noticeboard”, ideally located somewhere easy to find on your organisation’s intranet. Ask your Human Resources team to add practical articles from credited sources and/or your Employee Assistance Programme if you have one.
  5. Managers as Role Models. This has been an unprecedentedly difficult time at work and some of your staff may have found it hard to cope. Share something small that you have done to support your own mental health (for example, a run in the park with your dog; listening to music you love at lunchtime each working day; turning your work email notifications off overnight to ensure work-life balance) and encourage everyone to share theirs.
  6. Use ‘Best Friend’ thinking. If you have a team project where the targets are being missed and you want to re-energise the team, ask everyone to reflect and write down three things that their best friend would say about that project if asked for advice. Depending on your organisation’s culture you might either leave this at individual reflection or encourage volunteers to share. Your aim is positivity about personal contributions, and ideally a light sprinkling of learning about what your team might improve in future.
  7. Something Physical. Ask for volunteers (or employ a professional if you have a budget) who can run meditation or breathing exercises. Some organisations provide online exercise classes for their staff to participate in, for example, with an option for staff to turn off their camera! A number of gyms are now offering memberships for online classes, so this may be another option for a staff benefit. Ensure that whatever you offer takes into account considerations around inclusivity.

As these examples demonstrate, you can use your online team meetings to make a positive impact on the mental health of your team, so that they feel actively supported and treated as valued individuals whilst they are working remotely. Give it a try!”