We all want to build meaningful relationships with our team, but team-building while working remotely can present obstacles.
After all, pre-pandemic, most of us were used to communicating face-to-face with our team. And this challenge isn’t one faced by a few companies. Studies suggest that remote workers have weaker relationships with their co-workers, which isn’t surprising since 65% of remote workers never had a group-bonding activity.
Team building isn’t just for in-house employees. Building a workplace of inclusion and trust can unify a remote team, even from miles away. Team bonding experiences can have a huge impact on company culture. These activities can make the difference between your employees feeling like a valued team member or a satellite observer.
But, the bad news first. Team building is a lot more challenging when working across different countries and time zones. After all, trust falls don’t work over Zoom. The good news? We’ve put together six tips for the best virtual team-building activities that you can start with your team right away.
Share Your Hobbies
Hobbies aren’t just for after work. Why not bring it to your (virtual) office?
It may be surprising to know that hobbies can help your team in many ways, including by helping them maintain a high level of productivity at work.
That’s because research has shown that employees with hobbies usually manage their time better. Hobbies act as a reward. The more efficiently employees work, the more time they have for the activities they love the most.
Not only are employees with hobbies more productive, but they’re also more motivated to work. Allowing hobbies at work can be a huge boost to morale. Even the best employees need breaks from the computer screen to recharge, refresh and face the next task with a new perspective, and hobbies give them that.
There are many ways to encourage your employees’ hobbies, including allowing them to form a virtual book club or game room. The important part is that you allow your employees to express their unique interests and give them a space to innovate.
Take, for example, Brian Kelleher, Content Director and Founder of KillerGuitarRigs, who boosted employee morale by implementing weekly jam sessions.
Kelleher states, “Work can be tedious, even for the biggest guitar enthusiast and that’s why we felt appropriate to add fun in between. It doesn’t have to be guitar, it doesn’t even have to be a musical instrument, you can just join in the fun and listen to our zoom jam sessions. This helps me to keep everyone motivated and at the same time relaxed, as we look forward to sessions every week. If we finish a project in record time, then we add another session, which is a very popular way to reward the team.”
Implement Game Time
Another team-building activity to try with your remote staff is by playing games.
How? Well, when you think about it, being a part of a great team is a lot like playing a multiplayer game. Your business’s success depends on how well you ‘play’ together — that is, how well you can communicate and collaborate towards a common goal.
Not only are games an interesting and fun addition to a hectic workday, but they also have many benefits that’ll get even the sternest of HR professional’s approval.
Game time at work can help your team:
- Assist team building
- Improve cognitive abilities
- Encourage teamwork
- Reduce stress
It’ll take some time to strike the perfect balance between work and play, but once done, you’ll be shocked at the benefits it will bring to your company’s bottom line.
“We discovered that nothing brings co-workers more together than playing a Tetris game, joining an online quiz or talking about new Netflix shows. When people feel connected, they collaborate much more spontaneously and give feedback.” – David Wain-Heapy, Managing Director of Best Response Media
Create a Virtual Breakroom
Before the pandemic, your team likely gathered in a breakroom or around a water cooler for informal office gatherings. With remote work, you may think those days are done, but they don’t have to be. Creating a virtual breakroom allows your employees to virtually take a lunch or afternoon break with members of the team. Virtual breakrooms allow your employees to build connections and have an outlet for informal chatting.
At first glance, these suggestions for team building may make it appear that you are giving your team the opportunity to be distracted from work projects. However, by acknowledging their need to stay connected with each other, your team will actually be more productive and have lower levels of stress throughout the current crisis. Providing a space for employees to destress, especially during these times, will boost productivity and morale.
