Team building is hard. And yes, remote team building is even harder.
The truth is, bringing remote employees together to connect and collaborate on a personal level (without feeling like they’re still working) is challenging. There’s nothing like spending several extra hours on Zoom for a virtual happy hour and virtual team quiz to disengage those skeptic team members with ‘better things to do’…
We all know the benefits of team building. It improves communication, offers opportunities to build trust, and helps teams increase productivity. But how do you choose and run a successful team building activity with remote teams?
The Old Times Were Good Times
In pre-virtual times, classic team building activities may have included a day off work, or a big off-site event, with a lot of time for in-person mingling and collaborating. So when you take away that physical element, there’s less room for that informal in-person camaraderie that’s essential for deepening team engagement.
To overcome these challenges, it’s important for managers to choose virtual team building or team bonding activities that resonate with the team, including everyone, and don’t feel like an extension of the workday. It’s also important to make sure all participants have everything they need to participate (including internet connectivity) and that everything is organized. Really organized.
If there’s anything worse than a remote team building activity, it’s a remote team building activity that’s boring, disorganized, and poorly executed. For most, that’s a big waste of time.
To help you out, we’ve pulled together a list of 5 common pitfalls of remote team building activities as well as some tips for how to avoid them.
Remote Team Building Pitfalls
Pitfall #1: Choosing an activity that requires special skills or talents.
We’ve all been there… participating in a team building activity that really plays to some team members’ strengths while excluding almost everyone else (ahem, karaoke). While they’re wonderful activities for those select few, they’re agonizingly boring or anxiety-inducing for others. Especially if these types of activities are central to the entire team building experience.
- Send out a short survey in advance to understand what your team really wants to do.
- Choose an activity that requires minimal skills or knowledge. Examples include a virtual escape room, a virtual chocolate experience, or a virtual quiz.
- Include skills-based activities as options, but not central to the event.
Pitfall #2: Low attendance and/or participation.
If you send out the invitation at the last minute or choose a less than exciting work-related activity, chances are you’re going to have less participation and/or attendance than you’d like. An effective team building session requires your whole team, not just the keen few.
- See tips above.
- Choose an activity that doesn’t include too many presentations and instead requires verbal or physical participation.
- Schedule the activity well in advance, communicate how critical it is for employees to participate, and send regular reminders.
- During the event, get everyone to turn their cameras on (at least briefly) and sign out of any collaboration apps and email (you want them to be 100% dedicated).
Pitfall #3: Technical issues for hosts and/or participants.
Even though remote teams work with different tech platforms throughout the day, a technical problem is often just around the corner. While often minor, technical issues can cause delays, frustration, and sour the experience.
- Give all participants adequate notice and reminders about any software or updates they need to install. Make sure they also have the internet bandwidth they need to participate. If they don’t, what’s your plan? Will your company provide support for upgrades?
- Nominate a tech-savvy team member to act as the resident tech guru on the day.
- Take adequate time to do a full software and sound technical rehearsal to discover any glitches that need to be resolved before the kickoff.
Pitfall #4: Not distributing any materials and resources in advance.
Before an event, organizers are often wrapped up in the logistics of the activity as opposed to making sure team members have everything they need to fully participate. Whether it’s a particular software, art supplies, a costume, or cooking supplies, it’s important that everyone has everything set up well before kickoff. Without the right materials and resources, they’ll probably be engaging more with their phone, or even worse, not attending at all.
- Order and deliver any physical materials to participants at least 1-2 weeks before the event.
- Give all participants adequate notice and reminders about any software or updates they need to install. (See above.)
- Send out a reminder to everyone a couple of days before the event with a list of everything that is required to participate.
Pitfall #5: Not changing the physical environment.
One of the perks of normal team building activities is the chance to escape the office for the day or afternoon, and focus on the activity at hand. For virtual teams, this is obviously a little harder. If they participate from the same place as their regular virtual meetings, it’s hardly going to feel like a fun ‘break’, rather just an obligatory continuation of their workday.
- Choose an activity that doesn’t necessarily require a work desk and can get people up on their feet or working from a different location.
- Encourage team members to connect from a different location (this could be a different room in their house or even outside).
- If you have parents in your team, try to make some of the activity family or housemate friendly.
Need some more team-building inspiration? Here are some of our other favorite remote team building activities.
Why not keep things simple and fun with one of our tinyB Chocolate Experiences?
With tinyB Chocolate, we’ll do all of the event leg work, taking the stress out of the planning and organizing. We’ll facilitate participant sign-ups, send out a kit with everything your team needs to make delicious Brazilian chocolate truffles (no cooking required!), and then host a live chocolate-making class. With simple chocolate-themed games and competitions, everyone will love it!
With options available for under $50 per participant, there’s simply no virtual team-building event on the market that employees love so much for such a small investment.