What a ride it has been! The past 18 months have been disruptive, challenging, and emotionally draining. Many of us were cut off from seeing family and friends leaving us feeling isolated. However, we adapted. Most of us learned to be more respectful of one another, more responsible and more flexible. We quickly learned to use other means of communication such as Zoom, Whatsapp and FaceTime. For myself, FaceTime was and still is a lifesaver.
Covid has changed the business world as well as our personal world. The transition from working with colleagues in an office quickly changed. Many either chose or were incentivized to work from home. Although working from home had many perks such as flexible hours, more time with family, the ability to work from anywhere in the world, no commuting etc. it did present challenges.
Employees at the beginning of the epidemic were excited to work from home.” Yipee! I can watch Netflix in my pajama bottoms in-between zoom meetings. No one is watching my back.” True! But work must be done, nevertheless.
Lack of structure plagued many of those working remotely. Many employees missed the face to face in-person communication, socialization, and collaboration. Some found themselves working until all hours of the night answering emails. Lack of motivation was another factor that people were dealing with. Employees in outlying areas were constantly struggling with technical issues.
Managers had to grapple with how to motivate and supervise remote workers. In addition, career growth is more possible when working in an office. Managers can see work ethic which is not visible when working remotely.
The most negative aspect of remote working was the loneliness and isolation that many remote workers faced.
According to the National Library of Medicine, returning to the workplace is important for human interactions and organizational structures. Having a face to face, in-person meeting with colleagues helps with communication, teamwork, camaraderie and enhanced participation.
For all the above reasons, let’s get people out of their self-made cocoons and back to the office. How to do this effectively and safely is the purpose of this awesome blog post.
1. Back to the Office Event Ideas
There is going to be a huge transition from working from home to working in the office. Let your staff know that you acknowledge this change and provide a visual incentive when they enter the building for the first time. These changes can be minor in nature or all-out amazing.
- Welcome back banners and balloon sculptures to enhance the main lobby
- Add a residential touch to the office such as rugs on bare floors, LED lighting instead of fluorescent, less industrial workspaces, and add greenery where possible
- Provide a space for recreation and relaxation, including game tables, comfy seating, and coffee/tea/snack stations
2. Team Building Activities to Engage Returning Employees
Encourage your employees to rebuild relationships with fellow workers with the use of team-building activities. Engaging your favourite event planner to organize these activities will allow for the entire staff to participate. Some of my favoured team building activities are below.
- Have each staff member share one of their experiences from when they were working remotely. For instance, they could show a humorous screenshot of themselves wearing dress attire on top and pajama bottoms.
- Blind drawing where 2 colleagues sit back-to-back. One has pencil and paper and the other describes a picture that the partner must draw using only voice directions. The reveal can be hilarious. The exercise is not only fun but tests the ability to follow directions as well as collaboration.
- Minute to Win It are hilarious games to play when you just need an icebreaker. For instance, set up an obstacle course. Blindfold one teammate then have another teammate call out instructions of how to get an object through the course. This game is a hoot!
3. Wellness Ideas to Energize Returning Staff
Returning to the office after almost two years of working remotely has got to be stressful for all concerned. The best gift to your staff for this transition is having a wellness professional provide a variety of stress-busting activities.
- A professional yoga instructor can provide relaxation for 30 minutes. Learn simple poses such as downward dog or the child pose. The end of a yoga class usually ends with breathing exercises and meditation. I actually fell into a deep sleep at the end of a yoga session and my colleague told me I was snoring. How embarrassing!
- A neck and back massage by a registered masseuse can be a miracle worker. When my employer surprised us one day with 15-minute massages, that was the best ever!
- Soothe the soul with an aromatherapy session. A gift of therapeutic essential oils would be an amazing remembrance of getting back to the office.
4. A Fun Food 1st Day Back to the Office Event Idea
Everyone loves snacks. What better way to welcome your staff back with fun foods made on site? These stations can be incorporated indoors or outdoors according to weather.
- The aroma of freshly baked cookies will have your employees rushing to the lobby. So good!
- Perhaps a savoury snack food such as freshly baked pretzels or movie-style popcorn would appeal to your back to work staff.
- Remember the smell of Tiny Tim’s doughnuts at the CNE? Guess what? This nostalgia can be brought right to your office for your back to work staff to enjoy freshly baked Mini Doughnuts.
