Not that long ago, a number of office workers dreamed of working from home. Isn’t it great to forget about crowds and traffic? To commute from your bed to the couch with your laptop and a cup of coffee? To take a dog for a short walk after lunch or do some exercises? The sweet comes with the bitter – thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, remote work has become our reality. But despite its numerous advantages, it has certain downsides, too. One of them is that employees often feel isolated from their colleagues and the company in general. This issue can be managed by means of virtual team building. Let’s consider it in detail.
Virtual Team Building for Increasing Remote Teams’ Productivity
“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
Business leaders know that high-performing teams are a necessary prerequisite for a company’s success. But putting high-skilled employees together doesn’t mean that they will collaborate successfully with each other as an effective team. That’s what team building is aimed at – bringing employees together and motivating them to work as a team by means of various entertaining activities and events. The importance of team building is increasing as remote work and its hybrid forms have become a common practice. Remote work creates at least physical barriers between team members, so it’s even more essential to bring them together with the help of virtual team building activities. Let’s take a look at the benefits of virtual team building.
Brings together employees working from home
Work from home can be great for employees, but at the same time separates them from their colleagues – with physical barriers come the emotional ones, which won’t do good for teamwork. Virtual team building activities in this case are necessary to keep employees together as a team, so they won’t lose their teamwork skills.
Helps newcomers integrate into the team
It’s especially important for those who start work remotely at once, while the rest of the team used to work together in the office, and it was much easier for them to socialize with each other. When you’ve never seen your colleagues in person, it’s really difficult to understand what kind of people they are and collaborate with them efficiently. In addition, it’s not easy for newcomers to feel their belongingness to the team when working remotely. So, virtual team building activities become critically important.
Improves communication between team members
Effective communication is the key to success in a number of processes. Teamwork is, of course, no exception. Informal communication between members of remote teams is no less important: it helps them know each other better, build trust-based relationships, and create friendly environment that will add positive emotions to the monotonous working routine. In turn, communication promotes collaboration that is the necessary element of a high-performing team: when you know your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, and have trust-based relationships with them, it’s much easier to join efforts to achieve a common goal. So, when there is no opportunity to chat during lunchtime or coffee breaks in the office, virtual communication gains more and more importance.
Allows team members to build relationships
This benefit is closely related to the previous one: good communication is the basis for building relationships between team members. Furthermore, Gallup research has found that having a best friend at work increases employees’ performance. This illustrates how important it is for employees to have close relationships with colleagues. Virtual team building should involve such activities that will provide opportunities for team members to establish and maintain contacts with each other.
Improves employees’ mental health
Most commonly, employees spend most of their daytime at work. If they feel uneasy and stressed all the time, their mental health in all likelihood will suffer. Remote work can add the feeling of isolation and lack of support. As a result, employees become disengaged and less productive. This problem is solved by means of building relationships and collaboration with colleagues, which is facilitated by team building activities. In addition, even virtual team building activities are a good way to switch off from working routine and have fun, which also improves employees’ mental health.
Enhances employee engagement
Engaged employees are those who are enthusiastic about performing their work and committed to the company they work for. When team members are involved in various fun activities with their colleagues, even when they are only virtual, they feel their belongingness to the company, so they are expected to be more committed to work. Feeling comfortable among colleagues and being satisfied with a company’s attitude to its employees makes them more engaged, too.
Increases productivity of employees and teams
Finally, all these above-mentioned benefits improve not only an employee’s productivity, but also performance of the whole team, which makes team building practices really worthwhile. The way to increasing productivity with the help of team building activities can be presented as a stepped process:
Team Building Activities → Communication → Relationships → Mental Health → Enhanced Engagement → Improved Productivity
Engaged and productive team members with developed collaboration skills make high-performing teams.
Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
There are a variety of ideas for virtual team building activities on the Web, but we’ve decided to present them in groups.
Let’s start with the most work-related activities. The examples of video meetings are daily stand-ups and weekly meetings of a team. These activities are helpful to keep team members focused not only on work issues but also on their belonging to the team that is working to achieve a common goal. Another variant is conducting informal video meetings, e.g. a scheduled lunch together with teammates or sharing their bucket list with colleagues online. Video meetings are important as they are mostly similar to real-life interaction, which involves both verbal and non-verbal communication.
There are a variety of games that can be played virtually. These games can be aimed at solving problems collaboratively, generating ideas, getting to know each other better, encouraging creativity, etc. Due to role-playing games, teammates acquire the skills of collaboration, interaction, pursuing a common goal, which will help them be a successful team in real life. Take a look at the examples below.
What’s on Your Desk
Each team member brings one item from their desk. This is going to be a new product, so each of them will be given a certain amount of time to come up with its name, logo, slogan, marketing plan (optional), and presentation of it. After that, team members will discuss which of the products can be sold successfully and why. This game is mostly suitable for marketing teams, however, such an experience is useful for any person as it develops creativity, non-standard thinking, which can be used in solving problems at work and generating ideas.
Three Truths and a Lie
Each employee is asked to tell three truths and one lie about themselves. The other team members should guess which of the statements are true and which are false. This simple game is a great way to know your colleagues better, and can be especially useful for teams that were put together a short time ago.
Aliens Have Landed
Tell the team that aliens have landed on the Earth and want to know about their company. The task of team members (they can be either divided into groups or work alone) is to explain the company’s activity with symbols or pictures, as aliens don’t understand human language. This games is aimed at developing creative and out-of-the-box thinking.
The study has shown that video gaming with teammates has a positive impact on team performance: newly formed teams that played video games together for 45 minutes were 20% more productive compared to teams engaged in traditional team-building activities. First of all, it’s explained by the fact that gaming is associated with fun and relaxing: gaming with coworkers has a positive impact on team members’ morale, helps build interpersonal relationships which are an important element of effective teamwork. Secondly, video games often involve interactions that help people work together more efficiently, e.g. achieving common goals, collaboration to solve problems, allocation of shared resources, etc. Strange, as it may appear, but video gaming has proven to be an effective virtual team-building activity.
Communication in informal chats
It’s one of the easiest ways to maintain informal communication between teammates: they can discuss any topic, share ideas or certain knowledge, news, pictures, videos, etc. Sharing photos with colleagues should be mentioned separately, as it’s a nice way to get to know them better. What does your workplace look like? Who has the messiest desk? Who do you work with: a dog lying next to you or maybe a sleeping baby? What do you have for lunch? Encouraging your employees to share thematic photos and even making contests of it can bring them together and give them an opportunity to show themselves in an unexpected way.
They can be simple regular practices, e.g. to meet online every Friday for 15-20 minutes to discuss what was good during the week in team members’ lives and share positive emotions, or monthly reading club for book lovers with subsequent discussions. The most important thing is that they should be regular and pleasant. Participation in these events will provide employees with a sense of stability and belonging to the company and one more opportunity to have a good time with colleagues.
Obviously, virtual communication and activities are not at all the same as in real life. But it doesn’t downplay their importance. Virtual team building shouldn’t be left aside when team members are isolated from their colleagues. On the contrary, with the help of team building activities, remote teams can find new ways of communicating and working together, which will make them collaborative and high performing.
What virtual team building activities do you organize at your company?