The rise of remote work has forced business leaders everywhere to reconsider how they work. With 32.6 million Americans working remotely by 2025, it’s more important than ever to nurture engaging work environments. Remote team building is the best way to achieve that goal. By bringing remote workers closer together and engaging them in ways that counteract isolation and miscommunication, you can build a team that succeeds. Read on to learn about the best tactics you can apply to keep your teams connected, engaged, and happy.
Remote Work Trend 2019-2022 (Statista).
Lay the Foundation
The best place to start building remote teams is at the very beginning of your employees’ journeys. In fact, EMP Trust HR found that 69% of properly onboarded workers felt they would stay in their role for at least three years. Focus deeply on your onboarding experience to make sure that your mission, values, and team norms are clearly communicated. Make sure that new team members have the same access to collaborative tools as the rest of your team.
Lean into the Onboarding Process
Onboarding isn’t going to be as simple as we want it to be. On average, there are upwards of 54 tasks to complete by new employees during this process. Keeping everything well organized is the key.
Make sure that before you even start the onboarding process that you have all your ducks in a row. Prepare documents in advance, and ensure they have the necessary accounts and credentials to start logging in to fill out paperwork.
Consider sending your new employees a welcome package. Onboarding is a very tedious and inhuman process. It’s not terrible, and although it accomplishes your HR goals, it doesn’t accomplish your human goals. Completing all your paperwork doesn’t make you feel part of a company. You have to dig deeper.
Some other ways to accomplish this are to try and avoid completely asynchronous onboarding processes. Set up meeting times for them to work on onboarding so they can ask you questions in real time. Ask new employees for their feedback along the way so you can improve the process for everyone who comes after them.
If you set the expectation that your team doesn’t communicate or interact outside of meetings, it’s going to be an uphill battle combating a feeling of isolation. You have to set the expectation that your team communicates about everything that you can. You’ll need to clearly define what channels your team intends to use as well so that they can clearly separate their work channels from their personal ones. That way, when it’s time to stop working, they can mute Slack and not worry about having work-related messages coming in from other apps.
Have regular check-ins to make sure that everyone is on the same page and to exchange feedback. Set up a positive feedback loop where your team can exchange that feedback with one another as well. Most importantly, lead by example and respect boundaries. Communicate in the way that you want your team to adopt and they will follow you. Acknowledge that the work and task-focused communication eventually comes to an end at some point in the day as well.
Connection Through Communication
Many managers only leverage task-focused meetings to keep their remote teams engaged. However, by only focusing on tasks and goals, it can be easy to lose sight of our human connection. Try encouraging more social meetings and informal text chat channels. Throw in icebreakers and team-building activities each day to keep teams connected in positive ways.
How to Encourage More Social Interaction with Remote Teams
You have a few options to approach this, such as:
- Create dedicated Slack channels for casual conversation amongst your team.
- Encourage a culture of casual ‘voice chat’, where team members can hang out and chat during certain times of the day or even while they work.
- Use automated icebreaker tools like CultureBot to get conversations moving each day in your water-cooler text channels on Slack.
Encouraging casual voice chat productivity sessions can be helpful for some teams. It not only gives them the opportunity to discuss and ask for help while accomplishing tasks, but it can also help build a feeling of togetherness when there’s someone else on the other end of the screen.
Remote Team-Building Activities
Anything that can get your team talking, connecting, and engaged is extremely valuable for remote team building. That’s not just good for team culture – according to Bain and Company, engaged workers are 44% more productive. Simply chatting online about anything for fun is as simple as it gets, but it’s a powerful engagement tool. Online games are also effective.
You might get creative and organize team-building events like playing an online game together. Some teams utilize distributed pamper packages and recipe exchanges. You could also set up movie nights and painting and crafting sessions.
Here are some ideas for some remote team-building activities!
Feedback & Checking In
One of the strongest ways to fight back against miscommunication and isolation in remote settings is 1:1 feedback. Those 1:1 interactions with leadership can triple employee engagement and reduce turnover. This is especially helpful if one-on-one discussion with leadership is organized and encouraged.
