In order to be effective, a team needs to be able to know and trust each other. After all, a team isn’t a team without trust. But for hybrid and remote teams, this trust can be hard to build without a consistent, shared physical workspace. Let’s discuss why team building is important, including how your organization can team build effectively.
Back when coworkers all shared a physical workspace, team building didn’t take much effort. Team members could bump into each other in the hall and discuss the latest television show or sports game, each lunch together in the cafeteria, or grab a casual drink after work to unwind after a long day. You saw these people every day, knew what kind of car they drove, saw the pictures of their family on their desk, and generally lived with them during the day. You got to know them just by virtue of being around them.
But with hybrid and remote teams, these opportunities don’t naturally present themselves, which means team members can feel increasingly isolated from one another. This seriously impacts a team’s ability to bond and build mutual trust. If team members don’t trust each other, productivity will grind to a halt, conflict will brew, and morale will steadily drop.
Why is team building important?
We’ll break down these reasons further below and provide strategies for running effective team building sessions with remote and hybrid teams.
Team morale is a measure of how recognized, valued, engaged, and comfortable your employees feel in their job. Do they feel like they’re part of the team? Are they satisfied professionally, financially, and personally? Because if not, the work suffers. The lower morale is in your organization, the less your employees will feel engaged, and disengaged employees are costly.
According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 15% lower profitability, 18% lower productivity, and 37% higher absenteeism. Translated into dollars and cents, a single disengaged employee at the average salary level can cost an employer almost $16,000 per year.
Team morale is central to an organization’s success, and this morale is difficult to find naturally with remote and hybrid teams. It needs to be built intentionally with dedicated team building.
When employees work remotely, they lack the face-to-face interaction that comes with sharing a physical office space with their coworkers. It’s hard to get to know someone exclusively over Slack or through choppy video calls. And this can feel isolating. The more isolated an employee feels from their team, the more disengaged they will become in their job.
For hybrid teams, it can be difficult for remote workers to see their in-office colleagues building rapport and spending time with each other around lunches and other down time. They may begin to feel excluded and not as integral to the team.
This is why team building is essential to team morale. Human beings are social animals. Building rapport with your team members is key to job satisfaction, so the more time you dedicate to team building, the more satisfied and engaged your employees will be.
📚 Learn how to boost team morale in 5 steps.
A team isn’t a team without trust. It doesn’t matter how talented the individuals are who make up your team; if they don’t trust each other, productivity will falter. Coworkers will resent each other’s successes, be suspicious of each other’s motives, and be mistrustful of each other’s true abilities.
No matter what type of team you have, trust is something that must be intentionally built. You can’t trust someone without getting to know them first, and getting to know someone is no mean feat when you don’t interact in person on a regular basis.
While hybrid teams work with each other face-to-face on occasion, without time set aside for team building, gaps can build between who is working in the office and who is working from home. You’re just people who occasionally share a space; keep your head down and go about your business. If you have a question, just use Slack since everyone can be reached there.
Team members need to trust each other in order to let their creativity and enthusiasm shine. You can’t innovate unless you have faith in your team members’ abilities and trust that they’ll catch you if you fall. When you know your team has your back, you’re more willing to voice concerns, share ideas that are outside the box, and provide constructive feedback.
Team building helps employees get to know each other and build trust with one another. While you can hope that your employees will simply get to know and trust each other themselves without your intervention, time is not on your side. In 2022, over 4 million people quit their jobs each month in the US.
Dedicate time to team building to ensure your team members trust each other. The more they trust and get along with their coworkers, the less likely they are to leave your organization for greener pastures, as they’ll have everything they need right where they are.
📚 Learn more about building trust in the workplace.
Who doesn’t love a party 🎉 or, at least, a chance to unwind? Team building isn’t all about professional development or preventing the doom and gloom that comes with employee disengagement, it’s also about building connections with people who share your goals and values, and one of the best ways to do that is by celebrating each other’s wins.
When your team does good work, they need to hear about it! They need to share in each other’s accomplishments. A win for one team member is a win for the entire team. Take a moment to appreciate your team and give them a chance to appreciate each other.
A team that plays together stays together. A team celebration gives your employees a chance to let their hair down and get to know each other outside of the confines of work. There is a real person behind the Slack messages!
