When you have a distributed team, building the team-based culture you’re used to in the office may seem challenging. There are no more lunchtime gaming breaks, bean-bag chair brainstorming sessions, or afternoon walks to the coffee shop while mulling over your next client-acquisition strategy. Even though there doesn’t feel like there is much certainty in the future of work right now, there are still plenty of ways that you can bolster interpersonal connection within a distributed team.
The right mindset is all it takes to get started. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies that you can use today to start bolstering your team’s sense of community, building lasting connections that generate productive synergy.
- Start with a bonding exercise
- Have a little happy hour
- Gather the team for a game night
- Get the juices flowing with a brainstorming session
- Invest in leadership training
Start with a bonding exercise
We know what you’re thinking — this isn’t a college dorm, and managers aren’t RAs. Still, as silly as they may feel, bonding exercises can actually go a long way toward helping your distributed team feel connected, motivated, and like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Bonding exercises can take a number of forms depending on what your team likes best. For instance, maybe you’ll all go on a video chat and talk about the highs and lows from the past week. Or, maybe you play a few icebreaker games that help you learn a little bit more about each other.
Your team may have a hard time getting into it at first, but once they start feeling the connection with their teammates, they’ll see the reason behind the activity.
Have a little happy hour
Next, if your team is up for it, it might be fun to get everyone together on a Zoom call with some spirits and libations. Happy hour is definitely fun when everyone is together in person, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a good time over a video chat, too!
Here are some creative ideas that can make your happy hour one to remember:
- Have a personal potluck, where everyone cooks up something interesting for themselves and then you meet and chat over drinks and dinner on a video call.
- Have a team-bonding wine night. Your team each brings their favorite interesting wine and sips it while discussing what they like about the vintage.
- Do a craft beer exchange, where everyone in your team is assigned someone else to recommend a craft beer, cider, or hard kombucha.Then, everyone tries it while having a video chat happy hour.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a hip city startup or a massive global organization; people love having after-work bonding. But don’t worry; if having a drink after work isn’t exactly your team’s favorite way to wind down and grow their connections with each other, don’t worry. You have plenty of other options that can get your team engaged.
Gather the team for a game night
Game nights are a great way to bolster connection in your team and increase everyone’s happiness and self-esteem. People naturally love the spirit of competition, the joy of party games, and the bonding that happens when you play with people you like to spend time with. There are tons of games that you can choose from that are great for distributed teams restricted to online options.
Some popular board games can actually be played online, and have online equivalents that you can log into to play with friends from afar. In addition to this, there are also tons of online-exclusive party games that you can play with friends. Often, at least one person needs to purchase an account with the game site, so if you’re looking into that option be sure your manager buys a subscription.
In addition to that, if your team has a nerdy streak, you might consider playing a fantasy roleplaying game with your team! These games are fun, wholesome, and a great time for those who love a world of swords and sorcerers. Truly, when it comes to games, your options are endless, so be sure to get creative.
Get the juices flowing with a brainstorming session
If you’re hoping to bolster connection with an activity that will simultaneously bolster productivity, there are great options too. One of the best ways to do this is to hold a brainstorming session where team members can come together and speak openly about their ideas for a new direction the team may want to go on a project, an innovative idea they have, or a creative solution someone has come up with for a challenging problem.
Have everyone prepare at least 3 ideas they have, then, near the end of the day, hop onto a video conference call. Everyone should be allowed space to share their ideas, then there should be time allowed afterwards to allow team members to respond to what they just heard.This kind of give-and-take during a brainstorming session is essential to the functioning of your team, and builds synergy that can last years.
Another great way to facilitate a brainstorming session is to use a virtual whiteboard that multiple users can all contribute to. This replicates those all-important whiteboard sessions that help your startup make late-night breakthroughs and game-changing ideas.
Invest in leadership training
Lastly, leadership training is one of the best ways that you can bring your team together and build connection while also deepening their career ambitions and expanding the horizons of their productivity. Online leadership seminars can be quite affordable, and finding the right leadership coach is often all it takes to bring your team together toward a bigger purpose.
There are a few ways you can do this:
- Hire on a motivational speaker who can inspire your team
- Bring on an industry leader who can communicate key insights on your business
- Consider a diversity and inclusion training that will help everyone on your team fit in
- Pick a group of local university students to mentor
Whatever your team decides is the right bonding exercise, remember that it’s truly the effort that counts. Today’s talent wants to know that they’re working in step with a coordinated team, and building that coordination through bonding and group activities will be essential to attracting and keeping talent while also boosting your organization to new heights.
About the author
Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com. She lives in San Diego, California and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.