The remote work culture dates back even before the rise of the industrial revolution. Many millennia later, when the world’s economy strengthened, larger office spaces with cubicles paved their way. Economic expansion and technology refueled virtual work and the ongoing global pandemic mandated work from home practices across many industries. This also paved a way for companies to host virtual team building activities and stay in touch by being geographically dispersed.
According to recent Gartner research, “By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% as Gen Z will enter the workforce.”
While working from a brick-and-mortar office space, employees had the privilege to socialize at cafeterias, office desks, or work events. However, with the rise of remote work, communication and bonds between colleagues are slowly becoming strained. Therefore, organizations need to keep their virtual teams aligned with company culture while ensuring their productivity.
As rightly quoted by Bang Gae, “teamwork makes the dream work,” companies must organize virtual team building activities that leverage team empowerment and employee engagement. It includes weekly activities, happy hours, coffee meetings, virtual games sessions, and fun challenges. These practices reinforce employee morale, strengthen team connections, and maximize productivity.
This article will cover some best practices and benefits of virtual team building activities.
Let’s begin with understanding what exactly is virtual team building.
1. What is Virtual Team Building?
Virtual team building is a continuous process of bringing remote teams together and creating bonds with teammates through various communication technologies in a similar office environment. Since communication is not in person, trust and transparency are crucial.
Virtual team building activities require specific initiatives to be taken by the team leaders to keep the team on the same page.
For example; Virtual lunch can replicate cafeteria lunch, casual coffee meetups, video streaming, stress busters games, and more. It helps teams connect personally by bringing human interaction to virtual work.
Now that we know the basics let’s understand different benefits in more detail here.
2. Benefits of virtual team building activities for remote teams
Regular virtual team building activities help your workforce quickly adapt to a new remote work lifestyle. It helps minimize the negative impact of online workplace cultures, such as the inability to separate work time from personal time, loneliness, and the added stress of a global health crisis.
According to Gallup research, “Virtual team building activities lead to an increase in employee performance rate, claiming 41% lower absenteeism and 21% higher profitability.”
Here is how virtual team building activities can benefit you:
1. Boosts Employees’ Morale
Constantly pushing teams to deliver work and adhere to deadlines can cause disengagement and burnout. Thus the ideal team leader must encourage the team to function cohesively by conducting virtual team building activities such as group discussions, online meetings, brainstorming, casual meetup, and more. These team bonding practices empower the team with positive reinforcement and make them feel valued.
It aids in developing mutual respect amongst employees, boosts employee morale, and eliminates internal conflicts.
2. Promotes Workforce Collaboration
Projects cannot succeed without team efforts as most tasks are interdependent and demand coordination between the resources. In a concrete workspace, it is easier for team collaboration. But when employees are working virtually, it gets challenging to align the team with the project’s progress. There are greater chances of discrepancies in communication.
Therefore, conducting virtual team building drills proves beneficial. It helps employees stay connected with coworkers and promotes them to work cohesively. It also makes resources aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and enables them to coordinate and complete tasks according to their competence, saving time and additional effort.
3. Supports Innovation Management
Innovation is a key to gaining a business advantage in the competitive industry. Virtual team building is a medium to bring all employees under one roof, promote creativity, brainstorm, and foster innovation. When there are multiple perspectives, any idea can lead to a breakthrough innovation for a firm.
The innovation management strategy will boost team collaboration and allow people to interact, share, and receive constructive feedback. When employees look at an issue or challenge through the lens of innovation, they become more involved in achieving the company’s long-term goals.
4. Increases Productivity
When teams are siloed, chances are they don’t have a clear work direction which can lead to lower productivity. But virtual team building activities allow team leaders to explain organization goals with utmost clarity.
When employees have a sense of purpose, it motivates them to work with all their might to reach the goal. It, in turn, results in improving the resource pool’s performance index without any form of employee burnout.
5. Encourage Versatility
Several organizations now demand a versatile workforce to respond quickly and effectively to ever-changing developments. Thus, organizing team-building activities enhances resource skills and expertise in more than one discipline. It is also a safe zone for employees to try new tasks and make mistakes without the fear of repercussions.
technology, and people.
