The last thing you want when making the transition to a remote work model is to fracture your workplace, and cause rifts to develop among your employees. It’s easier said than done, though. Leaving the shared office space behind can be challenging, as it means severing social connections; no more water cooler conversations or Monday morning catch-ups.
That can certainly take a toll on employees’ wellbeing, and can have a knock-on effect on their level of engagement with their work. As such, it’s a problem that you should address sooner rather than later, so as not to cause a deep-rooted productivity issue or communication breakdown among the workforce.
Creating a virtual work environment
Losing out on the social element of a shared workplace is tough, yet there are ways to combat this problem. If you can create a virtual work environment, in which employees have opportunities to stay in touch with each other and develop connections even from afar, then you can remedy any issues caused by the lack of in-person communication.
Later we’ll cover specific remote team-building exercises to help you instill a cohesive work dynamic among employees, but first, you need to lay the foundations.
To make sure your employees don’t feel isolated and disconnected when you start working remotely, you need to quickly establish new social practices. Your in-person team meetings need to be replaced with virtual meetings over video call, as do conferences and briefings.
On top of this, though, you can also try to recreate the casual social environment where employees can catch up as this will reinforce connections and help you hold onto your talent.
For example, you can have casual Fridays, where you put on a fun event like a virtual quiz around lunchtime over video call. Or, you can open up a video call around lunch hours each day, so those employees that want to chat can do so.
The benefits of team-building
Checking in and socializing are both important for reinforcing connections between coworkers, but to create a strong team dynamic and promote effective cross-functional collaboration, team-building exercises are necessary.
Virtual team-building, as it’s starting to become known, can help you elevate cohesion among coworkers and teams. It can encourage synergistic thinking, and lead to the cross-pollination of ideas when it comes time to get down to business.
Of course, there are limitations with virtual team-building exercises. For a start, you lack the in-person opportunities for connection, and there are certain activities that just wouldn’t make sense to attempt over a video call. You might also have to contend with different levels of internet speed, people accidentally talking over each other, and other technical issues.
However, the rewards are worth the risks. An Atlassian survey revealed that 94% of employees feel that mutual respect is critical to a successful team dynamic. How can you expect to build a level of respect and trust if you barely know your coworkers?
Team-building activities can help build familiarity, and more importantly, the trust necessary to facilitate productive collaboration.
Best remote team-building exercises
To give you an idea of what team-building can look like in a remote work environment, we’ve scoured the web and found some of the best virtual team-building exercises around. You can use these exercises with your teams, or simply take inspiration from them and adapt them to your workplace.
It may seem simple, but this activity has worked for many teams and the reason for its success is likely due to how relatable it is. In this activity, all that’s required from each team member is a photo update of how their desk looks.
The photos themselves aren’t what create the social bonds between team members, but the conversations that follow them. We all love to see how others work, and sometimes the sight of an untidy desk can make us feel as if we aren’t the only ones struggling to stay on top of workplace clutter. This is especially true if you’re new to working from home and still figuring out a setup that works best for you.
The gif challenge is a fun team-building activity that should have the whole team laughing and sharing their playful sides. In this game, you create a series of list columns – Trello is a good app for doing this – and title each list with a type of animal, a specific object, or a pop culture reference. Team members are then tasked with finding the best gif to represent the chosen subject.
As you can imagine, the gif challenge is a great way to bring employees together and allow them to bring their personalities into the workplace.
Quizzes always go down well, and there are dozens of great online quiz sites out there you can turn to.
For a more personalized experience, you could meet with your team leaders to create your own quizzes, or hire a business writing service to help you with creative copywriting.. That way, you can increase the opportunities for connection and create a quiz tailor-made for each team which they’re sure to remember.
Even though it may at first seem as if you’ve lost all opportunities to be social in the workplace when you go virtual, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are many activities and exercises you can put on to promote team-building in a remote work environment. Likewise, many teams use software for employee monitoring as a way to boost morale, regain employee control and gamify productivity for remote workers.
Provided you create a virtual atmosphere in which employees can reach out and connect with each other, you should have no trouble recreating a social environment even when employees are working from home productively.