Getting Back the Company Spirit: How to Increase Company Morale Back at the Office

In the wake of this coronavirus outbreak, it will take the world some time to heal and recover. In the midst of quarantine and a low-key first half of the year, it’s been difficult to see just how we’ll emerge from the changes and challenges that have come from this pandemic. One thing is for certain: there will be an adjustment period as we all return to the office to resume our previous work schedules.

Snacks and Drinks

It’s a well-known fact that food and drink bring people together, especially in the workplace. Carve out some time for chit-chat and snacks first thing in the morning so that your employees can get caught up with each other after these months of quarantine.  Encourage everyone to reflect with positivity and ask everyone what they’re looking forward to as things return to normal; it would be all too easy for the chit-chat to become negative.

A Little Something

If you have the time, consider leaving something on everyone’s desk as they return to the office. Notes of appreciation, a small gift card to the local coffee shop, new pens, or a notebook. Take the time to pick something that will make everyone smile, even for a second – we all need a little bit of that right now.

Have Real Conversations

Depending on how much your employees are willing to open up, you can leave your door open to those who want to come in and chat. Ask everyone how quarantine really affected them – how did it affect their view of the company they work for, other companies, and those around them. We’ve all been lacking in the human interaction department lately, and it would be great to be able to connect with co-workers and management on a different level than the usual video chat or voice call.

More Frequent Meetings

As we all start to figure out how remote work will now fit into our lives post-COVID, it would be best to keep everyone on the same page about how things will run differently (if at all). Try to hold meetings more often for teams that are still in the process of bringing people back in; this will help keep everyone up to date and help each employee feel valued and included. You can also take this time to talk about what kind of feedback your team has on the technology employed during the work-from-home mandates. What improvements could be made for future returns of this or another virus outbreak?

 

Above all, this is a time to show patience and understanding. Social isolation is difficult on most of us as humans reliant on interpersonal interaction. There will be a learning curve as we all attempt to carve out a “new normal” as it were; let’s all take a collective breath and dial into each other’s needs so that we can resume work together in a shared space!

Thoughtful Gift-Giving for the Summer

It’s summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, which means hot weather, sticky commutes, and glorious air conditioning at the office (hopefully). If you’re like us, you get pretty excited about the vibrant sounds and colors of nature during this time of year; the birds are singing, lawnmowers are constantly running in the neighborhood, and the playgrounds are rarely vacant.

 

Summer is a great time to plan company events, too! Perhaps you could host a team barbeque to help boost office morale after this whole coronavirus craziness wears off. For now, though, low-key gifts and words of appreciation might be more in line with what is socially acceptable. But hold on a minute – just because we said low-key, that doesn’t mean that your gift can’t be amazing and perfect for the person it’s being delivered to!

Consider the Recipient and Occasion

Depending on the reason for celebration, you may want to opt for a more or less formal gift to surprise your employee or co-worker with. Birthdays usually call for celebratory colors, high energy phrases, and delicious treats. On the other hand, an office employee who is retiring may be more appreciative of memorabilia related to their time at the company! Employment anniversaries are fun events to celebrate and remind everyone of the high dedication that your team brings to the office every day.

ThanksCrate Has You Covered

With an overwhelming variety of gifts that we can pack into a single package for your employee, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with our monthly delivery service. Just give us a little bit of information about the employee you’re focusing on for the month, and we’ll put together a little something special just for them!

For the Forgetful

That’s right, we’re looking at you! We’re not saying you care less about your employees than any other business owner, that’s certainly not the case. You do, however, have a lot on your plate, especially now with the majority of companies still using a work-from-home protocol. It’s not easy keeping up with everyone when they aren’t sitting in the office where you can manage and direct them! ThanksCrate will help you get gifts to the people you outline ahead of time – set it and forget it!

For the Time-Savers

Give us some information about your individual employees and we’ll select things to pop in their gift box that we know they’ll love. You don’t have to sit and agonize about what to get anyone anymore – let us take care of everything!

