Creating a congruous, motivated team can be a serious challenge when colleagues are in remote or hybrid work situations. However, consistent virtual team building can help bridge those communication and company culture gaps. In this guide, we’ll explore what virtual team building is, why it’s valuable for a company, and how to coordinate engaging events and activities.
What Is Virtual Team Building?
Virtual team building is a conscious effort to build trust, increase collaboration, improve communication, and develop professional skills through intentional activities all on a virtual platform. It often includes options like online events, games, activities, ice breaker questions, and parties for remote employees and team members of any kind.
The Importance of Virtual Team Building
Remote working conditions are more common now than ever before. “After COVID-19, 92% of people surveyed expect to work from home at least 1 day per week and 80% expected to work at least 3 days from home per week” (Apollo Technical).
Remote work situations means that there’s also a need for virtual team building options. “Despite the comfort that working from home can bring, remote workers are susceptible to feeling disconnected and excluded, owing to the lack of face-to-face interaction and the casual ‘water-cooler’ talk that usually breaks up a normal working day and offers brief periods of respite and relaxation to staff” (CEO Review). It’s essential to help employees feel connected, even while physically dispersed.
While incredibly beneficial for virtual teams, virtual team building can also be valuable to in-person and hybrid groups.
The back and forth transition from in-person interactions to virtual interfaces has the potential to be jarring for employees. Hybrid work can also interfere with relationship building and creating a robust company culture if different teams or departments are absent from the office on different days.
“Before the pandemic, we could count on employees picking up a lot of the culture just by their day-to-day interactions and observations in the office. Culture spreads from one person to another and from group to group, thanks to proximity and familiarity” (Forbes). Virtual team building activities can help co-workers continue to stay connected, despite their location or the day of the week in the office.
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While it may seem counterintuitive for in-person teams to participate in online activities, virtual team building can benefit them too! For large teams or companies, virtual team building may be the perfect solution to finding activities that cater to large groups at an affordable price.
Online activities also often offer more options for interaction among team members than may be possible in a large, in-person setting. Another benefit of virtual team building for in-person groups is simplifying the event planning and coordination process. Online activities often only require sending one Zoom link, making it easier and more cost-effective than finding a large event space, calculating parking options, and negotiating prices to accomodate a big group.
Virtual Team Building Benefits
From intrinsic, external, and company-wide, virtual team building offers various levels of benefits. It enhances the communication, collaboration, relationship building, productivity, and morale of an organization.
According to CultureIQ, “Virtual team building activities encourage collaboration and communication” among team members. In these low-pressure situations, they can grow to understand each other’s communication styles and build rapport, which translates to the workplace and better communication on goals and projects.
Asynchronous schedules or miscommunications can negatively interfere with project collaboration. “97% of workers and employers believe that the lack of team alignment influences the success of a task or project” (Forbes). Virtual team building activities target group collaboration, which in turn helps coworkers better collaborate online with company projects and have more successful outcomes.
Creates Stronger Relationships
“Workplace collaboration stats show that nearly all employees say that virtual team building games and activities have helped them build healthier relationships with their peers” (Totem Team). Virtual team building gives co-workers the opportunity to spend time together and get to know each other. This forges better interpersonal, and then subsequently, working relationships.
When employees spend all of their time communicating via screen, they’re prone to Zoom fatigue. That is what happens when people feel burnt out after too much online interaction and stimulation.
“Humans have taken one of the most natural things in the world – an in-person conversation – and transformed it into something that involves a lot of thought: “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate” (Stanford University).
While virtual team building often takes place over Zoom, it still breaks up the monotony of meetings. It gives team members a new, fun, and less intense way to socialize online.
While it has its perks, working from home can get lonely. Having limited to no interactions with co-workers often makes people feel isolated from the team and the company. “Over 50% felt lonely from communicating primarily via computer” (Aiir Consulting). Virtual team building helps bridge that gap and keep team members feeling like a part of a unified group.
In conjunction with a reduction in loneliness, virtual team building also increases morale for the company. When employees feel that their company cares about their mental health and their interpersonal relationships, they become more motivated to produce excellent work and bring their very best to the workplace every day. “Motivated workers outperform those with low engagement by 202%” (Business2Community).
