In an economic climate where there are more and more businesses transitioning from in-person to remote workplaces, it can be tricky to build the same kind of interconnected environment of an in-person workplace, where each member of a team feels truly connected to their work and co-workers. Just because your workplace is now digital, it doesn’t mean you have to forego all the vital team building you’d do with an in-person team. Team building activities, virtual or not, are always important to constructing successful teams.
Celebrating birthdays, scheduling Christmas parties, and creating places where your employees can talk to one another about non-work-related topics, are all just as important online as they are in an IRL workplace. In fact, according to Atlassian, many of the same issues employees have in an office already extend to, and are sometimes even more intense, in the remote workplace. Many people feel undervalued, unseen, unheard, and completely disconnected from others in the online environment.
Read on to hear some neat virtual team-building tips and learn about a few activities you could start doing in your workplace!
Why is Team Building Important?
The better your team works together, the better work you can do together. This is as true online as it is in the real world. By helping your team members build strong relationships with one another, the workplace can begin to function more effectively.
People who understand each other on a personal level are better able to delegate tasks and work with their co-worker’s strengths more easily. When it comes to team building activities, virtual technology can offer lots of unique opportunities for team bonding. Doing fun interactive activities with your team can improve workplace morale, offer a place for employees to gain familiarity with each other, improve interpersonal communication, and increase productivity. When your employees build relationships and thus trust, there are often fewer disagreements during work hours and disagreements can be settled easier.
Now, you want to get your team to bond, but it can be tough trying to find the right activities. You might have tried to organize a virtual activity before, but you found that engagement was low, or nothing seemed to improve afterward.
It’s true. It’s harder to keep engagement up in an online environment both during work and in activities. When you’re in person, it’s much easier to get people bonding as it’s easier for people to relate to someone who’s standing in front of them. However, this shouldn’t be discouraging, persistence is a part of the game. It may take a few meetings before your employees start to warm up to one another. Not to mention there are plenty of resources out there ready to help you make your team building activities, virtual and in-person, more engaging.
Never Under Value Ice-Breakers
While ice-breakers can be seen as a tired way of getting the conversation flowing between strangers, they are a tried and true method of getting people talking. After all, the major goal of a team building activity is to open the door of a working relationship, and the key to unlocking that door might be finding out that someone on your team has four cats, just like you!
Ice-breakers aren’t just for newly formed teams, or for when you add in a new member, though. A good round of ice-breakers, especially with out-of-the-box questions, can help build even stronger bonds between people who’ve known each other for a while.
Here are some ice-breakers you could try out at your next virtual activity:
Show-and-Tell. Show-and-tell is a great activity to do with your team, whether it’s the first time you’ve met or the thirtieth. The name reminds us all of childhood, which takes some of the perceived seriousness out of a virtual event.
Sharing trivia. Having a pre-made list of questions, or finding a random question generator online, can help us share more information about ourselves and open up about our lives to our colleagues. Each person can have thirty seconds to a minute to answer before moving on to the next.
Highs and Lows. If you want a way to keep the conversation more work-related, using the “highs and lows” conversation starter can help with that. If you have weekly meetings, have everyone go over the highest and lowest parts of their week. Sharing the stresses and excitements of life can help everyone on the team understand where their co-workers are coming from.
Traditional Games Virtualized!
While interactive team building activities (virtual or not!) can take a longer time to organize, they can be a lot more fun. These kinds of games can create great memories that employees can share for years to come. These work especially well with teams that have been working together for a while, and help liven up communication that might have gotten stiff over time.
Bingo games. There are plenty of bingo templates out there that you can customize to fit your workplace. Fill each of the boxes with workplace trivia. Start a conference call and break up your team into small groups. Make the small groups fill in each box with answers, and if they’re correct, they get to check off that section. The first group to complete a row wins a prize. If you have time, do a few rounds or do a game every so often, switching up the teams each time to make sure everyone gets to meet each other.
Scavenger hunts. Find out about each other’s style and taste by having your employees quickly locate household items in a scavenger hunt, then have everyone show them off to the team. Have the items be easy to grab, like a mug, their pet, a book, or some other office supplies.
Jeopardy. You can find how to play a more traditional game of Jeopardy with an online tool, or you can make your own game totally customized to your workplace. Email your workers with a set of questions you can put into specific categories. For example, the category could be food and the card could read “I know how to make ramen noodles from scratch.” And the employees would say, “Who is Caitlyn?” when they answer, just like in Jeopardy. And prizes always add incentive.
Virtual Activities For a Virtual Workplace
Multiplayer games. There are a lot of free games out on the market that allow for large groups to participate together. Plus, it is always exciting to break up into small groups and play many different games instead of one. You can always come back together later to share stories and change up the groups and activities. With tools like playcards.io, games like Among Us, and app versions of Heads Up!, there are a lot of free multiplayer games that you can be sure everyone on your staff can get.
Water cooler talk. When all we talk about is work, conversations can feel very impersonal. Think about setting up an outlet on the chatting service you already use, or consider incorporating a new one, so that your employees can more easily communicate about non-work-related topics.
Sharing music. Another interactive and fun activity for the whole office could be playlist making! Use your favorite messenger service and a music streaming service like Google Play or Spotify to make a space where employees can share playlists that then everyone can use at work. People can share the music they use to feel motivated or share how they destress at the end of the day.
Tips to Make Sure Your Virtual Activities Go Well
Picking any of the above team building activities, virtual or even in-person, will increase the amount of bonding going on in your workplace. Scheduling events well is key, but making sure they have high engagement is just as important. You may have tried some of these ideas before and found they haven’t really helped your team get along any better.
Here are some things you can do to increase activity engagement.
Structure. Setting up some structure for your events can help them flow more naturally. When planning, you may feel like it will be more organic to leave space in between activities for your employees to mingle amongst themselves. However, especially if your team is already having difficulties connecting, you’re going to end up with a lot of dead air if you don’t plan accordingly. By coming to the event with pre-planned activities and a general timetable, you’ll keep the meeting moving and avoid awkwardness.
Testing. Make sure that you test your equipment and technology before any activity goes live. That way you can avoid technical mishaps and you’ll know how to answer questions about the program if you’re employees have any during the event.
Build some hype. Whether you choose one of these activities or end up doing something more informal like a Netflix watch party, don’t just put it on the calendar and wait for people to show up. Engage your employees by sending charming reminders before the event, this can ensure that everyone who wants to attend can.
Try It Out!
The last thing to do is plan your own team building activities, virtual-ized. The vital team building that many virtual workplaces are missing doesn’t have to be! By finding ways to incorporate your employees into meetings, you can help increase employee engagement, increase productivity, and make your employees feel more valued.