Virtual Team-Building Ideas for Staying Connected in a Remote Work Environment
Blog //21-06-2021

Virtual Team-Building Ideas for Staying Connected in a Remote Work Environment

by Claire Ross, Head of Culture and Engagement

The past year has seen the traditional working world upended, with many of us making a necessary switch to remote based working models. Whilst companies worldwide have demonstrated great resiliency in adopting new business strategies, it’s an undeniable fact that working from home has left people feeling somewhat isolated. A year on from the first lockdown, organisations are still tackling the question of how to balance the need for remote working with the greater issue of team building and morale. 

Here at Advanced, we understand how important it is for your people to feel connected and motivated, no matter where they may be. It's clear that moving forward the technology that businesses adopted in order to survive the early days of the pandemic, are now set to play a much larger role in ensuring that businesses and their people are able to remain connected and driven.

 

The benefits or virtual team building

The shift towards remote working last year represented one of the most fundamental changes to the shape of the modern working world to date. It is a move that allowed businesses to pivot their strategies in order to maintain a sense of business as usual in the face of a global health crisis. A year removed from the first lockdown and businesses are now able to take a step back and take stock of the successes reaped from a more remote-based setup.

 It is evident that even post-pandemic, there will be a desire to maintain at least some degree of working from home: A Gartner survey reveals that 82% of those surveyed stated that they were prepared to allow some degree of remote working even after a wider return to the workplace. While companies would do well to pay attention to the increased desire for remote working, this fundamental shift in working attitudes is sure to exacerbate existing issues leaders and HR professionals are encountering when it comes to maintaining team morale.

A poll of workers conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health found that two-thirds (67 per cent) of workers who moved from the office to home during the pandemic felt less connected to their colleagues. This can have far-ranging consequences for employees who may find their mental wellbeing declining as a result of this isolation.

Making sure that you have a clear framework in place for driving team building in a virtual setting will be fundamental in safeguarding your people and ensuring that they remain happy, motivated and productive. Business leaders play a crucial role in driving and promoting company culture and so it will fall to them to be pioneers and to demonstrate a commitment towards bridging the gap between remote and onsite workers.

 

How to build trust in a virtual team

Successful businesses are built upon a foundation of trust. A study by Forbes finds that in organisations with greater levels of trust, employees experience 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement, 74% less stress, 40% less burnout and 29% more life satisfaction. This demonstrates the effectiveness of nurturing a trusting environment amongst employees and it is an approach that also reflects positively upon management and their people’s perception of them.

How to introduce visibility into a remote team

One of the greater issues surrounding virtual teams is the absence of casual day to day interaction. The traditional office environment offers plenty of opportunities for conversation between employees by which, people are able to get a measure of the working environment. In a remote setting, visibility of an individual’s workload is less obvious and therefore there is a lack of context in certain situations, for example, if someone was late joining a meeting, there may be a lesser degree of understanding than if you were physically in the same space.

Beginning with an approach that prioritises clarity foremost will help eliminate any suspicion or confusion surrounding performance. Fostering an air of frank and open discussion is also more effective in planning team meetings as you will always have oversight of an individual’s schedule and will be able to choose a more optimum time. By taking advantage of technology and real-time analytic tools, you will be able to create an environment where each individual’s roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

Technology drives change

Adopting new technologies will work most effectively if leaders remember that the purpose of systems is to serve the people at the heart of the organisation. Bridge the gap between remote and home workers by ensuring that each employee has a clearly defined avenue of communication to their team leader. Encourage employees to utilise these channels to not only discuss matters of targets and performance but also to tackle greater concerns around mental wellbeing.

It’s important also to create a sense of structure where possible. Hosting regular virtual morning meetings are a good way to ensure a consistent starting point for the day when balancing remote and on site workers. They are also a great opportunity to have informal catch ups prior to moving on to more work based subjects.

Encourage your people to be as open and frank as possible regarding their work. One of the greatest challenges of remote working is the inability to touch base with a colleague swiftly for the purposes of clarification. Avoid anxieties around issues of competence by encouraging employees to reach out to fellow team members or team leaders for assistance and also ensure you are hosting regular meetings in order to ensure that each team member has access to the resources they need to effectively do their job.

 

What are good virtual team building activities?

At their core, virtual team-building exercises should be about more than honing productivity and performance. They provide a fantastic opportunity to reclaim the social aspect of work that has been lost over the past year. Web-based applications such as Kahoot can allow you to easily host virtual pub quizzes and trivia games to help ensure you are striving a balance between catching up for work focused reasons and social meets.

Many organisations have pivoted their setups in order to meet demand for virtual platforms. Online escape rooms are a great example of a direct translation of a previously popular social activity for workplaces that has evolved to suit the current environment.  Activities based around mysteries or problem-solving are also a fantastic way of bridging the gap between on-site and remote workers by giving them a common task to tackle. 

Virtual activities your team will love

  • Icebreaker picture sharing- Bond with your team with a light-hearted look at old/embarrassing photos.
  • 20 questions- A great way for new teams to get to know each other. Particularly recommended for virtual teams who have never met up in person.
  • Virtual escape rooms-Virtual escape rooms were an extremely popular team building exercise pre-pandemic and many organisations have taken advantage of the virtual experience in order to foster an atmosphere of problem solving and team building.
  • Virtual house tours- With more than a year of remote working under our belts, why not host your own MTV Cribs style event and get a glimpse into the home lives of your colleagues?
  • The Desert Island Scenario- Similar to problem solving games you may have come across in school, the object of this game is for teams to choose between a list of seven objects and select the three they feel would help them survive being stranded on a desert island. This game is a great way to drive collaboration and encourage creative problem solving strategies.
  • Virtual pub quiz- An instant classic for remote workers and a great way to bring teams together on a friday night for a post work wind down

 

How virtual activities can help with the onboarding process

Given the length of time that has passed since the first lockdown, many organisations will now consist of teams made up of employees who potentially have never met each other face to face. Virtual icebreaker games such as “Something in common” are a great way for teams to learn more about each other and to create a sense of familiarity between remote teams.

Hosting online drinks sessions on a Friday evening or lunch sessions during the working week are a good way to introduce a little bit of normality into the lives of your people. Encouraging catch ups in a non work setting are also beneficial in setting a clear divide between office hours and leisure time, avoiding the burnout that comes from the “Always on'' culture which is sometimes exacerbated by remote working.

As we move forward into the post pandemic world, many people’s expectations of their workplace will have shifted dramatically over the past 12 months. By demonstrating a commitment to online engagement in both a social and working capacity, organisations can increase job satisfaction as well as employee retention levels.

At Advanced, we understand the importance of making sure that we stay connected. Our HCM systems are designed to make sure that your people remain happy, confident and engaged, no matter where they are working from. Visit us today to find out more about how we can help.

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Claire Ross

Claire Ross

PUBLISHED BY

Head of Culture and Engagement

As Head of Culture & Engagement, I'm focused on building positive moments that matter which in turn strengthen the relationship our colleagues have with Advanced. Our employee experience is key to our business performance and from a background as a HR generalist, I see every aspect of the employee lifecycle as an opportunity to reinforce that we are an employer of choice.

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