21 May Team Building in the Time of Quarantine
7 Ideas to Build a Strong Team at a Distance
By Hunter Laine
We’ll be surprised if this year’s “Word of the Year” isn’t “Social Distancing”. And yet, the term doesn’t totally describe what we’re all working toward, does it? Physical distance is necessary, but it feels more important than ever to reach out socially and connect with people.
Nowhere is this more important than “in” the workplace. Newer team members may be floundering and the rest of the team can feel disjointed and isolated when they don’t have the opportunity to chat and spend time together in person. Here are a few tips and strategies to continue team building during quarantine and foster trust among your team from afar.
1. “I’m Grateful for…”
This one might sound a little cheesy but studies have shown that people who make a conscious effort to focus on gratitude are happier. Your brain actually starts going to a place of gratitude more naturally with continued practice. At the end of your team meetings, try going around and quickly asking everyone what they are grateful for. For some, this might be as simple as, “I’m grateful that the sun is out today.” Any level of depth is perfect. The purpose is not to ignore the stress (fear, anger, anxiety… the list goes on and on these days), but to make our minds start to pick out the good in any situation.
2. Online Trivia
You’ve probably heard of this one being used either at your own company or another. Try having each of your team members pick a trivia topic that interests them. Ask them to send you 5-10 questions on that topic, but NO answers (unless it’s multiple choice, then they should send in all answer options, but not indicate the correct one). Compile all of the questions into a presentation program (Powerpoint, Prezi, Google Slides, etc.) separated by categories. Then all you have to do is get on a video conference call, share your screen, and ask people to read their questions aloud from the presentation as they come up. At the end of their section, each person can go back and give the answers, and everyone will score their own answers (this is on the honor system, but let’s hope no one’s cheating on a fun game of trivia!). This is a fun way to get unique trivia questions, engage people before the game even starts, and let everyone learn a little bit more about what their coworkers are interested in! As to prizes: bragging rights?
3. Employee Meal
If your team isn’t too large, get food delivered to your team members and have a Zoom Employee lunch/dinner. Most important rule: no work talk allowed! We all know that one of the best ways to get to know your coworkers is grabbing a bite to eat at lunch. Now we sit alone in front of our computers during lunch, watching Netflix (Just me…?). It won’t be quite the same, but your employees will feel like you care and new team members will start to feel more like a part of the team.
I don’t mean the mentor one-on-one’s you most definitely should be having with your employees! I mean randomly assigned one-on-one coffee dates among the members of your team. These don’t have to be long and they don’t have to be too often. Maybe twice a week, assign team members to have a short conversation as part of their work day. For some, this will just be time to talk with a work buddy. For others, this will mean talking to someone they never have before. As with the meal option, try to encourage employees to stay away from work-related topics. There will be plenty of time for that during the rest of the day. Maybe even prepare a list of suggested topics or questions, just in case the conversation doesn’t flow as naturally in certain pairings. This exercise will be especially beneficial to those new team members to help them get a sense of who they are working with and make the eventual transition back to in-office work that much smoother.
5. Happy Hour
We may all be stuck in our respective homes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t “go out” after work, have a refreshing beer, glass of wine, or lemonade and let the day melt away with some inane (or intellectual) conversation.
6. Pictionary/Charades/JackBox Games
You know your team best (I hope) so you know if these high energy, interactive games are going to mesh with their vibe. If you think your team might be up for these, they are a great way to get people to forget work and really get into a game. Also, the added bonus of team games: give people a sense of comradery and a common goal that can translate into the work environment!
7. Book/TV/Movie/Recipe Recommendations
Learning more about employee’s interests outside of work, helps everyone to get a fuller picture of who they’re working with. Not everyone loves to read, or watch TV, or cook, so it’s best to leave the categories pretty wide open. At the start of each weekly meeting (or however often you like), ask everyone to go around and recommend at least one thing they’ve been enjoying that they think others might also enjoy. Ask them to follow the meeting up by emailing in a short synopsis or step-by-step for what they recommended. Compile all of these recommendations into a shared file, separated by categories. This way everyone has a ready-made list of recommendations to turn to when needed! And if a team member tries out another’s recommendation and enjoys it, they’ve made a quick, meaningful connection!
There’s no getting around how much stress and anxiety surround our lives right now. Whether you’re feeling them or not, chances are, someone on your team is. The best help is human contact. Facilitate opportunities for people to talk, get to know each other, and feel important. You may end up creating even more than a strong team; you may foster real friendships.