In 2016, nearly 43% of American workers spend at least part of their job working remotely. This could mean taking a day off from the office in lieu of working from home, or telecommuting on the regular from a city that hours away. The study found that flex scheduling and work-from-home opportunities are playing an ever-increasing factor in establishing the ideal work/life balance, so much so that these options may determine whether an employee takes or leaves a position.
And the amount of remote work is only expected to climb as employees continue to break the traditional work schedule barriers of previous decades.
The increasing lack of physicality in the workplace can often affect the performance of team activity. When part of the team is absent or hasn’t had the opportunity to bond with other team members, communications fail, trust isn’t earned, and the project outcome can be delayed or, worse, crash completely.
But as Stephen Hawking once said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Which means companies are wising up to the changing dynamics in workplace collaboration and finding smarter ways to facilitate a team environment, even when key players are never physically present.
Why Does Virtual Team Building Matter?
In an effort to save both time and money, many businesses have brought on virtual team members to help tackle their workload within the past several years.
But these cost-saving cuts come with a price – the absence of a strong team to back the company’s mission.
This business structure requires managers to find creative ways to foster communication and trust among their team members. Without a team commitment, employees are no more than individuals working independently towards a goal. And without the collaboration and support of a team, companies risk becoming only as great as the sum of its parts.
Team building activities for remote employees isn’t a new concept, but it is one of the most underutilized opportunities for businesses to impact their operations when most of their workforce telecommutes. And it’s not without reason: with a lack of face-to-face interaction, companies with remote employees find it challenging to design effective team building for virtual teams.
It’s especially hard when only a handful of the team members are working remotely, while the rest of the team has the benefit of engaging in workplace culture on the regular. But whether you have a split team or one that’s entirely virtual, team building still remains crucial for fostering communication, trust, and a way for each member to remain connected, both to the goals of the team and to the company as a whole.
Finding the Will and the Way to Foster Team Building for Virtual Teams
The physical absence of your team members presents its own set of challenges, but those challenges are far from impossible to overcome.
If you want to be successful in your virtual team building activities for the workplace, you should prioritize virtual team building exercises every bit as much as though your team members were live in person. Here’s why:
A key component in successful team building for virtual teams is finding ways to keep connected through various forms of communication. When team members work remotely, it is even more important for managers to stay on top of their email and phone communications to keep employees informed and engaged. Video conferences are a good alternative for virtual teams as they offer the feel of an in-person meeting and give employees face time with their coworkers.
Build Virtual Team Spirit
At the heart of every strong company lies an equally strong company culture that is largely responsible for your employees’ success. But when some or all of a team is only available in the virtual sense, they have no way of immersing themselves in the culture you’ve crafted. Using team building activities for remote employees can help bridge the gap between remote worker and the core principles of your company’s daily life. In doing so, your remote employees will feel more like they belong with your company and can better align their actions and values with those of your mission.
That said, it does require a little creativity and prior planning on your end to make your virtual team building activities successful. But considering how rapidly virtual teams are starting to dominate the workforce, the need for better facilitation of virtual team building activities is being well met.
How to Choose an Event for Virtual Team Building
When it comes to crafting virtual team building exercises that are both interesting and effective, you have more options than you might think. But don’t rally your employees for a mandatory video conference just yet.
Consider the unique needs of your team and what you hope to accomplish with your virtual team building exercises. This can help you choose the right type of team building event to help you get the best results for your efforts.
Plan a retreat
Managers might consider utilizing company resources to plan one event a year that brings virtual team members together in person. A retreat is an effective way for employees to reflect on the goals and values of the business as well as learn about their coworkers and develop more open lines of communication. Companies can also allocate their funds to sending team members to conferences that relate to their line of work or leadership. This facilitates team building as employees have the opportunity to interact with their coworkers and collectively learn new business ideas and strategies.
Companies can also allocate their funds to sending team members to conferences that relate to their line of work or leadership. This facilitates team building as employees have the opportunity to interact with their coworkers and collectively learn new business ideas and strategies.
Having an in-person retreat or conference with your virtual teams gives you the opportunity to facilitate “live” team building events, such as the ones we offer at Magnovo. Hosting a professional team building activity can help you maximize your time as a team. It also helps to keep communications and relationships strong long after your team returns to the virtual world.
