If not now, when? This is a time when online team building activities are vital. So many of us are working from home, feeling challenged in new ways. More than ever, we’re searching for connections, camaraderie and unity.
We’re thinking about meaning, looking for inspiration and imagining how we may need to reinvent ourselves. But it can get lonely, ruminating on our own. Remote work is here to stay. And we need ways to stay connected.
Given this dynamic, I don’t consider bringing your team together for an online gathering frivolous or even optional. Now’s the time to share quality time together, to maintain or build motivation and get the reinforcement we all need to work optimally; on an individual level and as part of a team.
Does Online Team Building Work?
If you’re wondering, ‘Does online team building really work?’, I get it! I came to the idea of online programs gradually and with a great deal of hesitation. After years leading interactive musical programs at meetings and conventions, I thought face to face programs were the only effective way to bring teams together. So it was necessity, rather than desire, that led me to consider the potential and the effectiveness of online team building activities.
To evaluate if a program actually works, it’s important to first understand what you hope to accomplish. Having goals will allow you to establish what constitutes success.
Fun – Fun should be your first goal. Think of a time you were having fun – picture yourself. Whether you’re laughing, watching something, biking, skiing…whatever. There’s one commonality. You’re not bored. Boredom and fun are antithetical. You can’t have both at the same time. So let’s start with fun as a goal. You won’t be bored. That means you’ll be engaged.
Something Real – Most of us are likely a little cynical toward the idea of team building in general. And with online team building activities, people assume they’ll be doing simple computer game type stuff that can seem either outdated or too simplistic. If you can find a program that feels ‘real’, everyone will be drawn in. People will let their guard down and share a bit of their authentic selves.
Comfort Zone Movement – Just a different way of saying, it’s okay to stretch. It’s good to be a little uncomfortable, especially at the beginning of any group activity you haven’t done before. This is what we call learning, ha ha. But seriously, there’s a profound sense of accomplishment when we meet a new task, move from hesitancy to exploration, from exploration to competency, from competency to proficiency and success. Believe it or not, this can happen with a well facilitated online team building program.
Better Communication – Who doesn’t want this? A good group experience will provide a safe place for people to communicate. It will allow everyone to express themselves without fear of being judged. So many of us dread team events because we associate them with the type of feelings we had back in middle school. Yuck; not fun and not emotionally safe. But successful team programs provide rules, boundaries and guidance that create great communication. When you work with a talented team program facilitator you’ll be in the right space, a safe and inspiring place to simply be yourself.
Trust – Out of all of the above comes increased trust. If you’re communicating without feeling judged, getting to know your colleagues better through tackling a task that’s not work related, having fun and being yourself you’ll notice some walls come down. In a team program, even an online program, you’ll see your co-workers in a different light. You might see some vulnerabilities that make you better understand a boss you may be having issues with. Even a small bit of increased trust between you and a supervisor, or a co-worker can give you the confidence to approach, and hopefully resolve, difficult issues.
Oh yeah…Does It Work?
Sorry, I got distracted focusing on your goals. Yes, online team programs really work. And for me, the ones that work the best are the newer, rapidly evolving activities that are actively facilitated by a real person in real time.
There are automated computer game type programs that work okay. For example, you can compete in a virtual treasure hunt through a city, or compete on timed brain teasers and challenges. But honestly, I don’t love these types of programs. You can do better.
So enter the interactive, live as can be, online team building of the future. And yes, that future is now.
3 Online Team Building Activities That Rock
1. Music & Song – My team and I spent so much time practicing the online team building through song program we recently launched. My face still hurts from laughing so much and this was unexpected. We found that when we actively lead a group through a program with the same spontaneity, focus and spirit we bring to our face to face programs, there’s not much disparity between F2F and virtual.
That’s not to say, F2F and online aren’t different. They are. But for my team of facilitators and our clients, the online experience has provided the same buzz, the same emotional resonance, the sense of fun, focus, challenge and accomplishment we’ve always had.
If you’ll visit the link just above, you’ll learn more about our songwriting programs. In short, we’ll guide you through the songwriting process as you share ideas and craft your own song. Everyone contributes in a lively back and forth; talking, making music and laughter. The session wraps up as we perform and record your song.
2. Storytelling – Storytelling is a natural for online get togethers. Think Moth, that great podcast and radio hour. Come up with a topic, or a question, before your program. This could be as simple as, “What’s the greatest challenge you face working remotely and how have you overcome it, or not overcome it?” Everyone will have 3 minutes to tell their story around this. After everyone’s had a chance to share, open the conversation up. Compare notes, frustrations, accomplishments. You’ll find commonality (shared experience) you may not have been aware of. This really opens communication and builds trust. If you want to do this next level, hire a professional story facilitator.
3. Be Present, Together – That kinda sounds cheesy, “be present, together.” Sorry about that but it describes a definite DIY online team gathering you can host. For this I suggest a social hour, i.e., a virtual cocktail party. The cocktails are real, but you’re gathered on Zoom or a similar platform. The most important rule here. No work talk. You’ll learn about your co-workers’ lives in their remote spaces. In other words, hanging with people at their homes, gaining insight into who they are away from work. I did this with my own team recently and we had a ball. We ended up in an unplanned improv session, trying to up each other’s bad acting skills. But with a few beers, everyone seemed like an Oscar winner! This may surprise you, but you’ll accomplish something profound when you do this. Hanging out online together without agenda and work creates real bonding. Passing time, talking, ‘feels real’. And if it feels real, it is. Doing this together breaks down the walls that often exist during your normal work day.
Working remotely, online, virtually…It’s here to stay. And so you need access to high quality, really real, online team building activities. Don’t be a stranger. If you need more advice or even more DIY ideas we’re here – wherever we are