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The importance of remote team building

The importance of remote team building

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written at March 2020 by Magda Sowierszenko

Team building is an incredibly important part of managing and developing a team. This is true for both office teams and remote. It’s an area that is all too much neglected though. This can be because of time constraints, or even because people don’t realize how crucial it is to run these activities with your team. 

By developing a strategy for your team building and identifying everyone’s exact needs, you can help keep everyone energized, motivated, and on track to achieving their goals. By doing this, you can guide people through some of the common problems that remote work can bring with it. Your team will even develop techniques and strategies for general work and help improve their overall happiness and productivity.

A team’s needs have to be kept in mind however when you plan and run activities with them. At each stage of a team’s development, they will have different needs that have to be addressed. Getting to grips with each stage is one of the most important things that are considered in the team-building process.

Why is it so important to do?

Teams that don’t develop their skills in working together and build up their social relationships won’t be able to enjoy the full benefits of remote work. Obviously, as a manager, you are looking to get the best performance out of your team, and to make sure that your team is happy with the work that they are doing. But it’s not all about helping people collaborate well together and improving output.

Team building can have a knock-on effect on some of the biggest issues that remote workers face. Loneliness and a bad work-life balance, two of the biggest issues that can affect someone’s work, are reported as the top issue for 38% by the remote workforce according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020 report. 

Buffer State of Remote Work 2020

Social team building activities and exercises that allow people to take some respite from their work will all help meet multiple goals here: to help people to work better, help people enjoy their work more, and help people realize their potential. The benefits really are wide-reaching, and with a sound plan for implementing team building activities you can really achieve a lot of benefits:

  • It improves overall communication
  • It improves creativity within the team
  • Breaks down barriers and silos
  • It reveals hidden talents
  • Helps team members learn to resolve conflicts better
  • It builds up trust between your team members

Tried & tested team building exercises

We’ve gathered together some of our own ideas and activities for you to complete with your teams that go beyond your usual team building exercises. We’ve even included our top picks from a few remote companies that are also great to run. Have a look through for some inspiration!

Post a goal

In this exercise, you help build up the team by focusing everyone on achieving their goals. Everyone has them, but we don’t always share them… so let’s try and change that! By asking people to share them, you build up accountability and the drive that’s needed to achieve them.

  • Organize a meeting at a time that is suitable for everyone. Let them know that the plan is to share their goals, both work related and personal. Ask everyone to come prepared. 
  • As per usual, make sure that you go first so you can give an example of what everyone is expected to do.
  • Start relaying your work goals, as well as personal ones that are suitable to share with the team. 
  • After you’re finished, everyone should take it in turns to do the same, explaining why they want to do it and how long they expect it to take. 
  • Now for the tricky part! To make this really work, you need for your team to put their goals into a shared calendar, with an expected date of when it should be done.
  • At regular intervals, maybe every week, have a recap and see how everyone is doing. This can be a bit stressful for some, so keep this in mind and don’t put too much pressure on more introverted team members.

By simply putting these goals in the calendar, it can lead to a real drive to achieve them. Even if they’re not achieved, they stay at the forefront of people’s minds and this can help to give real focus. 

Team activity prepared by Remote-how team

Guess the owner

Apart from this exercise being great for getting everyone to know each other better, it’s also a lot of fun to do! It’s also even more surprising when you think you know someone, but you find out something super interesting.

  • Ask your team members to prepare pictures from childhood, unknown facts about themselves, or some other quirky piece of information that the rest of the team won’t know about.
  • Each member of your team then sends it to a moderator, which more likely than not will be you as the team manager
  • The moderator then needs to collect all the info into a presentation. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just one fact, picture, or piece of information per slide.
  • After this, get the team to guess which fact belongs to who. You can even do this with a tool like sli.do so that people get the chance to vote.

The objective here is to keep on improving the more personal relationships between your team members, especially if you run it late in the lifecycle of a project. By that time, everyone will know each other much better than when the project began. “Guess the owner” really shakes it up by asking your team to think of things that no one would guess.

Team activity prepared by Remote-how team

Interactive All-hands meetings

During their monthly all-hands meetings, Slido uses live polling in order to re-engage and give a voice to everyone on the team, including the colleagues who work remotely.

Since all-hands meetings are about and for the people, the Slido team likes to run a Silent Hero activity using a word cloud poll. Each member of the team nominates a colleague who, in their opinion, went the extra mile last month and submits their name into Slido. As the names start to come in, the names appear on the screen in a word cloud.  

Slido’s CEO, Peter Komornik, often uses live polls to present company numbers and stats. He runs a multiple-choice poll, giving their colleagues a chance to guess at how well the company did last month and vote in real-time.

Also, during the meetings that happen at the end of a quarter or year, Peter likes to turn the company highlights into a quiz and run a fun competition using Slido’s newest feature – quizzes. Since Slido’s team is scattered around the world, hosting an interactive quiz is a great team-building activity that allows everyone to be included in the fun! 

Team activity submitted by: Slido (51 – 200 employees)

Coffee & learn sessions

“I’ve been running ‘coffee & learn’ sessions for the Hotjar marketing team since 2018. ‘Coffee & learns’ are informal, 15-minute sessions where we take turns sharing something we do, something we are, or something we’ve learned with the rest of the team. Coffee is optional, but encouraged if people enjoy it.

I started this tradition because I wanted to bring the team together less as a group of coworkers working on the same project, and more as a group of humans who are sharing 40 hours a week with one another. We’ve covered topics that range from the very practical (how to practice leadership, how to ask good customer questions) to the very personal (how to recover from burnout, what we have learned in our life as remote workers).

The principle behind it is that there’s something extremely valuable in the regular practice of coming together to learn from, about, and with each other: I believe that trust is created and maintained when we keep coming together in a supportive environment with a willingness to share and to receive.” 

– Fio Dossetto, Senior Editor at Hotjar 

Team activity submitted by: Hotjar  (51 – 200 employees)

Show ‘n Tell 

Prezi holds “Show ‘n Tells” every other week to bring its San Francisco, Budapest, and Riga offices together for company updates, product launches, and more. People join in from their respective offices or dial in from home. Prezi makes sure that teammates in at least one other office have time to present so that the Zoom call can move around to the startup’s different locations. For particularly special “Show ‘n Tells” when the company has an important product launch, Prezi hosts company-wide toasts with champagne and, of course, cake! 

Team activity submitted by: Prezi (200-400 employees)

Plan for it or it won’t happen

Without a doubt, well planned out and executed team building can only bring about positives for everyone involved. Even if it feels like a big investment of time, effort, or money, in the long run, it inevitably leads to results.

We think it’s so important that we’ve put together a comprehensive Guide with everything that you need to know about building up your remote teamThe Ultimate Guide to Remote Team Building Activities is totally free and out there for the benefit of remoters worldwide.

We’ve partnered up with remote companies who have shared what works for them, and also dive deep into the specific needs a team will have in all the stages of their development.

If you like what you read, don’t forget to give it a share and help pass on the tips and tricks every team needs to start collaborating more effectively.

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