When you and your colleagues share one roof, it’s infinitely easier to create an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie. There’s just something about spending 40 (plus) hours with the same people day in and day out to help bring everyone closer together.
But FAST FACT: Did you know that 65 percent of virtual employees surveyed reported that they have never had a team-building session?
So what can you do when some – or all – of you work virtually and rarely – or never – see your coworkers IRL?
You just have to think outside the box a little to find a different approach to team building – and BONUS! Virtual team building doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.
What is Virtual Team-Building?
Virtual team building is the process of developing culture and relationships within the digital space. As a dispersed nonprofit, you don’t have the opportunity to chat around the coffee pot or copier. Yet, with some creative thinking, you can leverage today’s technology to build real relationships online.
Sure, there are the tried-and-true virtual team-building ideas, like stressing the importance of communication and having regular face-to-face video conferencing. But those day-to-day approaches teeter on, well, humdrum and ordinary.
And you’re not ordinary, and neither is your team, right? RIGHT.
So we scoured the world wide web for some super unique ways to build team rapport and relationships, even if miles or even oceans separate you from your work fam.
Remote Team Building Activities
- MTV Cribs: Virtual Team Edition. Start an internal video series where team members can show off their homes and personality in quick, self-made videos à la MTV Cribs. It’s a fun, behind-the-scenes (and screens) look into the personal lives of colleagues and gives some physical context to your virtual workspace. Bonus points if someone hits up their personal StairMaster in stilettos.
- Reply All. Before you shudder, try to view this email enemy through a different lens. Consider sending out an email to the group with an icebreaker question – and be sure to get creative. Ask everyone to respond to the question via email and – GASP! – reply all so that everyone gets to know each other a bit more. Leverage that inbox for some fun virtual team building!
- Create A Private Facebook Group. Think: Instagram-meets-cubicle. It’s really nothing more than a simple all-call page for photos that requires very little effort and maintenance, but boasts a big return in team building and culture. People love to share the highlights of life with their coworkers. This idea gives them a virtual space to do just that. Plus, who doesn’t love photos of doggos, vacas, babies and memes?
- Video In-Person Events. With virtual teams, it’s important to let people see the real-world impact of their work. Include your virtual team members in what’s happening physically. Videos – even crude, un-fussy videos – of in-person activities and events are a great way to keep the team connected to your nonprofit’s mission and to remind them that what they do is seen and appreciated.
- Live Virtual Coworking. Virtual coworking is actually a thing, and it might help your team be more productive. Create a HangOut video call that’s open for anyone to join – every day or maybe one day a week – so anyone interested can set up their ‘cubicle’ next to yours. This can help make otherwise boring tasks more interactive while also building your virtual team culture.
- Mixer Calls. When working in a physical office you inevitably get to know employees throughout the nonprofit just by working near each other. What if you could emulate that virtually? Donut is a Slack extension that can pair everyone in your nonprofit up for a 15-30 minute non-work, one-on-one calls – THINK: a veritable blind (platonic, obviously) date for remote employees – to give them an opportunity to get to know people they normally wouldn’t be working with on a daily basis. BELAY does this on a monthly rotation so we can get to know different team member across all departments. Our CEOs participate, too!
- Virtual Scavenger Hunt. Scavenger hunts, as suggested by Hubstaff, are about sending virtual team members to accomplish fun and ridiculous tasks as created by you or using a scavenger hunt platform, such as GooseChase or Actionbound. Then, share stories, videos, and photos to your Facebook group page. People who have [virtual] fun together build quality relationships.
In a brick-and-mortar office, people can chat, stop by coworkers’ cubicles, and even hang out after work – but virtual employees typically can’t enjoy those luxuries. So in lieu of a water cooler, these team-building activities can help your virtual employees form meaningful professional and personal relationships while you benefit from increased staff retention, morale and cohesion.