By Jack Nicolaus
In times of physical distancing protocols, feeling connected to our community is a vital act of psychological health. Many of us have seen the groups in Italy singing together from their balconies, or a fitness instructor in Spain leading a workout class from the rooftops. Ballet teachers are now live streaming barre class to professional dancers who are working to stay in shape. Theater companies are releasing recordings of their plays in an effort to keep their communities inspired to create. Across industries and sectors, we are all seeking what scholar Barbara Erenreich has dubbed the healing power of ‘collective joy.’
At LifeLabs Learning, we’ve intentionally invested time in making sure we keep our playful spirit alive. Coming together in the spirit of joyful connection ensures that our bonds are strong. Here are some ideas for how to play together remotely.
Want to read more about making remote work, work? Check out our Complete Guide to Remote Work
Here are three strategies for bringing collective joy to your teams during this period of intentional separation:
1) PLAY GAMES VIRTUALLY
21st century technology gives us a suite of options for playing together. Collective play is both fun and cathartic. At LifeLabs Learning, we’ve really enjoyed using our remote video conferencing tools to play games of all kinds together. For example:
Jackbox Party Pack
Each of these party games is open to 3-8 players (plus audience) and each take a bite sized 15-20 minutes to play a round. It makes them easy to squeeze in on a lunch break. All you need is one person to own the software on their laptop and a video conferencing software (like Zoom) that allows you to share both screen and sound. Jackbox has even released an updated guide making it easy to play remotely. Everyone grabs their phone and joins in the fun.
You can buy them through the App Store on your Apple laptop or via Steam on your PC. We recommend Quiplash, Drawful, Fibbage, and Trivia Murder Party as great introductions to the games, but every pack has gems.
Pro-Tip: JackBox games teach you as you play, but the games are wacky and confusing at first. If you’re organizing, make sure you frame the first round as a practice round so everyone can learn the rules. Trust us – it’s worth muddling through.
Pro-Pro-Tip: Sometimes Jackbox games will freeze on an individual person’s phone. It’s an easy fix: the person reloads jackbox.tv and reenters the room code, but in the moment it’s hard to figure out. Be ready with an encouraging reminder the first time a person goes “Wait, nothing is happening!”
Pro-Pro-Pro-Tip: The first person to join the game is tagged as the VIP. The VIP has basic MC duties, like clicking ‘start the game.’ We suggest that you or a trusted colleague login first so as to have a little bit of control in a joyfully chaotic situation.
The classic party game Codenames usually requires an empty coffee table. Thankfully, there’s now an online version that allows for the same flow of play. The portal asks you to choose a keyword that creates a shared version.
Don’t know the rules? Check them out here
Pro-Tip: If your video conferencing service allows you to make breakout rooms, that can be a really easy way to divide people into teams. Put people in breakout groups and give them 2 minutes to make team names and shared cheers (yeah, really!) while you take care of final prep before kicking off the game.
Most video-conferencing platforms provide some sort of drawing tool to annotate slides and spreadsheets. Thankfully, that also means we get to play Pictionary with each other!
To organize, we suggest having everyone turn up and chat for a few minutes as you put them in teams. Then, text the secret word to the drawer and have them unleash their inner Michelangelo.
Pro-Tip: Instead of forcing a person to come up with ideas of things to draw, use a random word generator.
When hosting virtual play times, a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Know the rules of the game. This is especially when you’re adapting them for the virtual space. If you can, send out rules ahead of time. If you can’t, make sure you explain everything at the beginning of the game. The rules of a game give structure for everyone to enter a shared headspace together–an essential goal of the experience.
- Test your technology. Consider a pilot playthrough with a few people who want a 15-minute break. You’re hosting a virtual party plus a game night. It helps to know how things work.
- Model playfulness. As your team experiments with virtual playtimes, things are going to go wrong with technology, or with the rules of the game. It’s fantastic for things to go wrong if you, the MC, are calm and playful about it. As one LabMate reflected after we played 38-person virtual Pictionary: “Discovering how to play the game was the game!”
2) SOCIAL EATING
Simply turning on the camera and having a meal together is a great way to build community. In fact, in South Korea, they call the practice muk-bang, and you can log into Twitch right now and watch people streaming themselves eat.
Pro-Tip: In classic “if you build it, they will come” fashion, simply announcing your plan creates prosocial peer pressure. Make a recurring calendar invite for ‘virtual lunch’ and let people RSVP at will. Strongly suggest camera-on for lunch. While people might balk at eating on camera, the goal is to recreate those non-verbal cues we get when we share a table together.
3) DANCE PARTY
Yeah, that’s right. DANCE PARTY.
Most video conferencing allows you to share sound. Have someone fire up their favorite tune on Spotify or YouTube and let everyone go wild for 3 minutes. We’re currently starting our all-hands meetings with Lizzo. Dancing boosts cardio and releases endorphins.
If you’re looking for scholarly research into the power of collective dancing, we recommend Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Erenreich.
Games, meals, and shared movement are crucial ingredients of strong mental health. Maslow lists ‘love and belonging’ as just above ‘physical safety’ on the hierarchy of needs. As the coming days and weeks bring new challenges, it’s crucial to stay physically distant, but it’s never been more important to stay joyously close. Let us know how you’re keeping people together by sending us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your ideas online #collectivejoy #socialclosening