6. Reinforce Positive Work Culture
Using the diligent intuitive tool, organizations can ensure that remote teams have clear insight and visibility of all ongoing work. It will make all team members accountable for producing quality work.
Regular office catch-ups, work-related discussions all lead to a significant influence on employees, thereby reinforcing positive workplace cultures. Virtual team building games, lunch or a coffee break, book/music clubs, contest nights, virtual happy hours, birthday celebrations can boost positive work culture in an organization.
7. Build Diverse Relationships
The best work culture leverages resources from different time zones, embraces diversity (cultural/gender/race difference), and celebrates it. Thus, virtual team building activities help organizations build meaningful relationships and connections among geographically distributed teams and develop cross-generational relationships. It exposes virtual teams to new ways of working across boundaries through systems, processes, technology, and people.
The advantages of team-building activities are substantial. Let’s now look at some of the best practices that support virtual team-building with it.
3. Best Practices For Virtual Team-building
Team leaders can avail the benefits of the virtual work environment and promote team bonding by following some tips given below:
1. Regular check-ins & feedback with teammates
It is easy to check in on employees in traditional workspaces and keep a tab on their work rate by just visiting their cubicles. However, it gets challenging when the team is dispersed across boundaries. Managers must therefore make it a point to conduct regular check-ins with employees. It will help resources enhance their performance and get a clear picture of the process and scope of improvement from their perspective.
Aside from support, most managers’ and employees’ critical need is to find a shared understanding of what work to prioritize. The one-on-one conversation with employees will help managers understand how best to support employee’s work, productivity, growth, and success.
2. Foster virtual water-cooler chats
From casual office breaks to impromptu chats at a colleague’s desk, physical office space provided several opportunities for interaction with colleagues. To replicate this experience, managers can schedule virtual water-cooler discussions weekly where team members can indulge in a casual conversation or icebreaker questions over a cup of tea or coffee.
These simple yet effective initiatives can positively impact remote employees’ mental well-being and help them feel less isolated.
3.Conduct employee wellness programs
Employees are struggling to embrace the sudden shift of virtual work culture due to the challenging times of pandemic. As both of these factors have a significant impact on employees’ wellbeing, companies should consider investing in 3 domains of wellbeing initiatives, i.e., mental, physical, and social wellbeing.
Companies can provide wellness packages to employees and introduce the concept of mindfulness. Other supports include free and accessible counseling for mental well-being in remote employees, reimbursement for fitness activities, etc., to address employee’s stress, work concerns, and challenges.
4. Provide Recognition and Awards
Team leaders can deliver praise and acknowledgment to well-performing employees by providing recognition and awards. The recognition awards such as employee of the month, team hero, etc., will boost employee morale and motivate others to perform better in tasks.
Beyond financial incentives, other perks for employees can include online training, workspace upgrades, a wellness package, technology allowances, etc. It will make everyone aware of the performance expectations and drive them to take ownership of their work.
5. Conduct Daily Stand-ups
Regardless of whether the team is working remotely across different geographical boundaries or co-located, organizing daily stand-ups will bring all employees to the same page. A short, consistent, and focused daily stand-up will align resources on the highest priority tasks before the day starts. The success of any stand-up meeting depends on team participation and effective communication. People can move in sync only when everyone is aware of the team’s objectives, project deadlines, and team member availability.
In a post-pandemic world, most companies are considering remote work culture as a permanent option. The employees can save significant travel time while the organizations can cut down on expensive real-estate costs. If the activities are well-coordinated, it can be a win-win for both parties.
Thus, team-building drills can help organizations to prepare their workforce during this impromptu work transition period. It is known to be more effective when it is intentional and has a purpose as it transcends cultural and physical barriers. It also allows employees to participate without typical corporate hierarchies and across diverse geographical boundaries.
In a nutshell, team-building activities are essential to building a stable remote workforce for any business. By creating a fun and collaborative virtual environment where transparent communications are encouraged, you can help your team thrive and gain business profitability, even when they’re working virtually.
What are the key team-building practices you have adopted for your virtual employees?
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Somya Yesodharan & Siddhant Patel