Virtual teams have become prevalent in today's work environments. Some of us have been working remotely for years now, while others suddenly became virtual employees overnight. Either way, working with a team over video is a different experience than working together in person. It takes extra creativity and savvy to build a team virtually. In this blog we’ll walk you through some tips and tricks on how to accomplish this through virtual team building activities.
What is virtual team building?
For a team to function efficiently, its members must respect and feel a sense of responsibility towards one another. Building your team involves fostering a sense of community and spirit that exists not just in the workplace, but out of it as well.
In today's world, a lot of our teams have suddenly become virtual. We are now seeing our team members once a day over a Zoom call rather than multiple times at our desks or at the coffee machine. Losing these small moments throughout the day can take a toll on a team's attitude and performance, so it is important to cultivate a sense of team community virtually.
Why is virtual team building important?
A team won’t perform efficiently or effectively if its members are not motivated. With increased work from home policies and less in-person interaction, it is very easy for employees to become discouraged. It is important to take the time to practice virtual team building so your employees keep their spirits up and continue to look forward to doing their jobs.
In-person, it is much easier to develop a team "brand" or community as you chat organically throughout the day. It takes planning to hop on a Zoom virtual call, and with that planning comes a loss of some of that natural bonding that occurs in the office. However, you still need to set aside the time to focus on team development virtually.
Who can virtual team building help?
By taking the time to build your team and create a fun, yet effective, work culture, you are not only benefitting yourself and your fellow employees, but the entire organization. Here are just a few stakeholders that benefit from virtual team building.
If you are a people leader, you know firsthand that a team that gets along well accomplishes much more than a team that must constantly move past disagreements. If you take the time to build your team, much less time will be spent on conflict resolution down the road. Instead, your team members will have the tools to swiftly resolve any problems that arise and find a solution.
If you like, appreciate, and respect your coworkers, you feel much more obligated to do well. However, if you don’t know your coworkers well, you may not feel the same sense of responsibility towards them and your work. By taking the time to build your team, you ensure that your team members feel a sense of accountability towards one another that will not only create a more enjoyable work environment but result in higher quality work.
Sometimes, especially at a larger company, it can be difficult to recognize that you are actually contributing to the organization’s success. However, it is important to take a moment to recognize that you do add great value to the company -- and a cohesive team adds even greater value.
Imagine if a company has five teams. Three of these five teams don’t communicate well, have internal conflicts constantly, and don’t produce work on time. This affects the other two teams, because they are not able to complete their work without the previous teams’ contributions. Executive leadership then must explain to external stakeholders why the company is moving slowly. The poor management of just one team affects the entire organization.
If your team has a strong sense of community and works well together, this directly benefits your company’s executive leadership when your team’s work is completed in a timely and top-quality manner.
Clients and customers
Your clients and customers will love working with your team if you communicate well and respect one another. They will not like working with your team if there are gaps in communication, separate email chains with differing information, or awkward meetings. Make sure that your team is aligned on the best ways to communicate with customers, how to approach team meetings with clients, and how to present a united front.
Tools for successful virtual team building
Since many of us can’t see our teammates in person right now, you need to make sure that it is easy to connect with them virtually. This requires investing in the right technology and tools to make your virtual team bonding experiences as seamless as possible.
Business communication tool (Slack, Amazon Chime, etc.)
First, you need a tool that allows you to connect with your team instantly. Sometimes, you might just have a simple question that you need to ask and you do not necessarily need to take the time to hop on a Zoom meeting. With a professional messaging tool like Slack or Amazon Chime, you can connect either with your entire team or individually.
Virtual streaming provider
For team meetings or bonding sessions, make sure that you have a virtual streaming provider that will allow you to video conference with multiple members of your team at once. If you are using the free version of a video streaming software, make sure to check the settings beforehand, as some platforms have a time limit on meetings with more than one person.
Having a mobile app dedicated to your team is a wonderful option. Below are some situations where your team might benefit from a mobile app:
- Your team is large, and not everyone gets to speak up at every meeting.
- Your team has a lot of new members who don’t know each other very well yet.
- Your team does not have a business communication tool.
Mobile apps can allow your team members to message one another directly through the tool, which can be particularly useful if you don’t have access to Slack or a similar tool. You can also include your Zoom meeting links directly within the app, as well as notes from previous meetings, so your team members have easy access to the information.
Finally, your team’s mobile app can help add some fun to team meetings. Include polls and quizzes within the app to encourage team bonding.
Finally, consider having a platform that hosts surveys. After a team meeting, encourage your team members to fill out the survey with feedback and suggestions for future team building activities.
Virtual team building games and activities
Below we have compiled a list of activities that you and your team can use as inspiration for your next virtual team building session. Enjoy!
Mobile app gamification
With your team’s mobile app, create fun games to keep your team members engaged throughout the day. For example, create a scavenger hunt where your team members must take photos of items around their remote workspace. Set a meeting time for the end of the day to share your photos and see which team member checked off the most items. Here are some ideas of things to add to your scavenger hunt:
- Your favorite coffee mug
- Your favorite at-home work buddy (pet, family member, friend, etc.)
- Your lunch
- Your remote workplace set-up
- Your agenda book/calendar
Fun polls and quizzes throughout the meeting
For larger team meetings, utilize a mobile app to keep attendees involved. Break up longer meetings by putting fun, non-work-related poll questions at various points during the discussion. Here are some fun questions to ask your team:
- What is your go-to work drink: coffee or tea?
- What is your favorite afternoon snack?
- Would you rather go to the beach or the mountains on your next vacation?
- What is your favorite movie/TV show?
Team happy hours and coffee breaks
If you want to set aside time to bond with your team outside of work, a happy hour or coffee break is a great way to do so. Schedule a half-hour on your team's calendars and try not to talk about work.
Team board game night
If you can find a night during the week where your team members can each set aside a few hours, this is a super fun option. Find a virtual streaming provider that allows you to have breakout rooms so you can divide into teams and strategize separately. Make sure that the game you choose can be played well virtually and is easy to learn for those who have not played before. Below are some good options:
- Apples to Apples
- Card games
Team training study session
This idea isn’t as “fun,” but it is very effective and a great way to focus on professional development. Especially during these times of uncertainty, many of us have some extra time that we can be putting towards getting certifications, completing trainings, or building our resumes. Turn this opportunity into a team building activity by creating a team study session. For example, if your team wants to become certified in Cvent’s venue sourcing solutions, set aside an hour once a week dedicated specifically for your team to study together for the certification exam. This is a great way to show your dedication towards one another, your careers, and your professional development.
Virtual team building ideas
It is important not only to dedicate the time and resources to building your team, but also to making sure that these activities are working. Take the time to schedule appointments one-on-one with your team members to make sure that they are happy. Get a sense of any internal conflicts and find ways to solve them. Also, make sure to include surveys after team meetings or team gatherings to gauge your team's response to the activity.
The reward of virtual team building
We could list stats about how virtual team building leads to more productive employees. We could sit here and write down all the reasons why you should be doing this and why it will help. However, the most important reward of virtual team building is pretty simple. We spend so much of our lives at work. If you are unhappy at work, that is a lot of your life that you are spending unhappy. Isn’t it more enjoyable to go to work when you know you enjoy spending time with the people there? If you take the time to practice virtual team building, the reward is your happiness, and the happiness of your teammates. And in the end, that’s what matters most.