- Everyone loves candies! Your amazing event planner will source the most delicious candy treats and set up a creative sweet bar including reusable takeaway candy containers.
- Remember going to the movies? Well, until that is possible consider having a theatre-style concession stand complete with popcorn, popcorn flavoured shakers, traditional popcorn takeaway containers, and 12 varieties of assorted confectioneries.
- One of my favourite fun foods is waffles! Try the new taste sensation…Belgium Lolliwaffles served hot off the press. Waffle press, that is! Sweet or savoury, these are sure to be a hit.
5. Photo Booths to Celebrate the First Day Back to the Office
Everyone loves the good old fashioned photo booth with fun props and a souvenir to take home. Your employees will enjoy the opportunity to clown around with these photo ops.
- The Mosaic Wall is perfect for back to work staff. Photos are transmitted via a web platform to produce a large printable canvas that can be displayed in the lobby.
- Just for fun, the Slo-Mo Booth provides hilarious action photos and videos of staff returning to work.
- The Digital Graffiti Wall is an awesome way to commemorate your employees return to the office. Step up to the green screen and voila, the photo is instantly transmitted on a huge projection screen. For the creative side of you, infrared spray cans are provided to paint fun and wacky images. Photos can be printed and/or shared on social media.
6. Host a Game Day to Welcome Returning Employees
Games are always great for encouraging social interaction and collaboration. This is an essential component of getting staff to get to know each other again. Your favourite Event Planner can organize these games using a talented host and authentic settings.
- Family Feud is always a favourite game that we all watch on TV where teams battle each other to correctly answer all of the “Survey Says”. This is a highly competitive and fun game to get your staff to reacquaint themselves with each other after the prolonged absence.
- Trivia games challenge teams to use creativity, problem-solving and communication skills in a fun way. These games can be customized to suit the occasion.
- Play the first few notes of a song. Name that tune! So much fun. Try “Music from the ’80s & 90’s” or “Show Tunes” or “Name the artist”. You get what I mean.
7. Welcome Back Employees with Everyone’s Favourite… Ice Cream!
I personally don’t know anyone who does not love ice cream. I love it in a cone or a cup or in a sandwich etc. You get the idea!
- As soon as the staff hears the musical ice cream truck arriving in the parking lot, they are off! Step up and choose between soft-serve ice cream or popsicles.
- Hire a Vintage ice cream bike for a bit of nostalgia. These bikes may be personalized with a corporate logo or a meaningful message.
- An ice cream sundae bar is always a yummy treat. Choose the flavour of ice cream and then top it up with a huge variety of toppings.
8. Host an After Work Mixology Evening to Welcome Returning Employees
Surprise your staff with an invitation to a Mixology class after work. I guarantee that this type of event will be the highlight of the year! Being a responsible and thoughtful employer you will arrange transportation home!
- Do you know what type of wine to serve with what type of food? Become a wine connoisseur on your first day back to the office! A selection of wines will be presented by a professional sommelier who will point out all of the nuances of the perfect wine and teach you what to pair with each one. This will indeed be a memorable first day back on the job!
- We all missed our Friday after work Pub meet up. Did you know that your event planner can actually bring the pub to your office to celebrate the first day of returning to the office? An experienced beer aficionado will entertain staff with the history of beer, what to look for when tasting beer and what to pair with various beers. Best of all, you actually get to sample!
- What does Bourbon, club soda, sugar and mint have in common? A fabulous cocktail of course! Invite your staff to a cocktail bar for their first day back to work. A professional bartender will teach attendees how to make the perfect cocktail. Martini, anyone?
9. Dance to Da Beat…An Upbeat Back to the Office Event
It’s fun, it’s invigorating, and it will get everyone’s heart pumping to the rhythm. Ask your event planner to orchestrate this energetic “Dance Party” with professional dancers who will teach the latest dance moves.
Don’t forget prizes for the best dancers on the floor!
- Dance to the Oldies. Remember the “Mashed Potato” or the “Twist”. Don’t tell anyone but they will be getting a real workout!
- Become part of Hip Hop Culture. Learn how to break, lock or pop and get your hip hop game on!
