11 ways to encourage remote team building


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With many firms considering saying goodbye to the office completely, companies will need to consider alternative ways to encourage collaboration and build relationships. Henry Lee shares 11 ideas for remote team building.

Team building is probably not high up on HR’s list of priorities at the moment, but in tough periods it’s vital that organisations look after their workforce.

With teams dispersed across locations, facilitating remote team building activities is a way to boost morale and ignite spontaneous interactions which can decline when people don’t work together physically.

Although the recent ‘work-from-home experiment’ has been forced upon many, there is a possibility that businesses will not return to the same levels of office-based employees as before, due to social distancing measures and other considerations such as productivity gains or work-life balance benefits.

If a more flexible, remote working model is the future, you will want to consider how to facilitate virtual team building to ensure remote employees are engaged and connected.

Remote team building is essentially making the effort to help your remote workers establish and maintain relationships with other team members. Keeping these employees collaborating as a tight-knit team means you can all reap the benefits of good communication, constant support and shared goals – and you will likely see your retention rates improve as well.

If your remote teams feel a strong level of support, they will be much happier and more likely to work together effectively because they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When they need help with a task, there’s no back and forth as they know exactly who can do what. This effortless collaboration often leads to more exciting and valuable end results.

Things are a little different for virtual team building. To make any team building efforts work for remote employees, the manager needs to encourage individuals to make the most of them – with more people willingly participating, the virtual activities will help your team feel like more of a community.

Here are 11 activities that will help bring your remote workers together.

  1. Create a virtual office. One of the differentiators between working in an office and working remotely is the lack of spontaneous interactions. While they may seem like small talk or aimless conversations, they are a crucial aspect of team building. This can be recreated virtually by encouraging teams to work for an hour or so with their video on – it’s not a meeting so nobody is obliged to speak, but if somebody has questions they can ask as if they were sat next to each other.
  2. Have team coffee/lunch breaks – and don’t forget the chit-chat. A virtual ‘break room’ gives remote employees the opportunity to catch up and chat about non-work related things. These lighter conversations are important as they can lift the mood of remote workers who may feel isolated. Encourage each other to share small good news stories, such as what has made them feel happy in the last couple of days.
  3. Ask team members to give a tour of their home office. This will allow them to bond over any mutual interests. Does somebody have a dog or cat? Get them on screen! Does somebody have toddler hammering on the door while they’re trying to work? Get them to bring them in and introduce them.
  4. Hold virtual company-wide events. Company-wide events are a great way of getting employees to mingle and interact – this shouldn’t stop because staff are not in the office. Hosting these sort of events can be done just as easily over a video conference.
  5. Start a remote book club. These can encourage critical thinking. Alternatively, for those not so keen on reading, do the same for movies or a TV series.
  6. Celebrate achievements together. You know how important recognition is; it’s a key aspect of engagement and a contributor to staff retention. When managers can’t praise a team member in person, they should think of alternative ways to do so. Do they have a company platform where they could give them a shout out? Encourage other team members to reach out and congratulate them – praise from peers is just as meaningful as it is from management.
  7. Encourage light-hearted competition. We all have a competitive streak. Encouraging competition between employees brings them closer together. Set them up in groups and give them challenges. It doesn’t have to be work related – You could do activities like ‘who can make the best cocktails’ or ‘who can clock up the most running miles in a week’.
  8. Host virtual icebreaker games. Host games such as online Pictionary or trivia quizzes in teams.
  9. Get them to reach out beyond their ‘inner circle’. It’s natural to have ‘work-mates’, those colleagues who you are closer to than others. While it’s great to have these close workplace friends, HR should encourage  employees to reach out to those who they aren’t so close to. Randomly pair people from the business together and encourage them to have a five minute chat on video call everyday for the week, and then the next week change it up so they move onto someone else. This virtual rotating buddy scheme is a great way for remote employees to strike up relationships with those they don’t know so well.
  10. Send supplies to remote workers. Sending out a care package of supplies or treats to employees shows that you as HR, and the business, care for them.
  11. Recreate the Friday feeling. At the end of a week remote teams should be encouraged to kick back and relax with their drink of choice. When you clock off on Friday, set-up a video call where staff can socialise and get ready for the weekend.

Whatever activities or methods you wish to use, virtual team building should help to boost morale, increase productivity and improve overall results.

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