Estimated reading time: 5 mins
By now, most corporates have understood the value team building events and exercises bring to their organisations. While most corporates are now investing in such initiatives, there’s a new trend on the rise- virtual teams.
While the ‘work from anywhere’ culture is great for productivity, it presents a fresh challenge for those looking to build bonds and trust between their team members. Even at the organisations that don’t engage in team building activities, social interactions with other full-time team members contribute greatly to team building.
However, most virtual employees seldom (or never) meet their teammates. For this reason, team building is a little tricky for virtual teams. Nonetheless, team building is an important element of creating successful teams. If you too, are wondering how you can instill a sense of belonging in your virtual team members try these innovative ideas:
Virtual Small Talk
As mentioned earlier, small talks and quick interactions between the co-workers are great from a tea building point of view. While bonding over team lunch is not possible for virtual employees, a little ‘small-talk session’ at the beginning of every meeting is quite effective.
At the start of every meeting, spend a couple of minutes taking updates on the lives of your team members. These don’t necessarily have to be personal questions. Simple questions and discussions about the weather and their daily lives work beautifully when it comes to breaking the ice.
The Ice-Breaking Email
If you have just started working as a team, shoot out an ice-breaking email marking everyone in the group. The email would contain simple ice-breaking questions like ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ or ‘tell us about everyone in your family’.
This email trail would help team members understand each other better, and may also give the team leaders something to talk about before their next team meeting. If possible, let most team communication take place on a virtual group for better cohesion among the team members.
Live Virtual Coworking Sessions
Co-working spaces have seen a lot of success in recent times. On one hand, they offer a relaxed atmosphere which is perfect for innovation. On the other, they offer the ‘get to work’ motivation present at most office spaces.
While most home offices are great when it comes to productivity, even the best of us need external motivation sometimes. In such cases, virtual coworking sessions offer the perfect solution. Not only do they fuel bonding among the team members, virtual coworking sessions offer the right motivation to squeeze out maximum productivity.
Setting up such a session is simple and costs next to nothing. Simply find a good video conferencing software, tell everyone in the team to join the conference calls whenever they start working and you’re done!
Switch meeting hosts
While all meetings with a virtual team are probably going to be virtual, it is a great idea to have a different team member initiating the meeting each time.
To make this activity even more fun, you can ask each team member to come up with a unique ice-breaking idea when it is their turn to host.
Set up regular in-person meetings whenever possible
While this might not be possible for teams that have members from different cities or countries, for those who can, in-person meetings are well worth the effort. For many virtual employees, their employers only exist on their laptops or phones. Regular in-person meetings will instill a sense of accountability and belonging in your team members.
It is obvious that remote working employees cannot catch up on coffee breaks in real time. As a team leader, it is your job to intentionally make these interactions happen.
The easiest way to do this is to set up a calendar with different pairs of members of your team connecting over call on different days. Team members can discuss the topics for these chats over a common platform.
This way, team members can get to know each other, and form individual relationships, further strengthening the cohesion within the team.
‘Get to know your coworker’ sessions
These are a lot of fun. Such sessions have virtually no rules, and can revolve around anything. Simply build a group on any social media platform like Facebook or Whatsapp and ask everyone to share!
Team members can share anything from an interesting piece of news they came across, to funny pictures of their pets.
To take this activity to the next level, set up a weekly video conference call where team members show off their homes and introduce their families to the rest of the team. This way, your team members would get to know each other better.
The usage of jargons and buzzwords is one of the most common reasons behind miscommunications among team members.
In order to avoid these kind of confusions, you can start a game of buzzword bingo during meetings. Team members will be awarded virtual points whenever they catch one of their coworkers using jargons or phrases during the meetings. Not only would this work beautifully to break the ice, it would eliminate all future confusions that might arise in the future.
This point might not be related to team building, but holds immense importance when it comes to keeping your team members satisfied. If you don’t respect their work life balance, and expect them to be available real time, whenever you wish, it is definitely going to alienate them.
Avoid work-related emails and messages after business hours. Remember, a happy employee is the best way to get happy customers.
Team building is an absolute necessity for virtual teams. While it might be easier, and in some cases, better for productivity, to have team members scattered around the country, or even the World, it is important to understand the importance of cohesion.
Your team members maybe working as individuals, but it is important to make them feel like they are part of something bigger, along with other individuals, and are working to achieve a common goal.