Let’s face it: The term ‘team building’ usually elicits groans and eye-rolls even when we were able to do it in person, and porting it now to the virtual world – in the format of yet another Zoom call – is not likely to elicit any better reactions.
However, as more teams are now in a remote-work setup where face-to-face interaction is limited, there is a greater need for companies to find new ways to create a sense of personal connection and cultivate a strong, positive work culture, in order to keep employees happy and engaged.
Here are six ways companies can creatively engage teams and jump-start team (re)building in the new remote-work era:
1) SHARED TEAM EXPERIENCES
It could be as simple as introducing a company-wide, at-home fitness challenge, rewarding participants for hitting work milestones, or introducing a bi-weekly virtual ‘Coffee Chat’ to discuss a book or movie that everyone has watched. Even an optional after-hours ‘Cooking Club’, where people can learn new recipes and techniques from colleagues with different culinary backgrounds, can be a fun way for teams to connect with one another on a more personal level while physically apart.
Whatever you choose, finding new ways to get people participating in something outside of work will help foster a strong sense of camaraderie. Don’t be afraid to get partners and children involved either – involving employees’ families will help create a more personal connection to their colleagues that can have a positive impact on team morale.
2) NON-TRADITIONAL REWARDS
Just as appreciated as physical items and gifts, non-tangible rewards are another great way to let employees know they are valued. Acknowledge hard work or a major milestone achievement with a day off for everyone, or give teams some flexibility with the option of starting later one day or shutting down the laptop early on Fridays.
It’s also important to acknowledge that working from home comes with its own set of challenges, as some remote workers struggle to separate their work lives from their personal lives. Show that you understand this problem by encouraging them to take vacation (even if it is just a staycation) and then respect that time by leaving them alone during their PTO.
3) VIRTUAL TEAM-BUILDING ACTIVITIES
Consider hosting monthly or bi-weekly virtual team-building events, mixing up teams of employees who don’t often work together and introducing a few games to lighten the mood and break up the cycle of daily work.
There are literally thousands of options out there – a simple Google search will turn up everything from pub quizzes to escape rooms, at-home scavenger hunts to improv comedy classes, and even NASA-inspired lunar disaster scenarios and virtual murder mysteries.
4) WFH SWAG
Gone are the days of getting dressed up for work or attending meetings with company-branded stationary. The reality is that most of us in the work-from-home setup have embraced a much more casual approach to work attire and have carved out a little niche in our homes as our new office space. We’ve also gotten wise to “below-the-screen” (vs. “on-camera”) wardrobe, where comfort is king.
Consider getting everyone some premium-quality, company-branded jogger sweatpants, comfy indoor shoes, or a ‘go-to’ work top that can be used for team meetings just as well as client-facing calls (a black crewneck sweater with your logo works well), to take some of the thought out of what to wear to “work” each morning.
5) ASK FOR MORE FREQUENT FEEDBACK & ENCOURAGE INPUT
For companies that are used to providing employee feedback in person, change your approach by engaging employees more frequently and adapting the questions to a remote-first situation.
Consider introducing quarterly or even monthly “Pulse Checks”, asking not only about their opinions on work performance or on the business, but also asking for insight on their mental, financial and physical wellness. Encourage employees to share their thoughts on how they are adapting to the new setup, if there is anything that would help improve their situation (a second screen perhaps?), and solicit ideas on how to improve morale. Also be upfront and sincere about your willingness to incorporate their input into implementing changes going forward.
6) SHOW APPRECIATION
The simple gesture of a personal thank-you is unfortunately underappreciated as a powerful motivator and culture-building tool. According to a Glassdoor survey on workplace retention, 81% of employees are driven to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. That is a staggering number for what can be as easy as a personal note of sincere thanks or shout-outs during a team meeting.
Although mass messages are an effective means of communicating, these don’t necessarily come off as thoughtful when used to show appreciation. Instead, opt for a personal phone call or draft individualized messages in Slack or e-mail, pointing out the contributions that an employee has made. This shows their individual efforts did not go unnoticed and will lead to significantly higher productivity and engagement down the road.
These are just several ways companies can show appreciation and boost morale as we adapt to the remote-work era. For more ideas on how to build strong cultures in a virtual world, check out our company’s blog here.
Sean Hoff | Contributing Writer
Sean Hoff is the Founder and Managing Partner of Moniker, an award-winning corporate retreat planning agency.