Socially Distanced Company Gatherings

By now, we all know the drill: six feet apart, and don’t leave the house if you don’t have to. If you aren’t going crazy, it’s probably because you’ve kept in touch with your friends, family, and coworkers during this time of social distancing. Unfortunately, however, the beloved company gatherings are not conducive to maintaining six feet between each other. Luckily, we have the technology required to host creative, fun, mask-free gatherings that can also be team-building experiences.

Pajama Party

Plan a virtual game night for your team members and make it casual by asking everyone to wear comfortable pajamas! You can always ask for game suggestions prior to the event; this will help make the night more enjoyable. Here are a couple of fun ideas to help you brainstorm:

  • Emoji guessing – everyone screenshots their recent emoji list. The pictures are saved by the game host and everyone guesses which screenshot belongs to which coworker. Mark a point for each correct guess, and see who knows their coworkers best!
  • Voice-only drawing challenge – one person is selected to describe a photo or simple image. This person can only describe the picture with geometric shapes and descriptions of distance. Think of this game as “descriptive pictionary” – everyone will draw their own rendition of what their coworker describes; whoever gets the closest to the original picture wins!

Escape Room

There are online facilitators who can help you set up a night of team-building via an escape room or something similar. One nerdy and extremely fun version of this concept is called “War of the Wizards” – a twist on the classic escape room. This event is 90 minutes long and will require that teammates work together to solve the story’s conflict.

Online Talent Show

The ultimate platform for bragging rights, a company talent show really could be the best thing to happen since COVID-19 hit. Ask team members to show off in this online event – who wouldn’t want to do that! If you’d like to make things even more fun, ask everyone to also dress up and make it a fun costume party. Reserve a special prize for the employee with the most ridiculous costume.

Apples vs. Oranges

What might seem like a silly question will lead to some of the most interesting, deep conversations your team has ever had. The premise of this activity is to start with something simple – ask your team members which they would choose if the other were to be eliminated from the world entirely. Require that they discuss the question before answering, then proceed to a new set of variables, including the previous winner. For example, if apples win the first round, pose “apples vs. scooters” as the next.

Virtual Pub Crawl

Gather everyone in a video conference for the online version of your favorite college adventure! Ask everyone to bring their beverage of choice (non-alcoholic if they prefer) and start everyone on a decided webpage or short video. At the end of a set time period, discuss the content. The webpages and videos can be as serious or light-hearted as you want; the goal is to get everyone looking at the same thing and talking about it over a pint of brew or a glass of chardonnay.

In our current social distancing climate, it’s important that we remember to take time to engage with others. Most companies realize that workers who spend time outside of work together work better as a team. In addition to this, socialization is extremely important to everyone’s mental health; whether we socialize with family or coworkers, it’s important to stay in touch in one way or another. Company gatherings can be a great benefit to the morale of your workers, so keep it light and keep it fun!

How to Encourage Workplace Interaction Online

The current workplace climate has left us feeling extremely separated, both as individuals and as coworkers. Due to COVID-19, we must be more intentional with our interactions with those around us; we may be miles apart as we work our normal jobs, but we still function as a team. When it comes to socialization, scheduling is key; come up with some loose events that can be low-key and non-threatening to the introverts!

Morning Coffee

This is a great way to start the week; have groups of team members scheduled into a voice and video meeting where they can share a hot beverage or breakfast item of their choice and chit chat for ten to fifteen minutes. This exercise will mimic the first few moments at the office when everyone catches up and mills about before starting the workday.

Lunch Dates

While it might be a bit abnormal to eat while someone is watching, the conversations we have over lunch in the breakroom are gone. Encourage work friends to keep up the interactions they had prior to work-at-home changes. During this time, we’ll have the tendency to drift apart – this may cause us to feel like less of a team.

Break Time Game Time

Perhaps best as a mid-week mood booster, games can bring people together and help them work better as a team. Feel free to choose whatever games you like, but they will need to be video-chat friendly, of course. Games like trivia, charades, and jeopardy might be good options for a video conference. Perhaps your team can even hold a competition with a prize for the winner!

