Building Culture, Even While Social Distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for employers – and employees – everywhere. How do you sustain engagement among a workforce who has suddenly been sent home to work? How do you help employees manage the stress of these new circumstances?

Throughout FirstService, our teams are coming up with innovative ways to foster and sustain a culture and feeling of inclusiveness while our teams are socially distanced.

One theme we are seeing throughout the organization is an emphasis on face-to-face communications. Fortunately,  Zoom and other video conferencing platforms make this very easy to achieve. For employees who are accustomed to working in busy offices in the company of co-workers, having face time with colleagues is critical. Many of the teams we spoke to said the ability to engage in person (virtually) has helped boost morale and productivity and they plan to continue the practice post-pandemic.

Our teams are also finding fun ways to stay connected and maintain camaraderie and a sense of togetherness.

Maintaining team engagement while working remotely

FirstService Residential launched #FirstConnections, a social platform to help associates collaborate and bond over fun, engaging activities. The objective is to keep them closely connected even while apart. Each week, the company launches a new “challenge” which involves sharing photos on the company’s Yammer site. The first week team members were invited to share photos and videos of their work spaces at home. Subsequent weeks included asking team members to share treasured childhood photos and memories, favorite vacation spot images, and examples of how the COVID pandemic has brought out the best in ourselves.


Every year, American Pool’s recruiting team works tirelessly to attract seasonal lifeguards for its Guard For Life program. These recruits must complete intensive safety and skills training, which has typically been held in person. The company adapted its training to deliver some components virtually. Given the uncertainty with scheduled pool openings, an even greater challenge was keeping these recruits – many of whom are high school and college kids – engaged and committed to start work when it’s safe to do so. To maintain engagement, the marketing team deployed a series of contests and promotions. Capitalizing on the recent popularity of tie-dye, the team invited guards at all stages of the hiring process to join the fun. Those who signed up received branded American Pool shirts which they then worked their magic on, submitting photos of their creation throughout the process. 

One enterprising young guard, Zion T., took it a step further and submitted a video detailing his process!

Using Zoom to enhance productivity and build camaraderie

Most of our teams have embraced video conferencing for everything from company-wide meetings to one-on-one sessions.

LIVUnLtd is hosting virtual happy hours on Zoom which have been a hit among staff members. Each gathering includes a conversation starter, such as what’s on your bucket list, what’s the first trip you’ll take when you can travel again, what’s your self-care routine, what new habits have you picked up that you’ll continue and many more. They also did a show and tell session where team members got a chance to show off their hidden talents. The company is also using Zoom for lunchtime meditations, led by one of their in-house experts — which have been extremely popular.

“The conversation starters have really been helpful as ice breakers and to get everyone engaged and excited,” said Brianna Hoffman, Director of Human Resources. “The feedback we’ve gotten has been excellent and these events have been a great way for our team members to get to know each other better.”

At FirstService’s Toronto office, the team has recently started playing short, 15-minute games of Zoom Pictionary – a fast-paced, fun way to stay connected.  

Here’s How:

Within the Share Screen feature, users can choose Whiteboard and “draw” using their mouse. Before each game, a link to a Pictionary word generator is circulated so players can choose their words ahead of time and ensure the game moves quickly.

What are some of the ways your teams are using Zoom to engage and build camaraderie? We’d love to hear about them! Email us at