Gradually, as 2021 became 2022, we returned to normal, or so we thought. In reality, we had to readjust to a totally different work-life world. But, for millions, returning to the office didn’t work. During lockdowns, people had been forced into another way of doing things and had discovered the realities of WFH and how it felt to earn money but have no costs associated with work.
By the time the ‘new normal’ rolled around, the workplace had changed forever. Empty office blocks loomed on the horizon of every city in the world, ghosts from a previous life. The great summons back to the office hadn’t worked. People wanted to WFH or try a hybrid approach, and employee retention took a knock. People changed jobs, moving to companies offering greater flexibility.
Things had to change, and they did, fast. Not everybody wants to work from home. Many rushed back to the office at the first opportunity, bought that coffee, those bagels, that tailored suit, and never looked back. Others realized that although they’d like to be back at the office, life itself worked better if work was done from home for all kinds of reasons. These were the first people to feel lost with the absence of a two-way commute, the water cooler chat, cafeteria queue get-togethers, or the elevator ad hocs several times a day.
Something was missing—and it was connection
Company management, grappling with any number of issues around a new system of remote or hybrid operation, had another challenge on their hands. A good connection is vital for humans to stay in touch with the world and, in the work environment, drives employee engagement. Connection, that critical component of effective teamwork and job satisfaction, is weakened in a fragmented workplace. How best to hold things together?
Thanks to giant steps in digital transformation, companies were able to quickly offer platforms for employees to meet for teamwork and group sessions, but more was needed.
With the redistribution of humanity and responsibility brought on by the pandemic, the ‘away day’ and other regular social work events became difficult to organize. Something had to be done to level the work-life see-saw in the aftermath of COVID.
Enter virtual team-building events
As soon as the allure of the Zoom office drinks party dimmed, the lack of connection spawned numerous start-ups offering virtual social bonding events. Before you could say, ‘dirty martini!’ cocktail kits were being delivered to front doors the world over so the office get-together could be hosted by a top mixologist.
People everywhere started communicating over their pets, arts and crafts, fantasy holidays, food, and fitness, and these interactions started building back the delicate physical and social links of the pre-COVID work environment.
Every good manager knows that team building is crucial in order for teams to function productively and how the right collaboration goes so much further than solving the problem at hand or reaching an agreement on something.
Apart from fostering the best type of collaboration, team building boosts employee morale and reinforces a positive company culture. Innovation and versatility are stimulated, and opportunities to form diverse relationships are presented.
Perhaps most important of all is the positive effect virtual events have on mental health as far as combatting loneliness, reducing stress levels, and others are concerned. These inputs drive engagement, enhance a healthy employee experience and keep connections strong.
As the tagline of the media company Bang!Gae, Botswana, tells us, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work.
With remote and hybrid work environments developing fast in fundamentally changed social and economic times, the virtual team-building exercise has flourished as a key part of internal communications, and it’s here to stay. Below, we look at some of the ways to host a great virtual team-building get-together and list some of the best events to choose.
1. Kick-off with a quiz
A quiz is a great way to break the ice, and this selection offers hundreds of curated questions, or you can make up your own, including encouraging colleagues to answer fun questions about each other. There’s a weekly leaderboard for those who love a little competition and a space where managers can measure engagement now and again. Search online for more ideas like these from Museum Hack.
2. Virtual werewolf
This game involves speaking, careful listening, and strategic voting in order for you to survive the night, free of the werewolf’s clutches. Try it if you dare, and see more on how to play here
3. Send kitten pictures quickly!
Pet pictures melt the hardest heart. Share your cutest ones or ask questions about colleagues’ pet choices, activities, and breeds. You won’t please everyone on the team all of the time, but if everybody on the team happens to have a pet, you have a pet corner in the making.
4. To be perfectly honest…
Two lies and one truth are all it takes for a great game to get underway. This is a really good way for remote employees to get to know each other. Each participant needs three statements—something like this:
- I have four siblings
- I am a marathon runner
- I collect Asian water lilies
Two must be true and one false. Colleagues must guess which is which and win points accordingly.
5. Would you rather share a bed with a walrus?
Well, would you? Or would you rather sleep with an eel? You have to choose one, and the bravest person gets a special prize. This game is fun and funny, and there’ll be some surprises along the way. Here are some more great ‘would you rather’ questions
6. Kick back and relax
Find out what your team is reading, what music they’re enjoying, and if they can specifically recommend an interesting podcast. Give a bit of warning upfront so people can prepare and nobody is put on the spot. People can take and give recommendations, learn about new artists, and share experiences while learning about each other.
7. The fantasy find-out
If you could do anything (legal), what would you do? Campaign for world literacy, run for President, or buy a wine farm in Tuscany? Here’s a fun way to learn about your co-workers’ hopes and dreams, and the scope will be fascinating.
Who knew the CEO was a closet saxophonist? Expect surprises and be upfront with questions. Are they working towards this dream, or will it dwell forever in the realms of fantasy, like invisibility cloaks?
8. All aboard the praise train
Not only is this game a good way of getting people to relax a little, it also presents a chance for employees to receive recognition and be grateful. A team member praises a colleague for a successful sales call, and that person praises someone else for a super-interesting blog article, and they, in turn, praise another co-worker for a great client meeting, and so it goes on. People absorb, accept and deflect praise in different ways, so this is bound to lead to interesting reactions and discussions.
9. Meditate, reflect, breathe
A short, guided meditation, reflection exercise, or breathwork session can be an amazing way to start a team meeting and get everyone in the same relaxed, open frame of mind. Hire an expert if you haven’t discovered one in-house yet, and let team members know what they’ll need for the exercise.
10. Eat, drink, and be merry
For those of you who’ve still got an eye on the mixology remark, way back, there were many, many ways to get together over themed drinks or just drinks. Include food, throw in some dance moves, and you’ve got yourself a party!
It’s fabulous to splash out for special events, but team-building events work just fine with little more than a decent wifi connection, a great communications platform tailored to your company’s specific requirements, and a hint to colleagues if preparation is needed.
Not everyone is the same; not everyone wants to play games, so let people sit it out if this isn’t their scene. There’s a huge variety of activities to choose from online, so spend some time browsing and choosing what’s best for your team. Don’t get too serious; remember to aim for a fully inclusive experience and stay away from sensitive issues.
Remember to ask for feedback so future events can better focus on what people most want and need. And reach out for a demo to see how you can house it all and create an environment where employees can simply flourishTM!