For Those Looking to Boost Morale

One of the quickest and easiest ways to lift spirits at the office is by giving your employees gifts. The catch, however, is that they can’t be cheesy or forced – with ThanksCrate, you never have to worry about that. Each package is hand-created according to the profile you provide in regards to each employee. We take everything into consideration as we are selecting gifts. If we’re all being honest, companies are going to need a bit of a morale boost as we emerge from this coronavirus quarantine.

 

Take the worry, frustration, and time out of gift-giving this summer by subscribing to ThanksCrate; we’ve got employee gifts covered so you don’t have to give it a second thought!

Returning to the Office – Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

There is a lot of insecurity going around regarding America’s return to the workforce. From a health and safety standpoint, we’re being asked to flatten the curve, which means strict social distancing measures and avoiding public spaces. While it’s very clear that the economy cannot withstand extended quarantine measures, we’re also keeping our eyes peeled for a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. It’s a tough decision to make for anyone, let alone the government and health officials that we trust to keep us safe.

Staying Safe

Perhaps the biggest question each employee has as they are asked to return to the office is: how can I stay safe at work? Beyond the tried and true mask, handwashing, and sanitizing routine, we have a few tips and tricks to help you ease back into your first weeks back at work.

Alternate Days

Ask your superior or HR department if you can ease back into working in the office by working alternate days from home. This way you can get a feel for how the office is being maintained a few days a week. Always try to keep your focus on your job security, especially during these times of high unemployment. You want to feel as safe as possible at your job, all while not compromising your individual ability to provide for yourself. If you can, have these conversations with your boss or HR manager.

Communication

If you feel that your employer is not doing enough to keep everyone safe and healthy at the office, stand up and say something. Get together with some of your co-workers to discuss potential solutions, and present them to your superiors. Be honest and open so that your concerns will be respected – these are difficult times, but if anything positive has come of this pandemic, it’s our enhanced desire to keep those around us safe and protected from illness.

Report Apparent Illness

If you or a co-worker is feeling slightly ill, notify your boss immediately (even if you don’t suspect Coronavirus). As we’ve discovered with C-19, a sick individual can be contagious prior to showing symptoms. If someone in the office becomes ill, ask the HR department to inquire into where that person might have been exposed. Building a safe office space will require that each and every one of us take precautions to protect ourselves and others – the consequences that result from our potential indifference could be drastic.

Compassion

It’s irrefutable that these are interesting times to be alive and in the American workforce. The best we can do for each other is to be respectful of personal limitations and tolerances; speak with someone before approaching within six feet or removing your mask. Offer hand sanitizer to others and try to initiate virtual contact in the office, even if their desk is 10 feet away. As you learn what others are willing to do, you can interact more or less with them. Put others first, and you will inadvertently be contributing to a safer work environment!

The New “Normal”: Will Remote Work be the Future?

Before the coronavirus, the world was a different place; many of us don’t like to think that, as we try to stay optimistic for a full recovery from this pandemic. However, if you stop and think about how much some people’s lives have changed due to social distancing, it’s no wonder the big question right now is: what will be the new “normal”? As we’re sure you’re aware, there are drastic implications for every sector of our daily lives, extending into the next generation through greater economic debt and insecurity (especially if COVID-19 makes a return each year until we’ve reached herd immunity levels).

Impact on the Workforce

When it comes to the American workforce, perhaps the most interesting shift has been observed, regardless of company niche. With such extreme social distancing measures having been recommended by government and health agencies, an overwhelming majority of employers rallied work-from-home infrastructure in a few short weeks. The demand was high for low-contact work environments due to a severe lack of testing capacity and personal protection gear inventory; naturally, it was safer to stay home amidst rising positive case numbers.

Physical vs. Virtual Services

What determined a company’s willingness to shift towards work-from-home employment was mainly whether the business services were physical or non-physical. For those who had physical items to sell, perhaps they were able to build an on-the-go order system for delivery or curbside pickup. In a way, American consumers were already starting to ask for more services like these from companies pre-corona. One might argue that this pandemic has simply accelerated the willingness of businesses to consider new and innovative ideas; we’ve stumbled upon a sort of necessary innovation when faced with becoming irrelevant to the times.

The Question: What Will Stick?