1:1 leadership interactions can triple employee engagement.
However, employees won’t always be comfortable talking about how they feel with leadership directly. Anonymous surveys and suggestion boxes are a better option if this is the case.
It’s actually possible to do both! One of Slack’s best integrations for this purpose, CultureBot, lets you set up two-way anonymous conversations between team members. This encourages openness, reduces bias, and builds trust within remote teams.
Best Practices for 1:1 Meetings with Remote Workers
If you want to succeed with one-on-one meetings with your team members, here are some best practices:
- Make the meetings consistent: schedule regular meetings so that they aren’t unexpected.
- Have an agenda: although you want to focus on listening to what’s on their mind, have something planned to talk about as well.
- Be an active listener: these meetings are a two-way street, but make sure you actively listen to their feedback. This is even more important for you as a manager with more power to lead your team.
- Relationship-building: don’t just talk about work. Build good relationships with your team.
- Decide on action: make sure that your meetings end with a clear understanding of what you both should do next. It might be personal decisions, or it might be task focused, what happens will depend on the situation.
Recognize & Reward
Making sure that your team is recognized for their hard work is one of the greatest motivators when doing remote team building. It’s also an important practice to reduce your turnover, as 66% of employees have reported that lack of appreciation is a big factor they consider when choosing to leave their job. CultureBot has another set of tools that can help with this. With shoutouts and peer rewards, you and your colleagues can recognize and celebrate achievements together. Teams can design custom shoutouts, and a leaderboard exists to see who sends and receives the most shoutouts.
You might also consider creating virtual achievement badges, spot bonuses or gift cards, and time off rewards to offer some more encouragement to your team.
Remote Team Building from the Experts
One of the keystones of remote team building is enabling more human connection between employees. Allowing and encouraging informal relationship building is a critical part of this process. Just as you’d run into colleagues at in-person jobs in hallways, those same types of encounters need to be replicated virtually.
According to Talent Analyst Mervyn Dinnen “The energy and trust we build from social interactions have long been the bedrock of successful team building; connections help us collaborate.” Dinnen also writes, “Culture is at the forefront of driving this.” He also quotes author Simon Sinek’s advice, that “In a weak culture, people will hunker down and protect themselves. In a strong culture, people will show up and take risks and take care of each other.”
This is a huge departure from traditional management, where unnecessary side conversations would be seen as distractions keeping teams less productive. However, failing to find that balance between productivity and connection can cause your team to fall apart before long.
You need to embrace over-communication to counteract isolation. The more input and discussion you can cultivate between team members, the more you can improve and succeed.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Since virtual teams already need to use technology to communicate and work together in the first place, leaders need to leverage tools like that for remote team building. Digital whiteboards are already great collaborative tools for productivity, but they can also be a lot of fun for sharing messages and activities.
Digital whiteboards are a powerful tool for remote collaboration and engagement.
You can also leverage asynchronous video meetings, where you share pre-recorded video messages that other members of your team can follow up on with their own recorded message.
Water-cooler style conversation starters are another great way to get the air moving in your Slack channels. CultureBot has a conversation starting feature where it can send scheduled questions to team slack channels that can get engaged in quirky and friendly conversation.
It can help to simplify the process by thinking of the five remote team building blocks: foundation, communication, feedback recognition, and technology. Establish a firm foundation with a human-focused onboarding process. Encourage regular communication as much as possible, and create a culture of constructive feedback between everyone on your team. Recognize and appreciate good work, and leverage all the technology at your disposal to fight back against isolation and bring your team closer together.
You’ve Got This!
Now that you know how remote team building works, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll implement these suggestions for your own team. Getting your team talking at a human level, not just a productivity level, is one of the most important parts. Encourage honest feedback and fun conversation every day to improve team trust and morale.
Having the right tools by your side can make a huge difference. CultureBot is one of the best remote team building tools for Slack out there. If you’re ready to keep your team engaged, connected, and inspired to do their best every day, try out CultureBot’s demo today to see how it can make a difference for your team.