The new normal: three tips on continuous team building

As we’ve been exploring ways to improve productivity in our work-from-home environment, we’d be remiss if we overlooked the positive effects team building has on individual performance. Working remote doesn’t have to equate to endless hours of social isolation or FOMO. In fact, it is now more important than ever to consciously strengthen our connections to one another. We’re not talking work meetings here, either – this is all about building and strengthening personal relationships outside of the (virtual) office to foster teamwork when it counts.

Team bonding is essential for building or creating trust between one another, improving communication, and dissolving imagined barriers. Stronger relationships result in higher performance, more engagement, and happier team members. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved!

Here’s the thing: you don’t need to be in the same physical location as your colleagues to interact with them. There are countless opportunities to encourage continual team building, and foster solid relationships – all from the comfort of your snazzy new home office.

As you look for ways to develop camaraderie on an ongoing basis, follow these three tips for continuous team building.

Get Virtual…Off the Clock

Schedule a meeting with your colleagues, turn on those nifty cameras (remember from the previous post: no one cares what you look like!), and enjoy virtual coffee/lunch/happy hour.

Virtual social hours and breaks encourage fraternization with your colleagues. They are specifically designed for workers to participate in idle chitchat, general discussions, or even light brainstorming. Consider this a pause in your day, a moment where you can rest your overloaded brain and connect with other human beings while consuming your beverage or food of choice.

For more activity, an alternative option is to participate in a virtual workout class (e.g., yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, etc.). Instead of consuming calories, you can burn them by tuning into your favorite YouTube video for an interactive heart-pumping workout. Remember, when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.

Or maybe the team is stressed and would benefit by taking a mindful period of rest. How about a virtual meditation? Meditation can help eliminate negative thoughts, worries, and anxiety; all factors that can prevent us from feeling happy. For instance, Vaco Raleigh all-star Prarna Desai hosts an internal, mid-week “moment of zen” with yoga and meditation to recharge everyone’s batteries and strengthen our bonds as a team.

If you and your team members are new to meditation – try a guided one. A guided meditation is just that – a meditation led by another person’s voice. Because the mind tends to wander where it will, you may find it easier to focus and relax when your mind isn’t entirely left to its own device. You can find several online resources to help you get started.

Get Visual

Do you remember participating in show-and-tell at school? This was a classroom exercise in which children would bring an item from home and talk about it with their classmates.

Show-and-tell was designed as a conversation starter for children. This allowed other students a glimpse into the child’s home life, into what they valued. It also acted as an ice breaker and helped children connect with their peers in new ways.

Why not try a show-and-tell variation with your colleagues? You can use the first few minutes of your daily check in to display one of your prized possessions with an explanation of what it is, and why it is significant to you. Maybe it has a compelling back story, something that would give people a glimpse into your hobbies or interests.

A different approach is to present your favorite photograph. It could be that one of you holding a cuddly joey in Sydney or finishing your first marathon. The photo doesn’t have to be framed, and it doesn’t have to be in perfect condition. It just has to speak to you.

To add a little creativity (or to throw a curveball to the group), you could suggest creating a rotating “theme of the week” where team members show photos of:

  • A favorite moment
  • An example of courage
  • Something that makes them smile
  • A moment from the 80s or 90s

You’ve probably seen your colleagues’ new offices (i.e., their living rooms and patios). Let’s take that one step further and raise the ante. Google Earth is the perfect tool to show off your town or neighborhood, especially if you are globally distributed.

Google Earth gives you the ability to view satellite imagery, 3D buildings, and terrain across the globe. You can zoom to your house or favorite coffee shop and then dive in for a 360° perspective with Street View. Imagine showing everyone where you went to college or the exact spot your partner proposed to you? Google Earth is an enjoyable way to visually share your story with your colleagues.

Get Competitive

Engaging in game play is a relatively simple and straightforward approach to strengthening team bonds and relationships. Unfortunately, our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty, or a guilty pleasure. However, according to this article from Wanderlust, “Play has been shown to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, and stimulate creativity.” Play is pivotal. Play brings us joy and is vital for problem solving, creativity, and relationships.

We don’t have to be physically collocated to play games. Lucky for us, technology is on our side:

  • For a collection of brain teasers, check out Think Witty. Or for a daily mini crossword puzzle, head over to the New York Times. To make this a collaborative session, one person can open and share their screen with the other players. As a team, you can try to decipher and solve the puzzle together.
  • Virtual charades is a great game for energizing the group. In charades, one player draws a card then pantomimes this clue, and their teammates attempt to guess the mystery word. Each correct guess scores a point and these points are tallied after a predetermined number of rounds. To play, you’ll need access to an online word generator and your handy video cameras.
  • Pictionary-type games can always be counted on for laughs and gentle ribbing. Head over to Drawize for a free multiplayer drawing and guessing game. One game consists of several rounds in which every round someone draws their chosen word and others must guess it to gain points. Too easy? Make it more difficult by drawing phrases, idioms and even people from your team!
  • Try your hand at trivia. People enjoy the thrill of providing correct answers to questions about lesser-known facts. To get that satisfying rush of dopamine, check out Quiz Up. This virtual trivia game allows you to play against your peeps in real time. With 1,200 topics covering over 600,000 questions, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit the same question twice.

Building team is all about being vulnerable

Playing games, scheduling virtual conversations, exchanging photos, describing keepsakes, or zooming through neighborhoods gives team members insight into our lives outside of work and our individual characteristics. It’s those things that make us, us. These small gestures open the door for reciprocal personal discovery, which strengthens our relationships and enhances our future communications. Who wouldn’t want that?

Watch for our final post in this series, which will provide tips and on nurturing existing relationships.

Learn more about Kimberly here.