In the age of remote work and virtual teams, building team spirit from a distance has become increasingly challenging. With employees working from various locations, time zones, and cultures, fostering a sense of camaraderie can be difficult. However, building team spirit is critical for maintaining a positive and healthy work atmosphere, driving employee engagement and productivity, and achieving common organizational goals.
To maintain team spirit from a distance requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted workforces, imposed lockdowns in some regions or countries, and affected mental health conditions. Leaders need to rethink traditional strategies and implement new initiatives that help create a sense of community and belonging amongst team members.
In this in-depth article, we will take you through a step-by-step guide of ideas for creating a positive work atmosphere and building team spirit in a virtual setting.
Establish a Communication-Centered Culture
Communication is the foundation of any team setting, be it virtual, in-person or hybrid. The communication style you establish is the building block for trust and transparency, which is especially important when working remotely. Often, communication from afar can be ambiguous or misinterpreted, leading to low morale and unnecessary conflicts. Good conversational skills, sound writing skills and the ability to express clear thoughts help maintain productivity and prevent misunderstanding.
Remote team communication focuses heavily on written communication, chat messages, emails, video conferencing or conference calls. Several rules exist before, during and after these virtual meetings or events that need to be adhered to, to have an inclusive and effective communication flow. Here are some guidelines:
Before Virtual Meetings or Events
- Set an agenda for the meeting with the itemized list of topics to be discussed.
- Assign roles for the meeting like note-taker, chairman or presenter.
- Check the attendees’ availability in advance and send participants the agenda.
During Virtual Meetings or Events
- Always mute unless speaking or having a breakout session not involving the group.
- Avoid using background noises.
- Have nonverbal cues like turning on webcams to facilitate trust, connections and inclusiveness.
- Have the presenter/projector to take charge of the session and ensure virtual meeting etiquettes are maintained.
After Virtual Meetings or Events
- Send recap morale booster to all members about the virtual meeting’s output and positive actions.
- Re-visit and escalate any task that resulted from the meeting.
Invest in collaboration tools and platforms such as Asana and Trello that allow teams to stay on the same page on projects, updates and deadlines to manage team goals effectively. Communication through these platforms enhances transparency and accountability by providing a centralised location for all updates, comments, and feedback.
Emphasize and Practice Empathy
Empathy is an essential skill for building a remote workplace that is conducive to productivity and employee engagement. Feeling connected to others and being able to relate to their experiences and emotions creates a sense of trust and loyalty amongst team members. People who feel valued and heard are typically more engaged and productive. By showing compassion and understanding, leaders can create an environment that nurtures personal growth and team success.
Remote teams may experience a disparity of challenges ranging from connectivity and time zones to home life dynamics and varying cultural norms. To display empathy, here are some things a leader can do:
- Create a virtual space for team members to talk about how life has been outside the workplace.
- Communicate in a way that prioritizes active listening and acknowledges feedback, suggestions, and viewpoints.
- Extend support to team members when they face challenges beyond the workplace by scheduling check-ins to see how they are doing and if possible assist them.
Also, it’s essential to understand that different cultures, religions, and personalities have varying communications and social cues. Encourage your team members to practice empathy by allowing them to share their cultural experiences and perspectives. Establish a culture where diverse ideas are welcomed and integrated into the team’s ethos.
Provide Opportunities for Social Interaction
Remote working can be isolating, particularly for employees who thrive on social interactions. In many instances, remote work brings a mix of anxiousness about being alone and the tedium of routine. Building team spirit will thus require you to create virtual events that allow the team members to bond and socialize outside of work-related activities. These events should allow the members to take off their work masks and interact in a relaxed and fun setting.
For starters, start with quizzes, icebreaking games and creative sessions where team members can learn more about each other. Trying new activities that team members have in common is a good way to bond, ranging from book clubs to online fitness sessions. It’s essential to understand the team members’ interests to tailor the activities designed to complement their preferences.
Some social interaction activities that could create a positive impact on team spirit include:
- Virtual Happy Hours – most offices hold virtual happy hours to mimic the pre-pandemic Friday Happy Hour feel.
- Virtual Coffee Breaks – a scheduled 10-15 minutes coffee break where everyone can unwind and interact.
