By Robert Kinsler, Founder & CEO of United Fray and Guest Blogger on the Suitless Blog.
We’re all in this together, learning to embrace our new economy and to build new strengths and skills in every facet of our lives – from our daily routines to our business models. As the CEO of United Fray, a D.C.-based company with a mission to make fun possible, I’ve spent the past five months navigating how to run a robust team of young professionals remotely while helping our clients continue their culture and team building engagements virtually.
Here are five takeaways I can share with fellow champions of culture and employee engagement for how to stay connected to your team, keep them connected to each other and ultimately continue to drive your company’s mission.
1. Spontaneous, non-work related conversations and relationships matter.
The biggest impact felt from moving from collaborating and working in your shared office space to working remotely is the loss of the spontaneous, non work related conversations. Running into each other in the kitchen, walking past peoples desks, leaving for lunch at the same time. All of those small moments add up to help build and shape relationships with your coworkers. With a shift to online remote work, it is up to leadership in your company to find ways to replace these moments.
By building opportunities for these sorts of conversations into our meeting structure and planning for fun engagement and culture activities, we recreated those moments and have shown our team that they and their relationships with one another, matter. By strengthening interpersonal relationships between colleagues, you’ll be able to keep strong lines of communication open across departments and between junior- and senior-level employees.
2. It’s not really about the “activity.” That is just a tool to facilitate communication and camaraderie.
After coming up with your own ways that are unique to your culture to integrate non work style conversations, you’ll want to explore other ways to recreate those fun shared experiences and conversations. Whatever activity you pick for your team, remember that it’s just the backdrop to create an opportunity for everyone to connect in a real, tangible way. Encourage everyone to focus on the interaction and not the “wow” factor. Fun, lighthearted activities can go a long way. From trivia and Pictionary to cocktail and cooking classes, the options are endless.
3. Being intentional is key.
While the activity itself isn’t the focal point and spur of the moment conversations are encouraged, it’s very important to have a fully planned out effort in place prior to the team-building opportunity. Let everyone know the purpose and intent of coming together in advance, which will strengthen the narrative around the crucial need for connectivity in a remote environment.
4. Put it on company time.
At this point in the pandemic, everyone has pretty much reached maximum capacity on their daily Zoom meetings. While a total necessity for professionals in the era of Covid, adding extra Zooms to the schedule is probably going to get a thumbs down from most of your team. When planning a team-building activity, keep it within typical workday hours. Rare exceptions might exist, but keeping any additional Zoom calls within the 9 to 5 will drive better participation and appreciation for the activity.
5. Outside facilitators can play a big role.
Lets face it, everyone on your team already has a full plate. Bringing in an outside facilitator to help run your team-building efforts can level the playing field with everyone, breaking down pre-existing biases or cliques within the company and bring in a bit of variety to the normal faces you see on zoom. Outside trained facilitators will be more objective, casting aside any preconceived notions about current friendships and potential headbutting. Plus, facilitation from a third party has never been easier to coordinate or more affordable. In the era of pandemic, it costs far less to hire someone for a virtual event than it would to execute traditional team building out in the woods or on a nature adventure course.
As you continue to strengthen your team’s connection, collaboration and positive energy via remote team-building opportunities, remember that employees are eager for creative outlets and pockets of fun in their daily lives and providing them is how the best companies achieve outsized results.