Team building in remote environments
It has now been almost three years ago (March 2020) that businesses around the globe were compelled to send large parts of their personnel to work from the safety of their homes. What has been a compulsory measure at first has long since transformed into the ‘new normal’.
As a result, terms like remote work, home office or work from home are no longer considered mere perks. It is rather something that businesses need to offer their employees to attract and keep their workforce.
But it also creates new challenges for leadership and management teams: How might you ensure a healthy, well-functioning and tightly-knit team structure, when your team is working in a mostly remote environment?
Team building vs. building a team – what are we talking about?
Before we move on, I feel like here is an important distinction to be made. While “building a team” refers to the recruiting side and eventually the structural setup of a team, the former aims to describe the effort of forming connections within a team.
Both are equally important and, thanks to the Millennial desire for greater flexibility and work-life balance, are confronting managers with new challenges.
In this article, however, I will be focusing on the aspect – and the power - of remote team building activities.
Why is remote team building important?
We used to take it for granted: being surrounded by your team for the better part of your working day. Naturally, this doesn’t only include the actual work time. Sharing lunch breaks, engaging in the clichéd watercooler conversation, or simply chit-chatting with your desk neighbor all played into forming and maintaining relationships among co-workers.
These little bits of socialization are getting lost, when your team is spread out across multiple locations. Especially true for tech companies that may not be located in so-called tech hotspots.
Does this mean companies are well-advised to call all their staff back to the office and only hire talent that is willing to move across countries? Just so colleagues could engage in the occasional small talk? Absolutely not.
Sure, ideally your team members do get something more out of their job than just (virtually) clocking in and out each day. You want your team to feel like a unit rather than feeling entirely separated from one another.
In addition, being surrounded by a strong team (structure) will create some sort of a support system for each employee, in which they feel empowered and are able to better share their ideas. Knowing your teammate’s strengths and weaknesses will also allow you to improve overall collaboration. And this is exactly, where team building comes into play.
5 remote team building activities to try
Set up a virtual break room.
Just like virtual spaces are becoming more and more relevant for remote activities, such as workshops or ideation sessions, they can also be used for employees to hang out and have chitchats like they would do in a physical space.
To make the most of it, team managers will have to make sure to encourage the use of these and to make the virtual space feel like a community and a cozy meet-up spot for colleagues to log into on a regular basis.
Connect team members that usually don’t work together.
In a physical office space, you would often run into colleagues that you might not be directly working with but could still get together over coffee or lunch. Working from home obviously doesn’t grant you this possibility.
A fun online team activity would be to randomly match together two names each week, who will then set up a virtual coffee date among each other.
Hold virtual company events.
Sure, even in companies that are working mostly remotely, an actual physical event every once in a while will affect morale and a feeling of togetherness positively.
But this doesn’t mean you should rule out hosting digital events altogether. This can be done via a simple video conference, or for a more immersive feeling also in a virtual space.
Just like you would do for physical events:
- you can set up an agenda,
- have different speakers and
- make room for people to ask questions.
- You might even consider adding some fun online games to those meetings, for example as ice breakers.
Host non-work-related events
Often team members have shared interests, such as learning new languages, debating, cooking or reading. Setting up a virtual space, where team members can discuss or potentially learn new topics together is a great non-work-related way for employees to form connections with one another.
Letting different team members host every event will keep it interesting and will not make it feel like a mandatory thing.
Create this virtual Friday feeling
On Fridays, after the week’s work is done, team members often like to get together over a beer or a glass of wine before they head into the weekend.
Hosting a virtual Friday get-together is a great way to have team members kick back and socialize together. This helps to end the workweek on a high and have everybody start their weekend in a good mood.
The art of online team building
This is just the tip of the virtual iceberg of course. There are countless ways of virtual team building. And luckily, advances in technology evolving around virtual team collaboration are making it increasingly easy to have well-functioning teams that are working fully remote.
Explore the different ways together with your team to find out what works best for you. And don’t forget to have fun while doing so!