We, as a society, currently find ourselves adjusting to the pros and cons of the new territory that is social distancing and virtual meetings in the workplace. It is no easy task; but it's essential to maintaining personal safety for ourselves, keeping up productivity, and making sure every company is doing their part to flatten the curve of Covid-19 cases.
When it comes to the pros of our new normal there is the economic benefit of saving transportation dollars as well as an increased level of comfort and productivity some find while working from home. Just as there are many positive aspects to consider; there are many challenges of this new normal worth taking into account. Points to consider can range from the struggle to stay motivated to an unhealthy lack of separation between work life and home life. There is one struggle that virtual meetings present that I feel isn't talked about as much and that is a lack of interaction and bonding between coworkers.
Why Does This Matter?
Having a strong relationship with your colleagues can increase not only morale and productivity; but it can also improve information retention rates. With social distancing in place, many of us are having a hard time being unable to interact with friends and family. We often don't think about the sudden lack of relationship building we experience in our work environments. The reality of it is this is extremely detrimental to productivity. When working on collaborative efforts, the lack of a bond can suddenly make it feel like you are working with strangers rather than peers. This is especially the case for teams that have only ever met on a virtual field like Skype or Zoom as is the situation for those starting a new job or internship. This can lead to a lack in trust or respect among teams which in turn causes reduced work flow, creates counter productive efforts, and can even lead to a competitive climate rather than a collaborative one. It is worth noting that there are advantages for individuals to team building such as increased success in networking as well as the ability to form friendships.
So how can we do it?
Below is a list of 3 free and creative ways teams of all shapes and sizes can come together and bond. They are tactics that our own teams here at Intern Pursuit have implemented and endorse. Before we jump into the list, it is worth noting, one of the easiest ways to start the process of team building when meeting virtually is to connect not only on a verbal and auditory level but also on a visual level.
And what we mean by that is by avoiding the temptation to turn the camera off during video chats. It is easy to fall into the routine of lounging while meeting in a way that we may not want our coworkers to see. Maybe we are nervous to be on camera or dreading our coworkers seeing us in without makeup and clad in sweatpants.
Regardless of the, reason it is important to realize that we are all in the same boat. By removing visual connection it can encourage dry conversations, a lack of attention, and overall decline in interest. It is a generally well known fact that face-to-face conversations promote more engagement; maintaining a visual connection helps us retain information and find more of a reason to care about the information being shared. So whether you are dressed in your best suit or favorite pair of pajamas, try not to shy away from the camera and smile brightly because at the end of the day it is your peers you’re connecting with and not cold strangers.
1) Team Building Activity: Virtual Show and Tell.
This entry on the list may not come as a great surprise but it’s important to understand how exactly a team can implement this activity into their meetings and the great benefit that is reaped. The basic gist of the activity is everyone comes to the meeting prepared to show a short, interesting, and appropriate video related to something they have a personal interest in. Now depending on the size of your group and the time frame allotted for meetings there may be a need to tailor how many presentations are given, when they occur in the meetings, and their length. The purpose of this activity is to give members a chance to have a genuine conversation and interactions about their interest in a way that may not have otherwise come up in meetings. Maybe you will find out that your coworker shares the same favorite TV show as you or has the same love for a certain breed of dog. Regardless of what you may find out about your coworkers; this is a great way to add a human connection to the faces you see on screen as well as add a fun element to meeting. This could be a tool used to break up certain sections of a meeting, acting as sort of an intermission in between large chunks of information.
2) Team Building Activities: ‘The More You Know’ Presentations.
This activity is somewhat similar to the one listed above but adds a more interesting twist. Rather than having individuals share topics they are interested in, the team is broken into small groups. From there, the groups can either pick a topic or have one randomly assigned to them. The goal of the activity is to have the small group create a fun, light-hearted presentation about a topic that the group may not have otherwise researched. It could be as simple as a few fun facts about an exotic animal to a more in depth multimedia presentation about a point in history or a different culture. This team building activity is meant to encourage coworkers to work together with people in the team they may not typically interact with. It also provides a healthy and productive way to take a break from tasks and projects in a manner that can spark creativity and more enthusiastic production.
3) Team Building Activity: Life Lessons And Accomplishments.
This activity actually takes more of a serious turn but once again is meant to help coworkers bond on a more personal level and help teammates find a new found respect for one another. The activity requires each team member to share their greatest accomplishment and their greatest life lesson learned. Doing this helps coworkers understand the different backgrounds their peers have come from and this helps build respect for one another. Given that there are many different topics one could pick to discuss and it is related to personal experience this should be a topic handled with utmost respect and sensitivity.