Team Building strategies were simple to plan and implement prior to 2020. Having team members in the office, at the worksite, or attending regular group meetings provided an opportunity to interact and engage. Certainly, remote team building, in contrast, requires a more planful approach, and creative effort to implement.

Yet, the value of remote team building is significant. Certainly, it demands that as leaders and business owners, we must expend the initiative and think outside the box to create remote team building opportunities. Likely, this is even more important now than ever before. Team members are often working remotely from home offices, or are in offices or other work settings with a significantly reduced employee occupancy. This is difficult for some team members, as some individuals do not work well solo. They thrive on the energy of an office environment, or working alongside others and the camaraderie it offers.

Team Building Foundations
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Team Building deserves planning and thoughtful strategy to convey value & support.

Why Remote Team Building is Important

While this article is not intended to address the benefits of team building, let’s briefly discuss WHY it is so important. Then, we will jump into some ideas of how to implement remote team building in 2020 and beyond. Employee engagement is a key indicator in the success of businesses. When employees feel connected and valued, and feel the work they do is making a difference, they are more vested. They want to contribute because they are motivated; they choose to offer initiative and share their talents.

Conversely, many of us will quickly lose motivation and our productivity and effort will notch down substantially if we do not feel valued; or if our efforts are not recognized. Or, equally importantly – if we feel as though what we are doing does not connect to the company’s mission and makes no impact. We all want purpose! Truthfully, we need to know that how we spend the bulk of our work week is adding to this world.

“Remote Team Building inherently offers encouragement and recognition; it also provides a means to build trust and communicate value and appreciation.”

Diane Kubes

Clearly, what better way to accomplish this than through a consistent effort to plan remote team building opportunities?

Interesting Facts…

“Employees who do not feel adequately recognized have a lower engagement rate and are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.” This same article noted that 45% of employees would consider leaving their current job if they felt disconnected from their colleagues.

Certainly, plans for remote team building are essential at this time. What we did in the past needs to be modified. Employees are spread out, and teams have less opportunity to connect. Therefore, we must create strategies for remote team building as we forge ahead with a new way of doing business.

Remote Team Building Strategies

1. Pomodoro Technique to Increase Efficiency and Team Building

Simply, one of the easiest ways to increase efficiency while also incorporating remote team building is implementing the Pomodoro Technique. Leaders set up a recurring Google calendar with a Zoom invitation embedded. Weekly, or bi-weekly, team members meet and greet over Zoom. Co-workers define specific tasks they commit to over the subsequent 25 minutes. The leader sets a timer within Zoom, everyone shuts off their video and mutes their microphone to begin working. Later, co-workers re-convene for 5 minutes to chat, breathe, stretch & share their progress. This process is repeated for the number of cycles each individual commits to. It is amazing how much more focused one is with work, and the connection time with peers is a naturally occurring team building opportunity.

Similarly, creating routine digital break-time chats offers value. This can also be implemented using any of the numerous remote video chat software tools, (Zoom, Webex, Google Meet, etc.) Alternatively, depending on the size of the team, group phone conferencing may offer variety. Replicating break-room chats at the office while refilling coffee cups or grabbing a snack, these remote team building chats encourage communication. Co-workers have opportunities to share their highs and lows, or a good joke & laughter. Certainly, many of us are very task-oriented and focused on our work; working remotely we may be less likely to take a break. Scheduling these remote chats may encourage taking occasional breaks, which are healthy and necessary.

2. Greeting Cards and Correspondence Support Remote Team Building

Interestingly, we continue to adapt to the use of remote tools to conduct business. Yet, are we remembering some of our other available resources? Certainly, the U.S. mail has been around much longer than any of us! Since we can’t drop a note or card into their in-office mailbox, why not send it to them in the mail? Imagine the smile and the sense of value & recognition they will feel. Absolutely, there is something special about receiving a hand-written note or greeting card in the mail! Surely, it is a powerful remote team building tool.

Similarly, do you use any of the online resources to email or text a greeting card or send an invitation? Creating an electronic invitation & emailing it to your group, inviting them to attend the weekly Break-Time Chat, may offer more novelty and interest. Picture their surprise! Don’t forget to send them a birthday card to remember their special day. Sending a Thank You card for their consistent efforts, or for picking up extra shifts will be appreciated. Consider emailing them a certificate or an Outstanding Achievement card, both easily made in many available graphic creation software including Canva or PicMonkey.

In case you are unfamiliar with some electronic options, here is a quick list you can explore:

a. Punchbowl

b. 123Greetings

c. Smilebox

d. Just Wink

e. Paperless Post

3. Company Clubs to Promote Remote Team Building

Many companies have fitness centers on their campus, or offer discounts for fitness clubs to promote employee wellness. Others have discounts available though their group health insurance plans, and/or sponsor in-office training to educate and encourage positive mindset and health. With remote working, some of those perks are no longer accessible to many personnel. Certainly, it is time we think creatively to generate remote team building opportunities!

Thankfully, we live in Minnesota! We are surrounded by many lakes, with walking trails, parks and nature centers in nearby communities. Let’s not forget ice skating and cross-country skiing. These are fresh air activities that provide exercise. Fortunately, they are also ‘coronavirus-safe,’ with social distancing implemented. Consider encouraging employees’ participation in physical exercise. Further, enhance team camaraderie with incentives and competition. Surely, some employees may even arrange participation together, if they live near one another.

Company Clubs
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Creating interest-related clubs employees can join, may help to develop or maintain connections.