“No-Agenda” Meetings

A fun take on the informal conversations that spark in the office, no-agenda meetings can be the perfect way to allow coworkers a place to commune. Schedule a time frame as often as you like for an opt-in meeting that has no agenda. You can use any platform you like for this, but people may be more willing to join if it’s a simple discord channel that your team can connect to. It would be best not to ask employees to use their break time for this, that way they are more inclined to participate!

 

At the beginning of this pandemic, we weren’t quite sure how long we would all be out of the office; however, as the weeks drag on, it seems like this is a new way of life for many businesses. It may be a struggle to keep in touch, but socialization is extremely important and will help everyone feel valued and important to the team. Take some time this week to remind your employees and coworkers of this fact – maybe even schedule a virtual coffee date.

Screensavers That Will Bring Your Computer to Life

Although screensavers might have lost their luster since the early 2000s, they are still a great way to personalize your computer and have some fun at the same time. Gone are the days when the only screensaver was text bouncing around the four corners of your desktop tube monitor that weighed twenty pounds. Nowadays, you can download any screensaver that appeals to you and apply it to your computer before you can say “Windows XP”. If you’d like some ideas, check out the following screensavers and try them out!

The Classic

If you’re a family-oriented person or you have adorable pets, why not opt for the well-loved photo collage screensaver? Most computers have a built-in function to select a whole folder to be displayed as a screensaver when your hard disk is taking a break. You could also use this photo slideshow to display images of places you’d like to visit or vacation as motivation to work hard each day.

The Fishtank

There are numerous fish tank screensavers out there, but wouldn’t it be more fun if you could customize the critters on your screen? Peruse through the application’s settings and build your own personal aquarium! Whenever your computer isn’t in use, you’ll see lovely fish in a nice tank. Just don’t let them distract you from your work during the day!  Here’s a paid screensaver with customizable settings that’s sure to amaze.

Wikipedia

There’s a screensaver out there dedicated to simply displaying a new Wikipedia page on your computer every 30 seconds. This one is for the nerds and scholarly-types who are always itching to learn something new. With over fifty-one million articles on Wikipedia, there will always be something new to see, and with it something new to learn; simply sit back and read away.

IMAX Hubble 3D

What could be cooler than outer space on your desktop? With photos directly from the Hubble space telescope, you can be teleported to new worlds from the comfort of your desk chair. The adventure might be exhilarating, but don’t forget to touch back down to get your work done before the end of the day.  If you don’t want to download a third-party application for this screensaver, you can use the first photo option and download Hubble’s official backgrounds here.

Electric Sheep

This screensaver is really nothing like what it seems it would be. This elaborate work of mathematics creates moving, evolving fractals on your computer screen. Mesmerizing fractal artwork will inspire you and entertain you in your down-time; check out this fun screensaver to bring some beauty and excitement to your personal computer.

 

Screensavers are a fun way to express yourself – the most important thing is to find one that you like; you will be staring at it a lot throughout the day! Do some research and see what’s out there; just because fewer people personalize their screensavers, that doesn’t mean you can’t be one of the cool kids.

Managing Back to School While Working Remotely

Even though COVID-19 is still making its way through the United States population, it’s extremely important that our next generation continues to get an education. While a good percentage of us have been able to work from home, schooling from home isn’t quite as simple. Some education systems have the resources and knowledge already available to put a plan in place; however, others simply can’t.

 

Regardless of what your children’s local school has decided to do, the 20-21 school year is going to look much different from previous years. With most parents working from home, we’ll all have to change things up at home to adapt to a new normal. We have some tips and tricks to help you and your family make this strange transition as easy as possible.

Know What is Expected

The first thing your family will want to do is ask questions about how the school year will start. Make sure communication is clear about when your child is supposed to be present for classes and when he or she should be staying home – some schools have opted for a hybrid model to keep fewer bodies in the school building. To avoid unnecessary absences or penalties, gather the knowledge everyone will need to stay organized and able to meet expectations.

Make a Schedule

If you aren’t usually a planner, you may want to take a shot at it for at least the beginning of the school year. Once everyone gets into the swing of things, it might not remain necessary. Having a locally visible schedule will help everyone get an idea for how the days will go; if each day of the week is different, make a schedule that runs Monday through Friday. Any extracurricular activities and parents’ working hours can be placed on this schedule as well. Keep the kids in the loop and they’ll feel more responsible for following the schedule!

