Next, they write down the emotions that achieving the wish would evoke. Then, they write down something they can do right now, in their home, to encourage those same emotions. A swim in the ocean would leave you feeling refreshed? Go for a walk. Slap water on your face.
"You start to reflect on the fact that yes, you can't do certain things, but you are in charge of your emotions and your attitude toward the world right now," says Leonard, the Second City's executive director of learning and applied improvisation. And when entire teams come to that realization simultaneously, their stress eases. Communication improves. So does productivity.
Leonard has been thinking a lot about people's mindsets since the country shut down and his company had to move its corporate team-building department, Second City Works, to the virtual realm. He's one of the many team-building experts across the country spending their quarantines creating new programs that specifically address the demands of remote work in the coronavirus age. These activities range from Zoom improv to online magic shows--and they're getting a big response as remote workplaces struggle to stay cohesive and low-stress.
Second City Works launched its online program in April--at roughly $10,000 per workshop, it targets larger companies--and has already attracted big-name clients like Salesforce. Don't worry: Smaller companies with tighter budgets can find plenty of similarly reinvented experiences online.
Take, for example, escape rooms. Les Pardew, founder of Salt Lake City-based Mystery Escape Room, drew on his 30 years of video game industry experience to create three online-only rooms for corporate teams, designing each around a team-building concept like information sharing or community problem-solving. They run between $250 and $275 per session, less than the company's in-person rates.
"We've stumbled onto something here that may last well past the pandemic," Pardew says. "The power it has to bring people together. Distance doesn't matter."
Lisa Duquette, executive director of Manchester, New Hampshire-based health insurance firm SchoolCare, signed up her 10-person team for one of Mystery Escape Room's new programs two weeks ago. The event was a success, and not only because she drove around the state to personally deliver written invitations and customized swag to each staffer. As Duquette says one employee later told her, "It's just like what's happening today in our real world: We're finding order within chaos, we're working together, and we're finding solutions."
Some team-building businesses got lucky: They were already planning remote offerings when the pandemic hit. San Francisco-based the Go Game, founded in 2002 to encourage corporate bonding through gameplay, started building its remote program a year and a half ago. The 30-employee company launched Go Remote weeks ahead of schedule on April 1, charging $299 for hour-long virtual games featuring 15 to 20 employees, and has already attracted clients including Google and Salesforce.
Ian Fraser, the Go Game's co-founder and CEO, says team-building used to be lower on most companies' priority lists--more of an excuse for fun outings than an important company culture initiative. He's amazed, he says, by how much that's shifted in mere months. "With no office, all those micro-interactions don't happen," he says. "People really seem to be prioritizing bonding moments and initiatives."
That's very much the case at We're Magnetic, an experiential marketing firm in New York City. When the company went remote on March 6, president Jessica Reznick Martin says her focus quickly turned to the well-being of her 40 employees. At a leadership meeting to discuss ways to maintain culture, she hit on an idea: Monday night virtual magic shows.
Booking the performers was easy--Reznick Martin's husband is a magic fan and TV producer with industry contacts across North America--and it's been a hit with employees, who consistently stick around after work on Mondays to watch each show. That success spawned a series of regular virtual events: Pet Fridays, Wild Card Wednesday game nights, and monthly workout classes.
Morale is up--and so is productivity. "People seem very willing to jump in and raise their hands to help us achieve our goals as a business," Reznick Martin says. "Because they know, and they feel, that we're making it important to make them important."