Team-building has various benefits:
a) It can improve work ethic and innovation by up to 10 times.
b) Companies can generate 2X the revenue.
c) 50%+ employees have stayed at a company because they felt part of a team.
But, it’s difficult to strengthen team-building in a remote workplace. Different time zones, lack of in-person conversations, and little to no socializing moments are just a few reasons why.
But, the leading remote companies overcame these to build a collaborative workplace. Here’s how:
1. New hires to fill out a ‘Guide to you’ form
Close, a sales-first CRM, asks new hires to fill out a ‘Guide to You.’ It’s a basic questionnaire where employees talk about themselves: what they like, how they like to work, their likes/dislikes, and more. Steli Efti, CEO of Close, explains its importance, “We want people to tell us things about themselves that we might not know, and thus get to know them on a professional and a personal level.”
“Once new hires fill out their Guide to You, this is stored in our company wiki. They also have access to everyone else’s Guide to You, meaning they can get to know their team better, as well as the whole company.”
The ‘Guide to You’ acts as a conversation starter among employees. Anyone can read a person’s ‘Guide to you’ and get a head start on building relationships. We all know how important it is to value the other person’s values/personality when building a relationship. So, this activity is a great way to ensure strong team building. You can download a free template of Close’s Guide to You.
2. Promote social questions
Research suggests that socializing is key to team collaboration and success. But, because remote employees are scattered around the world, everyone works according to their time zone, and this robs everyone of socializing. Basecamp has solved this to a great extent.
In its guide to internal communication, it shared its template, “Every few weeks, or once a month, Basecamp will automatically ask everyone a social-style question. “What books are you reading?” Or “Try anything new lately?” Or “Anything inspires you lately?” Or “Seen any great design recently?” Or “What did you do this weekend?”
These entirely optional questions are meant to shake loose some stuff that you’d love to share with everyone else, but you haven't had an opportunity to do so. This kind of internal communication helps grease the social gears. This is especially useful for remote teams, like ours. When we know each other a little better, we work a little better together.”
3. Schedule an informal talk among team members
ConvertKit “uses a bot to pick 3 people at random [across different teams] each week for a 30-minute catch-up/ get to know you call.” These colleagues can talk about anything: sports, favorites, or discuss work progress.
It strengthens team building “and breaks silos across product, engineering, operations, growth, and other departments.” This way, no one stays alien with other team members and doesn’t hesitate to cross-communicate when needed.
4. Play online games and indulge in other social activities
Zapier has hosted a range of activities to build team connections and make work fun. Some of these include:
a) “Open Social. No agenda, just come and chat.
b) Kids of Zapier Social. A chance for all the mini-Zapiens to hang out. Also for meeting the families of coworkers.
c) Zappy Hour. A weekly event where people come and hang out to celebrate the end of a long week.
d) Munch & Learn. 3–5-minute presentations from Zapier employees—on any topic.
e) Zapier International Hangout. For people who tend to be sleeping during lots of other activities.
f) Handcraft Hangout. The host, Ashley, says: "If you make things with your hands, this hangout is for you. Bring your knitting, woodworking, macramé, needlepoint, sewing, soap making, sculpting, decoupage, whatever you do."
g) Board Game Hangout. We give Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes a try in a remote environment.”
While you may not be able to replicate all of these activities, you surely can test a few of them. Start with the open social and Zappy Hour.
5. Meet in-person
Face-to-face conversations build trust and team building in a way that no other virtual activities can because when you meet in person, you’ve got far more exposure to non-verbal cues (gestures, facial expressions, voice consistency), which reinforces clarity and transparency — essential for team building.
It’s why Buffer organizes annual team retreats every year. The “entire team meets every year in the spring in a different part of the world for a week-long retreat. Past retreat locations have been Hawaii, Madrid, and Singapore. Individual teams (i.e., Marketing, Engineering, Leadership) also meet up once a year on their own so that each team can continue creating great relationships with the colleagues they work most closely with.”
Some companies even meet twice a year, some meet thrice a year. The aim of this is to connect with your colleagues on a personal level and get to know them better. The better you know your team, the better you’ll collaborate.
6. Distribute your culture guide to your employees
Your employees should know your company’s culture, so they know how to conduct themselves with colleagues. Without a roadmap, everyone will feel lost and do as they wish, causing chaos all around. Not a state you want your company to be in!
We (Mailman) share our culture guide with every new hire. It has information on our foundational values, mission, communication policies, and everyone’s freedom and responsibilities. One of our values is to lead with kindness. For example, even if we don’t agree with the other person’s view, we assume it’s said with positive intentions. This has helped us build a company with a strong trust culture — where everyone is given 100% freedom to experiment and make mistakes.
So, draft a culture guide and share it with your team. Some key points to include:
c) Communication guidelines
d) Define what success looks like
e) Mention the non-negotiable in your company
f) Mention how your culture will evolve with time
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much
A strong team is the building block of a company's success. Employees will be more likely to trust one another and collaborate. The result? You’ll have a team who will weather any storm, grow faster, and celebrate achievements together. Get started with these team-building activities.
Share with us how you’re ensuring team building in your company.