The value of virtual team building

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!

Remote Work Happiness

We are all still in the worst pandemic, the earth has ever seen. Besides all the tragic, we have one positive outcome which will enhance the life of so many people: the rise of remote work.

The vast majority of office workers are able to work wherever and whenever they what, or to be presice: how it fits best to their personal circumstances. It is real freedom, if you can pick up your kids from school, walk your dog whenever you want and first and foremost live in a city or rural area you like instead of the city where the work was.

But there are a few things that can cause problems however. Many middle managers still have to learn that team members should be measured by outcome and not by working hours or presence. Another thing is mental health which is directly connected to happiness.

It is way to easy in the home office to forget:

  • to make breaks
  • to exercise
  • to maintain a healthy diet
  • to stop work after doing enough
  • to cheer coworkers
  • to miss social contacts

The risk of loniness and burnout is real. To read more see ‘How To Avoid Burnout In The Age Of Remote Work‘ by Shelcy V. Joseph via Forbes.

Even if we don’t look at this extreme, happiness is the key for your mental health and your productivity. So please mind the points above if you are remote working. And at top of that try to make something that fits perfectly to your skills and will have an impact to drive society in the direction you want it to be. There is nothing more encouraging than to make the world a better place.

If you have remote employees, make their hapiness your highest priority. You may know Sir Richard Bransons famous quote ‘Happy employees equals happy customers”. That is true since a long time. But now, as your team members are working remote, this has to be achieved in a different way.

As a remote leader please take serious care of your coworkers:

  • Schedule regular 1-on-1 session with audio and video
  • Organize retreats if possible
  • Fascilitate a written frist work culture to avoid misunderstandings
  • Over-communicate, especially work targets and common goals
  • Spread information as much and as often as possible
  • Embrace off work talk, like in my post ‘Informal communication in remote teams
  • Make clear that long hours are undesired

You agree on the importance of remote work happiness? Do I have missed a significant point? Please write it as comment!

Picture by Radu Florin via Pexels