I believe remote work is the future. It’s convenient, easier, and good for the environment. But it’s only sustainable when you have an engaged remote workforce. Believe it or not, team building for remote teams is just as important as it is for your in-house employees.
A lot of people confuse freelancers for remote employees. You'll find several freelance digital marketing professionals in the market, freelance writers, etc. While it may seem easier to just hire a freelancer - it’s better to have a remote workforce.
However, when you do have a remote workforce, it’s up to you to make sure they feel included. Typically, remote workers tend to feel left out. It’s bound to happen - especially when your remote employees live in different regions.
That is why team building for remote teams is crucial.
Let me explain.
What Is Team Building for Remote Teams?
Team building for remote teams, otherwise known as virtual team building, is when you bring remote teams together to create an environment that feels office-like. The idea is to create an environment where remote workers will feel like one team in a single location.
A familiar remote team will feel more valued and satisfied - they might even build meaningful relationships in the process.
This creates more synergy, results in better communication, and an increase in overall productivity between remote workers.
Now, this isn’t as complicated as figuring out how to bootstrap a startup. I know, because I’ve done both.
The best way to go about team building for remote teams is to make use of games and activities. Having your remote workers play games or participate in activities together is simple, yet manages to engage them.
6 Games and Activities for Team Building for Remote Teams
I should clarify that some of these work for any remote workers while others may be geographically limited.
However, the best thing about remote team building is that you can schedule it whenever you want - considering, of course, that all remote workers are present and accounted for.
Here are 6 games and activities to try when team building for remote teams.
It’s important to break the ice and then move on to more engaging activities and games. That's why I believe this activity should be the first. Afterwards, you can go about it as you want.
The idea behind this activity is to spark a conversation among your remote workers. I like making this a quiz because, in this way, every team member has to answer.
Usually, during ice breakers, people who are not avid communicators tend to be left out. Adding a quiz element means everyone will have to answer. This also means that you should only entertain questions that can be answered by everyone.
Here are some examples.
- Would you rather… Make sure whatever follows is in good taste.
- Match the picture. Similar to the one above except you match a photo to the colleague.
- Trivia based on different themes (like movies, TV shows, traditions, etc.).
- Matching facts/Who’s who. Provide an unusual fact and ask people to match it to the others.
You can do this activity however you want but I would say, try using Kahoot.
MTV Cribs – Remote Teams
MTV Cribs is a TV show where you get a tour of the houses and mansions of celebrities.
You can do the same with your remote team. If your remote team members are scattered across the world, this means that having an actual face-to-face is unlikely.
You can have all team members show off their workspaces or homes in self-made videos. You can either do this live where a member takes the camera and shows everyone around. Or you can ask each member to make a video however they want and share it during a session.
This would serve to show how each member lives and works. It can be both something funny to talk about and a realization of how others live.
Virtual Fitness Challenge
This may be relatively unorthodox but it is a great way to achieve three goals. You engage your team members, foster healthy competition, and make sure your employees are physically fit.
All you have to do is set a fitness goal. For example, whoever has the most steps by the end of the week wins (you can use mobile-based fitness apps to track steps). Another goal can be, whoever can do the longest plank wins (can be done live too).
For the winner, you can have prizes that you ship to whoever wins. If you don’t want to have prizes, you can provide a benefit. For example, the person who wins can choose their own upcoming project.
Slack is a great way to talk, share files, and even keep track of work.
Although, when I say share files, I don’t mean work files. I mean funny pet pictures and memes among other things.
Slack lets you create different channels for different agendas. You can have one channel for pet pictures. One for sharing memes. One for movie and TV show discussions.
The idea is to have all remote team members talk and indulge in conversation beyond work.
Meanwhile, what each member shares, talks about, or gives an opinion on will tell you more about them.
In a world of smartphones, this one’s pretty easy.
A shared hobby is a great way of engaging team members. Photography is something that can be easily adopted as a hobby. Furthermore, there’s nothing complicated about it.
You can host a photography competition where the member with the best photo wins. The judges can be other members. To ensure there’s no bias, each member can rate the photos between 1-10 without knowing who took it. The photo with the greatest cumulative score wins.
