The Challenge of Team Building With a Remote Workforce
Oftentimes when we talk about team building we think of face-to-face activities, but with a significant portion of people working remotely, a little bit more brainstorming is required to plan team building exercises. Remote workers arguably need planned team building more than their on-site peers due to the absence of typical “water cooler” chats and other casual, spontaneous communication. So how do you build camaraderie among a team who is never in the same building together?
Communication is Key
Rule number 1 of remote work is communication communication communication! Instead of popping your head over the cubicle wall and getting a quick answer, you have to type up a message and wait for the other person to get back to you. Of course you could always call them, but they may be busy and unable to pick up. Communication in the remote world is often stagnated and limited to just the necessities. That’s why good communication should be in the forefront of your mind when dealing with a remote team. Having daily morning check-ins is a great way to get everyone together and make sure everyone is on the same page. Here at Dion, every department has a morning “standup” meeting, meaning the department stands in a circle and discusses their progress, what lies ahead, and any other relevant news. This translated seamlessly into our morning virtual standup meetings with our remote workforce. We always make time at the end of each meeting to talk about accomplishments, both big and small, that everyone has had in the last day. This could include a sale, a process improvement (we love a kaizen), or praise for ongoing work on a project. It’s important to keep these positive lines of communication open so the team can feel bonded and proud of themselves.
Create The Space
Speaking of communication, curb the feelings of disconnect and isolation by establishing a chat room where employees can talk about something other than work. This should be a safe space - not monitored by management - where they can share photos, videos, memes, birthday wishes, compliments, concerns, etc. This allows the team the space to interact on a human (not worker bee) level. There are many products out there that are built for this very purpose, but even if you don’t go all out, a private Facebook group will work just fine.
The Fun Stuff
Just because your workforce is remote doesn’t mean they can’t get together and have fun! There are plenty of game ideas on the web to choose from. Contests are also a fun way to learn more about your coworkers. Things like the funniest pet, cutest baby photo, trivia, or best zoom background can be great ways to break the ice and learn more about each other. Spice it up by offering prizes such as virtual gift cards they can immediately use. Whatever you do, try to make sure you have a solid end-time so it doesn’t drag on too long. Zoom fatigue is a real monster and usually people don’t want to seem rude by being the first one to log off. Definitely check out our blog on making Zoom meetings more bearable for some good tips!
The Bigger Gestures
On-site employees get things like day trips, cook outs, and field days - so why should the remote workforce only get trivia? If you’re able, host virtual events with your remote team. A virtual paint-and-sip night or cook-along class can be great ways to get people to let their guard down and have fun. If you’re not sure what your team would like to do - ask them! You could even put it to a vote. As long as you have the team’s best interests at heart, they’re sure to appreciate the gesture.
Though remote workers can sometimes seem like satellites floating in space, it’s important to make the effort to connect and establish team camaraderie. By maintaining proper communication, creating places for employees to socialize, and having fun together, you’re sure to build a strong team mentality.
By Aubrey Dion
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.