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Revealed: Impala’s Best-Kept Secret for Improving Remote Employee Relations

No Virtual Party is Complete Without Meaningful Conversations

Ask any Impalan and they’ll tell you straight: we’re just as people-obsessed as we are product-obsessed as a company.

On a mission to create never-before-seen travel technology and experiences, we’re hell-bent on ensuring our remote team has an epic journey along the way — wherever they might be.

So, when the first enforced national lockdown broke long-anticipated plans of bringing our distributed team together in-person — we ‘popped’ off.

We launched ‘Pop-Up Parties’ as a better alternative to the ‘virtual coffee breaks’ and pub quizzes that so quickly became timeworn in a coronavirus world of work.

And they did not disappoint.

For our fully-remote and distributed team, people agreed these parties helped to inject more fun in the workday, combat loneliness that can accompany remote working, and increase opportunities to connect with colleagues outside of their direct department.

Yes, Pop-Up Parties are one of the much-loved perks of being an 'Impalan' — I mean, just look at those smiley faces.👇

Here's why they work, plus our top 3 tips for hosting your own in a way that truly drives better employee relations.

1. Ditch the small talk

Turns out: the exchange of the often-rare meaningful interaction in social or business settings can be the difference between happiness and unhappiness, according to behavioural scientists.

People aren’t necessarily sick of talking to each other over Zoom, but they’re definitely sick of ‘small’ talk.

They’re sick of being ‘on’ for every call and conversation full of closed-ended questions that can only be answered in practically-robotic fashion:

“So, how’s work?” Fine, thanks. 🤖 “Any plans for the weekend?” Same old. (Hello, national lockdown?) 🤖

And they’re sick of needing to navigate the politics and propriety of saying what they really mean; and sharing how they really feel.

“So, how’s work?” Fine, thanks.

Translation: *It’s more difficult than ever for me to focus, switch off, sleep, and I’m lonely most workdays to boot! Thanks. *🙊

That's why we intentionally invited team members to go beyond the surface-level pleasantries and dig deeper (with a little help from this handy card deck).

Impalans praised the level of depth achieved in Pop-Up Parties by answering thought-provoking and revelatory questions in turn — talking about things we ordinarily might not; learning about each other and ourselves.

What started as a slightly uncomfortable task quickly became a favourite activity that managers wanted to steal for team away days or resurface at after-work socials! (“Can we get the cards out?!”)

So, before you dive into your next virtual social consider taking a shared pledge to ditch the 'small talk.'

2. Keep things fresh and easy

As with any employee benefit or perk, it’s important to keep your offerings fresh or risk losing impact and meaning. One of the main values in the way we run Pop-Up Parties is that you don’t come to expect the ‘same old same old.’

We keep things novel and fun by mixing up games and activities month-to-month — from virtual tours through Impalan’s hometowns on Google Maps to charades, to the now-trending ‘Among Us.’

One tool that’s been enormously useful for us has been AirConsole (a repository of over 100 multiplayer games — from virtual mini-golf and racing to jeopardy, hangman, and hilarious co-operative battles between vegetables on a ‘gravy train.’ 😂) This is also a great fall-back if you plan an activity that’s a bit more dependent on the number of participants but folks can’t make it in the end.

And that leads nicely into our final tip. . .

3. Listen and react to your people's needs

Be ready to throw your plan out the window.

There may be a days that people aren't in the mood to participate. Have a back-up plan or simply give people their time back.

Encourage people to use the time initially carved out for a Pop-Up Party to do something they enjoy independently. E.g. take a walk, have a cuppa, phone a friend, etc.

While we’ve been successful in sustaining participation, a second enforced lockdown where the majority of our team lives is not without effect.

We remain happy for our team to decide on-the-day whether or not a Zoom-based get-together will evoke more feelings of joy or fatigue; and we encourage you to do the same!

How Going Back to Basics Will Bring Your Team Closer

At the end of the day, superficial chatter just doesn’t cultivate lasting connections; and ‘bants’ don’t build relationships. So, while we think having a good time together is __fun__damental to nurturing great team dynamics, it’s simply not enough on its own.

You have to go deeper than that if you really want to influence team dynamics, employee engagement and satisfaction for the better.

Building relationships requires a willingness and commitment to having ‘real’ conversations — the kind that invite people to ‘show up’ wholly and share more about their unique background, interests, passions; and the life that they lead outside of your shared workplace.

By encouraging your team to go below the surface and learn more about each other — perhaps, even themselves — you are creating the conditions for meaningful interactions that form an important basis for incredible collaboration, engagement, and satisfaction at work.

By keeping team activities new and interesting, you’ll stay ahead of waning participation rates and promote more team interactions that have a powerful compounding effect on morale, motivation, and the sense of belonging.

How will you innovate Pop-Up Parties to fit the unique setup of your organisation? Tell me on Linkedin!