For years, leading my crew and working with clients has been fueled by the fun and fire of face to face connection. So at first the idea of developing remote team building activities met with resistance, mostly my own!
Whether we’re talking about the camaraderie between myself and my fellow hit-songwriters, or the unbelievable bond that can be built in a Team Building Through Song® session with a client group, being together in person has always meant something big to me and to my business.
Fast forward to March 2020. As Coronavirus swept across the world, the lights went out on the face to face connection that we so valued within our team and with our constant stream of client groups. The laughs on the plane to the gig, the funny road stories we’d share, even the cocktails after a super rewarding team building session with a great group…it was all gone in an instant.
I remember watching the emails and texts roll in as all of our March gigs were cancelled….and then April…..and then May. Not only did we lose much of our livelihood, we began to deeply feel the loss of our powerful ability to connect, not only with our clients, but with each other.
This space of loss has been felt by so many teams across the world. We’ve all had to hole up and figure out how to normalize and then optimize our work from home.
I felt compelled to reach out to my own team for advice and support. I asked, could we take the Kidbilly Music songwriting experience into the virtual space? Could we regain some of the connection that was taken from us? Could we deliver remote team building activities that actually feel real?
We brainstormed, we Zoomed and we got creative. Surprisingly, as we tested platforms and began doing practice runs, I felt a big boost of hope. I felt the zing of connection and rekindling of friendship lighting up my serotonin receptors as I laughed and sang with my team again. This new virtual platform was working.
Something magical was happening on our practice sessions as we worked together to build our remote team building programs from the ground up. We were laughing, smiling, and connecting. We were feeling better, brighter and reconnected with our company mission. I realized we were reaping the benefits of remote team building activities ourselves, just by building our new programs together. This felt good. I felt less isolated. Win-win.
Why Remote Team Building Activities Are Vital
Though you might be tempted to shove the team building agenda to the back of the line during these difficult times, I urge you to push it to the front. Not only are remote team building activities important right now, they are actually vitally beneficial to your employees’ mental health.
In order to be creative, productive and engaged during times of stress, your employees need opportunities to connect; to create a sense of shared purpose.
Many studies have shown a drastic effect on the mental health of remote workers, not only in terms of issues like depression but also in terms of ability to focus and complete tasks effectively.
Maintaining a sense of normalcy by cultivating connection and collaboration will help to combat difficult issues for your team members, helping to maintain a productive work culture. Remote team building activities can create a stronger feeling of community, bringing comfort and support to your team.
The restorative and motivational power of these programs shouldn’t be underestimated.
Key Elements of Effective Remote Team Building
There are real challenges when it comes to choosing a truly engaging and worthwhile remote team building activity.
Many programs touted as virtual team building “games” or “virtual experiences” are essentially just glorified video games that everyone plays at the same time. While this can be fun, these programs don’t provide a real sense of togetherness, of being tuned into each other while collaborating in real time.
Every team program should always increase or create engagement between the members of your team. And I mean every team program, be it virtual or face-to-face.
Here’s guidance to help you find programs that really work. Look for the Four C’s:
- Communication – Does the remote activity promote communication between your employees (ex: are they able to share ideas, thoughts, and best practices during the activity in real time)
- Collaboration -Does the remote activity encourage your team to work together to solve a problem, create something new, or complete a shared task together with a clear goal or mission in mind?
- Connection -By the end of the remote team building activity, will your employees feel more connected with each other and with your company? Will they see each other’s faces, interact, and engage?
- Creativity – Will your group get to be creative together? Creating as a group, by it’s very nature, requires you to communicate, collaborate and connect. So honestly, if you find a program that requires creativity, you’ll check all the boxes above.
Bonus Pro Tip – Always choose an online program that is led by a skilled facilitator. The facilitator is key to making sure the Four C’s actually happen for you and your team. As they say, it’s easy for the train to run off the track without a conductor.
Choosing the Right Remote
Since I began this article being honest about how it felt to be suddenly isolated from my co-workers and clients, I’m going to keep it real to finish it up.
Everyone (including my company) is jumping onto the remote team building bandwagon. So please apply the 4 Cs to your search for a program provider.
Ask yourself if you’ll be signing your team up for a temporary diversion, or if you’ll be giving them an experience of long lasting value. There’s nothing wrong with temporary diversion. But I think you can have your fun and also pull lasting value out of this.
Facilitator, facilitator, facilitator. Did I say facilitator? The right leader can make an average experience great and vice-versa.
Look for a team building company with a solid history, a great track record and a passion for quality. This is as important or more important than the bells and whistles on the remote program’s platform.
So yes, we’ve launched our remote team building activities and the experience has been surprising. Surprising in the genuine exchange of emotion, of energy and of ideas that takes place; not so different from our traditional F2F programs.
I hope you’ll write a song with us. I hope you’ll make time to share ideas, to welcome all your remote employees into a comfortable yet challenging get together. I hope you’ll make time so that everyone gets to see each other smiling, laughing, clapping and even performing together.
Remote team building activities – Check the box marked not optional.