When employees spend all workdays at the same location they eventually establish strong connections with each other. They can chat during coffee breaks, ask questions, have lunch together, or go out for happy hours. But how to establish and maintain connections when you are all teleworking? Is that true that remote teams are less productive and coordinated? Are there any reliable team building ideas for remote workers?
The truth is that the modern workplace is changing, and we are now witnessing a clear trend towards more remote work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has just accelerated this shift, shaping the new workplace reality.
Yes, teleworking has many advantages for both companies and employees, but it also poses many challenges. According to various polls and surveys, the biggest remote-work struggles are the difficulties in communication and loneliness.
As businesses all over the world continue to adopt remote work policies, they should also be aware of this type of challenge. Team building is important, as efficiency and performance go through the roof when people trust each other and feel connected to a common goal.
To organize team building activities in a virtual team is much more challenging than in the offline format but still far from impossible even if employees live in different time zones. Let’s again thank the vast technological progress: video calls, messaging apps and social media:)
However, it is not enough to just put your team in a video chat together — it takes technique, skills, analysis, and observation to form a strong, capable team.
How to engage a remote team? Zero to One Search experience
Zero to One Search knows everything about teleworking. Since its very establishment in 2017, the whole team of its tech recruiters works remotely from different corners of the globe. What activities help Zero to One Search recruiters to remain a cohesive and coordinated team? How to motivate employees to build relations even if they live on different continents? We asked Zero to One Search CEO and founder Marat Yakupov to shed light on how exactly it is going in our company:
Leading a remote team definitely has some additional complexity. Many micro interactions, signs of encouragement, high fives, screaming “great job” through the office is not possible remotely. To a certain extent the emojis can replace it but a human touch is a human touch. I would recommend team leads to organize calls with their colleagues from time to time. Push people to have coffee breaks with each other, you may even make it mandatory. A small get together at the end of the week with beer or wine will also push the moral high. Remote work is not for everyone, so be ready to let people go, and welcome new team members.Marat Yakupov
How to choose and plan remote team building session
There are plenty of possible formats for remote team building: online games, virtual coffee breaks, learning and professional courses for groups, virtual social clubs and so on. To make the right choice, a manager should think about two things:
- What do you want to achieve with your virtual team bonding activity? This could be a number of things, including to have fun, boost productivity and morale, enhance communication, build relationships, experience connection. With an understanding of your desired outcomes, you’ll be able to easily select the right virtual team building activity.
- What type of remote team building activity your employees would like? Talk directly to your colleagues to see what they’d love to take part in. One of the most convenient options to find it out is to launch a free survey.
So, now you understand your goals in team-building and know the preferences of the team. It’s half the battle! In the next step, determine your budget and timeline. The good news here is that virtual team building activities are ultra-affordable and not really time-consuming;)
And the last step: coordinate logistics and get your team organized.
Yes, there is nothing new: we all use internet and video conferencing tools on a daily basis. But still, it’s not a rare situation, when at X-hour something goes wrong: someone confused the time, someone has a malfunctioning mic and so on.
So, settle everything in advance. Choose the right video conferencing tool (Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, for example); ensure that all participants have the right hardware (Wi-Fi connection, laptop, tablet, smartphone and so on); provide your team with access to the conference, schedule the meeting and once it starts, grant participants the entry.
Successful virtual team building case: the experience of Microsoft Azure
Since self-quarantine measures were enforced in March, Microsoft Azure team observed the effects of low employee engagement, as well as decrease in productivity and motivation.
Azure was actively seeking for an online activity to get the team reconnected and re-engaged with one another in the midst of the global pandemic.
Eventually, the company decided that online game was the format that could help the team to achieve the said goals (to boost engagement and productivity) and opted for Virtual Clue Murder Mystery online game.
The game required the team to split into teams, examine clues, review case files, and channel their inner detectives as they were investigating a misterious murder. Participants had a chance to show their problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, willing to collaborate, and communicate effectively in order to successfully solve the case. And of course, all employees were just having fun and communicating with each other that created a unity between them.
Lexee Brewer, Microsoft Azure Business Administrator, noted that the feedback from the team regarding the online game wa extremely positive:
“When I take a look at the feedback, there’s a common positive thread. Reading through it now, I’m seeing things like… ‘This was a very, very fun and well-deserved break for a few hours,’ ‘Thanks, Lexee, this was awesome,’ ‘I never knew we could have this much fun, even on a virtual team building event.’The feedback I got was pretty much the same the entire way through.”Quoted by Outrace Team Building Training
Moreover, Lexee noted that after the team building session, the team had become connected on a personal level more than they usually were.
“I feel that the team’s interactions might have been lighter afterward. And, not only that, it gave them something to look forward to. I did get emails asking when the next team building activity would be.”
So, team building activities are something that should not be ignored or postponed even during such challenging times of self-isolation. The level of team’s productivity and motivation are directly connected to the cohesiveness between its members.
Modern technological means allow the companies to organize an online team building activity that could be not less effective than offline meeting of employees.
The key to success when it comes to choosing team building activity is to determine your goals: whether you want to boost morale within the team, enhance relationships, increase the level of cohesiveness and so on. And of course, you should be aware of the preferences of your team.
Pay attention to the logistics of the conference call: ensure that everyone has necessary hardware, stable WiFi connection to avoid destructions related to technical difficulties.
And the last recommendation: when you get the chance, organize an offline team building session:) No matter how effective online team building sessions could be, personal contacts should not be underestimated.