- Virtual Game Nights – schedule video game or board games to promote team spirit.
- Virtual Charades – this is a team-building game that encourages acting out words or phrases, helping build trust and teamwork.
Creating a social interaction calendar ensures consistent engagement and creates anticipation.
Encourage Bonding Through Shared Experiences
Creating shared experiences can help team members build stronger relationships and feel more connected. Shared experiences allow individuals to have social connections virtually even though they’re geographically scattered. through bonding times to have a sense of shared purpose and deepens relationships.
To encourage bonding through shared experiences, start with setting up initiatives that are easy to follow, irrespective of location. Enroll the team members in shared experiences that can be accomplished remotely, such as:
- Group fitness challenges – members can compete in virtual fitness activities like running or bike riding and share their progress on a virtual scoreboard.
- Shared cooking classes – members attend virtual cooking classes together and share in preparing virtual meals.
- Charity events challenge – The team could join marathons or day-long charitable events of their choosing.
- Virtual Creativity sessions- Hold collaborative brainstorming about ideas on work and beyond work.
Create Team-Building Initiatives
Creating team-building initiatives for a remote team requires careful planning and an understanding of the team’s dynamics. For remote teams, the focus should be on building trust and communication skills. Here are a few ideas that will help in creating a better team spirit:
- The Name Game: The team forms a circle (virtually) and passes around names, and the person that gets a new name has to say the name of the person who passed it to them.
- Camaraderie Journal: Team members share updates of everyday happenings, which co-workers review and comment on to keep everyone connected while not in the same space.
- Project Management through a Social Lens: Incorporate online project management tools with social elements such as celebrating milestones, displaying profiles with interesting trivia, and customize playlists for team activities.
Remember to keep the activities fun and engaging while creating opportunities to build trust and encourage communication.
Recognize and Celebrate Achievements and Successes
Celebrating successes is a great way to boost team morale and spirit, even in a remote setting. Recognizing employee contributions fosters loyalty and drives motivation. To maintain high morale and motivation, organizations need to celebrate and recognize employees’ achievements, both big and small.
Here are some ideas for recognizing and celebrating successes of remote team members:
- Public recognition – use virtual tools to acknowledge employees’ successful activities or milestones to encourage and motivate the team.
- Safe spaces to brag – Establish virtual morale boosters that allow individuals to share moments of success that can be celebrated by other team members.
- Virtual Awards ceremonies – Dedicate ceremonies to recognize performances by the team members spread across different time zones, rewarding with gifts or prizes.
Prioritize Mental Health and Wellness
One of the biggest challenges of the remote workforce is handling mental burnout, anxiety, and employee wellbeing. Working from home, separated from the familiar work environment, can induce a significant strain, primarily when extended over an extended period. Burnout or anxiety affects employees in a variety of ways, including reduced motivation, increased stress, and poorer concentration.
Leaders need to prioritize employee well-being, both physical and mental. Here are a few ways to prioritize employee well-being:
- Encourage breaks – push team members to take breaks to refresh and recharge in between work hours
- Mental Health Platforms – Partner with or enroll team members in a mental wellness platform to allow them to access mental wellness support and resources
- Potentiate Flexibility – allow team members to have flexible work hours and arrange schedules that accommodate their daily routines, thus promoting a better work-life balance.
- Health and wellness benefits – provide remote access and coverage to health and wellness benefits practical to both physical and mental wellness. Having a personal understanding of an employee’s work environment is key.
Building team spirit from a virtual setting can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to generate innovative solutions and create a sense of shared purpose. The world has changed greatly since the pandemic, and remote work is the new normal. Employers, employees, and team leaders must come up with initiatives that are viable for this new norm.
In this article, we have gone through some impactful ideas for creating a positive work atmosphere and building team spirit in a virtual setting. Building team spirit from a distance requires a whole shift in mindset and approach as changes keep happening during the remote work period. By prioritizing communication, empathy, social interaction, shared experiences, team-building initiatives, celebrating successes and well-being, we hope to help you achieve your common goals in the remote workplace.
With a thoughtful and deliberate approach to remote leadership, you can maintain team spirit and ensure your team is a success, flourishing in its new virtual environment.