Team outings and casual weekend cocktail hours seem to have become history now. While these were opportunities for some employees to break the ice in pre-COVID times, others used such events to unwind, de-stress and forget the tensions associated with the weekly workload.
During the ongoing pandemic, with people working from home, there is a dire need for organisations to look into ways to engage their employees over the weekends. This will not only help keep the team connected, but also be a stress buster for employees amidst the uncertainty that surrounds them.
Fun activities that involve not just employees but also their families are a great way to engage. Organisations should be very particular about the comfort zone of each employee.
“Engaging employees over the weekends is good as long as it adds value to the organisation and its people. It should be based on needs, and not on ritual or fashion.”
Kundan Kishore, head-HR, IndiGrid, says, “With weekdays being overoccupied with digital calls through the day, employees are unable to spend quality time, or rather, bond with each other. Fun activities can help establish that connect, provided they are innovative, interactive and not mandatory.”
Earlier, different organisations had varied purposes. Today, with work from home being the new normal, and set to be so for some time, the focus has to be on employees’ well-being, benefits and productivity.
Vaijaynati Naik, founder & director, CultureFit Consulting, says, “Employees are actually juggling multiple roles and undergoing a lot of stress on weekdays. In such a situation, a weekend fun event can have the very opposite impact than what it hopes to create. If we focus on creating engagement, it calls for newer ways of doing it that show empathy to the employees.”
In the opinion of Ravi Mishra, Sr. Vice President – HR at Grasim Industries Limited says, “Engaging employees over the weekends is good as long as it adds value to the organisation and its people. It should be based on needs, and not on ritual or fashion.”
Mishra adds, “This must be validated by employee-opinion surveys or with the work from home structure, there are some symptoms noticed wherein employees’ motivation, engagement and team spirit are down, and on contrary work related stress and internal conflict is high and at the same time, quality of deliverables is becoming a challenge.”
As mentioned, fun activities involving the family members can be a great start to the weekend and Praveen Menon, chief people officer, IndiaFirst Life Insurance, seems to believe that.
He clarifies, “Respecting personal time, engagement activities should be avoided on a weekend. However, engagement activities involving family members may be undertaken to ensure an inclusive workplace culture. Needless to mention, that weekends, by and large, are free from distractions, and hence, engagement activities, at times, witness full participation. They are well received by employees during Covid-19 times.”
“Engagement activities create camaraderie and bonding to ensure a sense of belonging towards the organisation.”
Effect on mental health
As the stigma surrounding mental health decreases, employers are increasingly taking their employees’ mental health as seriously as their physical health. Over the last few months, companies have taken active measures to attend to the mental health of employees, especially given that everyone is working remotely and a majority of the professionals will continue to do so for a few more months.
Companies, such as IndiaFirst Insurance, are holding virtual yoga sessions for all the family members. Activities, such as #HuggingLittleAngels have been popular, where the company encourages employees to share pictures of themselves being hugged by their children. #CelebrityFromHome is another popular initiative, where employees share pictures revealing their hidden talents, such as photographs of them cooking, singing, painting and so on.
“A sense of purpose and a sense of belonging are instrumental in promoting an inclusive workplace. Engagement activities create camaraderie and bonding to ensure a sense of belonging towards the organisation. This creates an emotional attachment and establishes an identity within the company, thereby leading to mental wellbeing,” explains Menon.
The time is right for organisations to prioritise and reimagine their employee-engagement activities; to involve individuals, as well as entire families, so as to reinforce the companionship among employees as they work from home.
“If we focus on creating engagement, it calls for newer ways of doing it that show empathy to the employees.”
“A positive effect on the mind is assured if the activities are designed in alignment with need and purpose. The important thing is to not make them a one-size-fit for all, unless the organisation is a really large one, with multiple generations working together. Organisations can offer two to three options with different sets of activities targeted at diversified interest groups, so that employees can share their choice of participation, based on their needs,” alludes Mishra
Kishore, however, believes that nothing can beat one-to-one open conversation, and if people are able to express themselves in some way, it does go a long way in ensuring mental well being. If, however, the content of the initiative is strong enough to connect people, it will also serve the purpose.
Will productivity increase?
There is a general belief that employees who take some time out to engage in fun activities, such as playing a sport, performing yoga, gymming, or even cooking for the family tend to be more productive for the upcoming week. These distractions reduce the stress and continuous pressure of a nine-hour shift.
In Kishore’s words, “Productivity is linked in many ways to work structure, engagement with work, resource availability, leadership credibility and the organisation’s purpose.”
“Planning a fun event will not impact productivity directly. However, if there is equal participation of the leadership in such events or initiatives, a sense of connectedness and trust is at once felt. The employees realise that the management is there to support them. Their presence can act as an extrinsic motivator.
For intrinsic motivators, Kishore continues, which are more critical and long lasting, “There are other factors, such as values and purpose of the organisation, job value and enrichment, that have an impact.”
Mishra feels that fun activities over the weekends will be motivating and productive for employees only if they are designed and executed properly. “If the doctor prescribes the right medicine, the health of the patient will improve, but if the diagnosis is wrong, the medicine may be counter-productive and endanger the patient’s very life.”
Undoubtedly, employee engagement is on its way to becoming one of the most important indicators for gauring work satisfaction. Employees today are looking for more than just a 9-to-5 job, whether they work out of offices or from home. They want to be involved in their work, are enthusiastic about the organisation they work for and committed to their fellow workers.
“Fun activities can help establish that connect, provided they are innovative, interactive and not mandatory.”
Menon of IndiaFirst Life Insurance explains, “Engagement activities act as a catalyst for emotional attachment and mental well-being. This, in turn, allows employees to bring the best version of themselves to the office ecosystem. This helps in better collaboration at work. Celebrating the value of team spirit helps the organisation and the individual to grow simultaneously.”
Following a break on the weekends, employees are geared up to work again, significantly boosting their performance level. This rejuvenation enables them to complete their tasks more accurately, leading to fewer errors. Increased productivity is a win-win situation for the employees, the business and the clients.
In addition, getting to know colleagues in a relaxed and informal way leads to their acceptance and appreciation.