All of these benefits individually combine to create a thriving company culture and an overall more successful business.
How Do You Facilitate Team Building Virtually?
Team building virtually can happen in several different ways, but the most important element is putting intention into the action. Team leaders can do something as simple as just asking an ice breaker question at the beginning of a meeting!
Making it a priority to regularly plan and schedule things for the group ensures that a team stays connected. It builds relationships and reaps the aforementioned benefits of virtual team building.
There are three concrete steps you can take to facilitate team building virtually.
1. Plan Quarterly Events
In order for team building to be continually effective, you need repetition. “Implement more formalized remote team building strategies” (Globalization Partners). Creating a steady frequency of team building virtual events on a quarterly basis allows groups to have fun together and get re-focused as a team without sacrificing budget costs or work schedules.
2. Schedule Virtual Coffee Breaks
On a weekly or bi-monthly basis, schedule coffee breaks over Zoom for the team! You can make things exciting by sending an invite with personalized text, emojis, and suggested ice breaker questions. If your team is large, or you’d like to help people mingle, you can split attendees into breakout rooms and offer ice breaker questions for them to ask each other.
3. Share Leadership Opportunities
Empowering team members with leadership opportunities gives them a sense of responsibility that contributes to positive work performance and teamwork. “Find ways to involve others in leading the team…by sharing leadership, you will not only increase engagement but will also take some of the burden off your shoulders” (Harvard Business Review).
Virtual Team Building Activities
There are numerous options for fun, effective virtual team building that can best suit your team. Whether you’d like to make a Zoom meeting more engaging, celebrate a win as a team, or grow professionally together, you’re guaranteed to find an activity to meet those needs. Here’s an extensive guide of ideas for virtual team building activities and games, but we’ve listed some broad category options below!
Ice Breaker Questions
Ice breaker questions are questions specifically geared to spark discussion and help people get to know each other better. Examples include, “What’s your favorite holiday and why?” or “What is your hometown like?” Questions like these are perfect to ask before meetings or during virtual coffee breaks and happy hours. Check out these 100+ ice breaker questions for more inspiration.
These are virtual team building activities that usually have an element of fun or lightheartedness to them. Their main purpose is often to help team bonding. There are all kinds of games, like those that can be played easily over Zoom without equipment, or more involved options like virtual escape rooms and online game shows. An easy one to play that requires zero planning or equipment is 20 Questions. One person thinks of a person, place, or thing, and then the rest of the group tries to guess what is in twenty questions or less!
To make events applicable for virtual team building, you can choose options that target professional development for team members. While these should still be enjoyable, they can have a stronger focus on skill development, such as seminars, online courses, or discussion groups. For example, teams can complete a virtual escape room together and then tie that experience to workplace skills in a course led by Donald Miller.
Virtual parties are great for employee birthdays, corporate holidays, work anniversaries, and celebrating company wins. Parties usually include some kind of fun game as part of the event and can often be a combination of different activities. Read here to learn everything you need to know about throwing an unforgettable virtual holiday party.
What Are The Challenges Of Virtual Teams?
Being a virtual team comes with its own set of unique challenges. From Zoom fatigue to communication blips, transferring regular corporate activity to the screen is hard work! The following are common challenges that virtual teams face.
Lack of Personal Connection
Without in-person interaction or casual “water cooler” conversations, it’s easy for team members to feel disconnected. “A lack of face-to-face contact may lead to lower team cohesion and a lack of rapport between team members” (Norwich University). Picking up on subtext or a person’s tone is difficult through a screen or text. Also, co-workers may find themselves in the habit of only speaking to each other when they need something.
Difficulty Collaborating on Projects
“Collaboration in virtual teams refers to synchronous and asynchronous interactions and tasks to achieve common goals” (SN Applied Sciences). Ensuring that a dispersed team is 100% aligned on a project’s goals and tasks requires a high level of organization, leadership, and project management. However, not all teams are properly equipped to tackle that.
Poor Company Culture
For virtual teams, it’s difficult to establish a unified company culture and it is “particularly fragile due to the unexpected disruptions and differences across time, distance, organization, and culture” (SN Applied Sciences). Facilitated team building is essential to combat those barriers for coworkers and foster strong employee engagement!
