Team-building activities for remote workers may seem like a moot proposition. Anyone who has any experience with remote employment knows that isolation is among the inevitable penalties of working from home.
But a closer look at the dynamics involved in any team – virtual or otherwise –will tell you that team-building exercises are essential to the operations of any office that relies on a remote workforce to function.
Current projections about the future of the work-from-home job market underline the significance of strong teamwork among geographically distributed teams.
As many as 73 percent of workers around the world want flexible remote work options to continue beyond post-pandemic recovery, according to a 2021 Microsoft report on labour trends.
The same report indicates that over 40 percent of employees were considering leaving their employers in 2021. Forty-six percent of those who planned to leave their jobs intended to move after realizing that they could work remotely.
That said, encouraging workplace cohesion in a remote workforce presents both office managers and employees with a unique set of difficulties. So much so that you will find various courses on team-building activities for remote workers on learning platforms like Skillshare.
- 1 The Importance of Team Building Activities for Remote Workers
- 2 5 Fun and Effective Team-Building Activities for Remote Workers
- 3 Teamwork Matters to Everybody
The Importance of Team Building Activities for Remote Workers
In fact, these days, it seems everyone is a team player – some gladly, others perhaps not so gladly. Whatever your opinion on working with others might be, the prevalent trend in just about every office – and in all the various spheres of modern human life, for that matter – emphasizes the importance of cooperative effort.
There is teamwork behind your bank’s decisions to modify its privacy policies. There is teamwork behind the food you get from the drive-thru window at Taco Bell and McDonald’s.
Teamwork is certainly integral to the functions of the modern remote workforce, promoting collaboration, the free exchange of ideas, and the pooling of diverse talents for innovation and success across continents and oceans.
And why not? Studies show that students learn better when working in small groups. The chairmen of some of the world’s biggest companies confer with their employees regularly. CEOs take advice from stockholders and junior executives.
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work,” Colin Powell, the retired American general, once said.
5 Fun and Effective Team-Building Activities for Remote Workers
Still, not everybody considers teamwork a foolproof strategy to promote productivity among remote workers – and they may have good reason to see it that way. Often enough, teamwork is embraced merely as a catchphrase or a slogan.
In such cases, it lacks genuine implementation and becomes more of a superficial idea rather than an actionable company policy.
There are also instances when the concept of teamwork is unappreciated, misapplied, or improperly executed. For instance, in work environments where competition involves high personal stakes, the drive toward individual success often gives rise to the idea that advancement is achieved primarily through individual effort rather than collaboration.
Remote workers are not exempt from any of these systemic failures. This is why team-building activities for remote workers are just as important as exercises designed to build team unity in face-to-face work environments.
But which team-building activities work for remote workers actually work, and which ones are a waste of their valuable time? Which team-building activities for remote workers really build camaraderie and cohesion among people who are many miles – sometimes even continents – apart?
To find out, we took a look at the team-building activities for remote workers that are encouraged by companies that flourish on the teamwork of their remote employees.
Below are 5 team-building activities for remote workers that have gained the support of the world’s most successful companies since the pandemic.
The pandemic allowed many companies the opportunity to make the best out of virtual meetings. So much so that virtual meetings are now among the most cost-effective team-building activities for remote workers.
Real-time communication through video or collaborative software builds rapport and allows for a more dynamic exchange of thoughts and opinions among team members who work over long distances. It allows remote team members to interact, discuss ideas, share progress, and collaborate on tasks.
This is because seeing and hearing colleagues through video humanizes their interactions, which is an important element in team-building activities for remote workers.
Team-building through virtual meetings permits team members to build stronger relationships despite physical distances. These connections are essential to the promotion of trust and understanding among virtual workmates.
While research shows that poorly managed virtual meetings tend to make participating employees feel exhausted, a surprising number of employees understand the value of virtual meetings as team-building activities for remote workers.
In 2017, Forbes published the results of a survey showing that 92 percent of office executives supported videoconferencing to motivate remote workers.
A few years later, the results of a study published in BMC Medical Education indicated that virtual meetings have become an essential tool for the professional development of researchers around the world.
Virtual meetings are effective for ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding project goals, objectives, and expectations, which makes them among the most helpful team-building activities for remote workers. They are an important part of any company’s roster of team-building activities for remote workers.
They also offer employees an opportunity to clarify doubts, address concerns, and avoid misunderstandings that may arise when face-to-face communication simply isn’t possible.
Livestreamed Office Parties and Company Events
Given the unconventional circumstances surrounding the operations of widely distributed teams, not all team members will be able to attend important company events and parties. This often results in situations where remote workers feel left out.
This is partly why many of the world’s most successful tech companies – IBM, Microsoft, and Meta, included – have established a practice of livestreaming events such as training sessions, year-end celebrations, and leadership talks.
Livestreamed company events provide remote workers with a window into the progress and development within the organization. This visibility allows work-from-home employees to witness firsthand how their contributions fit into the larger picture of the company’s growth and success.
Bill Gates realized the benefits of live-streaming offices as team-building activities for remote workers events early on. He was quick to add it to Microsoft’s extensive catalogue of team-building activities for the company’s 221,000 remote employees.
“Live events are an incredible way to bring people together,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “They create a shared experience that fosters connections and drives engagement.”
Some of the most promising startup enterprises have followed suit, adopting live-streaming office events into their regular team-building activities for remote workers. These include the beauty brand Glossier; the health and wellness company, Calm; and the financial technology company, Brex.
