Over the past several months, most of us have shifted to a new normal of working from home. For some, this is a fairly easy transition. However, for a handful of people, this transition can be challenging, lonely, and uncomfortable. Likely, you have seen a flood of articles about remote working—analyzing how to remain productive, tips and tricks, and even memes...so many memes. While many of the articles are helpful for adjusting to the new working environment, there hasn’t been much talk about building and maintaining relationships with your teammates when you can’t be in the same place.
I have been working remotely for years, currently leading a team with members in three different countries, and many of us have never met in real life. Having such a far-flung team, many of whom I have never met face-to-face, it can be hard to build rapport, trust, and community. Over time, I have found some small, fun ways to socialize and connect that allow us to humanize each other, improve our communication, understanding, and ability to mesh as a team. Incorporating some of the ideas below into your team’s daily or weekly meeting schedule can help to build or restore the camaraderie that many are missing while distanced from their teammates.
- Play a game: There are many games that can be played as a group online. A good starting point is a Pictionary-style game which can be played in a private room on Drawasaurus.com or Skribbl.io. Require everyone to be on a conference call to facilitate conversation and fun while playing.
- Virtual tours: Have each team member create a virtual “tour” of their workspace and talk about the tools they use, items and decorations in their space, and do a show and tell of their work space using either photos or a webcam. Set a time limit for each participant, depending on team size, in order to keep the meeting length in check.
- 3 Truths and a Lie: Have everyone join a video conference. Taking turns, each person tells three truths and a lie about themselves. Then everyone else guesses which is the lie. Keep track of points and pick a winner, or just play and enjoy the fun.
- Weekly picture of your life: Choose a day of the week, and on that day, set aside 15-30 minutes after the daily meeting. Have each team member show a picture from their life that they took during the week and spend a few minutes talking about it. It could be anything – a funny picture of their pet, their child, a traffic jam that they got stuck in, a meal they ate, etc.
- Guess the Owner: Select a moderator to choose a topic – shoes you are wearing, dream vacation, favorite food. Then have each participant send a picture of their answer. During the meeting, the moderator shows the pictures and everyone tries to guess who the owner is.
- My Favorite: Taking turns each week, a team member poses the question, “What is your favorite _____?” The next day, on a video call, each person shares and explains their answer.
- 5 Things About Me: Taking turns each week, a team member makes a list of five facts about themselves and gives a casual presentation with pictures, videos, articles, etc. talking about their five facts. These typically are hobbies, children, past experiences, goals, or pets but can be anything that a person is comfortable discussing with the group.
I have found that by incorporating some of the above games and events at various times has greatly improved the way that we work together. Introducing the elements of play and sharing has allowed for colleagues, especially the quieter ones, to find ways to open up to the rest of the group. This, in turn, empowers them to speak up and express their ideas when it really matters.
Most of these activities are flexible and can be modified to fit the culture, size, and dynamics of your team. At times, we have had one or two of the cyclical events running concurrently. At other times, we don’t have any running as we may be dialed in and focused on a project. Regardless of how you find it appropriate to incorporate with your coworkers, injecting the element of play and displaying the non-work version of ourselves absolutely has a positive impact on how your team works together, driving productivity and a sense of community, which is something that we can all use a little bit more of right now.