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Remote Team-Building: How to Encourage Digital Solidarity

March 21, 2022 Digital Workplace
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Team-building activities are a great way to foster company culture and build better in-office relationships. New research shows high-performing teams are 25 percent more likely to discuss non-work related topics. Why? Because doing so helps foster a deeper connection among peers and lead to more authentic relationships.

With a remote or distributed workforce, however, it can be challenging to execute traditional team-building activities. Going to a paintball park or volunteering as a group, for instance, isn’t necessarily possible. Yet, leaders should not give up on the idea altogether. There are ways to build a strong culture despite the distance.

Why Team-Building Is Important

Remote work has proven to be a positive experience for many employees, but it can also be alienating. Employees can feel a sense of loneliness while working remotely, and it can have a negative impact on the quality of their work. Team-building activities can help alleviate these feelings, so companies can get the best out of their remote workforce.

"Bringing everyone together, whether via Zoom or a virtual gathering, simulates the sensation of working in the same physical area,” said Andreas Velling, chief marketing officer at Manchester, England-based Fractory. Without the typical water-cooler moments of the office, these virtual events allow coworkers to catch up and exchange informally, outside of the workplace setting.

“Team building is also a terrific approach to bring people together who might not otherwise have a reason or opportunity to speak with one another,” he said. This helps combat the often-unavoidable silos that form between departments of remote and hybrid companies. 

“It also allows team members to come together and share their ideas and thoughts, which can help to improve the team's performance and productivity,” said Omer Usanmaz, CEO and co-founder of software company Qooper

Related Article: How to Create Culture in a Hybrid Workplace

6 Remote Team-Building Activities to Try

It can be difficult to please all employees, so here are 6 team-building ways organizations can assemble their remote teams for a bit of fun. Cycling through them through the year can be a great way to keep teams engaged and connected.

1. Virtual Lunch Hangouts

Contrary to in-office employees, remote workers typically don’t have the opportunity to have lunch with coworkers. A virtual lunch hangout can provide a welcome substitute and foster the same level of camaraderie.

“It could be a once-a-month event where the company treats the employees to lunch, while they all hop in one online conference room like a Zoom or a Teams call to hang out,” Usanmaz said. It's an easy way to catch up with colleagues and interact with people outside of the core working group. 

2. Virtual Games

Another way to build digital solidarity among remote workers is to play online virtual games. These games can even include incentives or rewards for the winners to entice participation.

“Not only would a reward system make everyone a bit more excited, but this is a good chance to build teamwork and strengthen camaraderie without the looming pressure of work deadlines,” Usanmaz said. 

3. Virtual Conference Rooms

Creating virtual conference rooms for team-building activities is another useful way to build relationships, especially activities tailored to the type of remote company. David Smith, commercial director at London, England-based Tenscope, said his team plays a game called "Can You Hear Me Now," a drawing game created by teambuilding.com.

“You play this game in a virtual conference room, and one participant is designated as the speaker, while the others are illustrators,” he said. The speaker selects a random word and must describe it in geometric forms to the illustrators, until somehow figures out the word. As a graphic design firm, Tenscope found that the game was perfect for them, helping to boost creativity and improve communication. 

4. Virtual Book Club

Non-work related activities like a book club can provide an opportunity for employees to meet online to discuss interests and perspectives. A different host can be chosen each month to facilitate the conversation. The books can also discuss business topics such as marketing, leadership or engineering. This would make it more of a professional development exercise remote workers can do to further their careers and improve their skills. 

Related Article: Career Development in the Remote or Hybrid Workplace

5. Virtual Cooking Classes

Cooking classes are a popular way for teams to relax and have fun. Virtual cooking classes provide the same benefits and help foster better relationships among employees. Plus, it allows employees to try different foods and discover things they didn't know about their colleagues.  

6. Digital Workshops

A digital workshop is an online gathering where people come to discuss a specific topic. Just like a virtual book club, digital workshops can be centered around a relevant career or industry-related topic, or they can be left up to participants to choose. For these activities to yield the desired results, it is often best to let employees decide what pleases them.

In the end, remote team-building activities can seem difficult to orchestrate, but they only require a video conferencing tool and a desire to make work fun. Breaking from the daily grind of work is critically important for the digital workplace, and organizations can only gain by deepening the bond within their ranks.

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