- Swing your hips to the saucy salsa. It takes some practice but the professional dancers will provide encouragement and get your employees out of their shell!
10. Parking Lot Olympics to get Employees Motivated on their Return to Office
Hire your favourite event planner to coordinate a friendly but competitive Olympics afternoon complete with a gold, silver and bronze medal ceremony. Your staff will enjoy competing in various activities.
- Rock Climbing on a Rock Climbing Wall. Don’t worry, harnesses are provided for every rock climber.
- Bungee Challenge Race on an inflatable for adults! Hysterical to watch.
- Relay Races and obstacle course races will have everyone cheering their favourite teams.
11. A Carnival Day Will Entertain and Amuse Workers Returning to the Office
The aroma of freshly popped popcorn, and pastel-coloured candy floss wafts in the air while participants engage in games of skill and are rewarded with prizes. Your event planner will provide you with a wide array of carnival-themed entertainment ideas. Carnival Themed Tenting will protect your employees from rain or sun as well as lend authenticity to the event.
- Games of skill such as Sombrero Toss or Fishing Pond provide some fun competition.
- Roaming Acrobats will entertain guests as they perform mind-boggling acts.
- Inflatables especially designed for adults will bring out the inner child in your staff. The bungee run would be my top choice. It’s hysterical.
- A Carnival would not be complete without fun foods such as freshly popped popcorn, sugar-sweet cotton candy and of course everyone’s favourite…soft serve ice cream served from an ice cream truck.
12. A Parking Lot Picnic Event for Returning Employees
Show your staff how much you appreciated their dedication during the epidemic. Your event planner will provide an awesome catered meal based on your budget.
- Enjoy an old fashioned BBQ complete with grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken or veggie options. Salads, condiments, and ice-cold watermelon and ice cream will complete this delicious meal.
- We all enjoy going to a bar for drinks. Twist it up a bit and do food bars instead. Choose from a huge selection including Sushi Bar, Poke Bar, Oyster Bar. or a Dim Sum Station, or a Thai Food Station. The possibilities are endless.
- Speaking of bars, nothing beats the good old pub fare. Enjoy plump burgers piled sky-high with sauteed onions, cheese, pickles and anything else your heart desires. Don’t forget old fashioned spuds. Choose from classic poutine, garlic parm fries or chilli cheese fries. You can always start your diet tomorrow!
13. Offer Personalized Merchandise to Excite Returning Employees
Nothin’ says lovin’ than a personalized gift from the boss to welcome staff back. Your favourite event planner will make suggestions to show management’s appreciation for a job well done during the epidemic. Imagine stepping into the front lobby where you are greeted with professional artists ready to create something special just for you. Choose from the following:
- Caricatures to capture your staff’s fun side. This momento can be framed and hung in their offices.
- Custom Face Masks helps keep everyone safe
- Personalized mugs to use at the coffee station
- Personalized water bottles for after the afternoon walk
- Personalized mouse pad to enhance your workspace
- Personalized mobile phone case just for fun!
14. Celebrate Returning to the Office with State of the Art Game Rentals
Games are an ideal way to let employees de-stress at work. There are many games available but I am going to share my favourites with you. Your event planner will execute the delivery, set up and strike to make it a seamless event for everyone.
- The classic Air Hockey Game provides entertainment for two players at a time. You could use this game in a round robin competition.
- Giant games such as Chess, Checkers and Connect 4 are fabulous strategy games. The best part is that they are inexpensive to rent.
- Just a bit of trivia before I launch into this game. What game did Joey and Chandler play in their apartment? Foosball, of course. This game table is sure to be a hit.
- A Portable Mini-Golf Course would certainly be a focal point. Whether you are a professional or just enjoy hacking, this game appeals to everyone. Don’t forget to shout out “Fore”.
It feels good to be back to work, to be able to socialize with colleagues, enjoy coffee breaks and yes, even to have some structure to the workday.
Even with things beginning to open up now it is crucial to follow the ongoing health requirements and guidelines from all agencies of Canada. We must continue to mask, use hand sanitizer and ask your favourite Party Planner if their staff is vaccinated and rapid tested before your event.
To all the company owners, directors, and managers of large or small businesses, take the time to welcome back your employees and show them your appreciation for their hard work during extraordinary conditions. I promise you will more than reap the rewards!