Let’s face it: 2020 threw us for a loop. Our traditional business models were tested, and while some were able to persevere through the ‘unprecedented times’, others didn’t do so hot, and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. What we’re saying is that switching from an in-person to a remote work model was an easy transition for some organizations, and a bit more difficult for others, but once we got there, I think we can all agree that there were some balances that were difficult to maintain. What we’d like to focus on specifically is team building and maintaining the company culture.

When you don’t see each other every day, it can be a little hard to maintain the bonds that teams need to work well together. Working remotely means there’s an inherent disconnect that simply maintaining a constant Slack presence or forwarding emails can’t fix. Let's go over some tips for fostering a little togetherness, even when we’re apart!

Look Upon Me, and Rejoice!

Chances are, your computers have cameras, so why not use them? Checking in with your teammates via video calls can be a great way to interact and touch base. When we meet up in the mornings, we start off by talking about what we’re having for breakfast, our weekend plans, and even the weird dreams we had the night before!

We keep it light at first, and then if anyone has questions about their tasks--or if our team leads have any priorities they’d like us to focus on--we can talk about it as a group. Keep in mind, however, that if you want your teammates to have their cameras on for a specific call, you need to let them know in advance, especially if the check-in is in the morning. We only require cameras on when we have new members joining our team, and we find that strikes a pretty good balance. Requiring that your team be visible all the time can lead to camera fatigue, and no one wants that.

Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’?

We love food. We hungry. We be eatin’. With all that in mind, we figured, “Why not do something productive with our insatiable hunger?” Thus, our Cooking Labs were born. The labs are optional bonding time that took place after work where one of our team members would teach us a recipe, and we took the opportunity between each step to get to know each other better.

During Pride month, we had candid Q&A sessions with the LGBTQIA+ members of our team, and we all had a wonderful time while becoming closer with one another and making buffalo cauliflower. We did the same for Hispanic Heritage Month. Sharing different parts of yourself and your culture goes a long way towards building team connectedness.

Wanna Play A Game?

This seems simple, but it still doesn’t seem to have caught on in the way that it should have. People love games, and people love playing games. Even the more introverted members of your team will often hop in and participate, because for some, it’s easier than just talking. It gives a singular focus, and no one has to worry about filling any gaps in conversation (if there are any).

Jackbox games are pretty much the gold standard with a lot of different and unique party games to choose from. However, there’s also a lot of other fun online games out there that you can all play. We found a site where you can play lotería together, and we used it to practice our Spanish vocabulary! There are also online murder mystery games you can sigh up for, virtual escape rooms, and you can even do a vitual scavenger hunt where your teammates search for objects in their own homes.

Just Talk

While it might not be for everyone--as everyone has their different comfort levels--but sometimes just setting up time to chat can go a long way. Set up the video call, and you can discuss what you’re working on, or not! Just having that connection can mean a lot for cohesiveness. Some people may not feel like participating, but that’s okay.

There’s nothing wrong with sitting and observing. I’d be willing to bet that just hearing other people speak may even convince those introverted team members to unmute their mics and jump into the discussion! Just because you’re not in an office gathered awkwardly around a twenty year old coffee pot doesn’t mean you can’t discuss your newest Netflix obsession with your work mates.

In-Person Happy Hour

Now, if you’re careful and you feel it can be done responsibly, an in-person happy hour is a real crowd pleaser, whether at someone’s house, or some other establishment that’ll host your rowdy posse. Sure, you may have teammates that don’t live nearby, but if you more-or-less have a centralized location, meeting up every now and then can be amazingly fun and beneficial.

Seeing the people you’ve been working with outside of the screen is a really magical experience for everyone, and deepens those bonds that make work collaboration feel effortless and strong.

Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you have to be apart. These are just a couple of ideas that have been fun for us in the past, but this list is by no means exhaustive! Poll your team and see what kinds of things they’re into, and then take the extra time to bring everyone together. You’ll be surprised at the energy and genuine bonds that can be formed from the smallest gestures.

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