The Art of Virtual Team Building for Remote Work

October 4, 2022 by Nate Martin

Right now, there are thousands of work-from-home employees banging their heads against the wall. The days are long, the social isolation is weary, and even ten weekly meetings isn’t enough to fabricate the serendipity of office life. So how can we bring some of that creative tension back into our work lives? How can we virtually build the teams that will get us through these tough times?

The answer is actually quite simple: by understanding and leveraging the power of play.

Yes, you read that correctly. Play. The same activity that once filled our childhoods with laughter and joy can now be harnessed to create the strong bonds and productive teamwork we need to get through these trying times.

In the virtual age, team building is truly an art form. It takes more time, more effort, and more creativity to bring about the same results. But the good news is that the same principles of human connection and collaboration still apply; all you need is a little bit of imagination.

Here are some tips on how to get started!

The rise of the virtual team in the remote workplace

In early 2020, we were all introduced to a… well… interesting way of life. Pajamas became our work uniforms and our living rooms our boardrooms. The pandemic forced us to adapt, and in many ways, this new way of working has proved to be more productive than the traditional office setting.

There are no commute times or distractions from colleagues; we can create our own perfect environment for focus and concentration. We have more time for side hustles and hobbies, and we’re able to save on costs like expensive lunches out or dry cleaning bills.

But there are also some drawbacks – the biggest one being the lack of human interaction.

We used to take for granted the water cooler chats, impromptu brainstorming sessions, and after-work drinks with colleagues. These small moments of connection are what made us feel part of a team, and without them, we can start to feel isolated and alone.

This is why virtual team building is so important. By creating opportunities for employees to interact with each other in fun and meaningful ways, we can help to re-create that sense of camaraderie and collaboration that’s so essential to a happy and productive workforce.

Why play?

Play is essential to our well-being. It helps us to relax, recharge, and refocus. It’s a chance to step away from the day-to-day grind and clear our minds. And it’s also a powerful tool for building connection, trust, and communication within a team.

In terms of team building, the idea of integrated play isn’t a new concept; we’ve known that camaraderie promotes loyalty for many decades now, even tracing back to early wartime bonding. Study after study tells us that creating a situation of good sport amongst employees will lead to more productive, more efficient, and more innovative work.

Why team build?

This may seem like an obvious question, but you’d be surprised at just how many organizations neglect team building in favor of other initiatives. But the answer is simple: team building really works.

If you don’t believe us, take a look at some of these key facts and figures:

The results are in: engaged employees are super beneficial, while disengaged employees can cost you big time. So, if you’re looking for a way to boost employee engagement (and thus improve your productivity and bottom line), team building is a great place to start.

Virtual team building: the new normal for remote work

As the world moves increasingly online, so do our team building activities. Can you believe that a quarter of the global workforce depends on virtual methods for 100 percent of their team building? Not only that, but 64 percent of companies see virtual team building as a permanent fixture rather than a temporary response to the pandemic.

So, what is virtual team building, and how can you make it work for your team? Let’s take a look.

What is virtual team building?

Virtual team building is simply the process of bringing employees together for bonding activities via an online platform. Said activities can include things like:

  • Setting up a virtual escape room for your team
  • Hosting a virtual happy hour
  • Organizing a group fitness challenge 
  • Doing a digital team scavenger hunt 
  • Having a weekly coffee and chat via Zoom

Of course, the issue with these activities is that the organizers have to work twice as hard to achieve a mediocre result. It’s no easy feat to get employees to let their guard down and have fun when they’re staring at a screen instead of interacting face-to-face.

The challenges of virtual team building

Picture this: it’s Friday afternoon, and time for your end-of-week catch up with the team. Everyone’s gone remote or at least hybrid these days, so you open up Zoom and… no one’s there. 