Plan Your Workdays

It can be hard enough to stay on track while working from home, but it’ll be even more challenging if you also have to manage your kids as they try to get their school work done. Try to plan your workday so that you’re moderately available during study hall hours or homework time. If possible, talk to your supervisor about your children’s school situation so that an understanding can be reached.

 

Plan Meals

With the kids at home some, or all, days of the week, that’s more meals for you to prepare for them! Start each week with either a rigid or loose plan for what mealtime will look like in your household; if you don’t have time to meal plan, consider meal kits or a meal plan service that generates a grocery list to shop for the week. The key to success this school year will be preparation!

 

The 20-21 academic year is going to be one for the history books. Life has changed drastically since we finished plugging through the 19-20 school year, and thousands of children across the country will likely be homeschooled this year. With unprecedented demands on both public and private school systems, it’s important that we stay humble and appreciative, regardless of what is being asked of our kids; this is an impossible decision for anyone to make, but make it they must. One thing is for sure: this is going to be new and different for everyone, so let’s try to make the transition as easy for everyone as possible!

A monthly gift for clients

If you’re trying to make a considerable and powerful impression on a client, maybe the holiday season is not the best time of the year to send them a thoughtful gift.

 

According to John Ruhlin, author of the book “Giftology,” your clients will be so overwhelmed with gifts during the holidays that you will not stand out.

 

Ruhlin claims that a better strategy is to send presents on occasions where gifts aren’t generally anticipated, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or the Fourth of July. You can also consider sending a gift after completing a large project, a new product launch, or another significant milestone.

 

He adds: “Taking your clients by surprise, it always makes an impact.”

 

The objective is to be memorable

 

Being memorable means that you are on the minds of your customers, partners, and prospects as soon as they see your gift. And that they will be thinking positively about you. To achieve this, the gift must be original and considerate. What kind of people are they? What do they like to do? What do they do when they are not working? What would they need at work to make life easier for them? What would make them say ‘wow, they really think out of the box’?

 

Here’s a list of twelve unique presents you can send to your clients any time, all year round.

Toiletry Bag

Do your clients who travel frequently? A great idea is to send them a toiletry bag they can use right away. It can contain a hand cloth, a bath gel, a soap, essential oils, a scented candle, a moisturizer, a bath sponge, dried flower potpourri. The options are endless.

Coffee or Tea Blends

A classic option. Sending a tea or coffee box which has a variety of flavors is a great idea. You can also customize this gift by creating your own box with local flavors.

Kindle

Whether has a long daily commute or travels a lot, a Kindle or other type e-reader will be a pleasant alternative to pass the time.

Desk Mug Warmer

We all know how important a hot coffee is during busy mornings. This mug warmer sits on the desk and keeps any beverage you want warm. Look for an electric mug warmer so you can rest assure it really works.

Terrarium or Bonsai

These trendy accessories can brighten your client’s day and are perfect for every kind of client. The best part about plants is that they make a positive environment and can brighten any indoor space.

Calendar

It is a perfect present that does not go out of style. Calendars are always an excellent option to give away. In addition to being useful, it will enable our company to be remembered at all times.

 A Water Bottle

There’s nothing better than getting a water bottle you’ll actually use. Send your clients a top-quality water bottle they surely will not throw away.

Bakery Delivery

There is nothing better than receiving an unexpected delivery of fresh-baked pastries. You can send over doughnuts or goodies for the whole team to enjoy.

Portable Phone Charger 

A portable phone charger would be quite a relief gift for your clients, especially for the clients who spend a lot of time on the road.

Travel Pillow

Many clients take advantage of their trips to continue working and rest between destinations. A travel pillow will prevent these trips from becoming another reason for tiredness.

Portable Putting Set

Your golf-loving clients will love this idea: their own convenient and portable putting set. Giving them a present that allows them to enjoy their favorite hobbies wherever they please demonstrates that you care.

Coffee Tumblers

Coffee tumblers are always great gifts! You can never get it wrong. Everyone uses them for coffee, tea, and soda. There are custom tumblers made of double-walled stainless steel and have vacuum insulation so that everyone’s beverages stay cold or hot for hours.