How Do You Build Team Morale Remotely?
Including Remote Workers In Team Building
The most important part of unifying a remote team is to help people feel valuable and connected. Planning regular virtual team building activities, from online coffee breaks to virtual holiday parties, brings colleagues together, boosts morale, and builds a highly successful team.
To ensure you plan an effective team building experience, “you’ll want to choose activities that are engaging, insightful and fun. (Otherwise, you may end up with a Zoom meeting full of people aimlessly scrolling through TikTok.)” (eddy.com)
In order to get the maximum benefit from your experience, think about what area of your team you’d like to target with the team building activity. Does your team need help learning to communicate better? Are you looking for an easy game to break the ice while onboarding new employees? Perhaps you’d just like to do something fun as a group after completing a massive project? Picking a focus will help narrow down the options for team building to find one that best impacts your team.
Make sure that you have a goal in mind when picking your virtual activities, choose engaging options, and prioritize inclusion so that remote individuals can all equally participate, benefit from, and enjoy the event.
Virtual team building may seem impossible. However, there are ways to bring remote employees together, build culture, boost morale, and make it fun! Companies who prioritize virtual team building ensure that they have a motivated team, happy employees, and successful business.
Do you still have questions? We’ve got answers! Here are some quick tips and advice to answer your virtual team building questions.
Q) What are good icebreaker questions?
A) Good icebreaker questions are those that prompt a response from someone beyond “yes” or “no”. Try asking about a person’s preferences, their favorite option from a category, or something that gets them to share a personal anecdote. Check out these 100+ ice breaker questions.
Q) How do I spice up my virtual team meetings?
A) You can spice up virtual meetings by asking ice breaker questions at the beginning, playing a quick game during the meeting, or even just using a fun Zoom background.
Q) What are best practices for communicating virtually?
A) First, send emails during business hours when team members are expected to be online. You should also take time differences into account. Second, make sure when you schedule meetings, to include a video conferencing link so that invitees can actually attend the meeting. Third, be aware of how your tone may come across through text communication. Don’t be afraid to throw an exclamation point or emoji into an email to keep things friendly!
Q) What do you do in a virtual meeting?
A) For the most part, virtual meetings are just like in-person meetings. Co-workers discuss projects and issues but on a video conferencing platform rather than around a conference table. In a virtual meeting, you can talk to team members via live, real-time video, share your screen to give a presentation, or send chat messages to the group and individuals on the call.
Q) What are the 7 steps to make a strong virtual team?
A) The 7 steps are:
- Clearly outline team goals
- Use project management tools
- Ensure team members have the resources they need to be successful
- Communicate consistently about progress and roadblocks
- Plan events and activities that facilitate team bonding
- Create opportunities for co-workers to share about their personal lives
- Make sure your team members feel supported and valuable
Q) How do you make Zoom meetings interesting?
A) You can make a Zoom meeting interesting by presenting dynamic content, using an appealing background, making sure that everyone in the call has something to contribute, asking icebreaker questions, and keeping things short so that attention spans don’t waver.
Q) How do you build team morale remotely?
A)You can build team morale by scheduling regular virtual coffee breaks and happy hours, planning online team building activities, making it a point to acknowledge team member success during meetings, and sending regular emails that encourage the team to stay on track with goals.
Q) How do you start a great virtual meeting?
A) You can start a great virtual meeting by asking an ice breaker question at the beginning. While waiting for people to join a call, you can also make small talk with attendees who are already logged in. Another easy method is to have an eye-catching opening slide to your presentation. Depending on the meeting purpose, you can also give an overview of the things you’ll be discussing in the meeting to help mentally prepare everyone.
Q) Why is virtual team building important?
A) Virtual team building is important because it bridges the social and professional gaps that are present in remote working situations.
Q) How do you make a meeting more productive?
A) As a leader, you can make meetings more productive by having a clear outline of what needs to be discussed and what action steps need to be taken after the meeting is over. That way, you ensure meeting time won’t be wasted and that attendees understand their tasks going forward. Before the meeting ends, make sure co-workers have ample time to discuss concerns and ask questions so that everyone is on the same page and able to produce their best work!