It’s irrefutable that online sales for goods and services will continue to rise. As more of us realize how simple it is to search, add to cart, and click to purchase, surely the demand for retail goods will continue to decline – coronavirus simply will have been a catalyst in its demise. On the other hand, there will always be services that require in-person meetings: hair salons, nail salons, fine dining, medical and surgical offices, and so on.

 

The most concrete change seems to be in the realization that a company’s workers can work from home at an efficient and large-scale level. Unfortunately, thought and care must be given to the overall effect on mental health for those who work from home too consistently. At what point should a company be able to enforce in-office work for those employees who are at-risk for depressed mood. Will we only ask employees to work from home if C-19 makes a comeback?

Too Soon to Tell

At this point in time, as federal government restrictions are being lifted and left to the local level, it’s all a matter of how optimistic or pessimistic your local government chooses to be. Furthermore, now that the infrastructure is in place for remote work, the company you work for is ultimately in charge of how the office will be handled. There likely is no one-size-fits-all for this situation, neither will there ever be. It seems that we’ll all be playing it by ear, month by month until some sort of sense of “normalcy” has returned.

Staying Connected & Working Remotely: Tips and Tricks for Keeping in Touch With Your Teammates

By now, the newness and novelty of working from home have probably worn off; if you’re an extrovert, you’re longing for human interaction (if you’re an introvert, your cat is probably serving just fine). You’ve likely discovered that your Keurig can’t possibly keep up with your caffeine needs and that it’s a lot harder to drink sixty-four ounces of water in a day than you thought it would be. Finding it hard to stay on-task? You’re not alone; we’re all feeling the struggle to stay productive.

You’re Still a Part of a Team

One of the most important things to remember during quarantine and isolation is that we are all still a team: you and your coworkers form a team for the business you are employed by, and all of us as citizens are a team, protecting those who are more vulnerable than us by staying home. Though you may not be sitting next to your cubicle buddy at the office, you and your team members are still one unit working towards a common goal. Even though it’s a little more difficult to stay connected, it can still be done.

Form a Group Chat

If your job offers a chat service to employees like Skype or another messaging service, create a group chat that includes each team member. Send daily messages, ask everyone how much coffee they’ve had, what they’re doing this weekend, and remind everyone to take stretch breaks! Perhaps one of your team members can post a daily riddle or meme.

Weekly Meeting

There’s no hard and fast rule that states you can’t have meetings more often, but weekly is sufficient for most teams working remotely. Discuss anything and everything at meetings; part of keeping in touch also involves catching up just like you would at the office. Inquire about everyone’s family, tell funny stories, but also discuss work-related things during your meeting time. Something like video conferencing is best, but expect some co-workers to want to stay off-camera (some of us are slacking in the hair department).

Detailed Notes

Since it’s not as easy to get a hold of a co-worker right now, make sure to leave detailed notes on any cases you work on. Make sure you’re available for questions on any difficult call you fielded or procedure you followed; this will make it easy for issues to be resolved within a timely fashion.

Use Your Tools

While group and individual messaging are easy and quick, it can be nice to receive a phone call from your co-workers instead. If you have a question, call them through your VOIP and ask your question directly; this is usually much quicker than text messaging back and forth with a co-worker. If you’re both feeling brave, video chat is a great option, too; make sure to check with the person before asking for a face-to-face, though!

Luckily for employees around the world, we live in an age of advanced communications technology. The same technology that allows us all to maintain our jobs at home can also be used to stay connected with our co-workers so that we still feel like part of a team. Human connection is more important than ever right now (for you, too, introverts!) and we just have to be a little bit more creative in how we approach teamwork.

How to Lead a Dynamite Remote Meeting

During this unprecedented demand for workers and consumers to stay home, it has become more and more necessary for meetings to move online and towards reliable video platforms. There has been an increasing demand for services like Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, especially for workplace environments. Since we can’t all meet face-to-face for business meetings, it’s important that your meeting time is managed properly and facilitated by the proper tools.

