Office workers around the world were pushed out of their offices and into remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year. Some for a short period and some for a very long time, like the employees of Slack, Google and Facebook. A huge portion will never return to the office and every company, really every, should have a contingency plan how to work remotely over a certain period, in the case of infections or a shut down.
With that trend comes a shortage of a very important thing: team building. We all know the off-site team builing activities like trust falls, rafting, high rope courses, hiking and building wooden rafts. Nearly all of them are cancelled due to possible contacts and forbidden travelling. And some of them are awkward anyway! Also all the informal communication at coffee maschines, watercoolers and lunch is gone suddenly, too.
Having a really good connection to your coworkers and feeling a team spirit is essential to good and efficient work. This is perfectly and funny shown in Apples commercial: The whole working-from-home thing.
To put it in a more empirical context: Atlassian surveyed over 1000 team members and found out, that ‘94% of participants feel mutual respect is important to a team’s success. 19% point to it as the number one factor in their team’s emotional well-being.’ (Source).
There is a growing number of remote-only companies out there. Gitlab is considered the biggest with over 1300 employees spread over all continents. They did a full-company retreat all the years – which cannot be done this year for the first time. But even if you can meet everyone in your team once a year – without virtual team building, team work feels like exchanging results between unknown contractors.
If we know each other and like to work with our colleagues, we are much happier, which highly increases our productivity. And remember that loniness is the number one obstacle in remote work settings. More on that in my post Remote Work Happiness.
If you want to plan team building activities, you have to know the different kinds: synchronous vs. asynchronous, one-time vs. regular and fun vs. improving collaboration technics. Synchronous activities are common, but in the virtual environment are even asynchronous activities possible. Think about posting pet pictures in a special Slack channel, showing your WFH (working from home) setting to the others and post ‘messy desk’ pictures.
Do some of the activities regularly, so they can become a habit and do other things from time to time as impulse. Fun and improving collaboration is not an either or. It is, for example, perfectly combined in the specially for remote teams designed online escape room by ‘Skyrocket Your Team‘. That is a fully-remote startup (5 founders, 4 nationalities, working from 4 countries) with the only purpose to let remote teams thrive.
For more specific activities I suggest the blog post about 12 very different team building activities by Sarah Goff-Dupont: The best virtual team building activities, according to full-time remote workers.
And don’t forget the small hacks about informal communication which will help you every day: regular 1-on-1s, virtual lunch, coffee breaks and after work beer, and please: always video on! More on that in my post: Informal communication in remote teams.
Please share some of your experiences or additional suggestions in the comment section!