Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces are experiencing a new way of life. Stay at home orders and social distancing practices have drastically changed the way a number of businesses operate. These days, new team members are being onboarded in a fully remote environment, likely missing out on the opportunity to meet their coworkers face-to-face.
Furthermore, employees who are familiar with each other now rarely have the chance to see each other in person, making it more difficult to work out problems or solve disputes. When working in a fully remote environment, team building is essential to maintaining a positive influence on colleagues’ relationships. Thanks to the Coronavirus, companies are having to learn how to team build remotely much sooner than they thought.
While it’s never the right time to experience a pandemic, living in the digital age does help with the new remote working lifestyles of most companies. With the advantage of modern technology, the idea of remote team-building and onboarding is more feasible than ever.
To keep employees connected and spending meaningful time with one another without being in the same physical location, it’s important to still invest in effective team-building efforts, even when face-to-face contact isn’t an option.
Helping New Employees Feel More Comfortable and Involved
For some employees, working in an exclusively remote environment can be a struggle to adapt to, especially if they thrive in a more traditional company culture setting. Moreover, virtual onboarding can quickly become overwhelming for new employees as there is usually too much information about their new place of work all at once. This is usually hard as it is, and now these new employees must learn the ins-and-outs without the added cushion of in-person coworkers and managers to help answer questions quickly.
As EduBrite aptly explainS, “Employee onboarding enables new hires to have an overview of the work environment, its systems, processes, and culture. It helps them understand the scope of their role and the expectations that go with it. This process gives them an official impression of the organization and its people, and vice-versa.” With less in-person interactions and formal introductions, new employees can feel like they aren’t connected to their place of work. In an effort to combat this, EduBrite goes on to recommend streamlining onboard activities with clearer long-term goals as well as improving or adding online tools and support.
It’s also helpful to schedule more team building activities to ease new employees into their place in the company. Some fun virtual team building ideas could include the following:
- Snapshot: Considering people are stuck at home a lot these days, take a few minutes to invite people to share a snapshot from their home life with everyone via Slack or the office’s preferred messaging tool. Whether that’s their pet, child, outfit, or even desk space, it will get people talking and asking questions about each other’s lives.
- Virtual Happy Hour: At the end of the week, invite employees to grab a drink (alcoholic or not) and hop on Zoom or Skype to enjoy a virtual happy hour together. Have a few icebreaker questions prepared to keep the conversations flowing. The casual setting will encourage more personal conversations and interactions which can then be carried over into the workspace.
- Quiz Time: After employees have spent time getting to know one another, have everyone fill out a questionnaire one day and then play a few rounds of “who said what” which will help colleagues bond over things they have in common.
Poor Leadership Leads to Low Engagement
Another factor that could be affecting remote workers’ team-building efforts could be those in leadership positions. With a newly remote workforce spanning across the country, employee engagement is crucial to keep people committed to giving their best efforts at work. According to leadership experts at Washington State University, it’s important that for managers to find ways to build relationships that matter to their team members in order to improve employee happiness and retention.
Even with the best-designed team building initiatives and activities, these programs do little for employees if those in leadership roles have weak or contentious relationships with their team. As those at WSU go on to further explain that in order to get the most out of virtual team-building efforts, leaders need to strengthen their managerial skills with better training, provide more immediate positive feedback, and offer quality evaluations on a regular basis. In general, being more hands-on as a manager has shown to improve employees’ work experiences. Just like their team, managers should always be finding ways to improve themselves.
It’s likely that after the COVID-19 crisis has passed, companies will continue having more remote work options. Working in the digital age certainly has its perks, but it also presents a new set of challenges, especially when it comes to keeping employees engaged and connected with each other. As the shift to more virtual interactions happen, improving team building tools and tactics will be imperative to keeping the workplace just as effective as the traditional, in-person environment many are used to.