This blog post was originally published on June 15, 2021. It was updated for formatting and with a few new ideas on August 30, 2022. Thanks for reading!
It’s finally time! Peek out your window, open the front door, and re-enter the world. The work from home dream is coming to an end with many offices across the country having set a return-to-office date. Industry experts have estimated that moving forward we will see 10% of the workforce continue to work from home all the time, 30% return to the office 5 days a week and 60% split their time between home and office. Whether your organization is returning to a full in-office model, or implementing a hybrid, I think it’s safe to say that that first day back at the office is going to be…weird.
We’ve all been through a lot this past year, and it’s important for businesses to recognize that, from excitement to fear, returning to an office will bring up all sorts of emotions across their teams. When putting together your return to office plan, first make sure the safety and well-being of your staff is at the heart of your plan, second to that, take the opportunity to celebrate! Returning to the office signifies the end of a chapter. The end of a scary and turbulent year. Give your team the permission (and the opportunity) to let their hair down, enjoy themselves, take a breath, have fun and celebrate all that they accomplished together, while apart.
5 Ways to Welcome Your Team Back to the Office After a Pandemic
As we’ve heard over and over again, these are unprecedented times, so you're scrambling for ways to engage your employees. Chances are, you don’t have a playbook full of fun, team building ideas to help your employees return to the office after a global health pandemic. Am I right? Lucky for you, we do!
Looking for employee gift ideas? I’ve seen many articles listing out the “20 Best Back to Office Gifts” you can give to your team. Gifts are great, but you can do better! What employees want now more than ever is to feel heard by their employer, feel valued, feel supported in the return to “normal life” and to feel connected. Once you’ve got that sorted, then sure, throw in some branded t-shirts and hand sanitizer.
Ok, here we go...
Like any of the Missions below? Click the big button below to add them to your Goosechase account.
Have fun and generate a little healthy competition by running a “Back to the Office” scavenger hunt style game. Play the game on that first day back or let it run throughout the whole first week to accommodate hybrid schedules. Drive engagement, build excitement, and laugh with each other as you reconnect after the longest break from the office ever. Missions could include things like:
- First Day Photo: Take a “First Day of School” style picture as you head out the door in the morning
- Frozen in Time: Share a picture of what was left on your desk all those months ago. (Bonus points for rotten food, dirty coffee mug, plants in need of love or a calendar still flipped to a 2020 date.)
- Desk Makeover: Personalize and decorate your desk. Go big with streamers, balloons and string lights. Or bring in the comforts from home; pictures of your family, a treadmill desk, or your favorite coffee mug.
GooseChase makes it easy to set-up and run games like this. At the end of the game, award prizes for people who earned the most points, or completed the most missions, or submitted the picture with the most likes.
Or “re-onboarding” if you prefer. Many companies had to furlough or temporarily lay team members off that they are now bringing back onboard. Lots of companies hired new employees during the WFH period who never had a traditional in-office onboarding experience. Even the employees who have been with you this whole time could use a refresh on things like office policies, where to get more printer paper, and where to get the best coffee.
Create a Reboarding Program that encourages team members to explore the office, meet colleagues, reaffirm company values, explain new policies or get to know the neighborhood, again. Missions could include things like:
- Hello! My Name is…: The team has changed, help your new colleagues get to know you by sharing a video of you introducing yourself, explaining your role, and sharing your deepest, darkest secret. Or maybe just your favorite animal. Your choice.
- Company Value #1: Share a picture of you demonstrating [insert company value #1]
- Flex it!: Our flexible working policy has changed. Read up on the new policy and let us know the one change you’re most excited about.
- The Masters of Sales: Our VP of Sales is big on golf. Find their office and challenge them to a game of mini putt using whatever you can find for a putter and ball.
- Fire Extinguisher: Can you find the fire extinguisher closest to your workstation in the event of an emergency? Locate it and take a photo.
- Jitter Winner: We have lots of good coffee shops around the office. Go grab a coffee from your favorite spot and share a pic with the team.
Those first few days back may be a little chaotic, so let the program run throughout that whole first week (or couple of weeks) to maximize engagement and fun. Have the TV in the lobby display the best submissions from each day to get everyone excited and create a sense of togetherness that can be lost when working separately.
