While there are plenty of benefits to remote working – avoiding the commute and working in your pyjamas when you feel like it, for starters – there are also a few downsides.
Encounters with colleagues don’t spontaneously happen when we’re working remotely – whether it be in the kitchen making coffee, popping out to grab lunch, or Friday drinks.
That means fewer opportunities to bond and maintain positive relationships.
With a massive shift to video conferencing that has 30% of us attending more than 10 virtual events a month, according to the 2020 Redback Report, more organisations are exploring digital options — or blending them with physical ones — to foster team culture and communication, and have a bit of fun at the same time.
It can be hard to get people to relax and engage in a virtual space that lacks the atmosphere, visual cues and social nuances of a physical environment. That’s why it’s important to think outside the square when it comes to getting together online to build team spirit.
Doing an activity together is a great way to build team rapport and enable people to interact with each other naturally in a virtual space.
With that in mind, here are 7 fun ways to build a great work culture in a remote team.
1. Start with an icebreaker
Icebreakers are activities you can do at the start of a virtual meeting to form quick, personal connections, or to have a bit of fun in a more casual online team building session.
The key is to keep it simple so it’s easy for everyone to get involved. For example, you might ask everyone to take a photo of something, such as their remote workspace, upload the pic to a shared document or similar, and challenge team mates to match the picture with the correct participant.
Other variations include:
- Asking everyone to answer three questions about themselves (eg. ‘Name your favourite food/sport/holiday spot?)
- Giving everyone one minute in front of the mic to do anything they like (eg. tell a joke/read a poem/sing a song/share a story).
2. Virtual wine tastings
You might kick this off by asking everyone to vote for their favourite style of wine, choose those that are the most popular and have some bottles delivered to each of your participants.
Some wine producers, suppliers and retailers offer virtual tastings. Or you might consider simply asking for some tasting notes from your supplier, picking up a copy of James Halliday’s wine guide (or a similar volume), to get you started.
Have everyone taste a wine and make their own observations about what they tasted, and compare these with the tasting notes at the end. Also make sure you research a few options for matching food and wine.
3. 5-minute restaurant reviews
Get everyone to choose their favourite restaurant, café or other venue and ask them to give a 5-minute review.
Ask them to include their favourite dish, a matching drink, special deals, its location, where to park, and the best time (or not) to go, as well as nearby attractions.
Even if it’s not currently open, most people have a long list of things they’re longing to do once COVID-19 allows.
4. Virtual cooking classes
The key to running an online cooking class is in the planning.
Firstly, make sure you choose a dish that’s easy enough for everyone to make, but interesting enough to make them want to cook (and eat) it. Ask everyone to provide an option and then vote or agree on it together.
Use easily accessible ingredients or suggest substitutes; it’s also a good idea to include vegetarian and low-allergy options where possible. You might want to use an online service to deliver the ingredients.
If you’re getting everyone to cook along, make sure they mute their mics so no one misses out any important steps, but include plenty of short breaks for questions and to let everyone share their own progress (and catch up).
If your participants are just watching someone like Nonna Live, consider delivering them some cheese and biscuits or a matching wine or craft beer to enjoy during the proceedings – but, again, make sure you include plenty of time for interaction before and after the class.
Ask everyone who cooked the dish to take a photo and post it to your virtual chat, or share it at your next team meeting.
5. Team movie night
Host a regular team movie night (or movie day) and stream it through a video conferencing platform so the whole team can watch it together.
A good way to attract participants is to get everyone to submit a movie and then ask them to vote for their choice and when to watch it via an online poll.
You can also create a chat room where people can share their views and reviews. Tools such as Netflix Party can make it easy to sync the play time of movies.
6. Weekly game session
There’s a growing array of online games that can be played by groups over video conferencing platforms.
Options like Tabletop Simulator let you play digital versions of tabletop games, while others, such as Jackbox cover puzzles, code breaking, drawing, trivia-based challenges, improv-style comedy competitions and just about every party game you can name.
At the beginning of the month, send out an email or message to the team with some options and ask them to vote on their favorite virtual group game.
7. Dedicated chat room
An open chat room can be great for keeping team members engaged on a regular basis.
Whether it’s a coffee and a chat, or a place to post a meme while your lunch is heating up in the microwave, a dedicated chat room is an easy way to keep people connected in a casual, relaxed forum.
You’ve heard our ideas. We’d love to know if you’ve been involved in any great remote team-building exercises of your own!