In a hybrid workplace, ensure the celebration includes everyone on the team that’s being celebrated, or depending on the size, the entire organization. If that means you’re able to gather everyone together in a physical space, great! Or if that means finding unique ways to celebrate from remote locations, do that. There are plenty of virtual team building activities out there. (More on that below!)
The key is ensuring everyone feels welcomed and included, no matter where they usually work physically.
Everyone communicates differently. We all have our own work habits, as well as the unique idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. Communication styles naturally differ between team members, and if they haven’t had much of an opportunity to get to know each other, these differences can lead to misunderstandings and, if left to fester, conflicts.
It’s up to managers and business leaders to facilitate team building so that team members with different communication styles don’t take things the wrong way.
If you’re someone who loves a good conversation and gets their energy from interacting with people, you may think a quiet coworker is being rude by not returning your energy, or you may worry that you’ve offended them in some way. Why don’t they like me? If you’re on the quiet side, you may believe an energetic and assertive coworker is overbearing and domineering. Why are they always giving me unsolicited advice and disturbing my work?
When we only deal with people through a screen or through text, it’s very difficult to gauge the other person’s body language to better understand where they’re coming from. Intentional team building helps team members get used to each other and appreciate each other’s differences. Oh, so Imani isn’t domineering; she’s driven, determined, and honest. Oh, Claire isn’t actually all that shy; she’s really funny when she lets her guard down!
Team building helps the individuals who make up your team get used to each other’s communication preferences and idiosyncrasies to prevent misunderstandings and conflict.
It’s really easy to demonize someone when you don’t know them. 👿 Team building humanizes your coworkers. Instead of thinking of your manager as the person who is always telling you what to do, you can get to know them as Camila, who has three dogs, loves to garden, and is also watching House of the Dragon same as you. Instead of thinking of your coworker as the person who shows up late to work sometimes, you can get to know them as Joseph, who is a single dad to three children.
Team building helps us recognize that our team members are real people with lives, families, dreams, and hobbies like our own. Understanding this promotes empathy. We’re all in this together, doing the best we can. People have a lot on their plate. Team building helps us go easy on each other and support our team members rather than competing with them or judging them based on a few interactions.
Spending time together outside of work helps us recognize and celebrate our shared humanity and give each other the benefit of the doubt. None of us are perfect, and we’re all much more than the job we work. Getting to know the real people we work with on a day-to-day basis is essential to a healthy and optimally functioning workplace, whether hybrid or remote. Be intentional about team building to ensure your team members can authentically empathize with and support one another.
Have a little fun! Just because your team isn’t remote doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy each other’s company with a fun activity. While professional development sessions are valuable and certainly have their time and place, it’s important to give your team a chance to let their hair down a little.
Think outside the box. What’s a unique way to facilitate team bonding?
A virtual escape room isn’t only fun—it forces your team to bring their unique skills together to problem solve and make quick, effective decisions as a group.
A virtual coffee, tea, or wine tasting is another unique activity that’s all about relaxing and learning together as a team. Your employees work hard; treat them to an elegant and delicious experience you can all share from the comfort of your homes.
🥳 Looking for more suggestions? Here’s our virtual team building activities round-Up.
Remember that it’s not all up to you. A team building session won’t be effective if none of the team members are interested in participating. Don’t be afraid to ask your team about the kind of activities they enjoy.
What would they like to see for your next team building session? Team building will only be effective if your team members are fully engaged in the activity, so be sure to ask your team members about the activities they would actually look forward to. Odds are, not every team member is going to agree, so do what you can to alternate between activities to ensure everyone has something exciting to look forward to in the calendar.
You can’t improve without feedback. How do your team members feel about the state of team building within the company? What do they like about it? What would they improve? Is there too little emphasis on team building, or too much? Are the activities entertaining and effective, or do they leave people feeling bored and disengaged? Do the activities interfere with their everyday work tasks?
Gather feedback regularly to check the pulse of your workforce. Don’t assume because something has worked for a long time it will continue to work in perpetuity. Ask your team about what they would like to see, and then do your best to implement their feedback.
If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy our Manager's Guide to Remote Team Engagement. It includes common sabotagers of team engagement and 7 best practices for engaging remote teams.
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