Of the many shifting work dynamics associated with COVID-19, the loss of camaraderie and feeling connected are two of the most detrimental. Employees working from home lose the one-on-one interactions they’d otherwise have in the workplace, be it break room banter or the clarity of sitting down together to solve a problem. This is why virtual team building is so important in this age of remote work.
Left to struggle in separate remote locations, team dynamics can deteriorate—along with productivity and morale. It’s up to department leaders to keep decentralized teams cohesive and collaborative. This can be a monumental task for a variety of reasons:
- Employees unaccustomed to working from home
- General lack of collaborative technologies
- Uncertainty about projects, processes or expectations
- Confusion about responsibilities, independent of or as part of a team
Without the in-person team dynamic to keep them grounded, individuals naturally develop a more singular mindset. They inadvertently regress as a team member and become more isolated because the team isn’t front and center.
To prevent the dissolution of the team dynamic and keep the group strong, departmental leaders need to focus on virtual team building.
Don’t force teams; rebuild them.
Just like you can’t force a team dynamic in the workplace, it’s fruitless to try forcing one on a decentralized team. Avoid forcing collaboration that overcomplicates workflows. Instead, find opportunities for employees to help each other and contribute to success in cohesive ways. There are boundless intradepartmental opportunities for collaboration. Good leaders will capitalize on natural synergies to strengthen their teams.
It’s also important to realize that in-office group dynamics don’t always translate to telecommuting. A group in perfect rhythm in the office can be dysfunctional working from home. Figure out what parts of the group migrate effectively and bridge the gap in aspects that don’t carry. For example, your team thrived on their in-person connection but now struggles with digital communication. Leverage real-time video and audio channels as much as possible in your virtual team building efforts. While it’s not exactly the same, your team will fare better than when relying on email chains and text chats.
Take the time to rebuild teams right and they’ll flourish in the new norm.
Strengthen the group through shared experiences.
The best teams are ones that connect on social and emotional levels as well as sharing responsibilities. To develop these bonds, create shared experiences that transcend work. In the new era of social distancing, this isn’t always easy. Thankfully, there are numerous digital team building and bonding opportunities out there.
- Virtual trivia and game nights
- Virtual book clubs with weekly video chats
- Virtual show and tell, allowing employees to share hobbies
- Live chat events
There are also plenty of icebreaker games and round-robin-style activities that encourage employees to connect with each other. This brings back some of the social and emotional elements missing with remote work.
Experiences like these are a vital part of your virtual team building toolbox. They’re an opportunity to bring back inside jokes, camaraderie, productivity and morale.
Give your teams tools to collaborate.
The lynchpin in team remote development is software. Without project management software, robust communication apps, file sharing platforms and other collaboration tools, your groups face communication obstacles. How can Jim and Pam work on a project together if they’re not in sync? How is the team supposed to succeed if Kevin, Stanley and Phyllis can’t collaborate? Workflows need to be as seamless in a decentralized environment as they are in house.
Virtual team building should be a top priority as working remotely becomes more prevalent. To form teams that are effective takes effort and emphasis on bringing them together socially, emotionally and collaboratively. Remove obstacles. Renew relationships. Create opportunities. Do what it takes to help your team succeed as a group, despite being more autonomous than ever.
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