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Last updated: 23.06.20

How virtual team building can help your remote team

We are currently learning how to work in new ways. Remote working is fast becoming a norm, and though there are many benefits and research is showing that many are happy to have a more flexible work style, we must remember that this way of working brings about a lot of changes to a team, especially when it comes to how they are managed.

One such change is that of team culture. Team culture is important in any team. But with a lack of physical shared space and regular face-to-face interactions, it is harder to create a team culture in a remote team and so more effort is required to make sure it is positive and thriving. Here we explore a tool that can prove incredibly useful here: virtual team building.

How can virtual team building help?

It’s becoming clear that members of remote teams can often feel lonely, isolated, overwhelmed (especially if they are a new starter), unsupported and uncreative. Virtual Team Buildings can help combat these in a number of ways.

Firstly, it can do wonders for the team as a whole. It can help the team to get to know one another, and is a way for the manager to look out for the team, allowing them to show their support and recognition. Over time, this helps reinforce a shared team identity, builds trust and increases productivity, collaboration and motivation.

For team members that feel lonely or isolated, it provides the interaction and communication they are missing out on, as well as a fun way to keep in touch with the other members. It also helps reinforce the sense that they are part of something, and helps them forget that they aren’t in the same space.

Importantly, it can also be a great way to welcome new joiners. It is strange joining a remote team, as there are no natural ways of building relationships with the rest of the members, which can often add to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Team building is just one way (but by no means the only way) of ensuring any new joiners are made to feel part of the team.

Lastly, it can also simply be a way of connecting as a team and having some time out, especially if they are suffering from creative fade, or are low on productivity and need a fun boost.

What does Virtual Team Building involve? What do you need?

There are many different types of team building and it will depend on what you need to use it for. They can range from short activities to long ones, and some may need more preparation, whereas others may need little. They can be icebreaker activities, which can be used before longer meetings; or it can be a collaboration activity or a quiz. Not all are activity-based though, you could arrange a virtual team room, where you can chat over a cup of coffee, or a space to share achievements, projects, or news (and they don’t have to be work-related).

But the essential ingredients are a team, a strong leader or manager, some good ideas, creativity, enthusiasm (especially from the leader), reliable technology, good communication, and an understanding of how to carry it off successfully.

What pitfalls should you avoid?

As you can imagine there are some challenges. Here are the main ones.

Unreliable technology

Make sure you’re using some technology you are familiar with, or if you aren’t, make sure to test it first and have a practice-run.

Finding availability

It can be hard to find time that suits everyone. To get around this, you could make it a regular meeting so it is always in the diary (whether that is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly – as often as you think you need), or book it far enough in advance that people’s diaries are unlikely to be booked.

A lack of engagement and participation

It can’t be denied – team building can induce feelings of dread in some and they will expect the worst. Make sure you know your team and know what they like, what they dislike, and what they are likely to be open to. Don’t just cater to your needs, make sure everyone’s are considered. If this is apparent, the team is likely to be more open to the idea. It is also helpful to highlight the benefits of the team building and why you think it is necessary: emphasise the importance of bonding and having fun away from your work – we all need a break.

A false belief that they can be carried out just like face-to-face events

They can’t. Why not? The removal of a lot of physical cues will affect how you interact. For example, even within a team, chats will often organically develop between smaller groups, but in a digital call, there is no space for that – everyone is present and involved. Therefore, consideration needs to be had around some elements: how to make it clear whose turn it is to speak, what the rules are, how to use the technology and so on. Setting some ground rules will help the team to feel more comfortable in the setting.

If you are eager to gain more insights into how to lead and manage remote teams, we recommend our Leading and Managing Remote Teams training pack, which includes six courses. If you would like to find out more about how to maintain team culture, try our specific course Maintaining Team Culture for Remote Teams.

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