Gone are the days of Leave it to Beaver and traditional workplaces. We are now entering into a new workplace paradigm in which technology changes everything. Just think about smart phones and tablets. Can you even imagine a world, let alone a workplace, without them? No!
With all the change, it’s important to remember that human nature is the same today as it was when Leave it to Beaver was playing on black-and-white televisions around America. Men and women around the world have an innate desire to be known, to feel safe, and to exist in an environment full of security and trust. This has, and will always be true, of humanity.
In a remote workplace, this human desire translates to an employee’s need to belong to a team; to feel included; to be a contributor. And it poses a challenge, one of which you’re well aware if you’ve begun dipping your toe into the waters of virtual employment. The challenge is that remote managers have to figure out how to build a sense of team with employees that don’t interact in a traditional workplace.
We believe it’s more than possible to build a sense of team with people who work remotely. In this post are five creative ideas for making it happen. They are effective on teams of any size and are useful whether your team has been together for years or just starting out.
Make Time for Presentations
An easy way for you to make everyone feel included, and to simultaneously build a sense of team, is to allow time for each individual to present about a current project. The caveat is that they have to answer the question, “What aspect of this project are you most excited about?” Remember, you’re building an environment in which people feel known and safe. By answering this question, team members show vulnerability and are reminded of their place on the team.
Another great question for presenters to answer is, “What is the most challenging part of your project?” This gives other team members the chance to collaborate, to jump in and offer their help.
Take Advantage of Cultural Events
Whether people celebrate Groundhog Day, Boxing Day, Christmas, Kwanza, Ramadan, or Hanukkah, their traditions create an opportunity for connection. Provide a space online where each team member can share photos and videos of their traditions and experiences. As the manager, you can set an example of what it looks like to be accepting of everyone’s uniqueness, another step toward developing the right environment. We love this idea, especially if your team includes employees from different cultures or geographic locations.
Mimic Reality TV
If you grew up watching MTV (back when they still showed music videos), you might remember the popular show, “MTV Cribs” on which celebrities toured a camera crew around their extravagant mansions. A creative and fun idea, borrowed from museumhack.com, is to periodically allow one employee to show the team around their workspace and even their home. Encourage them to point out important trinkets or pictures that helps the team get to know them.
Utilize Ice Breakers
If you’re not familiar, an “ice breaker” is a discussion question that helps people get to know each other. It’s a tried and true method in both traditional and remote work environments.
Before we list some ice-breaker examples, here are a couple of things to think about. As a remote manager, be aware of the kind of meeting you’re about to have with your team. If you’re in crisis-mode, you probably won’t have time for breaking the ice. Then, decide what kind of ice you want to break and choose a fun, get-to-know-you exercise that fits your team’s culture. Here’s a list of some great ice breakers:
- Get-to-know-each-other trivia – Ask team members to answer questions about each other. For example, “What’s the name of Steve’s cat?”
- Two truths and a lie – Each person shares two truths and one lie while everyone else has to guess which facts were true.
- Ask “If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?”
- Take a Picture of your shoes – Have each team member show an image of their shoes, talk about why they chose them that day, and share if there’s any story behind them.
Commit to Including Every Person No Matter What
The bottom line is that building a sense of team will mean deciding to include every team member even in the midst of a last-minute decision. If you’re going to start creating an environment in which you meet the desire of each employee – to contribute, to be known, safe, and accepted – you’ll need to change your mind-set a little bit from valuing a finished project to valuing a project that includes team members at every important step in the process.
Achurch Consulting is ready to assist you in building up your team. Let us know how we can help!