In a world where remote work is the new norm, virtual team-building experiences have emerged as an essential tool for fostering team connections and enhanced collaboration amongst geographically dispersed team members. Research indicates that 35% of Americans work from home full-time, while another 23% work remotely at least some portion of the week. And of that group, 87% accepted the option of remote work. In a post-COVID world, it appears that working remotely is not only here to stay, but the preferred option of many employees.
While remote work spaces tout many benefits, one of the biggest challenges remote employers face is team unification and camaraderie. Team building is the process of enhancing relationships between members of a group, and allows teams to accomplish goals more quickly. Team-building activities typically occur outside of business hours and provide team members the opportunity to interact more socially. While this camaraderie can be difficult to achieve with remote employees, virtual team-building experiences can promote trust, unification, and teamwork.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of team building as well as share virtual experiences that can help create synergy amongst your remote team.
Benefits of virtual team building
Team building is a core process of many organizations, designed to help build an employee culture that benefits all employees. It also helps organizations meet their goals quicker and more efficiently.
Teams that are connected and aligned working together toward a common goal often yield increased productivity, creativity, improved communication, and a better understanding of each other’s professional strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, working together on a team-building activity can enhance communication and inspire collaboration between colleagues. This creates a secure, trusting work environment that instills confidence and trust in employees. A Gallup poll found that employees who claim to have a ‘best friend at work’ lead to improved results, including a 12% increase to profit.
Traditional in-person team building has its merits, but that’s not always a possibility. Fortunately, there are many advantages to virtual team building, including diverse geographical participation, cost-effectiveness, and enhanced communication and collaboration.
You took the time to hire the right employee, but now it’s time to keep them. Employee engagement is one of the strongest indicators of employee turnover. Keep employees engaged with each other and other departments and leaders with team building activities.
Activities and strategies for virtual team building
Team building experiences can be catered to individual teams and the desired outcomes. Below we share some popular activities that can help teams foster connection, improve teamwork and promote unification among departments.
Ice breaker games
Kickoff team meetings or virtual gatherings with ice-breaker games to help employees get to know each other better. Try “Two Truths and a Lie” or “Emoji Introductions.” Working remotely means employees have a unique workspace, even if it doesn’t look like a glamorous home office.
Have employees share pictures of their remote workspace and have team members try and guess which space belongs to which employees. You could also try starting a meeting with a recipe swap, where employees bring with their favorite recipe to share.
If the thought of proposing ice breaker questions to your team members makes you cringe, try thinking outside the normal “most embarrassing moment” questions. Give employees a prompt notice prior to the meeting so employees can come prepared with an answer in mind.
Here are some alternative questions to consider:
- If you could learn a new skill instantly, what would it be?
- What piece of advice has helped your career the most so far?
- Share a gif that best describes your week
These games help break up any awkward tension, help employees foster connection, and help create a more relaxed environment.
Virtual escape rooms and video games
Promote problem-solving, trust, communication, and teamwork by encouraging remote employees to participate in a virtual escape room. Participants must learn to work together to solve clues, puzzles, and riddles to escape within a given time frame.
Take a mental health break from the work day with a quick video game break. Incorporate a virtual Mario Kart Tour, or other video game. With instant smartphone access, it’s easy to take a quick break and recharge with your team.
Online trivia and quiz games
If you’re looking for fun ways to engage your remote employees, try online trivia or quiz games. Host virtual trivia sessions or quizzes with online platforms like Water Cooler Trivia, a platform that integrates with Slack, Microsoft Teams, or email. After you customize the schedule and the categories, the platform writes the questions, distributes the email, and calculates the results.
For added engagement, offer incentives for winning individuals or teams. Share fun facts about your company's history, values, or little-known facts about employees with an interactive online quiz, like Kahoot! This promotes friendly competition and an opportunity for team members to learn about each other in a unique, no-pressure way.
Take getting-to-know-you quizzes to the next level by taking personality assessments and sharing the results. The results are usually insightful to the individual as well as the team.
Virtual team building challenges
Set up team challenges that require creativity and collaboration to accomplish a goal. Design team challenges that encourage collaboration between employees. Assign team members to design a virtual office or solve a problem together.
Virtual lunch or coffee breaks
One of the best parts about working in an office setting is the social aspect. Interacting with colleagues in the breakroom, over lunch, or after-work drinks can really help get through the day.
One thing you can do to make up for this would be to organize virtual lunch and coffee breaks. Help employees get to know each other or introduce new hires by using the Slack-integrated Donut app, an app that randomly introduces coworkers through direct messages, encouraging them to organize a video chat. You can also schedule 15-minute coffee breaks for employees to connect and get to know each other better or consider an after-hours ‘bring your own drink’ virtual meet-up. As an extra treat to make employees feel appreciated, you might consider giving your team members a preset budget to buy their lunch!
Promote the well-being of a remote team by sharing fitness goals and objectives such as virtual yoga or meditation opportunities. Consider a virtual health challenge like achieving a certain number of steps or biking a predetermined distance. Activities focused on wellness not only foster team building and camaraderie, but also emphasize the importance of self-care.
Tips for effective virtual team building
Collaboration, not competition
A little friendly competition is bound to happen in some team-building activities. Use competition sparingly, as it can be detrimental to teams if the competition gets too fierce. Try to focus on collaboration instead of competition, encouraging team members to work together to solve a problem rather than pitting employees against each other. While some team-building activities include competition, collaboration should always be the end goal.
Establish clear expectations
Lay out all expectations before the team building begins. Group members should understand the overall aim of the objective before diving into team building. Be sure to be transparent about details! Are team members required to complete the task within a specified time window, or are they only supposed to use a particular tool? Be clear with any rules or guidelines to help the process run smoothly.
Ask your team for feedback
Get your team’s input on the team-building experience and what your organization can do to improve in the future! Consider a rotating assignment of one or more employees to be in charge of planning and execution of team building opportunities. It’s rare that a team building experience will check all the boxes of every employee, but collecting feedback will help you plan future events for maximum engagement.
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