Share Your Stories: Cocktails, Bingo Keep Employees Connected

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek June 11, 2020
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pouring a drink
​Welcome to the SHRM Online "Share Your Story" series, launched for HR professionals to share their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. The eighth article in our series comes from Sammy Rubin, chief executive officer of YuLife, a global wellness life insurance company based in London.  

The weather forecast called for a hot weekend in London recently, so a round of cocktails seemed to be in order. Life insurance company YuLife surprised its 53 employees by sending them the ingredients for a Pimm's Cup, considered the summer drink of London.

Inside the boxes that landed on doorsteps around the world were bottles of lemonade and Pimm's No. 1, in recognition of the social hour that traditionally follows the company's weekly all-hands meeting. The idea was to continue the company's social time together, but virtually.

It's one of the ways YuLife has been creating interactions for its employees who have been working remotely since March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, guided meditations, yoga sessions, step-count competitions and 10-minute lunchtime stretching sessions that were previously held onsite continue remotely as a way to incorporate wellness into the lives of employees, partners and clients in a fun way, said YuLife CEO Sammy Rubin.  

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These initiatives also address social isolation—something many people around the world are feeling right now, Rubin pointed out.

"There's an issue of loneliness and disconnection, and any way we can encourage social bonding, communication and socializing, I think, is really important," he said. "We really crave connection and need connection." Sammy Rubin, CEO, YuLife

One of the ways YuLife is doing that is by making its post-meeting socials virtual experiences with a combined trivia contest and bingo session, and tours of co-workers' flats and home offices. Some employees have introduced their family members or flatmates during the tours.

"It was a way of breaking down some of those [work] boundaries and helping bring people's lives into their experience," Rubin said. "We had a really lovely hour[long]-session with people opening up in their homes."

A wine tasting was another well-received idea. Based on employee suggestions, the company selected three wines and created a wine budget. It then had bottles delivered to employees or reimbursed them for their purchases.

"These are the ideas that bubble up from people," Rubin said. One idea on the table: a karaoke night. Employees submit ideas on the company's Slack channel or at the all-hands meeting. Once an idea is approved, an employee volunteers to lead the activity.

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Rubin offered the following tips to employers considering implementing virtual social activities:

  • Be clear about your organization's mission and vision. Emphasize and communicate your purpose.
    "That creates a real cohesion … that keeps people together," he said. For example, one of his company's missions, Rubin said, is "to encourage and inspire people to live their best lives."
  • Empower employees to speak up about what activities they would like to see offered.
    "When these things happen top-down, they don't really land [well]. The best initiatives are the ones that are more bottom-up," Rubin said.
  • Be open to ways that fuse the physical with the virtual to create a powerful social and sensory experience.  
    "The beautiful thing about technology is there are these apps that enable these types of experiences now," he said. "These things are so important for creating community."

     

What is your organization doing to stay connected? Drop us an e-mail at ShareYourStories@shrm.org. See other articles in this series here.

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