Why is team-building so important in remote teams?
During the pandemic, millions of people made the switch to working remotely, and many of us discovered that we really missed our colleagues. As it turns out, work communities play a meaningful role in peoples' lives.
However, it takes a lot of work to nurture these relationships when we're working remotely, but it's work that ultimately pays off.
Employee engagement, productivity and commitment all improve when teams can collaborate effectively. When we aren't together, things are more challenging, and we're more likely to feel isolated and lonely. Those feelings can fester and result in businesses losing some of their best employees.
As a result, team building and team bonding are critically important. Yet, most businesses don't take the time to do team-building activities. It isn't just about getting employees to work together or share ideas. While these things are essential, it doesn't paint the whole picture. Employees also need fun and friendship. To do that requires creating a sense of community among remote workers so they can support each other, regardless of where they are.
If you do it correctly, you'll have a unified and high-performing team. Studies have found that when companies treat employees like they're working together (instead of separately) to complete a challenging task, the employees continue to try to complete the task for 64% longer than people who were working alone. More interestingly, the people working together weren't working in the same physical space, proving the power of teamwork regardless of location.
Here are nine best practices to start remote team building in your company.
9 Remote team building tips and best practices
1. Have regular catch-ups
We're social creatures. That's why the connections we make while walking to a colleague's desk or waiting in line for lunch are so important to us. When we work on our own, we lose these connections unless we find ways to make them happen.
Don't leave these connection opportunities to chance. Instead, plan regular team get-togethers. Try having them more often than less often when your team is remote. You should aim for at least two meetings a week where all the employees get together on chat. Be sure to schedule it ahead of time and make it a part of your ongoing meeting strategy, so employees have plenty of time to plan and make sure they're there.
It's also a good practice to have a revolving, end-of-the-week catch-up so remote team members can bond after the hustle of the workweek has subsided. People tend to feel more relaxed at the end of the week, so it's a great time for employee bonding. Don't make these meetings compulsory, but make sure they're fun and inclusive. You might even consider planning some remote team-building games and activities for extra opportunities to connect.
2. Schedule little conversation breaks
Great teams are built on trust, but it can be challenging to build trust when you aren't together in the same space. When colleagues work together, they have lots of chances to grab lunch, take a coffee break and chit-chat, and it's in these small moments that real trust can form.
Thankfully, you can organize virtual conversation breaks and coffee chats via video calls. Think about hosting one once a week so people can talk without any pressure. Get conversations going with icebreakers. Be sure to choose fun topics, like hobbies, favorite foods, must-watch TV shows and more. These little chats shouldn't feel stressful or like interrogations. Instead, they should be small opportunities for your employees to connect.
3. Introduce your in-house and remote teams
It's way too easy for in-house and remote teams to work in separate silos, which isn't great for company culture. It's essential that the people working remotely feel like part of the company. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you invite everyone to join in whatever is happening. For example, if there's an event that the in-house team is attending, be sure to invite the remote team as well.
One way to help the two teams bond is by having regular meet-ups between the two teams. For example, you can pair up in-house team members with remote ones on projects. You can also have a semi-regular session where someone - remote or in-house - creates a presentation on a work-related subject and presents it to everyone via video call. Then, encourage a question and answer session afterward to get everyone talking. The most important thing is to build a bridge between the two teams so that the culture doesn't suffer.
4. Utilize video as often as possible
It's not about what you say but how you say it. Body language and intent matter. That's why team members need to hear and see each other. Video calls can greatly improve team effectiveness and understanding and strengthen relationships because they help add context to people and conversations.
Video calls also give us a small look into peoples' lives outside of work. We love getting a peek at our co-workers' homes because it gives us a tiny glimpse into who they are outside the office. Seeing our colleagues as whole people outside of work can strengthen our bonds with them, and create abetter overall understanding.
5. Use the right channel.
People send and receive more than 347 billion emails each day, and employees spend approximately three hours every day checking their emails. As a result, companies need to think about how they can build connections and foster conversations without emails.
Instead of putting everything into emails, think about all the different channels available. There are video chats, group chats, phone calls, emails and more. Take time to choose the applications that make the most sense for your operation and get rid of the rest. Choosing the right channels will help encourage conversations, and eliminating the clutter will make sure they're all happening in the same place.
6. Embrace chat
People who had a brief, 10-minute chat before taking a test had improved performance on par with people who engaged in intellectual activities before the test. In other words, talking is good, and if your team works remotely, it can be challenging to make sure those water cooler conversations are still taking place.
Be sure everyone has access to chat or instant messaging, and encourage your team to use it to talk to each other. Then, consider starting a separate chat channel just for casual conversations. Remember, people might feel a little uncomfortable talking in there at first, but you can lead the charge. Start the conversations by sharing memes, jokes, videos or supportive work chat. Before you know it, organic conversations will start to pop up just like they would in a traditional office setting.
Be sure to post congratulatory messages on chat when people have big work victories. For example, when someone lands a big client or reaches a big goal, take time to congratulate them. If you have a rewards program, be sure your remote team is also a part of it; and give out rewards for achievements. Also, don't forget about birthdays, work anniversaries and other significant milestones. Just because your team is distributed doesn't mean you can't celebrate together.
8. Utilize diversity
Diverse teams make companies stronger. Diversity creates a better team culture and opens up opportunities to learn. Be sure to do your research and get to know your remote team members and their cultural backgrounds. This is especially important if you have team members from other parts of the world. You want to take time to understand how they like to approach issues, tasks and activities and then implement that into your overarching company culture. Take time to stay up-to-date with international holiday calendars to ensure you're giving your team the appropriate time off. You also might be able to create some fun activities for the whole team around these holidays.
9. Incorporate some team building games
Sometimes some low-stress games are the best way to break the ice and build team comradery . Quizzes, virtual escape rooms, virtual murder mysteries, trivia, Pictionary, charades and virtual bingo are just some options for fun online games for the entire team. So get creative and find fun ways to help your remote employees get to know each other and bond.
Start team-building with your remote team.
With just a few simple best practices, you can get your virtual team feeling more connected to each other and the company in no time. Taking time to build connections helps improve productivity, loyalty, and ultimately, lead to a more harmonious and effective workflow.
Do you need help building your virtual team? We help companies find, hire and employ the best talent from around the world. Learn more about how we can help you find your perfect virtual team.