Choose the Right Tools

Before scheduling your first meeting, consider what platform will suit your needs best. How many employees or team members will need to be present? Does everyone need to be able to send video to the live feed? Will you need to share slides, notes, or mirror your screen for everyone to see? If necessary, reach out to your IT department for their opinion on what platform you should ask everyone to use; otherwise, do a little digging to see what will best serve you and your team.

Have an Agenda

One of the biggest tips that can make or break your online meeting is whether or not everyone is aware of the meeting’s topic. Everyone should be briefed ahead of time on what will be discussed; this way they can prepare their segments or questions prior to the start of the meeting. There’s nothing more confusing than logging into a private video space and wondering who is supposed to be doing what; give everyone a job for the meeting (taking notes, coming up with questions, etc.) to help your employees stay engaged.

Allow Time for Chit-Chat

Carving out time for ice-breaking is the perfect way to start a remote meeting. Ask everyone to get warmed up by running through a test sequence; have everyone state their name, talk about what they were working on prior to the meeting, and ask everyone if they can hear and see the feed properly. As the meeting leader, let everyone know what time you’ll regroup and begin discussing the agenda.

Decide on Meeting Etiquette

Depending on the type of meeting you will be hosting, you may want to ask members to hold their questions until the end of your presentation. If your style is more loose and informal, let them know in advance; most people will assume that they are receiving a lecture-type meeting unless otherwise specified. If you want interaction, say so!

Keep an Eye on the Introverts

Everyone on the team is valuable – they were hired or promoted for a reason, and their shyness shouldn’t hold them back from contributing. While you don’t want to call out the introverts specifically, try to think of a way to encourage everyone to contribute. Perhaps you may wish to ask team members to take turns providing input (or building upon previous information); this will push the less talkative members out of their shells and encourage them to share what they are thinking.

Be Prepared

Above all, be prepared for everyone to connect and work together; if you bring the right tools, the conversation will follow. Right now, the biggest hurdle for offices seems to be getting the technology right. Ask your team members to test call you in advance, or set up a mock meeting with your employees so that things go smoothly on the day of the big meeting. Upload any documents necessary ahead of time and run through your slides to make sure they will be legible through screen sharing. Take the time to plan now so that your meeting will run like a well-oiled machine!

Your Guide to Working From Home: Part Two

It’s just another day at the office – but you’re sitting in your pajamas at home. The motivation has all but left your aching back as you sit at the kitchen table with a fortress of pillows and your aging work laptop. Thousands of Americans are sitting right there with you, struggling to stay focused and bringing in the money for the family during this odd period of COVID-19 quarantine. As we discussed in the previous segment, it’s incredibly important to maintain good ergonomics, allow yourself some grace, check on your mental health regularly, and get outside a few times per day. 

There’s more to working from home than meets the eye, as we’re sure you’ve noticed. Here are some more tips and tricks to help you be the best at-home worker you can possibly be!

Phone Calls? No Problem

If you work in an industry that requires chatting with clients, you know how important it is that there be little background noise or distraction. This might be a cinch if you live alone or with other older individuals, but it’s nearly impossible if you have a family with young children or dogs that like to bark at every wild thing that zooms by. 

First and foremost, warn your clients in advance and ask what they’d like you to do if your environment suddenly becomes loud. Honestly, most customers understand the difficulties we’re all facing right now and will, more than likely, be fine with the background noise. However, allowing them the opportunity to address this themselves will help build rapport and boost their confidence in you.

Another trick you can employ in your house is a lighting system. For less than $50, you can purchase an LED lamp with different colors that can be controlled with an app on your phone. This light can be placed in a central part of the house to warn others when you need as much quiet as possible. This won’t work in every situation; toddlers really don’t seem to care if daddy is on the phone when they are impatient about snack time! Again, a little grace from clients will go a long way.

Set Reminders

One of the simplest things you can do for yourself during your workday is to set little reminders: bathroom breaks, refilling your water and coffee, grab a snack, pet the dog, hug the kids, pop outside for a breather, stretch… etc. It’s all too easy to get lost behind the screen (whether you’re working or watching cute cat videos, no judgment here) and to emerge from your daze stiff and hungry. Distractions are inevitable, so don’t beat yourself up over them, just move on and take a sip of water.

