The move to remote work for many organisations means team building activities are often forgotten. This article takes you through key benefits and examples of virtual activities for your remote team to engage with.
The rapid rise of COVID-19 cases globally has greatly affected the state of public health and safety. Governments have taken austere measures to curb the spread of the virus, affecting everyday travel and living. In compliance with these measures, many businesses have made the shift to remote work setups.
While this change is necessary to keep employees safe, the challenge of adapting to remote work is palpable.
The transition from face-to-face interactions in a physical office to the use of digital tools to communicate from workspaces at home can be a difficult one. Employees may find themselves unable to focus and struggle with communication, decreasing overall productivity. The key to overcoming this challenge is to recreate the workplace environment through virtual activities.
Why are virtual activities important?
Builds good relationships
Fostering working relationships can help improve the level of communication and collaboration in your teams. In a remote work setup, your employees do not have the chance to interact and get to know each other better in person. Virtual activities allow them to build these relationships further despite the lack of in-person meetings.
Helps combat loneliness
With the hold on non-essential travel, it can be too easy to succumb to loneliness. Remote work by default can add to the sense of isolation due to the lack of interaction with other workers. In turn, this loneliness can impact an employee’s motivation and mental well-being. By hosting virtual activities, you can open a line of communication for both work and social purposes.
Improves overall productivity
Employees making the transition from on-site to remote work may struggle with staying focused on their tasks or adapting to the use of digital tools for communication. Virtual activities can help ease this transition by humanising the remote working process and adding another level of engagement.
Reaffirms trust between team members
Good teamwork is dependent on how well a team can cooperate and organise themselves. Working remotely can introduce elements of uncertainty and unpredictability due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. To overcome these challenges, virtual activities are needed to enhance communication and transparency within the team.
Virtual activities for your team
The virtual activities here in this article can be separated into two broad categories: work activities and social activities. Integrating a healthy mix of both kinds can make all the difference in the performance and well-being of your teams.
In these uncertain times, both leaders and members need to be more attuned to each other’s concerns. The mindfulness icebreaker is a pre-meeting exercise to help teams check in with one another and reframe their perspectives.
In this exercise, the team leader will ask each participant the following questions:
- What one thing is going well for you as of now?
- What thing would you like to improve?
- What one thing is going on with you personally?
All members of the team—including the team leader—should answer these questions to promote a sense of equality. The goal is to encourage empathy among the participants while also addressing possible issues at work. Additionally, each participant walks away with a sense of relief or catharsis from sharing their experiences.
10 common things
Members of the team will be broken up into smaller groups. Once the groups are selected, they will have 10 minutes to talk to each other and create a list of 10 things that they have in common. The list can be more social with broad categories or something work-related by limiting the list to work- or industry-related topics.
This activity is a good way to help the team get more familiar with each other. Newcomers who may be unsure of how to fit in with the team can especially benefit from this game. Additionally, lesser-known expertise and other work skills amongst the team may come to light.
Virtual team huddles
Collaboration is essential for almost any project. Allowing team members to work together and brainstorm more dynamically can significantly improve output. When conducting virtual meetings, it’s important to recreate the steps and processes previously practiced in person. Not only does this make the transition easier, but it also creates a sense of routine within the team.
From the use of video conferencing for real-time reactions to the integration of digital tools to illustrate ideas and present findings, these virtual huddles can be just as insightful and productive as their face-to-face counterparts.
Live office session
One of the benefits of a physical office was being able to see and experience work with colleagues. While current health measures restrict office operations, you can stay connected with your team and recreate this environment through a live office session.
To execute a live office session, the first team member to clock in starts a video call that any team member can join. Each member that comes online will join the video, joining the virtual workspace.
The resulting call should resemble a typical office scene—each person is focused and working on their tasks. It may seem silly at first, but a visual reminder of working alongside a team can be a powerful motivator for returning to one’s workflow.
Round robin recognition
This team-building activity is an easy way to start a team meeting on a positive note. The rules are simple: each team member needs to give recognition to two things, something they succeeded at in that week and something positive that another team member did.
These positive actions don’t need to be major—something as simple as a prompt reply or a good chat during break will suffice.
This activity is perfect for boosting morale by recognising good deeds, whether big or small. It also promotes good working relationships within the team by seeing each member in a more positive light.
One of the detriments to remote working during the pandemic is the lack of physical activity. Safeguard your teams’ physical and mental health by coming up with a positive and fun activity for all.
Coordinate with your HMO provider and create weekly goals that teams will need to meet, such as the number of steps taken, minutes exercised, and so on. Assign prizes or incentives for topping the goals that week.
Participants should be able to track their progress through fitness apps or shared documents. To encourage further healthy habits, create a channel where people can share workout tips and healthy recipes to complement their workout routines.
Another unique trait that physical offices have is the space for social bonding moments, such as having meals in the pantry together. While current circumstances discourage large social gatherings, a digital meal-sharing can be a good alternative.
Planning a team mealtime is very straightforward. Coordinate with your team to decide a suitable date and time to ensure everyone is available for the call. You can choose to all order food from the same restaurant or have a theme for the dishes you’ll be eating.
The idea is to recreate the shared atmosphere and create a virtual hangout for people to chat, destress, and bond.
For a game that can double as a creative exercise, Exciting Sponge can push the limits on your team’s creativity and on-the-spot thinking. The way this game works is simple: each person in the team grabs an object to his/her left at random. Then everyone takes their turn to describe their object as exaggeratedly as possible, letting the others guess what it is at the end.
You can use this game as a fun team bonding activity or as a warm-up for a brainstorming or collaborative session. To add even more excitement, you can have the team vote which description was the most entertaining or most creative.
Game Nights are a great way to showcase company culture in a lively, more sociable way. Consider creating game groups with a mix of people from different teams to encourage interaction outside of the groups that they’re already used to.
Settle on a game or two to be played on the scheduled day. Traditional games like charades or Pictionary can be done through video calls and screen sharing tools. Other options include quizzes on trivia, pop culture, or even facts about the company and its employees.
Digital party games that allow for multiple players are also widely available and can be played over a video call or chat.
The remote working experience isn’t easy, especially when your team is making the abrupt transition from on-site to remote work.
By maximising the digital tools available to create and host virtual activities, you can help ease this burden. Virtual activities, when integrated well into the remote work setup, can create an environment that replicates the opportunities that a physical workplace has. From here, it’s only a matter of time before good relationships are forged and better work habits are built.
About the Author
Neil Paras is a IT director of a BPO, specialising in virtual assistance in back end operations including ecommerce content, application verification, and enterprise data management. They have been in operation for 11 years, with 4 branches in key cities. He has seen it from its first year of operation and has been key to fixing its infrastructure, and planning for its gradual increase.