Team building, you know we love it! From icebreakers, to games, to trainings, we love anything that helps us become a stronger group. We recently wrote an article about how we team build, giving you a glimpse into a company retreat we had in Philadelphia. But in this post, we want to show you a different side of our team building strategy: how we team build with our remote teams! Since we have team members all over North America and in different countries across the world, getting to know each other is critical to our overall success as a group. Trust us, we’ve tried all the remote team building tricks in the book! Here are our favorite team building activities that we find support and encourage our remote teams.
Weekly Team Google Hangout Calls
Weekly touch base meetings are one way our Marketing Team keeps in touch and stays efficient. A weekly Google Hangout call with a set agenda, and VIDEO, is perfect for our remote teams to get to know each other. Team members share their biggest wins from the previous week, what they are working on, or anything interesting they’ve learned through their work.
Weekly Touch Base Tips:
- Open each session with a quick and easy icebreaker. This helps set the mood and gets everyone comfortable.
- Invite a special guest! Invite a team member from a different department to the meeting. They can share a little about their job and what they do! This is great for helping a remote team connect. Sometimes you’ll work with someone in a different department and never see their face. This ensures all your teams “meet” and know a little about each other!
- Pick a topic and have your team members share how they deal with it. Example: Productivity. Ask each person to share a productivity trick with the rest of the team. Learning from each other is great way to make your teams stronger and more efficient.
The “Book Group”
Before you turn down this idea, think of it as an awesome and unique way for your teams to develop professionally. Reading is a great way to reduce stress and encourage analytical thinking. We started a small book group to help our employees in one department become even better at what they do. Read for professional development! Start an actual group where employees read together or you can also create your own spin on the traditional activity.
Read Together Tips:
- Create a list of books, novels, or essays, that have something to do with your team members’ jobs. The subject doesn’t have to be cut and dry. A salesperson might benefit from a book on effective writing techniques, while a marketing person could learn from a book on using images to persuade. Remember, unique topics can help inspire creativity and innovative thinking!
- Let them pick a book that they think is interesting, to make it feel less like work. Don’t forget to pay for the book too; that encourages everyone to participate.
- Talk about what you’re reading. Set aside time as a group, over a conference call or video chat, to discuss the books you’re reading. You can learn from each others’ takeaways.
Icebreakers for the Win
Perfectly executed icebreakers are essential for helping teams bond and for encouraging people who might normally be too shy to share! Icebreaker questions are great for starting a meeting, event, or even the work day. We love icebreakers and start most of our meetings with one or two! The stress-free format of the icebreaker is ideal for relieving pressure and can often help teams relax. The great thing about icebreakers is that they don’t take a lot of planning and your team probably won’t even notice they are team building.
- Ask an icebreaker before every meeting or event. It helps lightening the mood and get people warmed up for a big meeting.
- If you have remote teams, ask a weekly icebreaker in a company Slack channel or Know Your Company (however you communicate). Team members can respond throughout the week.
- Be vigilant. Once you convince your teams that icebreakers aren’t scary or stressful or boring, they’ll start looking forward to them!
- Ask your team members for fun icebreaker questions to get a sense of what they’d like to know about their teammates. The more involved they are, the closer they’ll feel to the group.
Company Wide Trainings
It’s no secret that at Museum Hack we love our company trainings! The cool thing is, we also have training for our remote staff (where we also incorporate our non-remote staff.). A company wide video hangout session, once every few months can work wonders for your teams. Just like we mentioned earlier, your teams may work together but they may have never met. We love to help put “face to the names” and get everyone working together. That can often start with introductions and feeling comfortable talking to each other.
- Include the CEO! It’s important to include the CEO in team building activities to help build a strong company culture and show people how much they all matter.
- Learn a skill, or have a mini training session. Mini professional development are always a win.
- Take a mini-mindfulness course or learn a skill together (one that’s easy to do remotely!). If you need to, send out a quiz with a few options for dates and times. This will be key to getting everyone involved!
