Team Building in a Remote Working World

No matter how you look at it, companies with more highly engaged employees are simply more successful. Industry data suggests that businesses with engaged workers can outperform companies with disengaged employees by up to 202%.

An estimated 67% of the global workforce isn’t engaged — and the costs add up quickly. Employers with 10,000 employees lose about $60.3 million every year as a result of this disengagement, according to Gallup.

And the widespread shift to the work-from-home model puts remote workers at a higher risk of disengagement. Emerging research has found that primarily remote employees feel two times less engaged compared to their primarily in-person colleagues. Employers, then, must be careful to avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” approach that can be a slippery slope to decreased productivity, morale and retention.

Even making modest investments into employee engagement efforts like team-building programs can have a significant payoff. To get started, here you’ll find examples of how to organize simple but successful team-building activities to help keep members of an increasingly remote workforce feel that they’re part of a true team.

Goals of remote team-building activities

Team-building exercises in a remote world don’t offer the same level of hands-on participation compared to in-person events. But, they can still offer positive outcomes if they’re developed with these key goals in mind.

Remote team-building activities should give employees an opportunity to have fun and loosen up while getting to know each other better. During the workday, jumping between back-to-back virtual meetings doesn’t often allow for teams to build rapport with each other. Carving out time and space for structured virtual socialization can be highly beneficial for remote workforces and lead to a stronger sense of camaraderie, empathy and trust.

Moreover, team building in remote contexts also offers employees a chance to learn from each other’s experiences and explore outside-the-box thinking. Although participants can’t necessarily lend a hand to accomplish a physical task together, many of the following activities center around the exchange of ideas. From fruitful discussions to creative problem-solving opportunities, the lessons and takeaways from remote team-building events can inspire more informed, innovative and collaborative approaches to workplace challenges.

6 team-building activities to engage a remote workforce

With access to just a computer and a videoconferencing platform, remote employees can get a lot out of thoughtfully organized team-building activities like these.

1. “Ask me anything” sessions
Once per month, host an “ask me anything” session. Nominate one team member or organizational leader at a time, and urge colleagues to submit questions in advance or in real-time. Depending on what team members ask, this type of activity can help break down walls and provide insights into everything from day-to-day responsibilities to favorite hobbies, helping to forge stronger personal connections.d

2. Virtual happy hours with icebreaker questions
Open-ended virtual happy hours don’t always foster engagement; some team members may sit on mute the entire time while others carry on narrow conversations. Instead, host team happy hours with a fun list of questions for everyone to answer. This adds some structure to the meeting so everyone is prompted to participate and all members can enjoy the team-building benefits.

3. Problem-solving activities around a case study
Teams that take on real-life challenges during the workday can grow when given the chance to collaborate on fictional problems and business case studies. Amid a more laid-back and social atmosphere, give the team a unique project or problem to tackle with a sky’s-the-limit approach. Since the stakes are lower, encourage participants to think outside the box and strive for the most exciting and innovative solutions.

4. “Show and tell” sessions to highlight project updates or accomplishments
When members of the same team spend their time on entirely different projects or accounts, this can lead to a sense of isolation from others in the same role. Once every other week, bring team members together to share success stories, personal bests they’re proud of or ongoing challenges they’d like their colleagues to provide input on. Or, invite participants to showcase work by their colleagues that they admire.

5. Post-mortem project analysis
After a large-scale project concludes, it’s easy for contributors to move on without a backward glance. But there are many lessons to be learned and growth to be made. Host post-mortem meetings so internal teams can candidly discuss challenges, celebrate successes, and learn from triumphs and mistakes to ultimately reach solutions for future collaborations.

6. Virtual web crawl
Especially great for UX and design teams, a virtual web crawl works like a pub crawl — but the group spends a few minutes exploring an interesting website and discussing the content before moving on to the next. It can be a fun way for creative teams to get inspired and share ideas while learning about each others’ tastes.

Start planning your remote team-building program with JTB
Remote team-building activities should be goal-oriented and seamlessly orchestrated for the best outcomes.

Partner with JTB USA Meetings & Events to kick off an engaging series that will boost employee engagement and bring distant teams together.