Being a remote worker need not be boring. Hang on! Wait… what? If you’re at home all day plugging away on the computer, how can it be fun?
For someone in a fully remote team, at least you have the comfort of knowing all of your colleagues are also working from a home. But if you are part of a team that’s only partially remote or virtual, it can suck (a bunch) to know there’s an office culture somewhere, and you’re not part of the action.
Whether your team is big or small, it’s important to focus on team building activities that help virtual relationships thrive, and create a sense of connectedness across the company.
Whether you work from home in customer service, or you’re a developer in a virtual team, check out these virtual team building activities from Kayako, and the crafty minds of remote working companies all over the world:
1. Toy projects may lead to real products
By hosting ‘toy’ projects for the development team to hack on, Kayako improves team morale. Members are happy to ‘play’ with a new project for a week or so, and take a rest from the usual grind.
It’s best if you can align these projects with real needs in the company. This avoids a mountain of unused projects, and team members feel great if they are working on projects with a purpose.
So to give an example of toy projects more clearly:
- Two team members did a week long research project on a technology called “Pact” and then gave a presentation.
- One developer spiked out a Jira integration for Kayako.
- Another developer built a bug tracking dashboard.
- Another developer wrote the beginnings of a Slack app to manage our “chores”.
At the end of the ‘toy’ projects each person should present what they’ve learned and the group can present the finished product.
2. Employee recognition empowers team spirit
Reward team members with treats, and recognizing their achievements is another way Kayako improves morale, and keeps people happy.
Using a program such as Bonusly makes it simple.
With Bonusly each person can assign and receive points to build up rewards. Rewards can be spent on anything from personal shopping to movie tickets or professional development such as extra training courses or attending conferences.
3. Food for thought at Lunch ‘n’ Learn
Whenever someone attends a conference, ask them to present a lunch ‘n’ learn. It is what it sounds like! The attendee puts together a presentation of what they learned from the conference and presents it at lunch. The whole company is invited to attend (not mandatory), and the entire team benefits from the conference and the ideas generated there.
Additionally, management can purchase each team member a reloadable gift card to use towards a virtual lunch, where everyone gets to connect even more.
Virtual team building can be fun
Kayako isn’t the only one who has fun with their virtual team. Buffer, Geckoboard, and Sococo are a few others who keep the morale of their company high by connecting.
4. Fitness accountability builds care among team
A perk of many virtual teams is getting a fitness tracker, such as Fitbit or Garmin. Each person on the team can join and share their stats each week, while encouraging each other to move, and take better care of themselves.
A dedicated channel on Slack will give team members a place to share photos, discuss what’s working for them, and submit their statistics. It’s best to connect on this every week on Fridays or Mondays to discuss challenges, or give recognition.
You might use an app such as Health Hero to keep everyone connected and motivated and to create special challenges.
5. A book club puts the whole team on the same page
There are a lot of great books for businesses, and it pays to educate your employees. There are book services available such as Blinkist that make the reading super easy for everyone, 15 minutes per book.
Or you can each read the entire book and discuss chapters. Thursday afternoon seems to be a good time for this.
6. Make having fun an unmissable date
Just because you aren’t close doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Pick a designated time each week to discuss product/company challenges such as writing 500 words a day, or to post trivia, and puzzles to your Slack channel.
Employees will learn to look forward to this time, as everyone will connect. It’s best go on video for this, so everyone can have that important face-to-face time. Here are a few ideas:
- Trivia from http://trivia.fyi/
- Share your favorite youtube video
- Share your favorite new internet tool
- What’s your favorite phone app
- Play an online game together
- Group karaoke Redkaraoke.com
7. Celebrate holiday parties across the world
While you’ll run into team members celebrating different holidays all over the world, it doesn’t mean you can’t all come together to celebrate. Poll your team ahead of time to see what holidays they celebrate, and remember to let them opt-out if they’d rather not participate in a celebration.
The celebration doesn’t need a name such as Christmas or Halloween, but it can have a theme, such as gift day or dress-up day. Make sure you get everyone on video who dresses up and have a small gift to send them for prizes.
8. Share and celebrate your progress
Celebrate and share wins from every department once a week. At Geckoboard everyone in the company congregates on Zoom.us to discuss their wins. This is a great way to finish the week, or get everyone pumped up on Monday morning.
Why are virtual team building activities important?
When your team rarely or never meets in a physical space, it’s difficult to build a rapport that makes working together flow.
By regularly hosting virtual events, your team can build relationships that will extend into other communications such as Slack, and email. There are other benefits as well:
- Team members don’t feel lonely or negative as they often might after difficult customer service experiences.
- New hires are quickly integrated into discussions, projects, teams, and policies.
- Managers have a better grip on how all employees are handling their positions.
- People enjoy their jobs more when they are having fun.
- It’s easier to pick up on other forms of communication: sarcasm, facial cues, and illness.
- A united team is productive, and beneficial for the company.
Tackle isolation issues: Ensure every team member has the interaction they need
One of the major reasons people struggle with remote work is being alone, day in and out, for several hours at a time. The impact of this can build up rapidly. While some thrive in solitude, others will need more social interaction. Managers need to understand each team member’s personality to give them the level of interaction they need.
What tools can you use to keep your remote team connected?
There are dozens of tools out there that are pretty common for remote teams. Slack is probably the most used, Google Hangouts, and Skype. But here are a few you might not know about:
Sococo – A tool that lets you use virtual conference rooms, has video calls, and several other features that make it easier to work with your team.
Appear.in – One click video calls, super easy video chats.
Slackbots for stand ups – Handle daily stand ups in Slack, there are multiple bots on the market now that make it super easy for a manager to get everyone to participate. Try Geekbot.
Who’s available when? Ensure synchronicity for meeting times
One other aspect of keeping the team connected is making sure people have others to work with based on their time zone. If your team is worldwide, make sure everyone overlaps during business hours if at all possible, especially for days when you want to hold team building exercises.
Keeping your team morale up benefits the whole company. Test this theory in your company. Run a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey on your team today to see how happy they are as remote employees. Then, implement some of these activities and run another survey. Let us know how it goes in the comments section below.