This isn’t usually the first topic to be discussed about managing remote teams, but we shouldn’t ever underestimate the power of team building. Companies will probably be seeing more than one third of their employees working remotely in the next decade. On top of that, in face of the current circumstances, finding strategies to keep your team engaged is crucial.
When I first started managing teams remotely I had some challenges bonding with my team. I looked for help in various places and with different people, and I did my fair share of research trying to find the latest trends and strategies to foster bonding among remote teams. However, it wasn’t easy to find good articles and information about team building. Most articles were targeted to offices, and honestly most of the team building ideas I found for remotes weren’t very appealing.
However, I needed to get ideas from somewhere. I took some tips from articles on the internet, and others from people who were successfully implementing them in their team building events or in virtual coffee sessions. The first attempts weren’t obviously the most stellar experiences, but they were enough to keep the ideas coming and to develop a better way to conduct team buildings for remote teams. Here are some key thoughts on the process, and what has been working based on my experience.
Every team is different and so are its requirements. I can’t say which will be the optimal frequency for your team, since various factors need to be taken into account. It’s important to balance operation needs and the availability of your team, which will vary. Currently I’ve been working to have team buildings biweekly. This makes the team buildings frequent enough to engage the team, but with a relative gap between one another so they still have an aura of a “special activity”.
I started hosting all the team buildings I was scheduling, and suddenly I saw myself running out of ideas. That’s when things clicked! Why did I need to be the only one hosting these sections while we have many other brains available? I thought of rotating the ownership of these sessions so each one of the team members would be a host. As a host they’d need to come up with an idea and lead the session. This was honestly the best decision because it empowers people, allows them to be creative and gives them the experience to lead a meeting/activity. Plus, new ideas keep coming up!
This is probably the part you’ve been waiting for if you’re reading this article. I’ll share some team building activities which have worked, and you’ll be able to see that you can adapt them. The activities which engage people the most are the ones which allow them to share more about themselves and know each other better. That’s the underlying goal of bonding after all, isn’t it?
Guess your teammate’s favorite artist
- You will create a form with some questions. You can choose just one question, or multiple ones. Examples would be “Who’s your favorite artist?”, “What’s your musical guilty pleasure?”.
- You will then ask them to write the answers in the form, and you will collect the answers.
- Start sharing one answer at a time and ask your team to guess who they think answered what. Example “who do you think has Pink Floyd as their favorite artist?”
You will learn more about your team, and people will find commonalities between them!
- You can find an online personality test and ask your teammates to do the test in advance. One example is the 16 personality test. Please note that no online test is a self diagnosis tool, so make sure everyone is aware that results need to be taken with a grain of salt.
- Have your team share their results. You may find that some people really identified themselves with the test, while others not so much. Regardless, it’s an opportunity to learn more about how they perceive themselves.
- Holiday celebrations are a great opportunity for that! You can have gift exchanges on Christmas, Easter, or find any other excuse (who doesn’t love surprise gifts? Plus, not everyone celebrates traditional holidays).
- Organize an online draw. Each person will draw another person.
- Set up a time frame for people to buy the gift for their secret friend.
- Organize a meeting for you to reveal the secret friend.
- You can use your creativity here! You may reveal who your secret friend it by giving hints, by drawing, by mimicking, etc.
Favorite artist/movie competition
- In this one you will want to have at least 8 people.
- You will need an online bracket (it’s very easy to find on google)
- Have everyone send you their favorite movie/music/etc.
- Organize the information in a random bracket. You will now have the choices paired up (as in a direct elimination competition).
- Have your team vote between two choices until you complete each round of elimination. Do this until you reach the final, and then you will have the winner!
- There are so many simple online games out there that can be quite fun to play with your team! You can have everyone connect to a virtual room and play. One example is Skribbl, which is a guessing virtual game.
- Adapt board games/card games
- There’s an infinite number of board and card games which you can adapt to a remote environment. Be creative and think of how you can adjust the camera, which tools you will need and voilà!
I hope these ideas will be useful inspiration for your future team building activities!