The biggest names in the tech world – Facebook, Google, Twitter, Square, Salesforce – have made work from home a permanent practice. And where the giants go, the rest follow. Shorn of verbiage, it implies remote working is becoming commonplace.
If not now, then soon you would be responsible for a team that may be distributed not just across space but also time zones. It could also mean that you end up handling either a team that’s fully remote or partly so.
In both scenarios, it is essential to build a rapport, team spirit, and an overall positive culture because they are the key to employee engagement and productivity. The trouble is, it’s not easy to go out for a quick bonding lunch with the entire team when everyone stays miles apart.
With this thought in mind, we give you activities that help forge an all-embracing culture and drive employees to do their most fulfilling work, regardless of where they are.
Tested Culture Building Activities That Work on Real-Life Remote Teams
Remote work is more flexible and productive, but like everything else, it has its cons. It can build a sense of isolation in workers. That is why developing human connections is essential.
Culture building exercises do help make members feel like an integral part of the team, but the best ones are those that you weave into the fabric of everyday work.
The purpose is to take time out for the entire team to have fun together regularly, not once in a blue moon.
1. Connecting over group chats
The best way to keep communication open in remote teams is group chats. That’s a given fact. But who says that Slack chats have to be limited to work? Create a specific group where the topic of discussion is strictly non-professional.
From ‘what’s for lunch’ to ‘how to perform better when working remotely’, anything is up for discussion on the group as long as it is nowhere near the projects the team is working on!
2. Guess the answer
The next culture-building activity may appear out of the box, but it works because it makes a point of tethering people at a personal level. In other words, it is the very antithesis of remote work – isolation and disconnect.
Begin each ‘update meeting’ with a trivia question. The question could be personal like “how many kids does the boss have?” or it could be professional “which year did the youngest member of the team join?”
Give four options with the question and ask the team to guess the answer. Yes, the technique does necessitate some homework on the part of the member asking the question, but that’s well worth it.
The activity is an outstanding method to get to know more about your counterparts and get everyone a little more awake for the meeting.
3. Building a new member’s manual
The focus of this culture building activity is solely on new team members. When a new employee joins the remote team, take the time out to share their workstyle. Think of the activity as building the new employee’s user manual. Ask them simple yet specific questions like:
- Are you comfortable with random video calls?
- Is there a specific time when you go into a do-not-disturb mode?
- Do you prefer calls, chats, or emails?
The goal is to get a fair bit of idea about how the new colleague operates. It is a fun activity but also profoundly practical.
4. Click a picture
There are two versions of this remote team building activity. Both are wildly popular because they never fail to get the conversation ball rolling, which is the golden rule to a connected team.
a. Coffee or tea?
Ask every person to take a photo of their daily beverage. It could be coffee; it could be tea or it could be a healthy shake. With a single photo, you unlock the door to strengthening team bonds because it is more than enough to start the tea vs. coffee wars.
b. Tidy or messy?
The second version of the activity is to ask everyone to submit an unfiltered picture of their remote station. When people work from home, they are not compelled to keep a very tidy desk, making litter and debris abound.
The image can become a ritual where members ’out’ themselves on the messy state of their workstations. The exercise succeeds because a desk gives you a window into the personality of your colleagues, which leads to deeper connections between members.
5. Learning sessions
When work piles, it is easy to forget that we also need to expand our horizons. And when you are working remotely and there is no watercooler banter with peers, this aspect gets shifted further away. A simple activity that solves this problem is learning sessions.
Every thirty or so days, hold a video call with all the members of the team interested in learning more about a specific topic. The topic can be anything from effective communication to leaner coding. The goal is to expand your skill set beyond the present.
Culture Building Activities: The Virtual Watercooler for Remote Teams
Studies say that people who work remotely have weaker bonds with their colleagues when compared to those who work in the office. One reason for it is the lack of bonding sessions.
It is the absence of direct face to face communication that becomes a unique challenge for remote teams. Therefore, socialising has to be a priority to build a sense of trust, feeling of inclusion, and awareness of representation.
Yes, these teams can’t skip over to the break room for a friendly heart-to-heart every few hours, but they can still meet virtually. Your task is to foster a culture that encourages every individual to socialise and reach out when they need help.
And productive team building activities help nurture that culture. They give people a healthy, vibrant rapport that makes them feel like an equal part of the team, not a satellite observer.