Playing Games at Work

Thursday, December 17, 2020

By Daniel Barkowitz, Assistant Vice President, Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs

Any way you look at it, it has been a tough year. We have all had to think creatively on our feet, move services online in a way we could never imagine, and work at odd hours in heretofore-unknown ways to make sure that our students received the services they needed to further their education.

It is serious work that requires serious attention. And that’s why we chose to play games in our last Financial Aid staff team meeting.

I was looking for a way to celebrate the amazing effort our team has accomplished this year, and what better way than to take one of our bi-monthly all team meetings and turn it into a fun game-themed thankfulness celebration!

First, the details:

Our financial aid team (all 46 of us) meet twice a month on Tuesdays from 12 to 1 p.m. on Zoom. Usually, this meeting is a time to share updates, provide training on new topics or answer questions from team members about issues currently confronting them. Before the pandemic, we met as a complete staff on Skype once a month, and immediately after we went remote, we had been meeting on Zoom weekly, but we have now settled into our current routine and it works for us. Of course, we have plenty of smaller group meetings all month long, but it is important for us to all see each other at least once monthly.

It happened that two of our Zoom meetings this year occurred on the Tuesdays right before a holiday break, once the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and once the Tuesday before Winter Break. Since Thanksgiving week is usually a slower week for us, and in recognition of all of the hard work that the team had done (and the milestones they had accomplished), the management team composed of Tamika Martin, director, student financial aid services; Martin Denizard Anglero, director, financial aid systems; Donna MacDonald, director, student financial aid operations; Denise Asselta, VA specialist, and I decided to have a celebration in lieu of our regular meeting.

We started off the meeting with a Zoom poll. I asked in our poll for people to provide their favorite kind of pie (provided answers included pumpkin, pecan, peach, apple, pizza and 3.14159). People were also invited to add comments in the chat about other desserts or Thanksgiving food they were most looking forward to.

We then began a game of “This or That.” Using a PowerPoint that I based on one Katie Tagye, director, organizational design and development, had done before (and adding some of my own), we displayed two images side by side and asked people to pick the one they preferred (examples: coffee or tea, roses or daisies, Disney or Universal, sunlight or moonlight). They indicated their preferences by using the Zoom annotate feature, where they could add a stamp or a mark on the slide visible to everyone else on the call. It was a fun way to get people in a playful mood.

About a week before the meeting, I sent an email to staff members asking them to send me two little known facts about themselves for use in a trivia game. I took all of the answers provided and created a Kahoot trivia game. Inserting random other members of the team as wrong answers and adding a fun image pulled from a Google image search, I created a trivia game which we played next as part of our staff meeting.

With Kahoot, players join in from their cell phone, and we all enjoyed chatting about the surprising answers revealed (who among our staff is a secret video gamer; who among the players has been to 22 countries). I announced there would be prizes, and I am awarding our top three players a small cash prize (an Amazon gift card which I am contributing personally) as a way to motivate people to play and compete. It was terrific!

We next played a round of Scattergories. This is game where you are given 10 to 12 categories (animals, board games, sports teams, capitals, etc.) and also a starting letter of the alphabet. Your job is to come up with an answer to each category that starts with the letter you have been assigned. You get points ONLY if no one else playing has your answer as well, so creativity is encouraged. After a predetermined number of minutes (two, usually), you then read aloud your answers to see if anyone else has the same answer. We used a free version of the game here.

With that, our one-hour game time was done. Staff members loved it and we all wish we could have played for longer. I had a number of other games ready to play, but didn’t need them. They included:

  • Zoom Pictionary using the drawing tool on Zoom along with the word list found here.
  • Never Have I Ever, using team members suggestions to see who has done what; and
  • Game of Phones, a game that uses your smartphone to bring friends together by asking you to respond to challenges by finding things like messages or photos on your smartphone or taking selfies with the camera.

We will certainly do this again! We all enjoyed our game time together and it was a great way to get to know each other better with very little financial commitment. What games can you suggest? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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