10 More Ideas for Building Strong Virtual Teams
As we tour around the country giving workshops and training,
we gather lots of inspirational ideas from managers who are making the
extra effort to connect with their remote teams. Here are some of the
ways real-life remote teams are working to build community.
1. Care Packages. Many companies have products or
promotional items (stress balls, beach towels, mugs, etc.) sitting
around their headquarters. Remember to include your remote team members
when goodies and product samples are distributed.
2. Team Profiles. Ask every team member to
complete a profile and post them to a shared data folder. Include basic
information like how to reach you, your communication preferences (e.g.
text over email for emergencies), and your most productive time of day.
Add photos of the most important aspects of your life such as pets,
kids, hobbies, photo of your workspace or home, etc. Then include how
you like to be recognized, favorite snacks, restaurants, or way to spend
a Saturday night.
3. Profile Sharing. Use team profiles to get to
know each other. Once a month focus on the profile of a team member
(call it “All About Me” for example) and ask them to share a little bit
about themselves. It makes a person feel special and helps everyone on
the team realize the things they have in common.
4. Virtual Office Tour. Does your laptop have a
webcam and wireless internet access? Take it on a walk around the
office to show off your office digs and give remote employees a view of
your work area. Then have them do the same.
5. Shift Overlap. Take the concept of shift
overlap and apply it to your global team. Some managers have
experimented with coming in early or staying late one consistent day of
the week so that they can meet with their global team over the phone
instead of limiting their interaction to exchanging emails.
6. Go Audio Visual. If shift overlaps don’t work, try new ways of communicating. Instead of sending your overseas team members an email
outlining the work that’s been done for the day, change up the format:
leave a voicemail, a voice text message, or record a brief video
7. Virtual Networking. One manager makes it a
point to call one virtual team member a day to talk only about personal
matters. She says that investing in the time has helped build
relational capital that she can use when she needs a favor or something
turned around quickly. Set a daily or weekly call goal that works for
Take note of their personal and professional information and keep an
eye out for news, articles, and books that might be of interest and
forward it along. Acknowledge birthdays, company anniversary dates and
promotions with a quick message to let them know you’re thinking of
8. Celebrate Fifth Fridays. Every year there are several months which have five Fridays instead of four. One team celebrated these 5th
Fridays with fun team-building exercises like virtual bingo, pumpkin
carving contests, baby pic contests and the like. For virtual bingo,
they sent every team member a bingo card, and sent email messages
throughout the day with the call letter and number in the subject line.
When someone got bingo they emailed everyone with BINGO! in the subject
9. Decorating Contests. You don’t need a cubicle
to have an office decorating contest. Consider alternatives like
decorating a computer monitor, filing cabinet or company hat. Send team
members the supplies they’ll need and ask them to take a picture of
their creation. Post the photos to a shared PowerPoint deck and ask
everyone to vote on the best one. Then reveal the winner and send a
prize. Or use video-conferencing so everyone to show off their creation
and rally team members for their vote.
10. Level the Playing Field. Help remote team
members feel more included in teleconferences by having all team members
(especially onsite ones) remain in their workstations for the call. Or
if you must meet in a conference room, bring teleworkers tags, photos,
or name badges with you to place on the conference table, so you don’t
forget they’re on the call.
BONUS IDEA !
Shared Storage. Sounds simple but creating one
community or shared drive where all of your team’s team-building
documents go makes everyone feel included no matter where they’re
working. Store team member profiles, flex team agreements and
blueprints, goals, project plans, etc. so that no one ever feels
excluded because they can’t find a document. It also makes the
statement that team building files are as important as the documents
required to run your business.
Team Building for Virtual / Dispersed Teams
Team Building for Introverts
Virtual Teams: A Literature Review by Nader Ale Ebrahim, Shamsuddin Ahmed, Zahari Taha :: SSRN