Create “bite-sized” team projects
Depending on the size of your group, your team members may find it hard to forge strong connections en masse, especially when there’s no in-person interaction. Instead, you may want to pair up employees to work together on a project, then present the results of the project to the group. This gives each team member a chance to get to know one specific person. On the next project, each person receives a different partner to work with. This one-to-one team building can prove helpful in getting to know someone quicker and more effectively. And it’s a scalable, repeatable remote team building activity that works no matter how large or small the team.
Instead, you may want to pair up employees to work together on a project, then present the results of the project to the group. This gives each team member a chance to get to know one specific person. On the next project, each person receives a different partner to work with.
This one-to-one team building can prove helpful in getting to know someone quicker and more effectively. It’s a scalable, repeatable remote team building activity that works no matter how large or small the team.
Connect on Facebook or Slack
There was a point in time where mixing social media with work were highly frowned upon. But considering the amount of business now conducted on social channels, those days are long gone.
To create a sense of team unity, you can establish a private Facebook or Slack group for team members to connect. Here, they can share their thoughts on a project, ask questions, or simply let off some steam. In addition, you can use these and other platforms to present team challenges, ice breakers, or other online team building games. Or start a group fitness challenge and have team members share their number of steps taken each week or other stats.
However, you choose to facilitate these connections, make sure everyone is involved and engaged, and that activity is consistent. You might want to set a special day or time each week for everyone to meet up on whatever social platform you’re using.
Schedule Time for Fun
Your team members may never be the best of friends, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun together. Human interaction is often considered one of the best parts of working in-office, and virtual teams shouldn’t have to miss out.
Choose a time each week for teams to meet up for a little fun and games. This could include anything from brain teasers and trivia to sharing favorite YouTube videos or GIFs. These remote team building activities can take place in conjunction with your social media activities. Or, you could make it a separate event.
This gives employees something to look forward to each week (or however often you decide) and can make the work week seem a little less dim.
Celebrate More Than Company Successes
Reaching a company goal gives you plenty of reason to celebrate, but that’s not the only time you can present a festive atmosphere.
Some companies choose to celebrate all of the month’s birthdays in a single celebration, and you can do the same with your virtual team. If you have five birthdays in a given month, you can opt for one virtual celebration to cover them all. This could take the form of showering the team members with appreciation. Or come up with a fun birthday game, such as having each person load a baby picture of themselves.
Holidays also present plenty of opportunities to engage in non-work festivities. You could host a virtual bake-off where employees show off their culinary creation. Or you could all wear holiday colors on your next video conference call.
However, keep in mind that not all employees will celebrate the same holidays. Find out ahead of time which holidays are celebrated by your team members, and give the option of opting out of any holiday festivities. Building a better team isn’t exclusive to virtual team building games, so get creative.
Recognize Employee Achievements
A team member’s belief that he or she is valued within a company not only impacts employee retention but also encourages team members to work harder and motivates them to meet company goals.
Finding ways to show appreciation for team members virtually is a more difficult task but equally important in the overall success of a business. Managers can reference employee accomplishments through email chains and video conferences, or they might consider sending a card as a more personalized form of recognition.
Or, if it’s in the budget, consider offering bonuses for exceeding company goals or collaborative efforts. This is one of the most effective ways for managers to foster employee satisfaction and encourage team building for virtual teams.
Virtual Team Building Is Never Complete
Team building should never be viewed as a “one and done” activity, especially when it comes to virtual teams. As your business needs change, so will the needs of your team, and any shakeup could compromise the strength of the team you’ve created.
In addition, team members may leave the company, allowing new members to join existing teams that already know how to work well with each other. Continued team building is essential so that all team members, regardless of their tenure, feel confident in their positions and with the people they must rely on.
Far too often companies make the mistake of investing in team building that begins and ends with a single activity. But communications, trust, and understanding between team members take time to develop. Even seasoned teams benefit from additional team building activities, helping them to renew their commitment to their group.
Virtual team building is never complete. It takes practice, dedication, and consistency to maintain the team bonds your virtual team building efforts created. However, you can make it more effective and efficient when you make it a priority.
To learn more about team building for virtual teams, contact Magnovo Training Group today.