“Team building” as a concept is coming up on its 100th birthday — it’s estimated to have been around since the 1920’s, when the Hawthorne Studies were conducted. The Hawthorne Studies were conducted on workers at a plant, where they strove to reformulate managerial strategy to include natural human behaviors. In this article we’ll be discussing the idea of remote team building, but it’s important to review the origins of team building as a whole before we dig into specifics.

One of the biggest learnings from the studies? People responded to social factors in the workplace more than physical factors (i.e. the lighting), and productivity increased if the social factors were more favorable. These findings sparked the start of “team building” on a mass level. If corporations could increase productivity and profitability by changing the social dynamic of their company, it almost seemed too good to be true.

The traditional definition of “team building” is “the action or process of causing a group of people to work together effectively as a team, especially by means of activities and events designed to increase motivation and promote cooperation.” But team building has evolved over the last few decades as we’ve made major technological advances and, more recently, moved out of the office all together. Enter remote team building.

Remote Team Building Ideas

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout 2020, it’s just how important virtual team building is for remote organizations — it could be an important factor in overall successful collaboration. There are tons of different ways that companies can participate in team-building activities. Here are a few of our favorite remote team building activities:

  1. Virtual Happy Hours – Getting team members together for a few drinks, either with recipes that you send along ahead of time or just for a casual beverage, is a great, low-stakes way for people to connect. There isn’t any pressure to perform in a game or task, which immediately makes participants more comfortable. This is one of our favorite remote team building activities!
  2. Virtual Cooking Classes – We’ve done a few of these at Hive HQ, and they’re always a blast. Cooking classes are a great option for guided interaction — you can all work together on creating something, but you’re prompted by a chef or teacher. This is another way to spend time together without constant chatter or small talk.
  3. Virtual Game Night – Whether you’re playing something as simple as trivia or as complex as Among Us, a virtual game night is another great way for teams to work together in a non-work setting. By spending time collaborating on tasks outside of their typical 9-5 roles, teams can build stronger bonds and enhance communication abilities across the board.

The Effects Of Remote Team Building

Now that we’ve reviewed a few of our favorite remote team building activities. Let’s talk about the benefits of these types of activities. Obviously, we’ve all experienced the benefits of remote team building over the last nine months, but if you need to make a stronger case for continued activities, look no further than this article. Here are a few of the ways that virtual team building impacts teams emotionally and professionally.

Increases motivation

When someone feels connected and comfortable with their coworkers, boss and larger team, they’re going to feel an increased desire to do well. If you have a relationship with the people you’re working with, you’re more likely to be engaged on any projects you tackle together, and feel an increased responsibility to succeed. 

This is heightened when you’re remote — if you’re regularly taking the time to connect individually with team members and colleagues over Zoom, a virtual happy hour, or another virtual experience, you’re going to feel much less isolated and siloed. When you feel isolated and disconnected from the organization as a whole, the quality of your work suffers. Therefore, more connectivity = better output, increased motivation, and higher overall remote team productivity.

Helps build trust

Trust is something that is always important between coworkers, but is even more important when you’re not face-to-face in the office. Since you can’t see your coworkers in person, fostering trust is critical so you have the understanding that they’re going to be transparent and reliable.

Remote team building activities help build trust, as they force team members to work towards a common goal. Adriana Moran, the Head of HR at Thriver, a virtual experiences company, says that the virtual experiences they’ve participated in and put on have helped people disconnect from their work, brought introverts front and center, and fostered increased trust amongst all participants. This was especially true when teams participated in more intensive activities like an Escape Room. 

Improved communication

If there’s one thing that’s suffered while we’ve all been remote, it’s communication. As previously mentioned, it’s near impossible to have the same level of communication and transparency across the organization when you’re not all together in the same office. 

Remote team building activities help people communicate because they open the door for non-work related communication. By opening that door, you give coworkers a whole different way to interact with each other, communicate, and bond. This is important and also helps with trust cultivation in the long run. You’re much more invested in helping or assisting a coworker that you’ve fostered an emotional bond with.

But don’t get stuck in “the bigger the better” mentality. Sometimes communication is most improved if you’re working in smaller groups, or have break-out room style set ups before or after the event. Adriana Moran from Thriver also noted that these “opportunities for teams to work together in smaller groups, before, during or after activities, makes sure there’s time to chat and catch up.” 

Reinforces the importance of teamwork

Something that we forget, since we’re siloed and working from home, is the idea that we’re all part of a larger team. When you participate in a virtual team building experience, the concept of a “team” is really reinforced. You can’t be successful in the activity unless you dig into it as a unit.

The positive effects of reinforcing this idea of teamwork are plentiful, and really help to keep the team functioning together as one, despite the physical distance. 

Prompts creativity

When talking to Adriana at Thriver, we also learned that for many teams, the most successful experiences are the ones that involve the most thinking, collaboration, and effort, i.e. the Escape Room or Office Olympics. Why? It’s because these experiences spark creativity in individuals and are flat out fun.

This creativity can be carried over into the work that your team is doing on a daily basis — don’t underestimate the power of an intense Escape Room session.

Overall, remote team building has an intense impact on team-wide relationships, emotional connections, and overall performance. Are there any other team bonding activities that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.