Try these simple team building tricks when you are planning team building with all your staff. When it comes to remote team building you just need to be creative and open to all ideas! If you have only a few remote team members, use these ideas to help brainstorm more team building activities that involve the whole company.
You should also check out our virtual team building activities for remote teams.
Tips from the Pros
We asked 5 companies who are pros at managing remote workers how they keep their remote teams happy and hardworking. These unique remote team building tips are sure to inspire your employees, foster camaraderie, and drive success in the remote office.
The Experts Weigh In On Their Best Team Building Tips
1. Daily Touch Base Calls
“One of the most valuable things that we did was establishing a daily call rhythm. Every day at 10AM EST, we hop on a Slack call for a 10-minute stand up where we discuss what we did the day before, what we’re going to do that day, and any blockers that stand in our way. And on Mondays and Fridays, we take a little bit more time to chat about our weekends and personal lives. It’s super helpful for alignment, but more than that, it’s incredibly powerful to hear everyone’s voice every single day, as far as feeling like you “know” the people you’re working with.” – Alex Turnbull, CEO, Groove
2. In-person Meetings Once or Twice Per Year
“Although we’re remote, Sticker Mule tries to get everyone together once or twice per year. Usually we do it in smaller groups or teams as it’s hard to get everyone together since we’re spread out across the globe. Even if one team is meeting, we’ll bring as many people from other teams as possible.
These meetings run from a few days to a week. It’s funny, though, we often remark how unproductive it would be to meet more than twice per year. For the most part, our roadmap is so strong that in person meetings tend to just pile more ideas on our already large queue of work to be done. That said, many of our best ideas still come from us hanging out in person but we’re pretty happy about our ability to generate a solid action plan with limited face time. Our decision making principles have helped us move quickly through the ideas we generate during our team meeting.” – Sticker Mule
3. Innovative Spin on the Buddy System
“It can be hard to get to know remote teammates, especially as the team is growing. To counteract that, Zapier has a weekly team-wide activity called ‘Pair Buddies.’ Every Monday, a list of randomly paired teammates is posted to our internal blog. It’s up to each pair to schedule a time during the week that works for them (considering the time zones that our team spans) to have a short video call. Pair Buddies is a cool way to get to know about teammates’ interests outside of work and also to chat with teammates that you don’t work with directly.” – Carlin, Zapier
4. Meet-ups for Just the Remote Team
“The best thing we’ve done as a remote team is go to meet-ups with just our team. In January, we all flew to San Diego to work and eat (meet-ups are also called eat-ups here at Basecamp) together for a week. A few members of the team stayed in a beach house (where we worked for the week) and the rest of us stayed in a nearby hotel. We worked together to fix up our help pages, chatted about a few stressors that we needed to address, and enjoyed each other’s company. Some of us did yoga on the beach, ran together along the waterfront, or worked poolside for a bit at the hotel. It was a nice and relaxing way to bond. We’re definitely a closer team because of it!” – Kristin Aardsma, Basecamp
5. Town-Hall Style Video Presentations & Weekly Video Calls
“10up has several ways we encourage team camaraderie across our 100% distributed agency. We maintain an internal company blog (to which everyone can post) and a weekly internal podcast, which highlights project successes and recognizes teammate achievements. Our company is structured into pods: multi-disciplinary teams centered around shared projects. Each team holds weekly pod video calls, monthly Q&A calls with our president and founder, and gets together in-person annually at pod meetups.
Our leadership hosts biannual “town hall”-style video presentations, providing updates to the entire company on business performance, project launches, and our strategic roadmap. Each town hall ends with a live Q&A session with the entire team. We also congregate en masse at our annual All-Company Summit, a weeklong private conference for knowledge sharing, team-building, and bonding with our teammates.” – John Ragozzine, 10up
Fostering teamwork and communication can be hard if your employees are in different time zones or only connect through email, but it isn’t impossible. Thinking outside the traditional-team-building-box is key! Remember, team building activities promote learning, critical thinking, and help boost morale. Don’t forget to invest in both small and large team building activities with your remote teams. Small weekly team building exercises in addition to larger planned events will make all the difference!