Remote team building is one of the pillars of a thriving team that works from home. As more people than ever are working from home, there are fewer opportunities for team members to interact with one another. Given that we are a social species, we humans need to interact and bond with one another. Interacting with others creates bonds. Bonding leads to building trust and cooperation between individuals and teams. The remote work environment chucks out traditional bonding activities such as handshakes and greeting with a smile. Chatting by the water cooler and having lunch together are things of the past. Therefore, employers have to become more creative in fostering an atmosphere of connectedness between remote team members.

Employers understand that connected and engaged workers are more productive. Such environments boost employee morale and reduce employee turnover. This is good for the bottom line of the company. So how do we create and foster remote team building?

Building trust, effective communication, showing appreciation for one other, bonding over similarities, and social gaming are some essential tips for remote team building. It is important to note that consistency and patience are necessary to realize value from team-building activities.

Building Trust

Trust is a necessary component in any relationship. When working remotely, there are two levels of trust that need to be cultivated. First is the trust between the team and leadership (or employer). The second one is the trust between individual team members. Leadership has a golden opportunity to set an example as well as gain the respect of employees from the get-go.

Leadership must communicate that they trust their employees to get the work done. Instead of micromanaging and surveilling employees every minute, focus on productivity and results. Make the company goals clear to the employees. Provide clear guidelines about individual and team goals. Then set out the individual tasks, responsibilities, expectations, and goals. Articulate how their roles and responsibilities tie into the company goals and bottom line. When team members understand the importance of their roles, they are more likely to take ownership of their work. They will pride themselves in their work. They will also feel responsible for the success of the team and the company as a whole. Setting this type of tone is an essential tip for remote team building.

The benefit of a remote work arrangement is that employees have more flexibility. The flexibility promotes work/life balance. So if an employee is productive, does it matter if he or she watched a movie in the day? Folded laundry? Or vacuumed the house while working? When people work from home, their work and home lives merge. There will be some overlap in activities. Watching employees every minute makes them feel like that they are being spied on. It creates an uncomfortable environment for them at home. A home is a sanctuary. Surveilling employees all day will create negative associations for them for working from home. This only increases stress and dissatisfaction for employees. So as an employer, be mindful of how you track your remote workers. Monitor productivity and performance in less intrusive ways.

Next comes the trust between individual team members. Ensure that communication between individual team members has a certain tone and standard. Team members must respect and appreciate individual differences and similarities. They must be patient with one another. It takes time to build rapport and understanding. Every individual must be dependable, accountable, and consistent when it comes to their roles and responsibilities. Nothing wins the trust, respect, and admiration of your peers than a good work ethic.

Individual team members can also build interpersonal relationships with each other on shared interests. These interests can be work-related or not. Maybe they can talk about their pets or similar work ambitions when interacting with each other. They can interact at work or during off-hours. The more they interact and bond with each other, the greater their trust will be in each other. So part of the responsibility of remote team building lies on the individual team members themselves.

Effective Communication

Misunderstandings due to personality and cultural differences can sour work-related relationships quickly and easily. Effective communication can go a long way in smoothing differences between individuals. It is imperative that management sets clear guidelines for communications and sets up the channels of communications. Proper tools must be provided for timely and effective communication. Leadership must ensure that it applies uniformity in what, where, and how communications occur.

When it comes to guidelines, behavioral guidelines are the most important. Team members must be briefed on how they are expected to treat and communicate with others. This includes communications with team members as well as outsiders. Respect for personality, gender, and cultural differences must be spelled out clearly. Use employee handbooks and standard operating procedures to codify guidelines and expectations. Handbooks are excellent reference material for remote workers.

Next is patience. Be patient with yourself and others. Connectivity issues and competing tasks can hold up or delay communications. Always allow room for delay. Be prompt in communicating about issues that pop up. Do not sit on things. If you delay with dealing with things till the last minute, then do not expect prompt action from others. Patience and timeliness will help to build trust and rapport between team members.

Setting up proper channels of communication is vital for enhancing communication between team members. Ensure that quick questions can be answered by using the designated instant messaging tool. Ensure that all team members have access to the necessary collaboration tools. Employees must know when it is appropriate to make a phone call, text, email, etc. When possible have dedicated social channels of communication to separate work from fun topics. Uniformity in this area helps to save time and shape company culture. It also enforces discipline in team members, to utilize the appropriate type of communication tool for any given scenario. When employees are provided with the tools they need, they respect their leadership. When they know when and how to use these communication tools, they can interact and bond with each other.

