Online Team Building
Before COVID-19 burst into our lives and upended the world we knew, team building happened organically, and the idea of online team building only mattered to hardcore gamers working together to clear the next level of their favorite video game. We were all in our open-plan office spaces together, chatting as we passed, grabbing a coffee or lunch as time and schedules permitted. Much of that has been swept away, and for teams that have always been geographically dispersed, it never existed in the first place. So how do we re-create the benefits of an in-person office online? Well, it all comes down to communication. Luckily, we don’t need an office for that.
Understand Your Messaging Apps
As a colleague mentioned to me, moving into a remote world has meant that he can’t look over at his team member to see if they are focused on work or not, making it harder to know if he can ask a quick question without interrupting them. So, how do you avoid interrupting others if you can’t physically see them? Messaging apps are ubiquitous these days and are often the first line of communication amongst teams and team members. Your team’s app will not give you a peak into someone’s remote home office to see if they are busy or not, but you can utilize the app features to recreate this situation.
First, make sure your team is aware of all the capabilities your messaging app has, and keep up with new features. Most apps, if not all, allow users to set statuses indicating that they are busy or not to be disturbed, to silence notifications, and some even allow for notifications when other users become available again. Ensuring that your team is aware of and knows how to use these features will help the team feel comfortable reaching out to each other in today’s world of working online.
Second, make use of team spaces or channels if you aren’t already. Colleagues can select the correct channel for their communications – an all-hands announcement, a team-specific chat, or maybe just a joke or funny picture in the humor channel. This ensures that people aren’t subjected to an overwhelming number of posts.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
Use those lemons for a little team building! And by lemons, we mean online meetings. If you weren’t spending a lot of time in virtual meetings before the pandemic, you probably have been since. Whether your company uses Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, or any other video meeting platform, let’s not advocate for more meetings! But if you are already having daily standups or regular team meetings, you can use 3-5 minutes to check in on the team or have a short ice breaker. Cheesy? Maybe. But it’s a quick and easy way for remote team members to learn more about each other and build some level of camaraderie.
Schedule Virtual Events
All relationships require care and feeding. So how do you care and feed a remote team? Make time by scheduling time!
No, do not schedule another Zoom happy hour.
Instead, opt for organized events that require your team members to work together. There are organizations out there that will manage these events for you, but you can also set up some simple ones yourself. There are plenty of lists online for ideas. Take a look here and here. Our only recommendation is to shy away from lessons or classes, as these don’t typically require team members to interact, at least at the beginning. It’s a bit like going to the movies on a first date; save the fun class for when you feel your team has already established solid rapport with one other.
Alternatively (or additionally), schedule 1-on-1s as well. We recommend at least 30 minutes or so for team members to eat lunch together or just engage in water cooler talk. Some companies will pair up team members or even members of different teams to talk to each other, which helps colleagues expand their circles and get to know more people in the company than just their own team.
Whether your home office is at the end of a dirt road or in a high-rise condo, team building online is easier than ever. What ideas have worked best for you? Was anything that you tried a massive fail? We’d love to hear your stories!