Mid-Year Reviews In A Pandemic Atmosphere

Performance evaluation models are currently experiencing a change of paradigm. Productivity will no longer be seen in the same way as before. Goals and KPIs will be dynamic, competencies must align to this new era, and performance conversations must shift to other scenarios. This opportunity is an excellent excuse to redefine rigid and difficult-to-do performance management models. 

 

Agile models with continuous actions are stepping in. These include feedback and coaching focused on the future, evaluation processes in shorter periods, with different evaluators according to data and information they have from the collaborator. 

 

How do we evaluate employees’ performance at such a challenging time? And how do we make sure we’re fair given everyone’s different circumstances? How to streamline the process to obtain the indicators that will be needed at the end of the year?

 

Here are some do and don’ts to take into account when carrying out mid-year reviews in your company:

 

  • Jot down brief notes for each of the topics you want to evaluate. It does not matter if you leave something aside; these notes will help you have in mind all the essential items to discuss.
  • If objectives were not set before the pandemic, or such goals have changed radically, inform everyone in a clear and straightforward manner that they will not be assessed. It is a good idea to focus on acquired skills rather than a set of unattainable goals.
  • If you still need to measure objectives/goals, use a teamwork approach for short and measurable objectives, which can be reviewed in team meetings (zoom/meet).
  • Emphasize qualitative objectives if quantitative conditions cannot be met.
  • Implement continuous feedback with authentic performance dialogues. Approach your evaluations with more flexibility, leniency, understanding, and empathy.
  • Simplify processes, if possible.
  • Make sure you take this opportunity to recognize and show appreciation for employees who are engaged and working hard. It’s critical for their morale. 
  • Do not be hard on your low performers. Give them a grace period to get used to this new normal and turn things around.
  • Do not only look at the deliverables people are providing while ignoring their personal situations.
  • Think about how to do performance reviews better. In this environment, more frequent, smaller evaluations such as semi-annual or quarterly evaluations may be optimal. 
  • By 2021, review the complete model, ask the organization if it provides value and, thus, redefine with an agile approach.

 

Take this period as an opportunity to move towards a people-focused management system, built around flexibility, instead of efficiency and competitiveness, which will be more sustainable in the long run.

When to Send Corporate Gifts to Clients

As every large and medium-sized business is aware, the success of the company quite literally rides on the shoulders of clients and customers. Upon realizing this, the following may become apparent to some: it could be quite beneficial to send a little thank-you to those upon which the company relies so heavily. 

 

Whether you’re the CEO yourself, or you’ve been delegated the task of sending out corporate gifts to hand-selected clients, it can be difficult to determine when and what to send. Luckily for you, we’ve collected some tips and tricks to consider when selecting clients to send gifts to, as well as when picking out the gifts themselves.

The “When”

Multiple sources suggest that gifts be sent to large, influential clients at least once per year. Honestly, we think this is a bit infrequent – especially if contact is infrequent. Consider how much of your market each large client makes up; how often do you want to remind them how important their business is to you? Since gifts can help build rapport with customers as long as they are well-thought-through, once per quarter might be a good starting point for your largest clients.

The “Who”

Depending on how established your business is and how wide-reaching your customer base is, you may want to send small gifts to all of your clients. In fact, businesses that are just starting up will definitely benefit from sending out even a small token of appreciation to clients. The positive influence that this gift will have in the minds of initial clients will encourage them to recommend you to others!

 

If you’re a large business with thousands of clients, consider creating a tiered list of gifts that are appropriate for the amount of time they will consume on your end. Small clients can receive different gifts than large clients!

The “What”

At the end of the day, the goal is to send something to someone, right? What do you send to dozens or even hundreds of customers that you work with? If you’re struggling to personalize each gift, sit down and make a list of who will be receiving the gifts; keep in mind that this gift should say “thank you for maintaining your business with us.” Great corporate gifts often include your company’s logo – this will remind your client of their relationship with you as they use or display the gift throughout the year.

 

Some great ideas include, but are not limited to, fruit and food baskets, gift certificates, cards and calendars, flowers and plants, alcohol, and other company-branded items (clothing and apparel, for example).

