Game on! Cultivating a stronger remote workplace culture

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to re-examine our methods of interaction as how we communicate has moved online. Even after nearly an entire year of disruption, businesses are still grappling with the thorny issues of how to create a workplace culture when ‘the workplace’ is removed from the equation.

At Jagex we spent the last year trialing virtual activities that foster a sense of togetherness. Like many businesses, at the start of lockdown we invested in delivering fun experiences such as virtual quizzes and bingo nights, activities that later proved to be just the tip of the iceberg for redefining workplace culture. With lockdown restrictions re-emerging in 2021, we want to share some tips on how to cultivate a stronger remote workplace culture.

Consider staff wellbeing

The last year has proven that working remotely is not ideal for everyone. It can have a huge effect on mental health, and employers must demonstrate a commitment to wellbeing, and a consideration of personal circumstances. To facilitate this, businesses must set up clear channels of communication. 

At Jagex, we created a blog with a bank of resources surrounding mental health, including information provided by charity partners CPSL Mind, the Prince’s Trust and Rise Above the Disorder. We also ventured to mitigate financial stress by introducing a payback initiative, which provided loans to workers during lockdown.

Team building is more important than ever

It’s impossible to create a positive company culture if workers aren’t given time to build relationships. Putting time and resources towards virtual events is one way to address this.

One of our initiatives was to utilise new opportunities presented by virtual working, by including fun activities such as a cook-along session. Remote yoga classes, virtual upskilling lunches and Friday wind-down sessions were also popular ways to keep employees engaged, and these should be maintained as the pandemic restrictions remain. 

It may also be worth adapting existing events to fit in the virtual mold. For example Jagex's signature event RuneFest is something both our staff and audience look forward to every year, but was disrupted in 2020. Instead of cancelling, we live streamed the most popular part of the event – the Golden Gnomes (Jagex's Oscars for its community of players) – as an alternative means of celebrating with staff. It wasn’t the same, but it provided a much needed sense of continuity for the company and wider community. 

Demonstrate long-term commitment to your workforce

While we all hoped that the pandemic would be over by now, it looks like there is a while to go yet before we return to normality; so it is key that businesses continue to plan accordingly. We must show consistency in caring for workers, both because of and despite pervading feelings of burnout.

When we couldn’t organise our usual slate of Christmas activities for staff, we began planning a virtual alternative immediately. This evolved into our “12 Days of Jagexmas” event - a slew of virtual entertainments including live magic, comedy, our own version of Taskmaster, and a Scouting for Girls gig.

With lockdown now being enforced again in the UK, we have begun similar planning for virtual events up until the summer, to maintain the level of staff engagement and morale needed to successfully build a remote company culture. We’ll continue to hold bingo and quizzes, but there will be also escape rooms, game nights, and we’ll look to hold signature events too, building on what we achieved with our Christmas events. Level Up will also return and we’ll be supporting several charity initiatives.

Showing your long-term commitment to both workers and customers and helps to elicit the same in return – a lasting investment of their talent and skills into your company and an ongoing commitment to your business. Those who don’t embrace this, or stop trying despite difficult times, cannot expect to keep operating at the same level of positivity as those that do. 

By Josh Winward – Head of Events at Jagex, best known for cult classic online video game RuneScape.

Josh Winward