Movie nights are among the most unique team-building activities for remote workers. Experts have long noted how engaging in non-work-related activities helps team members relax and unwind, promoting a more open and comfortable environment.
This is how watching a movie together, even virtually, boosts team morale. The communal experience of enjoying a film together encourages strong camaraderie among team members, despite being in different cities or locations.
Hosting a movie night is feasible through streaming technology. Using a video conference platform to stream the movie and having an open chat box for commentary enables real-time interaction, allowing team members to share thoughts and reactions.
Movie nights are an established corporate tradition in Netflix’s team-building activities for remote workers, says Netflix CEO Reed Hastings
“We start every meeting with a movie clip or a trailer,” says Hastings. “It’s a great way to get people focused and to remind them of the emotional side of our business.”
Executives behind the popular social media management platform Buffer have been known to organize virtual movie nights as team-building activities for remote workers. The company encourages its remote employees to use synchronized streaming platforms to watch movies together.
The NBA superstar, Patrick Patterson, hosted regular movie nights for his fans and teammates when COVID-19 forced his team, the LA Clippers, into lockdown. The popular athlete used a Netflix party extension to stream the movies – many of which he chose himself.
Virtual Coffee Sessions and Lunches
Remote team members are likely to miss out on the traditional office perks, such as company-provided lunches or casual team gatherings. The isolation often leads to a sense of disconnection that works against the interests of the team and the office as a whole.
This might explain why – at least in part – virtual coffee sessions and lunch breaks have become among the most popular team-building activities for remote workers.
Virtual lunches and coffee sessions encourage motivation among remote employees by highlighting management’s appreciation for their hard work. These special virtual gatherings also permit remote employees to bridge the gap between remote and in-office experiences.
The mechanics of typical virtual lunches and coffee sessions are simple. Companies that promote these activities often provide employees with gift cards for a local or preferred coffee shop. This is meant to persuade workers to step out of their home offices for a change of scenery.
Sometimes, management will encourage team members to work from the coffee shops for the day and share photos of themselves in the team chat group. This approach can be extended to virtual meetings, where team members schedule a simultaneous coffee shop work session.
Virtual lunches have become such a successful team-building exercise that the remote employees behind the Trello app for Android can even charge up to $25 in company expenses to join their colleagues over lunch.
Virtual Scavenger Hunts
Virtual scavenger hunts are fun, lively, and engaging team-building activities for remote workers. A virtual scavenger hunt is simply an online version of the traditional scavenger hunt game where participants search for specific items or complete tasks within a designated timeframe.
Instead of physically collecting items, remote employees can find or fulfil the given tasks using their computers or smartphones. They might take photos or videos, answer questions, or find information online to complete the hunt.
Virtual scavenger hunts encourage active participation and engagement among team members. The competitive aspect and the excitement of the hunt can drive motivation and enthusiasm, which are among the main objectives of team-building activities for remote workers.
Team members need to collaborate and communicate effectively to solve clues or complete tasks. This promotes better communication and teamwork, especially in an environment where office interactions are limited.
The challenges in a scavenger hunt require problem-solving skills, as well. This encourages creative thinking and strategizing as remote employees work together to figure out clues or complete tasks.
Simple as it might sound, virtual scavenger hunts inject fun and mirth into remote work, creating an enduring shared experience in the process. This is why it is among the best team-building activities for remote workers.
When team members collaborate and have fun together, their interactions typically serve to strengthen their bond and camaraderie.
These team-building activities have been so successful in encouraging teamwork among remote teams that entrepreneurs have established new services around them.
Teambuilding.com offers a wide range of virtual scavenger hunt ideas and sample lists that are suitable for teams with a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and interests.
The same is true for the Boston-based team-building company, TeamBonding, which has designed team-building activities for remote workers employed by the likes of Apple, Disney, TikTok, American Express, and more.
Teamwork Matters to Everybody
The pandemic was a great learning experience for everybody. As coronavirus made its swift and unstoppable advance across the planet, it forced sweeping closures of schools and workplaces and brought about the temporary disappearance of any type of collective in-person activities.
Remote work was a forced experiment from which the modern labour market has emerged with important new lessons about remote work. We learned early on that the obvious disadvantage of remote employment arrangements is that even the best tools of modern connectivity seem irrelevant when weighed against the crushing reality of distance and isolation.
Gradually, team-building activities for remote workers took on a special significance, along with all the other workplace innovations born out of the pandemic.
Today, we might, as a society, consider isolation as a reasonable trade-off for the perks of working from home. This is true as even many thousands of team managers around the world continue to bristle at their sudden lack of oversight.
But distance can present remote employees with even deeper, more significant disadvantages, as well. Isolation and physical separation from a team may impact their motivation, causing a drop in productivity.
Often, too, remote team members miss out on office perks, leading to a sense of disconnection and insecurity.
Well-considered and thoughtfully planned virtual team-building activities for remote workers provide an easy solution to these increasingly urgent workplace problems. They likewise provide distributed teams with a refreshing twist to standard gatherings and team-boosting engagements in the in-office work environment.
The fact is that teamwork and team-building activities are unlikely to become a lost cause in the remote workplaces of the future. That’s why we are already seeing some of the world’s most progressive companies take careful pains to encourage team-building activities for remote workers.
Psychologists have been working on the problem for a while now, too. And the reason is at once clear and simple. While many may idolize individual entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, almost every decision of significant consequence is made by a group.
That is how humanity succeeded in conquering the most challenging problems of the past. It will be the same when we step forward to confront the problems of individual accomplishment and group achievement in the remote work environments of the future.
What do you think?