Socialize

If you feel like you’re going a little stir crazy from a lack of human interaction, reach out to your colleagues and see if you can join a group conference chat to work together on a project or ticket. Make sure to attend meetings that you’re invited to and participate in them. It might be easier to sit back and listen, but contributing will help you feel like you’re still part of the team even though you aren’t all sitting together. Furthermore, dress up for meetings and video calls – it will help boost your confidence and show that you are invested in your job.

Begin and End with Routine

This is so important in maintaining that workday-weekend separation; follow your same morning routine and modify it where necessary to accommodate the lack of driving or coffee-shop pit stops. Use an alarm, make coffee, eat breakfast where you normally do, shower, dress up (maybe not all the way, but don’t stay in your pajamas), and listen to music before you log in to your work computer. Try to maintain the “normal” that you had before quarantine as much as possible; more importantly, keep each weekday the same if you can.

At the end of the day, follow the same procedure. If you had a drive on the way home, make sure to step outside, even if it’s just to check the mail and take the dogs out for a walk! Listen to music for a few minutes before you leave the office to wind down, just like you would listen to the radio on your way home. Call a family member for a chat if you use your driving time to catch up. Get creative and make sure you follow the same routine each weekday.

Hopefully, you can start to see a light within these strange times as you optimize your work environment. Remember to keep your mental health at the center of your focus; if you aren’t feeling your best, you can’t give your job 100% either. Your mental health also has an effect on the family members you live with. Allow yourself some room to learn and grow throughout this transition, and you’ll be owning remote work like a boss!

Your Guide to Working From Home: Part One

If you’re one of the lucky Americans who are able to work remotely from home right now during this time of volatile employment, first and foremost, take a moment for a deep breath and a pat on the back; send your boss a thank-you email or note, if that’s your cup of tea. All of this aside, working from home isn’t as easy and care-free as you might have once thought – you might be in the process of realizing that right now. 

It’s tough to stay focused and productive when you are surrounded by distractions: the pint of ice cream, your photogenic dog, the toddler throwing a tantrum in the room across the house. So, how does one actually stay productive in an environment that’s not 100% akin to a workplace environment? We have some tips and tricks to help keep both you and your family sane.

Block Out Time for Distractions

That’s right – allow time to pet the dog, visit your toddler, and eat that ice cream after your lunch break. If you are smart and limit your time spent on these relaxing activities, you won’t feel deprived and unable to focus during the day. Allow working from home to come with perks; if you don’t, you’ll struggle to stay focused and feel locked in your office space. If you were at the office, you would be taking bathroom breaks, stretch breaks, and trips to see co-workers. Use your time wisely, but don’t feel like you need to be chained to your computer!

Get Outside

This easily becomes the most difficult thing to do during quarantine, especially for those who are working remotely. Experiencing the great outdoors can have significant mood-boosting effects, so don’t forget to peek your head out into the sunshine at least twice per day; this is what you would have done going to and from work each day anyway! Take your fifteen-minute breaks outside with a cup of fresh coffee, or eat lunch outside with your family. Choose to view these in-between moments like coming up for air – you’re at home, so make good use of the time you have!

Ergonomics

If there’s one thing that will make or break your time spent working from home, it’s an efficient workspace. While most of us don’t have the extra cash to spend on a work set-up right now, it’s still extremely important that your desk doesn’t cause you discomfort or pain. Remember to take frequent stretch breaks so that your muscles don’t tense up, sit up straight, and keep your keyboard and mouse at elbow level. If your feet are not gently resting on the floor, find a way to elevate your chair or feet so that there isn’t any extra strain on your back. 

Working with a laptop? Consider investing in a mouse and keyboard that can be repositioned to allow your screen to be at eye level. Contact your HR department to see what they can do to help you work from home more comfortably – most companies are aware of the increased strain on ergonomics during this awkward time.

Above all, remember to keep an eye on your mental health during this time. Many people are struggling to adjust to the major changes that COVID-19 has forced upon them; set up a telehealth appointment with your physician if you think you might be having more difficulty than usual while working from home. Give yourself some space to try things out; be prepared to take a few days to get into a rhythm. This is all new to you, your co-workers, and even your superiors!

