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How Companies Are Doing Virtual Team Building

A few years ago, if you’d asked virtually anyone working in an office environment if they’d like to work from home, then the answer would have been a resounding “yes.” but fast forward to today, after many have been home bound for almost a year and you’d get a very different answer. The problem is that it’s easy to think of “work” in some generic sense, and miss out on all the important bits which
2021.08.16.

A few years ago, if you’d asked virtually anyone working in an office environment if they’d like to work from home, then the answer would have been a resounding “yes.” but fast forward to today, after many have been home bound for almost a year and you’d get a very different answer. The problem is that it’s easy to think of “work” in some generic sense, and miss out on all the important bits which make the working day part of the rich tapestry of life. Work isn’t just about sitting in front of the PC banging out whatever is required. It’s also about stopping by and having a chat with a coworker. About sharing personal stories around the coffee machine, and going for lunch on a Friday afternoon with all the staff. There’s a huge social context within the working day, which many of us have taken for granted, until Codid taught us otherwise.

Working from home alone is unhealthy. And for many reasons. Because it can severely affect our mental well-being, which then affects work and productivity, the effects on a company's bottom line will be the first to show signs of stress. To mitigate these effects isn’t easy. Since the lockdown began, many people are starting to show signs of bad mental health, with depression levels rising alarmingly. The solution has to be one that can help on a personal level to lift the employees up and give them a reason to get out of bed in the morning. For team managers it means finding ways to inject a real sense of team spirit into all his team, and this is, hopefully, where virtual team building can be a boon. 

Today we’re going to take a deeper look at virtual team building and also see if we can find the right approach, without being too overbearing or condescending about it. Though many will see this as nothing more than yet another cynical exercise in “caring for our employees” it’s more than that. It’s about helping those that help your business. By putting your people first, then the good stuff will follow for the business. 

Virtual Team Building Matters

Here’s the thing; people need people. We are first and foremost social beings. Covid has put paid to that making all social interaction difficult. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find many people feeling less secure and more vulnerable. As employees can’t get together in a physical sense, then the next best thing is to meet up over a conferencing app, like Zoom. On a social level, they can interact, chat and generally do all the stuff you can over a video feed. As for the business side of things, a conference call can be much more than just the plain old formal and rather stiff interaction. If team leaders are able to introduce new ways of communicating between the employees, then that’s going to help empower everyone. 

That’s why virtual team building matters. By having all the people pull together, you’re creating a stronger and more positive team. In some ways you’re forcing everyone involved to really be involved, and this will help lift up their spirits, if only for the duration of an hour. In many ways the process involves the lowering of barriers, be they physical or mental, by encouraging all those involved to step that little bit out of their comfort zone. Everything really is about improving communication. Making it clearer, faster and more to the point. This can only be of benefit for the business as it’ll lead to greater happiness among the employees, which in turn will lead to greater productivity. And all because people were encouraged to speak with each other. 

Increases Productivity

One of the major problems that goes hand in hand with working from home is the sheer number of distractions. This makes it very difficult to actually concentrate on the work at hand. Team building exercises help focus attention to the task at hand, as all the employees are brought together and reminded of their obligations, tasks and this helps overcome any barriers that slow down their work at home. Simply by letting people know that they are not alone through collaboration, will have a marked effect on their overall outlook. All this can result in an upswing of productivity by encouraging everyone to reach out, take an interest, and work together as a team. It’s not difficult, but it does take an effort from middle management to be proactive and make the first move. Once meetings become regular, with some being more formal and other more informal, it’ll feel like a breath of fresh air.  

Combat Loneliness

Though no one in the modern age likes to admit it, many people suffer horribly from loneliness. It’s probably the number one cause of mental illness, and particularly affects people in the so-called modern western hemisphere. With lockdown, many can have feelings of being cut off from the world of both family and of work. That’s why it’s imperative that all businesses embrace regular video calls. And, as we said before, it’s not just for formal work stuff, but also just to let people know that others are thinking of others. So by all means have those business discussions. But once they are done, then switch mode to a more relaxed and informal chat.  

Enhance Collaboration

It’s a given that when the relationships between employees and employer are strong, then the business benefits hugely. In fact, that’s one of the main goals of any team building exercise. Having said that, all too often, team building tends to focus on the employees, when in fact, as all decisions come down the line, they should include upper management as well. If everyone is included, then even more barriers can be broken down to the benefit of everyone.

Video Chats

Years ago the idea of video chats was kinda quaint. Today they are an essential part of everyday life, and much more so since we’ve been under the pandemic. We suggest that teams all make an effort to connect informally at least three times a week. Chatting over a coffee about this and that will also encourage everyone to be more open. Probably in the beginning people may be a bit shy, but that’s the very reason you should have a chat schedule. Eventually everyone will overcome their hesitation and begin to join in. By bringing the employees closer together in this manner, it can only serve to improve worker relationships. Once everyone is feeling more open, then you can start asking them to brainstorm ideas. Once people feel more secure in their own skin, then you might be surprised as to the new ideas they can bring to the table during a group discussion event.

Virtual Book Club

This is another great idea to keep everyone connected with a purpose. Start a virtual book club. Everyone downloads the same book and then it’s a great conversation piece whereby everyone can join in the discussion and give their take on the book in question. Of course, if you’re the team leader then maybe you get to choose what the reading material will be, be it business related or purely fiction. But as an exercise to bring people together and encourage everyone to express an opinion, it’s a great activity.

Weekly Gaming Session

If you look through this blog, you’ll find countless gaming ideas for your team to perform over video calls. Because people will be playing remotely you’ll be able to find a huge selection of games with a quick Google search. We suggest that you have a different game a couple of times a week, in that this will give everyone a chance to find a game that suits them better. These can vary from complex escape room games to simple more traditional fare.

Team Movie Night

Well, we suppose that as we can’t all be sitting together in the real world, then we’ll have to sit together over Zoom! Movie nights for teams has become a very popular activity. Each member of the team can choose a different movie each week, and then everyone can watch it together over a streaming service. If it’s not too heavy  for some, you can even have chat open over the course of the movie so that everyone can share their reactions in real time. Once again, the watching of the movie is secondary to making everyone feel that they are part of a larger picture.

Conclusion

When it comes to team building over Zoom, there are a huge number of options. And though the traditional role of team building was always to encourage better understanding and communication between team members, today, mental health concerns should be a primary reason. By bringing all your employees together for both formal and informal chats and discussions, you’re being inclusive, something that matters more and more today. All contact, even if only over the internet, will have a lasting effect. Of course in the long run this will be nothing but beneficial for the business, but that should be of secondary importance right now. Keep everyone healthy and you’ll have a happy and productive workforce. 

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