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The increasing shift to remote working seen over recent years has brought many advantages to employees, but it can also make it harder to foster a strong group spirit. One way to overcome the problem is with remote team building activities.
Below, five great ideas for remote team building are highlighted, which you might want to consider implementing with work-from-home colleagues to try to bridge the distance between them.
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Some of the remote team building activities are focused on encouraging interaction in the context of work, while others are related to cultivating more social exchanges.
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Remote team building increasingly important in post-pandemic world
While remote working was already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across most of the globe in 2020, that international health emergency saw it increase significantly.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, in the United States the amount of paid jobs that were undertaken remotely rose from 5% prior to the pandemic to 50% during the worst months of the emergency. Similar patterns were witnessed in Europe and many other parts of the world.
That necessity driven trend forced many companies to drastically accelerate digital transformation programs and adapt to new ways of doing business.
While many workers returned to the office once populations had beeen widely vaccinated and travel normalized, a large number of companies chose to maintain remote working — in part due to seeing that working remotely didn’t result in a loss of productivity, while it also brought savings associated with not maintaining large office spaces.
While the proportion of jobs being carried out remotely receded once the worst of the pandemic had subsided, teleworking had become firmly embedded in working culture, and is anticipated to see growth in 2023, including among some of the highest-paying jobs.
But while remote work brings a great deal of convenience and savings to employees, with long commutes eliminated, it also comes with some downsides.
While one of the most talked about is the increase in actual work done, as employees find it harder to separate their work and home lives, another challenge is the sometimes isolating experience that remote workers can have.
Isolation can have profound effects on a personal level, raising a range of mental health concerns.
It can also create a barrier to fostering cohesion among colleagues and make building camaraderie within a team more difficult, as workers and team leaders find it harder to build relationships among a team.
With that in mind, the following five remote team building activities offer some ideas on how to encourage collaboration and create spirit and understanding among teleworking colleagues.
Five remote team building activities
Remote team building activities can cover anything from actions and initiatives the promote greater interaction within the context of work, to more social activities that help overcome the lack of personal exchange the comes with not being in the same physical space.
- Have designated “cameras on” meetings
One of the advantages of remote working that people enjoy is not having to get dressed up in office attire every day and instead being able to work in more casual and comfortable clothes. But that can also mean that when it comes to meetings, people prefer to keep their cameras off.
With video calls often the only time that remote colleagues will actually see each other and interact outside a chat box, it is ideal for some (but not necessarily all) meetings to be held with cameras turned on.
Because while a video call will never fully replicate an in-person meeting, it is the closest many colleagues will come. So a good recommendation for remote team building is to specifically designate some meetings as “cameras on.”
- Start meetings with icebreakers
When online meetings are the only time that a particular group of employees interacts, another good idea for remote team building is to kick off those meetings with icebreaker questions — replicating the small talk that people would have in person before a physical meeting starts.
That will often mean the person running the meeting or responsible for the team leading the way. If you are meeting on a Monday, asking what people got up to over the weekend is an easy icebreaker. Or for meetings later in the week, what plans they have for the evenings or the coming weekend.
The main thing is avoiding getting straight down to business, so that people in the team can get to know each other a little better.
- Stage occasional virtual breaks
Another great benefit of remote working for many people is the greater flexibility it offers in terms of taking breaks and lunch, so trying to stage virtual breaks too frequently can encroach on that.
But another of the remote team building activities you may want to try to introduce is establishing an occasional virtual break together — be that a morning coffee, a shared lunch break, or afternoon tea. The obvious rule here is that work ideally stays off the conversation agenda, so everyone feels they are getting a genuine break, as well as having the chance to know their teammates better.
An extension of this idea is to create a virtual break room, that people from the team or wider organization can enter voluntarily when they are on a break, to interact with any others who might be present.
- Set up a social channel
Working in a remote team, you will almost certainly be part of a group chat with colleagues to discuss matters related to work. But another good idea when considering remote team building activities is setting up a channel for non-work related interactions.
Whether that is an alternative channel on the platform your team uses for work chatter, or an entirely different platform, providing a space to interact more informally can be a great way to foster team spirit.
Sharing photos of your pets, your (messy) workspace, your meals, or any other aspect of your remote work life are just some ideas for things to share on this channel. But really, any interaction that brings a smile to people’s faces and makes them feel more connected with their team is welcome.
- Find time to reflect
While it is good to have remote team building activities that take your mind off of work, it is also worthwhile making space for the group to reflect on the work they are doing, what that means to the team overall, and how that fits into the wider organization.
A good time to consider doing something like this is on a Friday afternoon, as the work week draws to a close. Providing team members with the chance to discuss what they have achieved that week, what they have coming up the following week, and how they feel the team has performed as a whole is a great way of reinforcing the sense that people are working together despite the distance between them.
This will also give team members the opportunity to highlight how others in the team have helped them do their jobs, and provide a space in which individual colleagues can be recognized for their contributions, which is a great way of building morale.
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