Remote work and hybrid teams are here to stay, but it’s hard to keep remote teams connected.
Remote employees don’t have a chance to socialize before meetings or chat in the break room and it’s becoming clear just how important that informal team bonding time is. Virtual team activities can give your remote team a chance to get to know each other beyond meetings.
Why Video Meetings
Video calls are how companies are bringing together remote teams now, but more and more employees are sick and tired of video calls. Video calls, like in-person meetings, are interruptions to someone’s work day. Unlike in-person meetings, video calls force people to be aware of their appearance and mannerisms in an unavoidable way. Add to that the fact that many managers are holding video calls more often than they would hold in-person meetings in the hopes that more meetings will bring their teams together.
Unfortunately, this tends to backfire. People don’t want to be on so many video calls, especially ones that seem unnecessary. They end up turning off their cameras so they can do their work while only paying a little attention to the meeting.
How To Improve
So how can a manager bring their remote team together? Aren’t video calls the best way to make sure teams know each other?
There certainly isn’t anything wrong with video calls – the problem is that video calls are being held too often and without a good reason. But holding fewer video meetings isn’t a perfect answer either. You need to tailor your solutions to your team.
The best way to figure out what your team wants is to ask them. Let them know that you want to bring them together without overloading their schedules. Then ask them – either over a call or through a survey – if they feel like you’re having too few or too many meetings, what could make video calls better for them, and anything else you want to know.
Consider using short, anonymous surveys every week or so to collect honest feedback about a few video calls. Did they feel like that week’s meetings were worth it, or could some of them have been emails? Did they take too much time, or do they wish they had more time to talk about something? Using anonymous, optional emails will help your team feel comfortable giving you honest feedback.
You are going to have to hold some video calls, though. Here are a few virtual team activities to bring your team together and break up the monotony of those video calls.
If your team can’t schedule a fun video call, you can always make your meetings more fun with icebreakers.
Start your meetings with a silly question, like a ‘would you rather’ prompt. You can find many fun icebreaker questions online. You can also ask your team to tell a joke, share a fun fact about themselves, or introduce their pets.
Non-Meeting Video Calls
Not every video call has to be a meeting. Try having optional social calls and virtual team activities to give your team a chance to get to know each other in a more casual setting.
Virtual happy hours and coffee breaks are a good start – team members can chat and share what they’re drinking. Consider adding extra activities too, like making your virtual happy hour into a paint and sip or trivia night.
Tiny s’mores or virtual campfires are fun, too. You provide your team with a tea light candle and the ingredients to make s’mores. You can assemble the packs yourself or order premade kits. Then you all hop on an informal virtual call to make and eat s’mores together. You can enhance the experience by playing games or telling spooky stories. You can also challenge your team to come up with tasty additions to their s’mores.
There are many fun games you can play over a video call. You can have a recurring trivia meeting with a different theme each time. Keep track of points or winners to keep your team competitive and invested in the game.
One-off games you can play include eye spy, two truths and a lie, and five-finger showdown. Keep eye spy fair by using only what you can see in each other’s video backgrounds. Play two truths and a lie by using facts about yourself or fun facts you know about the world.
Five-finger showdown starts with each person holding one hand up. Each person on the team takes turns saying (work-appropriate) things that they have done. Anyone who hasn’t done that thing puts one finger down. The last person to still have fingers up is the winner.
Virtual team activities are a great way to bring your remote team together, but you shouldn’t stop there. Take the initiative to get to know each person on your team and let them get to know you. The best way to unify your team is to let them get to know each other. You have to find a way to make up for the fact that your team doesn’t have a chance to make small talk in an office setting.