Remote, but still connected
There is no denying the power of meeting somebody in person to form a lasting connection, and as events professionals, most of us are advocates of ‘face-to-face’. But what about when some (or all) of your team work remotely?
A new approach to team building may provide the answer to keeping trust, innovation and creativity alive, even across international borders.
So just how common is remote working? When Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse carried out a study, it was found that a third of global employees work remotely. Compare this to just a decade ago, and the number of remote workers has increased by a whopping 115%.
With so many employees working in difference locations, countries, and time zones, it can prove challenging for modern businesses to ensure the free movement of ideas.
After all, it is often a trait of human behaviour that we feel more comfortable making suggestions and sharing ideas with people we have a good relationship with than those that we don’t; so there’s a danger that innovation may be scarce in teams where strong working relationships might not have been given a chance to develop.
The Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse study surveyed over 2,000 managers and employees from 10 different countries on the topic of remote workers. It was found that 45% of leaders felt that they could facilitate stronger relationships between their teams of office and remote workers through face-to-face team building activities and social events. Just 20% said collaborative technologies, such as Slack, could encourage connections. Overall, participants felt that in-person experiences are more impactful.
The examples outlined below represent some of the latest approaches to using team building to help employees build highly-effective working relationships with the co-workers that they hardly ever see. These new team building techniques encourage them to physically achieve a goal together – complete a challenge or memorable feat, as these outcomes are a great way to form bonds that hold fast over long periods without face-to-face contact.
There is an ‘i’ in team, it’s ‘inclusivity’
As simple as it sounds, ensuring all in the team view their colleagues as equal is perhaps the most potent way to ensure a lasting bond.
A great example of this practice is escape room operator, Escape Hunt, whose team building sessions encourage the removal of all hierarchies that exist in the workplace.
This levelling method is designed to bring out the participant’s natural state and reveal strengths, weaknesses, and natural role within a team. The aim is to build high performing teams that solve problems and communicate well based on suitability and ability to perform a task or create a solution, rather than hierarchy.
The inclusivity approach helps to establish trust, which is essential for building long-lasting relationships and helping to break down the barriers that can be felt by remote and freelance workers.
Oh, and here’s another ‘i’- individuality
Experiences tailored for individuals are on the rise. People are increasingly motivated and inspired by different stimuli and seek different personal outcomes, and this is especially true of those working in different environments and across international borders. Personalisation is a buzzword in team building, as much as it is in many other sectors; the internet is awash with blogs and opinions of industry experts expressing the importance of personalising the team building experience.
We think international business coach, Chris Westfall, sums up the mood rather well in his article ‘Ten team building tips for new leaders’ published by Forbes: “The leadership mix focuses on the fifth “p”: personalization…Motivation on a personal level is what matters here. Can you identify what each person on your team really cares about, and phrase your outcomes in terms that speak their language?”
The aim should be to create team building programmes that help individuals learn something new about themselves, and to teach them how to apply this new understanding of the self to their professional performance and relationships. Taking account of individual choice in this way helps ensure remote workers feel important and valued.
One final ‘i’- impression (the lasting kind)
The team building experiences should stick in the mind as once-in-a-life-time memories made with inspiring people. These memories should be savoured. In the digital age, it is simple to capture evocative images of employees bonding during team building activities. Using the photographs as screensavers on work computers or smartphones, sharing them on intranets and placing them in frames around the office – including in the home office – serves as a memory-jog of the relationships they forged.
Remembering these richly-cherished moments of challenge, achievement and friendship is the key to long-lasting team building success. And when back in the office, employees should be encouraged and enabled to continue to build the close working bonds they formed, so their understanding of one another grows. From that growth, highly capable partnerships will forge into strong and effective working teams.