The importance of a cohesive company culture is hard to overstate. A clear company culture filters down to every level of an organization, and sets teams up for success.
Yet on a granular level, there are ways to eke more out of each team, and turn underperformers into overachievers. That’s the focus of this guide, as we examine the best ways to build highly effective virtual teams.
So with the social disconnect that working virtually can bring, how do you sync up and create a dynamic of effortless team collaboration?
The Importance of Team Building
One of the best ways to create strong teams is through team building exercises. If you groaned at the mere mention of team building exercises, we hear you!
Over the years ‘team building’ has acquired a reputation as a series of compulsory, uninspiring exercises that nobody really enjoys. These activities are supposed to bring coworkers closer together, but at times they drive them further apart.
With that said, we’ll go through some of the best team building exercises and use a company case study to see how to implement virtual team building.
PRO TIP: Team-building activities have the potential to improve employee performance, but only if you select the right ones. Consider the traits of your team members, and pick exercises that suit their communication styles. Use website monitoring tools to track the resulting productivity levels in real-time.
5 Team Building Activities that Produce Real Results
While there’s no definitive guide to what team building activities will work for your team, there are some that are much more likely to lead to effective collaboration than others.
Virtual Mindfulness Class
Back in 2020 in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 39% of US adults noted a negative impact on their mental health as a result of the pandemic.
Even today the effects remain with many of us, which is why it’s paramount to prioritize team member wellbeing if you want to get the most out of your teams.
One of the best ways to get your teams firing on all cylinders is with a regular virtual class led by a mindfulness coach. These sessions often provide team members with a much-needed break from incessant thinking and work-related anxiety as the only goal is to breathe and stay present.
Showing up authentically in a virtual mindfulness class along with your coworkers strengthens bonds as you’re reminded of each person’s humanity and existence outside of work. It’s an excellent way to regularly check in and create a powerful support network in which each member cares for the others’ mental health.
PRO TIP: You can use workforce optimization software to track the ebb and flow of productivity and identify concerning downward trends. If you do identify productivity slumps, they may represent opportunities to introduce mindfulness classes and see if they have a positive impact.
While an escape room may be seen as more of a leisure-time activity, it has slowly infiltrated the corporate world and is now a popular team-building exercise.
Because it encourages the following:
- Active participation
- Problem-solving as a team
- Innovative ways of thinking
In short, the virtual escape room is a place team members can go to let loose and have fun while also nurturing the key traits that make for a highly-effective team dynamic.
The Office Olympics is a fantastic way to bring team members together and encourage harmonious team work ethic.
With this activity, split up your team into various smaller teams of two or three members each. Select a series of activities, from rapid-fire quizzes to online games (the more varied the better), and assign the winning team of each activity a point.
At the end of all the activities, add up the points totals and crown the winners.
The benefit of this activity is that it combines various disciplines (like the real Olympics), so in theory you can test your team members in different ways and challenge their ability to work well as a team.
Virtual Team Pursuit is an online team-building game that uses the Outback team building app. In Team Pursuit, the goal is to overcome a series of tasks, from the intellectual to the physical.
You’re assigned a virtual host who will guide the team through the activity, so there’s no organization needed on your part.
This is one of those team-builders that can strengthen existing bonds between team members and create new ones.
If you’re looking for several hours’ worth of high-quality collaboration, as team members navigate as many as 80 different types of challenges, Virtual Team Pursuit is a worthwhile investment.
Team Pursuit also provides a unique opportunity for monitoring work dynamics between team members and identifying strengths and weaknesses.
Simulated Problems is less of a game, and more of an intellectual activity designed to put your team members' problem-solving skills to the test.
If you want to sharpen your team’s intellectual swords, and challenge them to innovate solutions to novel problems, this is the activity to try. Plus, it’s an activity you can lay on yourself with your own ideas.
To set it up, simply imagine several scenarios - perhaps even ones that could occur in your current work environment - and invite participants to answer a series of relevant questions. Try to elicit thoughtful answers and get your team members to think outside the box to really get the creative juices flowing.
The next time you schedule in one or more of these team-building exercises, you can use the data from your Desktop monitoring solution to evaluate the impact.
Remote working software Insightful lets you sort time data over a defined period of time, so you can see the before and after productivity levels and see if there’s a noticeable difference.
Case Study: General Electric
General Electric (GE) employs in excess of 300,000 employees from all over the world, and as such, has had to find ways to ensure teams thrive even when connected only via the internet.
While many companies are still scrambling to adjust to virtual collaboration, GE has been experimenting for many years - even before the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out. The company has all kinds of teams to cater to, including:
- Action teams
- Networked teams
- Management teams
- Service teams
And more besides.
GE has poured resources into training its employees and leaders to thrive in virtual teams.
One of the bedrocks of GE’s virtual team-building education is its virtual classroom. In this classroom, employees learn the basics of virtual collaboration through a series of quizzes and e-learning courses.
Over time, this expanded to include virtual escape rooms, whiteboards, role-playing scenarios and interactive online games.
How does GE know that this virtual classroom works?
Regular personal feedback surveys give employees the opportunity to outline their strengths and weaknesses, so learning can be tailored to them as individuals. In addition, team leaders are taught how to manage cultural differences and lead in a virtual setting.
With a combination of the right kinds of team building activities, a healthy perspective of the traits of an effective virtual team , and the wisdom of companies like GE who’ve mastered virtual learning, you can create highly effective virtual teams within your organization.
PRO TIP: If you follow in the footsteps of companies like GE, monitoring tools and screen tracking can help you identify performance improvements from your virtual initiatives. Activity monitoring app Insightful gives you access to employee time data regardless of where they work.