Transparency in communication is vital for building trust and setting clear standards. Employees must not feel that there are double standards or things are being hidden from them. Whether it is about accessing relevant work documents or company announcements, everyone must feel like they are on the same page. This important for team building between team members, as well as the team and leadership.

Regular check-ins help people not to lose track of what they are doing and the bigger picture as well. Regular check-ins allow team members to get quick answers from leadership. Check-ins are a good time to get out questions and suggestions to leadership as well. Check-ins can provide quick status updates and be a time to delegate tasks and duties. Regular check-ins help remote workers to feel connected to their team and leadership.

Social Games

Nothing livens up the day of a remote work team than some light fun and games when interacting with each other. One of the first and foremost ways of introducing some energy into remote work meetings is to start the meeting with an icebreaker. If you have a large group and do not have time for individual answers and responses, then just ask people to get up and stretch for a few seconds. Or run and grab an item from their kitchen. This will lull people out of sleep, boredom or at least get them to change their sitting positions.

If you want an ice breaker to be a way for everyone to be able to speak up and break out of shyness, then ask a question and get answers one by one. You can comment or ask follow-up questions after every few responses to inject humor into the day.

If you want to understand the expectations of your remote team workers, ask them to say what they hope this meeting will achieve. Get some quick answers. This will help you to understand the mood of the room. Some team members might have similar things to say and so might approach each other during the meeting break and chat with them. They might decide to connect after the meeting. This is an organic way of building bonds between remote team members. There are countless ice-breaking questions and activities. You are only limited by time and the size of your team.

Beyond ice breakers, there are more social games that teams can play to build connectedness. Our app Brightful - https://www.brightful.me/play/  provide countless games that help to foster trust and teamwork in a fun and joyful way. They have free and paid plans for teams.

Brightful works in conjunction with video conferencing tools. This makes accessing games easier than ever. There are social and conversational games. Fast-paced and customized games. One is only limited by the time and team size when seeking social games to build remote teams.

When using social games for building remote teams, experiment with a variety of games. Try calendering social games every few meetings. This will give team members something to look forward to. Besides using social games during work meetings, teams can use social games to have fun during virtual coffee breaks and virtual happy hours. Without the pressure of work obligations, people might be more apt to engage in social games.

Bonding Over Similarities

Using videoconferencing, social games, and collaborative tools to work with one another builds familiarity between team members. Familiarity builds affinity for one another. Team members become like a virtual family. Some team members will discover that they have mutual interests. Leadership can provide virtual spaces such as dedicated Slack channels to team members to freely share their musings about mutual interests. For example, a channel dedicated to team members with pets or a channel for those who enjoy cooking or traveling.

Setting up book clubs for those who enjoy reading and discussing books is a great way to bond. Virtual museum tours and movie nights are also a great way for people to get together and feel like they are on a vacation someplace far away. It is important to note that bonding over similarities and shared interests should not be forced on others. Participating in such activities should be optional.

Bonding over similarities is not just about bonding over mutual interests. Sometimes people can bond with each other over similar life experiences or circumstances. Some people might bond over being parents to young children. Others might bond over being caregivers to their parents. Yet others might bond over volunteering for the needy. This is about as close as one gets to having in-person water-cooler talks from a remote location. These close interpersonal connections help to cultivate remote team building.

Showing Appreciation

An incredible way to win someone’s trust is by appreciating and acknowledging their work. It is important for team members to take time during video conferencing, and  thank the team members that have helped them. By speaking up and telling the team about how a particular person has helped you at work, gives a morale boost to the person being acknowledged. Gratitude from coworkers helps in remote team building. Such gestures also help leaders to understand how particular individuals contribute to their organizations. Sometimes it helps management to see that some individuals are contributing beyond what is in their formal job descriptions.

Learning

Taking courses with team members helps individuals to commit to their coursework. Quite often individuals enroll in classes and drop out due to lack of stimulation or company. When two or more people take a class together, they can help and encourage each other to get through tough and boring patches of coursework. The moral support and acknowledgment of mutual challenges make a tough ride smoother. Besides obtaining new skills, one can end up with a few new friends.

Volunteering Or Fundraising

Volunteering or fundraising help for worthy causes can help team members to apply their collective talents to something other than work. A lot of people are without jobs and suffering right now. So banding together to make a difference will certainly help team members to feel more connected to each other.

Remote work often makes people feel isolated. However, teamwork and volunteering help people to feel good about themselves. Volunteering has a positive effect on the mental health of those partaking in it. So doing something worthy as a team helps team members at both individual and group levels. This non-work-related teamwork will end up helping individuals to feel closer and trust each other at work. So volunteering together is a great way to contribute to remote team building.