The Covid pandemic will have a lasting impact on how businesses are run. One of its positive legacies will be an increased awareness and openness around mental health in the workplace and organizations’ responsibility to ensure and support employees’ wellness. As you are asking teams to come back to the office, ensure that they have access to the right support by launching a Wellness Program using GooseChase. (Not the obvious use of what is traditionally a Scavenger Hunt app, I know. But stick with me.)
The two cornerstones of any great wellness program are: accessible resources and accountability. With GooseChase’s video, picture and link sharing capabilities within missions, you can easily share any type of information with your teams, direct to their phones. Then, because points are awarded when staff share videos or pictures of them completing tasks you’re not only enabling accountability, you’re actually encouraging it. Make sense? Great idea? Cool, here’s what some missions could look like:
- Flexible Working: Take time to stretch by following along with this yoga video [include link to a yoga video]. Share a video or picture of you mid-warrior two.
- Eat Good, Feel Good: Eating healthy has been proven to reduce stress and make you feel better overall. Here’s a link to a heart-healthy dinner [include link to recipe]. Share a picture of the meal you prepare. Bonus points if you get creative!
- Just Breathe: Screen breaks are important. Taking time to breathe is important. Stand up from your desk, close your eyes and focus on breathing for 2mins. Share a picture of you in your zen stance. [Tip for organizers: you could use GooseChase’s Game Script and Automation features to set up a new “Just Breathe” mission that launches every couple of hours to encourage this as a regular practice.]
With a GooseChase subscription you could set-up an on-going program where new resources are added each day (Hello, 30 day yoga challenge!) or each week. Announce weekly or monthly winners based on points or number of missions completed and award prizes that reinforce the wellness campaign, things like days off, journals or subscriptions to meditation apps.
Small businesses were hit hard during the pandemic. Help them out by encouraging staff to support the local shops around your office. Create a GooseChase game where team members get points for buying a colleague a coffee from their favorite coffee shop, or taking a picture of their lunch order, or bringing local treats (mmm donuts!) into the office to share. Missions could include things like:
- Grab a Cup with Joe: Grab a colleague, any colleague, and treat them to a coffee at your fav place. Share a pic of you and your cups of joe in front of the shop to make sure everyone else knows where to grab the best java in town.
- A Stampede’s Dozen: Pick-up a dozen donuts or pastries from your local donut shop or bakery, place them in the lunchroom, send an office wide message and then share a video of the inevitable stampede of people rushing in.
- Taco Tuesday: Know a good taco joint or Mexican restaurant nearby? This Tuesday, take a pic of your tacos ordered from somewhere local. Bonus points if you dine with a colleague.
- Famous For: Take a photo of your entire team sharing the signature item, the item they are famous for, at your favorite lunch location!
Not only is this an easy way to support your neighborhood businesses, but it’s a great way to remind your staff that there are perks to coming into an office. (Most of us don’t have baristas at home after all!)
Office (Re)Warming Party
When all else fails, there is no better way to celebrate a return to normality than having a good old fashioned party. Throw an Office Re-Warming Party with food ordered from a local eatery, games, drinks, music...remember all that good stuff? As this may be the first time team members have been in the same room as anyone other than their family and plants in over a year, you may need to help them remember how to socialize. Use GooseChase to run a game during the party where colleagues get points for the number of people they’ve chatted to or for teaching the group their favorite dance move or - expert level mode - for challenging another team member to a dance battle. Missions could include things like:
- Yes, And...: Find someone, challenge them to an improv competition and share the video. The only rules are you have to respond to everything they say with “Yes, And...”
- Inked: Find somebody with an amazing tattoo and recreate it in pen, marker, or paint on another team member’s body. Take a photo of both!
- Who’s who?: Have two members of your team trade identities and take a video of them having a conversation pretending to be each other. Bonus points if they trade clothing too!
- The Dance, Not the Food: Take a video of two of your team members performing their best Salsa routine.
The person with the most points at the end of the night wins the honor of picking the theme for the next office party.
Regardless of how you choose to welcome your team back, it’s important to remember that everyone adjusts to change differently and as excited as you might be to get back to that IRL work environment, you’ll have members of your team that would prefer to stay home so check-in with your team members regularly, be flexible, and be patient. And have fun!
Sign-up for a free GooseChase account today to start building out your return to office game.
What is GooseChase?
GooseChase is an online platform that helps organizers create and run digital scavenger hunt experiences for team building, learning, public engagement, or a variety of other events. Sign up and try creating a free recreational game, or contact us to learn more about our enterprise solutions!