Creating other remote team building ideas include devising digital company clubs. Employees sign up for clubs of interest. They self-assign a team lead, and self-direct the frequency of their meeting. This is similar to the “after-hours” events many employees enjoy participating in. Examples could include a book club, a meditation club, a photography club, or a healthy eating & recipe sharing club. The use of a virtual meeting room with video offers unlimited club options. These groups connect team members via shared interests.

4. Company Town Hall or Forum Invites Communication

Without question, strong communication is a basic fundamental for business success. Undoubtedly, it results in creating engaged teams who feel valued and who are vested in their jobs. This, sometimes, is why some people can be heard saying, “It’s ‘just’ a part-time job.” Their investment may not be as high as an individual who works 40 to 50 hours a week at the same job. Similarly, the further distanced we are, a feeling of detachment may occur – employees may feel less visible, less connected to the company and to their colleagues. Therefore, strong communication is closely associated with remote team building strategies.

a. Creatively, one solution to further promote remote team building is establishing a remote monthly Company Town Hall meeting. Again, Zoom may be a viable resource. The meeting begins with business owners and administration sharing positive feedback & recognition to team members. It segways into company news & updates, new policies, forms or procedures. It ends with introducing new employee team members.

Next, after the full-company connection time, small work groups meet (assigned by division) as an opportunity to connect on any division-specific news or updates, and provide an opportunity to interact on a more personal level with team members they work with.

Alternatively, for larger companies, like Thomas Allen, this remote team building concept is easily adapted. Instead, the full company Town Hall meeting is pared down to one division, with sub-groups breaking out from within the division.This adaptation is likely to fit in with the free plans offered by some of the remote meeting services, due to the lower numbers of individuals involved in the meetings.

Town Hall
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b. Additionally, a second solution, is to set up a Company Forum for remote team building. This can be created on your website using a plug-in, or forum software. It affords employees an opportunity to connect with other team members on relevant topics, which helps to create community. Further, it may improve business and strengthen the company. Other benefits may include suggesting ideas and changes that benefit the services or the employees within the company. Having a forum helps connect employees, while giving them an opportunity to share their voice and ideas. These result in strengthening employee engagement, and being more vested in the company. If you would like to explore various tools to set up a forum, both free and paid, or the steps to build a forum, follow the links for more information.

5. Virtual Lunches Keeps it Fun

Similar to the Break-Time Chats, consider scheduling a weekly Team Lunch Tuesday. Persons from each team are invited to join a virtual video lunch. This provides a fun opportunity to connect on a more personal level and catch up on the one another’s lives. Or, it is an opportunity to play some games or hold some type of competition. The primary goal is inciting laughter, and providing an opportunity for connections. The secondary objective, of course, is remote team building.

“There is little success where there is little laughter.”

Andrew Carnegie – Business Magnate and Philanthropist

6. Contests & Competitions to Increase Engagement

Definitely, regardless of age, people like to laugh together; and our love of competition typically does not fade when we become adults. So, why not build in some opportunities to create some laughs for remote team building? Thomas Allen’s Recruitment and Retention Committee has implemented this strategy. The ideas for this can also be limitless! Some things have included a photo contest decorating windows with hearts, in response to COVID-19. Another, was a remote scavenger hunt. An activity recently sponsored included a word scramble contest. Another popular idea involved guessing the number of items in a container. Consider your options. Perhaps awarding a best costume for Halloween, or an Ugly Sweater award for the holidays. Do some creative brainstorming with team members to develop remote team building contests that fit your business.

7. Secret or Surprise Connections for Remote Team Building

This idea is similar to the concept of “Secret Santa” where co-workers draw names and then secretly share notes, cards, small tokens or gifts. Brightening others’ days and letting them know what others like and appreciate about them can be deeply rewarding. We can do this at any time of the year, and we don’t need to wear a red suit or have a white beard either! This is my favorite remote team building idea. Receiving tangible items, with the added surprise element, is sure to be encouraging and develop connections.

Easily, using an online name randomizer, team leaders quickly assign co-workers to one another. The names are emailed (or mailed for an increased element of surprise). Cooperatively, a set time frame is established – maybe for one quarter – and then team members establish a mutually agreeable frequency. Importantly, to make this work most effectively, they will need to share personal home addresses, for items to be mailed to them. Or, if your office has a system for mail pick up and drop off, items can be dropped off there and placed into the employee’s mail box.

“A group becomes teammates when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of the others.”

Norman Shidle – Author

Remote Team Building – Looking Ahead

Notably, none of us really knows what to expect long-term, as the pandemic continues to move through our country, and the world. Certainly, it seems unlikely that many of us will be returning to an office environment any time soon. At least, not at full occupancy level, or with the same group meeting experiences that we were accustomed to in the past. Remote team building needs to be included on every leader’s weekly agenda.

Absolutely, this requires us to make a concerted effort to think outside the box. Developing meaningful connections among team members necessitates using unique methods. Undoubtedly, many of us have been merely coping with this new way of doing business. Now, we must look ahead to how we are going to implement remote team building strategies long-term. Leaders need to build in practices that are supportive, and that convey the value each individual brings. Connecting each person to the whole of a team makes a monumental impact in achieving the mission of the company.

Are you liking any of the remote team building ideas above? What will you be implementing with your team? We are inviting you to share additional suggestions in the comments.

Would you like more inspiration and information on how to work most effectively from a remote office? Or, would you, or someone you know, benefit from learning more about how to cope with mental stress due to the pandemic, or other life stressors? Our two most recent blog posts address these topics. You can read them on our blog page.

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