A couple of people trickle in, but no one really feels like talking. You try to make small talk, but it falls flat. Eventually, you give up and end the call early.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone; a lot of people are struggling with the challenges of virtual team building. Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues:

  • It can be difficult to get everyone on board with the idea of virtual team building 
  • There’s often a lack of engagement during online activities 
  • It can be hard to create a sense of connection when everyone is in their own homes 
  • It’s easy for people to feel like they’re not being seen or heard 
  • There’s a risk of people feeling isolated and alone

A common complaint is that, even though employees interact with their bosses and managers regularly, there’s little-to-no interaction between colleagues. How are your employees supposed to feel like a team if they never run into one another in the hallway, or grab a coffee together in the break room?

The answer, of course, is that they won’t – unless leaders are intentional and strategic about how they build their teams virtually.

How to make virtual team building work

If you want your virtual team building activities to be successful, it’s time to look beyond the cookie-cutter mold of “team-building” exercises. Don’t force everyone into a casual Zoom meeting with no agenda and no structure – that’s not team building, it’s just a waste of time.

When teams gather together in person, there are a few factors at play. First of all, there’s the face-to-face interaction – the social cues people use to communicate, the ability to read body language, and so on.

Then there’s the fact that people are in the same physical space, which means they can easily collaborate on tasks or projects. And finally, there’s the element of fun; being in a room with your colleagues can be enjoyable in itself, even if you’re not doing anything particularly “fun” per se.

When you’re planning virtual team building activities, you need to keep in mind that these factors are no longer on your side – so whatever you organize needs to be incredibly interactive, inclusive, and engaging. We think we know just the trick. 

Escape rooms, the ultimate virtual activity

What’s fun, challenging, brain-busting, and requires teamwork? An escape room, of course!

Escape rooms are pretty much perfect as a virtual team building exercise. Where awkward Zoom calls put too much focus on the social tension of working with people you might not know very well, an escape room shifts your team’s collective attention to a common goal.

Plus, you can use an escape room as an opportunity to learn more about your colleagues. What kind of problem-solving skills do they have? How do they work under pressure? Do they prefer to take charge or follow someone else’s lead? 

All of this is valuable information that will help you build a stronger, more effective team – and it’s all wrapped up in a fun, interactive package. 

How do virtual escape rooms work?

Here at Puzzle Break, we’re incredibly proud to offer one of the most well-established and respected escape room experiences in the world. Our virtual escape rooms were a bit of a passion project for us once the pandemic struck; it was clear, even from our own team’s experience, that the need for quality virtual team building was only going to grow.

And so, our comprehensive virtual rooms were born. Here’s how they work:

  • You choose from a range of virtual experiences. Will you dance with the Disco Detectives, or sleuth your way through the School for Spies? Or will you rescue the endangered monsters at Monsterpelago?
  • Once you get in touch with us to confirm your numbers and arrange a date, we get to work assigning you a Game Master. The Master will be on call with your team to help you through the room and offer clues if you get stuck.
  • On the day of your game, everyone logs in to our secure video conferencing software at the appointed time. From there, it’s just like being in an actual escape room – except you’re all in different locations!
  • Your team will have a set amount of time to solve the puzzles and complete the challenges, with help from your Game Master if needed. 

Puzzle Break virtual experiences are top of the range. We’ve incorporated high-quality video, audio, and special effects to bring our rooms to life in a way that other virtual escape rooms just can’t match. And better yet, our rooms are designed to accommodate teams of all sizes – so no one’s left out.

If you’re looking for a virtual team building activity that’s fun, challenging, and gives you the opportunity to learn more about your colleagues, look no further than Puzzle Break. We can’t wait to welcome you into our world (virtually, of course!)

Where does team building go in the future?

Virtual team building poses challenges many of us never imagined we’d face in our working lives. But with a little creativity, and the help of cool activities like escape rooms, you can overcome those challenges and create bonding experiences that are just as good – if not better – than anything you could do in person. Why not check out some of our other blog posts for more ideas on how to make virtual team building work? And when you’re ready to book your own Puzzle Break virtual experience, get in touch!

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