Shake Up Boring Video Calls

Where It Began…

I initially wrote this back in the spring of 2020 when the Covid19 pandemic had largely forced knowledge work efforts out of corporate offices and into homes. Many of my clients at the time had never worked full-time from home, and in addition to the massive anxiety of the pandemic, learning to work together virtually was a new thing to learn.

Games Are Fun

Back in 2008, I started my career as an agilist in an organization that was almost entirely virtual. We had a small core of people in the Silicon Valley, CA area, though most employees, including me, worked from home scattered across the country. On those days video conferencing was still spotty and collaboration tools were primitive.

However, one of the teams in particular either invented or found some great activities to help them maintain relationships as human beings, rather than just coworkers. As this was a social networking company, these interactions were highly valued.

Organizations finding they need to immediately become virtual will quickly learn what we knew: meetings are not only times to come together to solve problems, they are the connection point for our relationships! We found that by playing one of these games at the beginning of a video call brought us closer together and allowed us to start on a positive note.

Generally these tend to create more interesting conversation than simple check-ins (these can be powerful, though just like the same retrospective format over and over, they can get dull). Many of these can be used many times with different themes.

Scavenger Hunt

Give people a short amount of time (3-5) minutes, to leave their desks and find an item in their home they’d like to share about. Could be a theme, such as something you’re proud of, or a memorable adventure, or something you love. The only other ground rules are a) needs to be safe for work and b) needs to be something they want to talk about and can share in couple minutes, rather than a long story.

Something on Your Desk

Similar to Scavenger Hunt above, though has to be in reach on their desk!

There’s Something Behind You

Before blurred backgrounds on video calls, what was behind us was on display on the call. If teams are willing to reveal their workspace, there are plenty of stories of the objects in view of the camera. People can either share about something in the camera view, or others can ask the story of something they can see.

Funny Hats

Wear something fun; could be anything from an ordinary cap to an outrageous costume piece. Have people join the call with their hat on; conduct as much or little of the session as the group would like. Invite stories (or not). Mostly just a way to have a little fun without spending a lot of time!