The internet has both enlarged the world, and made it smaller. It is possible to work from virtually anywhere you can find an internet connection. This puts companies in the unique position of having employees spread all over the globe.
As a corporate leader, it can be challenging enough to create a team atmosphere when everyone is in the same building. How can you build a team atmosphere when individuals may not even be in the same time zone?
Like any worthy goal, successful team building requires strategic planning. While the specifics of the virtual team may be slightly different, the process of team building remains essentially the same.
Develop a connection platform
One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome in fostering a team atmosphere among virtual employees is a way to connect. Built into the traditional office experience is the opportunity to socialize among employees during casual interactions at the office.
These interactions provide employees with the basis for forming team bonds, and is out of reach for virtual employees who never really have much of a chance for ‘non-work’ communication.
Create a platform designed for inter-employee communication. This can be a private group on Facebook, a group email chat or other collaborative software. Give employees the means of communicating with each other easily.
Generate opportunities for connections
Use your platform to engage employees in conversation by starting discussions that are non-work related. Ask questions such as, “If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?” Suggest that everyone use reply-all, so that everyone can read and enjoy the answers. Use this method as a point of engagement and to encourage regular interaction.
Host virtual lunch-n-learns
Many companies host lunch conferences for trainings or other work related tasks. Hold regular virtual lunch meetings using video conferencing software. Send employees gift cards to pay for their lunch, or ‘cater in’ by arranging for lunch to be delivered to your employees.
Take virtual coffee breaks
Schedule virtual coffee breaks and encourage employees to sign-on at their favorite coffee shop. Use video or chat software to have conversations about topics that are work related, the struggle of remote workers or other topics that may affect virtual workers.
Offer in-person conferences
Annual events that allow employees to meet each other in person can be highly beneficial for team building. Schedule trainings, corporate meetings and other ‘company-wide’ activities that will encourage a team atmosphere. Giving employees the opportunity to see the others they work with, and connect with co-workers in ‘real life’ will make it easier to stay connected virtually.
Use virtual games and challenges
Simple games, such as trivia challenges, more complex virtual games, or even something as simple as a corporate fitness challenge can help to mitigate the distances between employees. Use technology as a tool to unite co-workers, rather than focusing on the virtual aspect of working. Take advantage of photo-sharing, social media and other easy-to-use programs to stay in touch and keep everyone motivated.
Maintaining a team atmosphere can be challenging, but isn’t impossible. Strategic planning and effort can ease the miles and create a team bond that not only thrives but succeeds.