The winning prizes can be actual prizes or just benefits. A good prize could be that you send that member a framed print of their photo.
This will help team members understand their colleagues better. Photos have a lot of meaning and information in them. Photos are a literal visual self-expression of whoever’s behind the camera.
Live Remote Working
Remote working tends to mean that everyone gets to work at their own schedule.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a live remote working session every once in a while. All you need to do is set a time that works for all employees. If you have remote employees in different time zones, this can be hard to do so.
Hence, you need to let your remote team know about the live remote working session in advance. Give them 5-10 different times and dates. Whichever time is mostly preferred, go with it.
During the live remote working session, make sure all members are on a video call.
This will help create a more shared office-like environment for your remote team. It will also help make communication better and build teamwork capabilities.
Benefits of Team Building for Remote Teams
Team building is essential if you want the best out of your employees. This, of course, includes team building for remote teams.
Currently, around 65% of remote employees say that they’ve never had a team building session.
No one’s doing it.
This means, when you do it, you are bound to retain your remote workers. Not only that, but it will ensure greater productivity, motivation, and satisfaction. Probably more so than if you have the same team-building session with on-site employees.
For your remote team, this is bound to create a supportive foundation. This means that the team can be self-sustaining even without your input. This will also make it easy for new remote employees to join your remote team. On the other side, it would build greater trust among your team members. Which will lead to better efficiency and increased creativity.
Meanwhile, it’ll help you gauge your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This will help you distribute work and responsibilities with more accuracy. It will also help you realize which remote member can become a team lead or a manager.
Furthermore, you also build a better relationship with your remote team in the process.
A good relationship between managers and teams is employee retention rule number one.
Requirements for Team Building for Remote Teams
Even though consultants and complex tools can help elevate team building for remote teams, it's not required.
You mainly need 3 things:
- Leader – You can either be the leader yourself or you can delegate the task to an employee. But the idea is that the leader will be the one facilitating the team-building exercises. He or she will be responsible for planning, gathering, and executing the team building sessions.
- Time – It’s hard to assign one single time for everyone. It’s harder to do so when you have remote employees. That is why you need to make sure all your remote workers are free and have time, at the same time. You need to ensure that everyone is happy with the time you decide and schedule. This is because you have to make sure all team members are present attentively.
- Communication Medium – You need a screen-sharing or collaboration tool where all your team members can be together. It’s best to do all team building activities and games face-to-face. In fact, I would say, make sure it’s face-to-face. Screen-sharing tools ensure that everyone can see each other (and their screens in some cases).
You don’t need to plan out everything yourself. Take the help of your remote team members. This will make your job easier and will build a case for transparency too.
Tools You Can Use for Team Building Sessions
If you’re wondering which screen-sharing and collaboration tools you can use, here are some.
- Skype – For multi-member video calls and screen sharing.
- Google Hangouts – For messaging, voice, and video calls among members.
- Zoom – For video conferencing and screen sharing.
- Slack – For discussions, sharing files, pictures, and more.
- Google Docs – For real-time updating collaborative documents.
- World Time Buddy – To find out the time in different time-zones (if your remote team is scattered across the world).
- GoToMeeting – For quick video conference hosting and screen sharing.
All of these tools can be used to do the activities and games listed above. On the other hand, make sure you use the right remote team tools when handling your remote workers. Using the right tools in day-to-day work is just as important for engaging remote teams.
Build, Engage, Repeat
It’s not right to compare remote teams to in-house teams, they’re both different breeds. What’s not so different is the necessity to engage them.
I believe engaged remote teams can at times outperform in-house teams. This FutureFuel case study is a good example of it. Using engaged remote teams, I grew FutureFuel’s monthly visitors from 0-60,000 in just 5 months.
Unlike in-house team building, remote team building requires little no monetary input. It’s just about taking the time to build better relationships among team members.
Team building for remote teams is proven to increase productivity, motivation, efficiency, and collaboration. It’s a win-win.
So if you have a remote team or are thinking to hire one, remember.
Build, Engage, Repeat.