I don’t know about you but I miss in-person team events. I miss the social bonding of live meetings and interactions with my SEI team and others. Like many of you, I’ve been working remotely since St. Patty’s Day, and am tired of being a “Zoom zombie,” relying on Webex and Microsoft Teams for social interaction. I look forward to going back to SEI’s beautiful campus in Oaks, PA. In the meantime, we continue living in a virtual world and making the best of it. The need for virtual team building has changed the game when it comes to connectedness and meaningful interaction.
Under the circumstances, I think we’ve adapted pretty well and are finding creative ways to interact with our colleagues and team members. Many advisors I have talked to are back in their offices, at least part time on a hybrid schedule, if not full time. Interestingly, the consensus among advisors is that team building is a bigger priority than in the past. More are regularly scheduling interactive events with their staff to keep them engaged and motivated. In addition, many are combining team building with a business agenda or town hall. Some advisors are coordinating virtual activities to participate in community outreach — helping others and giving back to those affected by the pandemic.
“A virtual team building activity will work when it facilitates emotional connections among participants. Activities that enable participants to learn new things about one another promote the kind of bonding that makes physical space disappear,” says healthy office snack delivery service, SnackNation.
I couldn’t agree more. Additionally, many virtual team events can also support local businesses that are suffering during these times. Here’s what seems to be working today to establish tighter team connections:
- Traditional icebreaker: The beginnings of meetings can be a bit awkward, and an icebreaker is a perfect way to create personal connections. Each person on the team takes a turn and asks an imaginative question to get the co-worker interaction going, which typically results in a more productive remote meeting. Here are a few we have used:
- What is your favorite quarantine purchase?
- Name a new meal you’ve cooked since the pandemic started.
- What shows have you binged since March?
- For other ideas, go to Ice breaker games.
- Quizzo trivia: This is a fun way to mix business with pleasure. For these events, we develop trivia questions in five categories, such as current events, pop culture, history, sports, and geography. Technologies like Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and others make it easy to breakout in teams. Each team selects a leader while a moderator/MC asks five questions during each seven minute round. The team with the most correct answers wins a prize (i.e. Amazon gift card, Grubhub or DoorDash gift card, etc.).
- Scavenger hunt: Like virtual team trivia, a scavenger hunt works best with a moderator. He/she will announce a list of items to search for in your house. The person who is able to find the most items in five minutes wins!
- Wine and beer tasting: This works best when you involve an expert like a sommelier or local brew master. Adding cheese pairings or chocolate tastings sweeten the experiences. These types of events support local companies while also extending the invitation to other family members. A mixology or “mocktail” class are other interactive ways to extend this idea.
- Team pizza making: Pizza shop and restaurants are looking for other ways to increase their revenue and expand their reach given on-premise limitations. Participants are shipped all of the ingredients and an entertaining chef walks the group through how to make the most delicious pizza. We used Pizzeria Vetri in Philadelphia, with pizza maker John, whose comedic talent kept us all laughing while making an incredibly delectable pizza. What a memorable occasion! There are other meal and dessert-making activities that are equally popular and fun. These are fantastic ways to involve team members who have hidden talents — emerging baker or superb chef — to lead the group and share their special recipes.
- Holiday-oriented competitions: Competitiveness and creativity around the holidays are another great reason to get together virtually. For example, DMJ Wealth Advisors in Greensboro, NC, is planning for the best Halloween Pumpkin Carving contest and Gingerbread House building team competitions. Facebook followers of the firm will vote on their top choices.
Other popular ones are Escape the Room and a simple game of BINGO. The list of ingenious and simple ideas to strengthen team bonding is virtually endless. Here’s a list of 57 games and activities that offer unforgettable shared online experiences.
It’s important to let your team know how much you appreciate their hard work during these times. Block off an hour on your team’s calendar during lunch one day and surprise your team with Grubhub, DoorDash or Postmates gift cards to use for a virtual team lunch. Coordinate with fellow team leaders at your company and schedule breakfast, lunch or a happy hour. It helps to stay connected with other colleagues at your company. In our Random Acts blog post, there are all sorts of ways to show your appreciation to your staff.
Keep in mind, the most important consideration for running a team-oriented virtual event is creating opportunities for engagement and building interactivity into the discussion.
Five simple tips for running successful team events
- Involve your staff: Your own team will have the best ideas to engage other team members. Ask a few volunteers to help plan and organize team-building activities. Their involvement will spark fresh ideas while giving them a greater sense of accountability and purpose.
- Set the stage: Circulate the agenda in advance and let the team know what the team-building event will be. Schedule events on a regular basis. In addition to weekly team meetings, we have a monthly team-building activity. One other tip — you’ll feel more “togetherness” when you can see teammates’ faces on the screen. Ask all the participants to turn their video on.
- Structure your event: You might be tempted to go into it thinking that everyone on your team knows each other and can just talk casually, but that does not translate as well in the virtual world. People often talk over each other. Add interactive elements such as polling questions and a virtual white board, and include multiple speakers to add variety and keep the session engaging.
- Plan with the right resources: If you have a larger team, opt for a virtual activity that allows you to break up into smaller groups. Selecting the right technology to facilitate this is important. Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Slack and Microsoft Teams are commonly used platforms. It is important to schedule a dry run a few days beforehand, to review the flow and timing of the events and address any issues that might come up.
- Identify a master of ceremonies (MC): It’s helpful to have a moderator to welcome the group with high energy to set the tone. He/she can kick-off and facilitate your virtual team event, highlight the sequence of events, and give an overview on how to use the technology, etc. They will also make sure the event keeps moving within the time allowed.
With the proper planning, commitment, enthusiasm and a bit of creativity, it is possible to bridge the distance of virtual meetings, and make your team feel as close and connected as if you were all physically in the office together. Keep in mind that not all events are going to run 100% smoothly.
You are going to run into technology issues. There are going to be occurrences of awkward silence. People will forget to turn on or off their mute buttons. We all have Zoom fatigue these days — laugh it off and keep moving! Now more than ever, scheduling team-building events can help build morale, tighter connections and greater engagement, resulting in more satisfied, loyal and happier teams. If you are working live in the office, many of these activities can be scheduled in person to boost morale and achieve the same meaningful, team-building results. Whether in-person or online, investing in your team and connecting with each other has never been more important.
We want to hear from you too. What team building activities have worked best for you and your teams? Email us your experiences — whether virtual or in-person — to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to:
Jeff Hwang from DMJ Wealth Advisors, Patrick Tucker from True Measure Advisors, Erin Cavanagh from SEI’s Global Events and Experiences team and Kerry Mullen from Vested PR agency, for sharing ideas and best practices for this Blog.
Jeff Hwang, DMJ Wealth Advisors, Patrick Tucker, True Measure Advisors, Kerry Mullen, and Vested are not affiliated with SEI.
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