Virtual Team Building for a 100% Distributed Workforce

Even as some areas of the country and certain businesses begin to cautiously reopen, teams have demonstrated a remarkable ability to communicate, collaborate, and create remotely. Many employees are going to expect more generous work-from-home policies, and many employers are already in a race to provide them.

During this transition, it’s critical that existing teams, newly onboarded staff, and restructured departments still provide opportunity for virtual team building and bonding. How do you build the same level trust and relationships that you can achieve in person across a 100% distributed workforce?

Fortunately, we have six virtual team building tips to make sure your staff stays strong and connected, wherever they are.

I. DRAW TOGETHER!

The internet is full of ideas for virtual workplace social activities; book clubs, house tours, show and tells, and of course, the remote happy hour. Unfortunately, most of these are passive activities, and unless you’re leading the discussion, after one or two sessions, let alone 12 weeks of them, these activities can start to feel like just another remote meeting.

It’s why we created our more active version, Drawn Together, But Apart. This series, which grew out of in-person drawing sessions we used to host, began as an internal group activity for the ImageThink staff, but has quickly become one of our most popular offerings.

By leading a series of creative games and prompts, including large group challenges, and smaller breakout activities, we make sure everyone on the call has something fun to do, and something to share. Even better, these sessions require no previous drawing experience, and are low tech; all you need beyond a virtual meeting platform is a pen and paper.

We’re hosting a demo on June 18. Register here to join!

II. INCORPORATE VIRTUAL ICEBREAKERS

If you’ve attended one of our webinars on Elevating Your Virtual Meetings, you know that one of our top tips for recreating the face-to-face experience is to use peoples’ names and ask everyone to have their cameras on during the meeting.

In a similar vein, we find it goes a long way to set aside a few minutes for some icebreakers at the top of the meeting, whether the assembled parties know one another already or not. Think about meeting in person. There are usually a few minutes by the bagels catching up on the weekend, or a few minutes by the water cooler talking about last night’s game (remember sports?).

A virtual handshake as team-members meet and work online

For our money, a daily question from one of our Creativity Cards is the best way to kick things off. Beyond just a simple “how was everyone’s weekend?” the cards ask people to perform a task, engage their brains, and have fun in the process, setting you up for a more productive, collaborative meeting.

III. CREATE A VIRTUAL LOBBY OR REMOTE WATER COOLER

Speaking of water cooler chatter, teams need opportunities to socialize during the day, and it’s something we’re all sorely missing in this time of sheltering in place. The truth is, we all need little respites, and the chance to bond with our coworkers around something other than the next project or sale.

One solution we’ve found is to create a virtual lobby. Using your remote meeting platform of choice, setting a daily, open meeting that lasts for 60 minutes sometime early in the day, and encouraging the team to drop in or out as they please.

Virtual watercooler - creating a social area in a remote work environment

Just engaging in discussion can make a huge difference in morale, and often leads to creative ideation that can benefit the company. Even if not, those bonds will serve to make remote group projects easier and will help reinforce a sense of mutual commitment between your organization and your employees.

IV. ESTABLISH DEDICATED SOCIAL CHANNELS ON YOUR WORK APP

Productivity tools like Slack or Teams are terrific tools for managing quicker, more back-and-forth chatter in a way that helps limit the strain on your inbox, and they offer another channel to invite virtual team building.

By creating dedicated social channels, in addition to the ones necessary for projects. So while the tools need to primarily focus on work-related communication, having some channels open for weekend plans, daily crosswords, or TV/movie/book recommendations is a great way to keep people on the platform and talking with one another throughout the day.

V. ENCOURAGE DEPARTMENTS AND INDIVIDUALS TO SET THEIR OWN MEETINGS

These are trying times for everyone as we have to relearn ways to trust one another, measure our success, and stay focused on the right priorities. It’s tempting for managers to want to over schedule and micromanage their team-members’ time.

While the desire to stay in touch and on top of things is definitely critical, it’s also important to encourage your team to set their own meetings and plan their own cadence to connect. That trust will be mutually appreciated, reaffirming the faith you have in the team you assembled, and freeing up time for managers to think farther out about how to lead a 100% distributed workforce.

VI. WRITE A COOKBOOK!

As most cities are still restricting social gatherings and dine-in restaurants and bars are a thing of the recent past (and hopefully near future), America is quickly becoming a nation of home chefs! In fact, next month we’ll be rolling out a post on this very blog of all of the ImageThink team’s favorite bakes and cooks during this renaissance of culinary adventurism.

Team members sharing recipes over the internet in a virtual work environment

What started as a fun idea for our blog and social media channels quickly became an exciting and engaging social opportunity. We’re all thrilled swap photos, methods, and ideas week over week and to share with one another when we try out someone’s recipe. Like the other ideas on this list, the good old-fashioned recipe book encourages creativity, collaboration, and socialization and activity outside of your usual workload.

In our case, it’s also resulting in some exciting new content, and a nice project at the end of the day, which we can’t wait to share with all of you!

Looking to engage and reinvigorate your team with more virtual team building ideas? We can help! Call us at the number above, use the chat function, or click here to schedule a demo with our accounts team today.

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