Rituals: The Missing Link in the Hybrid Workplace

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Remote. Hybrid. No matter how your team is working, there’s something missing: connection. As humans, we thrive on interactions. At work, even more so. COVID forced us apart, and now, workers are craving connection, meaning, and purpose more than ever. Without those, staff become disengaged, unmotivated, and ultimately leave to find them elsewhere. 

Given that another 4 million U.S. employees quit their jobs in April, companies clearly haven’t figured out how to provide those crucial elements at work. That leaves managers to solve this problem while continuing to hire, onboard, innovate, and deliver results. Exhausting.

A powerful way to engage teams: rituals. In “Rituals at Work: Teams That Play Together Stay Together,” researchers found that performing a group bonding activity led to a “16% increase in how meaningful employees judged their work to be … ,” which improved motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity. Sounds great, right? But before you go out and institute a Walmart Cheer of your own, figure out what your team would actually go for—and find valuable.

In recent roundtables, leaders in the InsideOut Design Leader Community brainstormed ways to create rituals that connect their dispersed teams. Some are best for on-site, and some are better for boosting remote relationships. Leaders suggest a mix of both in-person and virtual options to build an inclusive culture. 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, successfulrituals share three traits: relevance, intention, and authenticity. Read on for real-world examples from some brilliant senior leaders to spark ideas to explore with your team. 


Instead of creating rituals that seem fun but have little or nothing to do with the work, consider creating rituals that tie into their actual job and enhance their skills.

Mystery guest. One senior leader hosts a weekly call to introduce her team to others around the company. She brings a mystery guest (camera off, muted, name disguised), and attendees ask personal questions, which the guest answers in chat until they guess his or her identity. 

Feedback loop. Feedback is a gift that shouldn’t be reserved for annual performance reviews, so use rituals to share it regularly. One leader uses Kudoboard for this; another uses a Miro board, with everyone’s name on it, and asks team members to pick five people to write something nice about and connect those comments with their own name.

Tool tip day. Technology can be friend or foe, but few workers have time to sift through trainings to improve their skills. One brilliant leader hosts a weekly call to share tips on how to use the company’s most important tools. He promotes his session with playful language in a Slack channel that draws staff in for a fun event.


Rituals are a terrific way to show your company’s commitment to staff well-being and go beyond lip service, encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Meditation Mondays. One in-tune leader kicks off the week with a brief guided meditation with her team to set the tone for the week. They start with cameras on to check in, then turn off cameras to meditate. Lots of resources offer short meditations and make it easy to try this idea.

Wellness moments. One leader carves out time in standing meetings to talk about wellness. A simple breathing exercise led to others sharing their learnings from personal journeys to overcome issues, bringing them together in human ways to find common ground.

Connect on brand values. Your team chose your company for a reason. Find ways to bring your core values to life by creating rituals that use those values to enrich their lives. For example, outdoor companies give their employees designated adventure time. If your brand encourages freedom, show your team that their freedom is equally important.


Every ritual should be genuine. If not, your team will know. Tapping into your team’s outside interests creates unique experiences that bond your staff.

Cool questions. Enhance existing meetings by adding questions that uncover personal preferences, creating a simple ritual to kick off or close them. “What did you collect when you were a kid?” or “What’s a toy you wanted as a kid that you didn’t get?” are crowd favorites.

Keep it simple. Does physical activity resonate with your group? Use that. One leader hosts a push-up challenge, while another team holds a 3-minute plank. If you’ve got foodies, have them share a picture of something they cooked last week. For in-person, consider Taste Test Tuesday, bringing four different flavors of a food (think potato chips), then conducting a blind taste test to identify them.

To craft rituals that stick, draw ideas from your team, and give them the time and budget to make them happen. And always explain the WHY behind whatever you choose, which is a powerful way to reinforce team norms with meaning. 

Importantly, rituals create consistency, which can be an anchor during constant change. They create shared experiences and memories, which are so necessary when we humans are lonelier than ever and crave deeper connections. Disconnection is leading workers to seek other roles where they feel at home. So bring your staff together with rituals, or get ready to replace them.

Susie Hall is the President of Community and Customer Engagement at Aquent. She leads Aquent’s InsideOut Design Leadership Community, connecting senior in-house design, experience, and operations leaders from high-profile brands through facilitated peer discussions based on real-world challenges. You can find more learnings from the group on Aquent’s InsideOut blog.

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