 

Since clients are so important to your company’s well-being, it can be well worth the time and effort that you spend considering what to send as a corporate gift. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful advertisers – and it’s untraceable. Keep up the rapport with your clients so that they speak highly of you even when you can’t hear them on social media!

Keeping the Kids Entertained While Working from Home

Although we’ve been working from home for a few months now, summer break has finally come around as well! While this likely means an upcoming vacation for your family, it also means that the kids are around all day long. Depending on how old and independent your children are, you may be struggling to keep them busy so that they stay out of your hair while you are working. We’ve got some tips and tricks for you to help manage this period of school-break limbo.

Young Kids

For toddlers and young children, attention spans can range from 15 minutes up to an hour or more. If your children are younger and have a harder time staying busy without direction, it may be best to work close by so that you can direct their playtime. Set up several stations for activities and show them how to use each; this might buy you some more time to get that conference call completed!

Window Clings

We’re not sure exactly what the magic secret is behind these inexpensive stickers, but they will captivate children for an inordinate amount of time! Buy several packs, since they rip easily, and bust them out when you need some quiet time for getting work done.

Sticker Fun

Much like window clings, stickers are a beloved pastime of young children everywhere. You can either buy sticker workbooks or simply grab a large pack of garage sale dots. Grab some sheets of white paper, markers, and maybe some stencils and let your kids have fun!

Dry Erase

There’s something special about being able to wipe up your drawing immediately after finishing it. This activity will keep toddlers and infants engaged for a long time; pick up a pack of colorful dry erase markers and let them doodle all over a handheld mirror, or purchase a dry erase board that can be laid onto the floor. Provide different objects to wipe the board so that they can experiment with different textures.

Felt Boards

Though this might take a little bit more preparation, the end result will be hours of fun, we guarantee it. Felt has a unique texture and pliability that young hands love – and it sticks together without flying around. Prepare a felt board by wrapping cardboard or plywood in a large swatch of neutral felt. You can cut out any number of shapes, foods, animals, people, and clothes for your kids to mix up and match! Ask them to tell a story with the objects you’ve provided!

Older Kids

When you’re stuck at home with older children, they can often entertain themselves; however, there will likely be an odd day or two when it’s raining or their friends aren’t home. When these days roll around, it can be extremely helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are some ideas to help you create a secret stash of fun activities to keep your kids busy during that all-important meeting.

Boxes and Craft Supplies

If there’s one thing in life that can become nearly anything, it has to be the infamous cardboard box. The larger the better, cardboard boxes can be crafted into spaceships, castles, boats, astronaut helmets, and many more items from your kids’ imaginations. The possibilities are endless, as long as you’ve got a good base. Plus, if you’re like the millions of Americans right now, you’ve probably spent your pocket change on online orders galore – don’t throw away those boxes! Break them down and save them for a literal rainy day.

Air-Dry Clay

Older kids will love planning and putting together something that they can keep to show to you and their friends. Ask them to decide what they will make and perhaps even draw it on paper before introducing them to the materials. Once they are finished making their creations, set them aside to dry and they can present a show and tell to the whole family!

Science Experiment

Looking for a way to explain to the older kids why everyone is at home? This creative experiment can show the incredible spread of viruses and the importance of washing our hands.

Flour on a Balloon

First, air-blow up a balloon. This activity is best done outside, as it will make a considerable mess. Coat the dry balloon in a bowl of flour or powdered sugar. Have your kids bounce the balloon to each other, making note of all the particles that are flying off the balloon. Feel free to explain that this is how some diseases are spread (through the air and from surfaces), and let your kids continue to dunk the balloon and bounce it around the yard!

Glitter Wash

Also best done outside, gather your supply of glitter and some cooking spray. Spray the kids’ hands with cooking oil, then ask them to dip their hands into the glitter. If you are outside, turn on the spigot and ask them to try to clean all of the glitter particles off with just water. They’ll find that it is extremely difficult to do so, after which point you can offer them soap – this, of course, will clean their hands much more easily. You can make an analogy to viral particles and bacteria if you’d like, or you can simply let them have fun with glitter; it’s entirely up to you!

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!