As more organizations adopt remote work or hybrid models for their teams, creating that sense of teamwork and unity can be a bit of a challenge.
Company culture ranks high on many employees' list as far as retention and attracting new talent. But while offering the option to work from home either full time or flexibly might show employees that you're putting healthy work-life balance first, fostering that sense of community cohesion needs to be at the top of your list.
Team bonding happens more naturally with proximity. In social psychology and in workplace design this is referred to as "propinquity", which usually means being physically near one another to create bonds (remember water cooler talk?). But managers for remote or hybrid teams can encourage employees with routine bonding activities incorporated into team meetings or hosted weekly.
Check out our list of ideas on 5-minute team building activities to foster your employee engagement.
Have Smaller Social Huddles before the Virtual Meeting
When you have an all-hands meeting or if you have a team of more than five, getting to know one another at the start of a video call— or even at a virtual happy hour— can be tough.
Create smaller huddles for team members to get to know one another before meetings. Services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom have the option to create breakout rooms before a call starts and will randomly assign people to groups. If you're using another service, ask different team members to host a small huddle before a meeting.
You can suggest an ice breaker question to get people started, but creating smaller groups naturally encourages everyone to get-to-know one another. And it recreates some of the proximity feeling without being in office.
Celebrate Those Fun Holidays
From Wear PJs to Work Day to National Grilled Cheese Day, there's a fun holiday for everything! Random, sure, but it's also a reason to bring your remote team together to celebrate.
Challenge your team to share pet photos on National Pet Day or to bring their best cheddar creations on National Grilled Cheese Day. You can even encourage some healthy competition by asking participants to vote for their favorites.
On Cooleaf, we host online challenges to get everyone involved, and employees can earn rewards for participating. It's a fun way to get competitive while socializing.
You can even share a few fan favorites on a team call or award the best in show with a gift card at the end.
Catch Up Weekly with Rose-Bud-Thorn
This has been a favorite exercise for remote teams. It gives everyone an opportunity to share progress or hitches either at work or in their personal lives in a virtual meeting. In the rose-bud-thorn exercise, each participant will share something that's going well (rose), something they're finding challenging (thorn), and something they're looking forward to (bud). It's a great way encourage employees to share more personally while focusing on the positive.
Try hosting a weekly catch-up for small groups to use this exercise or introduce this as a standard at the top of a team meeting and select a few employees to share.
Host A Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are a fun way to engage everyone for a little virtual team building game. At the start of the pandemic, Cooleaf created a Scavenger Hunt Challenge for everyone to stay connected while staying home. But you can reformat your list of "asks" for your remote or hybrid teams wherever they're working, whether that's off-site or in the office that day.
With a platform like Cooleaf, you can list your Scavenger Hunt items in one place and ask your dispersed team to post photos and share a little bit about the objects themselves. Encourage people to share with items like "A Souvenir You Got on Vacation" or even "The Object You Can't Live Without".
Or get creative! Rather than just sharing photos of objects, mix it up and ask on-site and remote workers to share items like "The Best Place to Grab Lunch" or "A screenshot of the Last Song You Listened to".