Working with culture: Team building with remote teams
Before 2020 happened, there already are a handful of companies and businesses that adapted the ‘remote work only’ policy. But for the rest, having mandated to work from home has taken us aback.
Office desks and conference rooms have been abandoned. The communal eating spaces have been exchanged for quick home-cooked meals and TV dinners. Some may say that having ‘forced’ to work from home isn’t all that bad. It’s safe to say that we all needed a refractory period before getting settled in.
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Now that it’s all been said and done, managing a remote team isn’t an even playing field. Team building isn’t the same without everyone in one place. We all have to get used to video calls and endless chat and email chains.
Team building with remote teams may feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill. But there are ways and shortcuts to make it easier—even more exciting—for everyone.
What completes a remote team?
A team isn’t complete without a positive yet relentless leader. Someone who respects their team’s boundaries and powers through with positive reinforcement.
Of course, a team isn’t complete without competent members. Everyone has substantial input with every single project that comes their way.
Now that having a remote team is a growing trend, it’s important to reiterate work-life boundaries. Healthy leadership leads the way to a more productive and happier team.
Communication is of utmost importance. It’s better to practice over-communicating than doing the bare minimum. As a team member, you can help maintain a clear communication channel. Use your remote collaboration tools, send out emails, and ask questions.
Why is team building important?
Team building is what others consider a major foundation for a successful team. Even more so if that said team is virtual.
According to workplace coaches, team-building builds camaraderie and a sense of community. Ask anyone who had the privilege of going to team-building activities, and the answer will not be any different.
So it builds up the confidence of the group, and what else?
Even if it’s a remote one, team-building activities bring up the morale amongst the group. A happy, trustworthy workplace community delivers great output.
Another reason team-building is important: it lets off steam. Even the healthiest teams out there get on some hot water. Allowing your members to act jovial (even for a bit) will help in the long run.
There will be reasons team-building is important but it may be way too specific. As a remote leader, it’s your job to address those and work on them.
Remote team-building activities
Remote team building doesn’t have to be the same old, boring Zoom meeting. Here are the three most popular ways to rev up your team’s morale over a video call. Want to make it even more fun? Introduce a winning system. Food vouchers, free streaming subscriptions, a free mental health day pass, and others.
Show and tell
Every week, everyone is encouraged to show a personal trinket that helps them focus during work. It can be anything from their work desks, something that adorns their bedside table, an accessory, anything goes. Be creative with your introduction, explain why it helps you overcome each day.
Pop culture trivia nights
Remember when bar games were a thing? Bring over those vibes with a weekly game of pop culture trivia nights.
The first week can be movies, the next can be Spotify’s Top 40, the next can be TV shows, and so on. Make it fun to catch up about everyone’s taste in music and shows.
Low-key cooldown meetings
Bring over the cold brews and the French presses. Introduce a new ‘meeting over a cup of coffee’ practice with your remote team. In this, you can talk about anything and everything as long as it’s appropriate. Catch up with everyone’s personal lives, give out advice on how to adjust to working remotely, and so on.
It’s nice to end a week on a softer note.
Doing the most that you can, as a leader
It’s a good guess that most corporate leaders don’t have the experience of overseeing a remote team. On a bright note, that means that there are lots of things to learn together.
Right now, when most of us are at home, there is a fair chunk of people whose lines of work and life got blurry. As a leader, you have to help them sharpen those lines again. Reiterate the importance of work-life balance and what it means to be a team player.
Be patient with parents who are homeschooling their children. Empathize with people who are having a hard time adjusting to the sudden isolation. Celebrate with the members who didn’t have to commute every day.
Having a leader who makes sure that their team is generally well, both physically and mentally, in the workplace and at home will make all the difference.
Remote team building: Dos and don’ts
Just like a normal day at the office, there are dos and don’ts when it comes to remote team building.
Try your best to hit all the dos and eliminate the don’ts.
Do #1: Encourage positive reinforcement
Celebrate the wins and encourage others. Talk about the mistakes and turn them into opportunities for improvement. Practice accountability and responsibility all the time.
Do #2: Set healthy work boundaries
If it’s not urgent, it can wait until tomorrow. Try not to contact the rest of the team when they’re already done with their workday. Keep all non-emergency messages to a minimum when it’s past work hours.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to turn off your notifications during the weekends. Set up a vacation responder and open one communication channel for work emergencies.
Do #3: Clear communication
Highlight your point. Get your message across. Practice brevity with team meetings and weekly huddles. Trim your monologues and get to the point. People appreciate a speaker that sets the agenda immediately.
Don’t #1: Spread misinformation
Check all sources and verify the information you’re getting. Make sure that it came from a reputable source. Back it up with data if you can.
Don’t #2: Turn to Netflix and YouTube for ambient noises
With our diminishing attention span, it’s hard not to turn to an idle TV show or a quick YouTube video for ambiance noise. But it’s just a matter of seconds before you distracted, finding yourself unable to focus on the task at hand.
Tip: Use instrumental music and natural white noises while working.
Don’t #3: Work in your sleeping quarters
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Try not to work in your bedroom as much as possible. It shatters the ‘illusion’ of working, blurring the lines between your home office and your personal space.
What to expect in a remote environment
Expect that not everyone will get up and get at it, that we all have different paces of learning and working. As a team leader, building a remote team culture that thrives around healthy professional relationships is important. Making sure that everyone knows that you have their back is important too.