If your team has been displaced to work from home, chances are you're wondering about a lot of things, like how do I maintain productivity and keep connected with my employees? For many of us, working full-time from home is a new experience. As a leader, I believe it's important to maintain connections and a sense of team among your staff.
Maintaining a sense of team doesn't have to be hard if you're virtual. Video conferencing is an easy solution, as is Instant Messaging platforms, and, breakout rooms.
If you want to create - and sustain - a sense of team, you'll still do many of the things you would do in person.
Ice breakers are used to loosen people up, get them energized and ready to engage. Ice breakers should be quick and simple so everyone can play along. Examples of these include:
What state are you from - in chat box
coffee or tea? answered in chat
1 thing NOT in your fridge that you wish you had?
TV currently on or off?
You can probably come up with better examples and it's nice to customize these to your audience or group. These are questions to get people to pay attention and feel at ease.
One of the most important components of building a strong team is helping members get acquainted with each other. It's the same process you use when you're meeting someone new. You want to know a little about them, where they're from, what their interests are, interesting tidbits about them. It's this personal insight into another that helps you connect and build a relationship.
When you're beginning to build a sense of team with virtual members, you will want to start slowly and use activities that help them share information about themselves, but in a non-threatening manner. These questions or activities should be ideally about the person, not work or business. The goal is to get to know each other on a personal basis.
In a virtual format, you can easily use a chat feature to have members share things about themselves and their family. Remember to ask questions that don't pigeon-hole participants. Avoid "how many children do you have?" and instead ask "describe your current family composition." Other examples include:
"how many different places have you lived?"
the one topping you'll never eat on a pizza
You get the idea. Get creative with this. As people begin to get comfortable with each other, it's also a good idea to ask the team to come up with their own appropriate or interesting questions to ask of each other.
Once your team becomes more comfortable and familiar with each other, you can then begin to integrate activities that get people working together, communicating with each other, making decisions and solving problems. In a virtual format, these can be things like:
quick puzzles you can put up on a screen and ask individuals to solve in real time
a short work-related scenario for the team to discuss or solve in real-time
The purpose of these activities isn't to waste time, but rather to give an opportunity to work together despite the distance. This is what helps individuals feel connected even when they aren't. And this is important. These activities can also serve to:
De-stress and invigorate. When you can laugh together, you can work together! And besides, we all need some laughter and fun to help reduce stress. Laughter also helps to loosen us up so we can re-focus when we return to our keyboards.
increase awareness of team members. A simple activity like sharing a photo of when you were a child can provide insight into the person behind the screen. Understanding each other is the first step toward building trust.
reiterate team values and core purpose. Team activities serve as a platform to discuss the behaviors, values and attitudes that form the foundation of your organization. For example, a challenging puzzle to solve together can bring home the point that "we all stick together, no matter how tough things get." You're able to discuss those values that are important such as tenacity, accuracy, customer service - those values that are crucial to your business and your team.
highlight employee skills, talents and abilities. Very often team activities help us see how we each work. I can see how Bill is decisive or Barbara comes up with creative ideas. These are the things that allow us to count on each other and rely on each other. As a team we each bring unique talents to the table, so team activities should help us recognize those traits.
Interim Connection activities
For virtual teams, it's helpful to offer some activities that people can work on and then come back together at a later date (next meeting, for example). These can be work related or non-work related. If work related, you could ask team members to ponder an issue and be prepared with their response by next meeting.
If non-work related, one great example I found was for a game of virtual BINGO. If you would like my version, email me or download it from my teambuilding page on this website. This is a good example of something each team member can work on, it's fun, easy and then you can all compare answers when you get back together.
Below are a few suggestions of each type of activity to get you started! Give them a try - and please feel free to share your ideas, too. We all thrive when we share with each other.
Until next time, please stay well,