One of the things occupying business owners today is how to best manage remote teams. As with traditional in-office teams, team bonding activities can result in higher morale, greater on job satisfaction and higher productivity in remote teams.
While some managers might need to introduce entirely new team bonding activities, the good news is that you can adapt activities that worked for your regular teams to remote teams. An example of this is the ice breaker at the start of meetings.
What you need to enhance team bonding for remote teams
A video conferencing platform. While not necessary for all team bonding activities, the fact that people can see each other enhances the experience.
Blocked out time. Some activities might be brief and happen a bit more spontaneously but lock down a date and time in a shared calendar for the more involved ones so that team members can prepare for it.
A reliable connection. The members of your team need to have a strong enough internet connection that everyone can stay together for the duration of the activity.
Once you have the above in place, prepare to try some of these team bonding activities for your remote teams.
An ice breaker is the first step to easing the process of bonding for any kind of team. Members each share something at the cueing of a facilitator or session leader. An ice breaker should leave people relaxed and ready to go forward with work.
To get the best results from an ice breaker, particularly with all new team members, the facilitator should steer away from overly personal or inappropriate questions that will make people feel uncomfortable.
The leader can go first to set an example for how simple and fun the exercise can be. An example of a fun ice breaker question that isn’t too intrusive is the last movie a team member enjoyed and why.
Take your CSR offline
A company’s corporate social responsibility says a lot about them and can have many benefits. It can also open up a channel for remote team bonding. Where possible, involve the team in the selection of the charity or activity you choose to support or be engaged in. The discussion and vetting of the choices will be an exercise in improving team collaboration. It will also create a real sense of ownership for the team.
Once selected, work out how all the members can be involved. Feeling like they are doing good for someone else, or contributing to their communities in some way will gives your team one more thing to be collectively proud of.
A virtual co-working space
Just like a physical co-working space, a virtual one helps to mimic the social accountability and community of a traditional office. With live video, team members will have other people around as would happen in a brick and mortar office. If a question arises or one wants to share a joke, they can do that easily in real time.
Besides the easy access to each other which aids team bonding, this set up helps to eliminate the loneliness that can be part of working in a remote team.
You can choose to incorporate some fun team building games like ‘Share your desk’ where people send pictures of their desks or have everyone share 1 picture from their location daily.
Coffee or tea breaks
As a manager, you need to balance the practical and fun aspects of team bonding activities. You don’t want team members to feel like team bonding is a chore or for it to become tedious. A virtual coffee break where people join via video chat and can talk can be the perfect addition to your roster of activities.
It should be scheduled so that people can show up for it. However, you can leave the agenda open so that members can talk about whatever they like; personal life, what they watched last night or even a question they had about a task.
Games are a crucial part of team bonding. It is a good practice for people who work together to play together sometimes.
Playing games might look it is all about fun and helping people relax, and it is, but it does have important benefits. It can reveal new skills in team members, show how they react in the heat of the moment, put to task problem solving skills and increase appreciation for each other.
Interestingly, playing with workmates can also improve self-awareness of team members. Words with friends or Pictionary are some examples of games your teams can play. Games that require you to split up the team into smaller teams create some competition which can be good for your entire team.
Make meetings engaging
Running effective meetings can be challenging. It’s not any easier with remote teams. One way to improve the attention and engagement of everyone is to assign rotating roles to different team members.
The most common role other than the meeting chair is the ‘secretary’, the person who takes notes. Update this by adding fun roles like, the cheerleader or the dress code coordinator, someone whose job it is to decide what colour will be worn on a particular day. You can make the roles your own.
When members know they have to contribute in a fun way, they will be happy to show up for meetings. It also takes the edge and pressure off of the traditional Monday morning meeting format.
According to Henttonen, K., Johanson, J.-E. and Janhonen, M. (2014) Work-team bonding and bridging social networks, team identity and performance effectiveness, “In order to improve performance effectiveness, managerial attention should focus on building a team and social networks.”
Because team bonding activities help members understand each other better, they can result in higher productivity for remote teams. To keep teams engaged and achieve best results, managers can choose to balance between those activities which are purely for fun and those that are tied in with work results.