Office Hygiene: Protect Yourself, Protect Others

It’s cold and flu season, as we’re all aware; with the novel virus running around, it’s more important than ever to stay vigilant about hygiene at the office. While you and your co-workers might be young, fit, and healthy, you don’t know what kind of situation their friends and family might be in this year. Immunosuppressed individuals and the elderly generally have a harder time fighting off pneumonia-like symptoms, so it’s very important that these people stay healthy. You can do your part to protect them by not spreading germs.

Wash Your Hands

We know you’ve heard this a million and one times, but it’s a dead horse that must be beaten. Since the common cold, flu, and other viruses are spread through droplets and surface contact, anything picked up on the hands can be spread to twice as many surfaces within minutes. Whether you’re in the restroom, breakroom, or simply at your desk, take every opportunity to wash your hands with soap and hot water to stop or slow the spread of surface germs.

Cover Your Mouth

Even if you don’t feel sick, you should still cover your coughs and sneezes. Aside from being standard etiquette, this is an immensely effective way to prevent the spread of germs you don’t even know you have. Since viral illnesses can be active and spreadable before the onset of symptoms, it’s best to exercise 100% caution at all times.

Stay Home

If ever there was a time to play the “sick card,” it’s now. As mentioned, it’s not just your health at stake if you enter your office feeling ill. With the common cold, most people recover fine, but some workers might have a lower tolerance for illness than others. Generally, employers are understanding about illness and wish to prevent the intentional spreading of viruses through the office. The issue, really, is when employees misuse the company’s sick policy. 

Cold and flu season is upon us, and being amplified by nature’s latest novel virus. During times of sickness, it’s easy to get anxious and concerned; take matters into your own hands – literally. Keep your body clean, your insides nourished with healthy, vitamin-rich food, and avoid heavily populated areas. Be smart, don’t misuse company leniency, stay safe, and keep others safe in the process.

Easter At The Office: Spread the Spring-Time Fever

Easter is a time to celebrate the return of life to the Earth, and many of us celebrate for religious reasons; regardless, Easter weekend is a fun time to enjoy candy and cute bunnies, right? There are few places that fun holidays shouldn’t find their way into, and the office is no exception! What are you doing at your office building to get excited for Spring and Easter Sunday?

1. Good Old Egg Hunt

Surprise the office with a giant bag of stuffed eggs this year; you can buy empty eggs and fill them yourself with wrapped or individual candies. Get creative and place raffle tickets in some if you’d like to give away a big candy bar or gift basket! Arrive at your office early one morning, or stay late the night before so that you can hide eggs; make sure to hide them in great spots – you aren’t all still kids, after all!

2. Oh, Where… Oh, Where

For this fun game, pick up several cheap stuffed bunnies, or other Easter characters, and hide them in precarious places around the office. Make at least two of them extremely difficult to spot! Ask everyone to keep an eye out for the naughty bunnies, and have them send a list to you at the end of the day describing where each of them is. Offer up a prize for everyone that finds all of the dastardly bunnies!

3. Decorate!

Honestly, it won’t feel like a special day or week unless you toss up some decorations, everyone knows that! Pick up some cheap paper lantern-type eggs, glass clings, and maybe some pastel-colored tuille. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to bring some festivity to the office; keep it simple, and don’t overdo it!

4. Pot/Snackluck

The holidays are about getting together and sharing with friends and family, after all; why not extend that to your co-workers and employees? Let the office family in on the food fun, too, by setting up a potluck that everyone can share. Send out an email in advance so that everyone can plan, prepare, and coordinate dishes!

5. Gift Baskets

Themed baskets filled with joy and love; what’s better to put together and give on Easter than a gift basket? Treat these like a Secret Santa event by asking everyone to sign up in advance. Have everyone pick a name, set a dollar limit, and decide on a day to exchange baskets! Ask everyone to decorate their basket with fun Easter colors and stickers, just to make it a little bit more fun.

What other fantastic things have you and your office set up for Easter? Take some time this year to step-up your holiday game!