Todd Ramlin, Manager at Cable Compare, puts it this way:
I’m a manager at an eCommerce company that’s been working remotely since the pandemic started. At first, I was concerned about keeping my team engaged, energized, and productive since part of the secret sauce of a successful team is the bonding that comes from interactions and socializing. Social distancing seemed like it was going to threaten all that. Fortunately, we were able to create virtual versions of the ways we were interacting when we were together in the office. Early on I figured out that the tools that allowed us to continue working while we were apart, like the video conferencing and collaboration platform could also be used as tools to keep the social aspect of the office going. On the collaboration platform, we have a virtual break room channel where people can talk about anything whether it’s work-related or not, and we use video conferencing to do group activities like sharing a meal, watching movies, or playing games.
Promote Online Learning
Remote team building doesn’t have to be all fun; it can also be educational. Your team can connect remotely by bonding over a shared learning experience. There is a myriad of online learning platforms and courses to explore. Your team can learn about writing, storytelling, coding, and much more. Plus, the courses don’t have to be work-related. Beginner yoga and mindfulness courses can help your team destress and recenter themselves.
Kurt Uhlir, Chief Marketing Officer at Showcase IDX, recently put together these kinds of learning experiences for his team. He says, “Every Friday now, we alternate our happy hours with a special guest that teaches us things like an intro to sign language or help us laugh with a virtual petting zoo. We’ve also rolled out some tools in Slack that spark directed non-work conversation and allow anyone to recognize others for specific actions tied to our core values. The key is we try things, listen to our team, and we track usage. If people like something, they will use it. If not, we test something new.”
Encourage Virtual Work Buddies
Work friendships don’t have to stop because you’re working remotely. Encourage your team to build relationships by having rotating work buddies.
The benefits of having a work buddy are endless. Work buddies help your employees share best practices for work tasks, learn from each other and compare notes. Most important of all, a work buddy can promote accountability from within your ranks. Secondly, work buddies can be a great onboarding hack, not only for training new employees but for allowing them to build bonds early in their careers. New employees are less likely to leave and more likely to find their work satisfying if they can form friendships earlier.
“We introduced [a] system of work buddies in which we choose pairs every month and have them meet regularly and exchange ideas, thoughts, and challenges. This practice significantly increased employee engagement and people became very enthusiastic about working closely with their coworkers. We also changed pairs on a monthly basis to give everyone a chance to meet as many people as possible.
The system was also great for new employees as they had a chance to build work relationships from day one. Onboarding was much easier and we actually managed to save a lot of time and still get amazing results.” – Nick Chernets, CEO of Data For SEO
Make Team Building Optional
You may be scratching your head at this point. You wonder, ‘With all of the benefits of team building, why on earth would we make it optional?’ Well, for one, because forced fun is not fun, and can quickly backfire.
That’s because if your team members feel forced (whether unspoken or not) to participate in activities, it often becomes a dreaded obligation. Employees may fear being labeled ‘not a team player’ or having their performance reviews affected for non-participation.
One way to mitigate this is by having your team involved in selecting the activities in the first place. The second way is making sure your team can opt-in and out of activities — without feeling punished for it later. By making team building low pressure for introverts, you’ll make a big difference in how much your team enjoys these activities.
“Be sure to make them optional, easy to participate in, and create something that allows people to interact with employees they might not otherwise. Both our entire business and teams have grown a lot during the pandemic, adding new verticals and departments, with an extremely low turnover rate. These connections are a way to unify our staff, boost morale, and prove that working remotely doesn’t mean sacrificing company culture.” – Zach Boyette, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Galactic Fed
In closing, if you want to build a great team, you can’t cut corners, even remotely. Remember, remote team members are most at risk of becoming disengaged. Implementing team-building activities gives your employees the healthy connections they need to do their best work. While team building, across states and even continents, can be difficult, it’s well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with a solid and productive team for years to come.
Managing a remote workforce can be a lot of… work. If you’d like help from experts in managing remote workforces and streamlining processes, we invite you to explore our services to get a glimpse at what we can do to help your business. We can even take on your routine tasks while saving you time and money, so shoot us your questions.