I am currently doing a series of blogs on working virtually and in this blog, I wanted to include some tips and hints for how to teambuild virtually with remote teams. This is a really common issue and one of the things that I’m most often asked by colleagues and peers.
Why is it important to team build with your remote team?
Having a well-oiled team is vital for a successful project and having multiple teams working well together will help avoid misunderstandings and issues as a result of distance and the remote nature of the project.
When you devote time to team building you can ensure that not only do your team feel valued to work in your project but they are more efficient as team members.
What can you do?
I would first analyse the experience of the team, how long they’ve worked together and then make a strategic plan for what makes the most sense for your team. There is no ‘one size fits all‘ approach to team development. Here are a few proven workable ideas that I’ve done in the past:
1) Bringing everyone to one location at the start of the project.
This is the quickest and easiest way to build a team as the physical presence can speed up the relationship building and collaboration. I will do this at the start of the project or at critical moments (e.g. testing/ go live). You need to make sure that there’s budget and time set aside when the team are together to ensure that everyone can make the most of their time together.
2) Video lunches/conferences
We enjoy regular video conferences during meetings or alternatively having team “lunches”. This has also taken on an educational slant and we’ve shared a video/TEDTalk we want to watch and then discuss it after. The best thing about this is that it’s very cheap to achieve and can be done on a regular basis.
3) Tag team members together
This is really useful if you’ve got juniors in your team and can pair them with a more senior member of the team doing the same/Similar role as it helps to coach/mentor the junior members in an unofficial capacity. We’ve also had great friendships forged as a result of this.
4) Interact and involve yourself in the local news/activities
Do you know what’s going on in your virtual location? And vice versa for your remote team? Are they aware of the political/real life issues that may be going on? I would strongly encourage for you to follow the local news and use this as a discussion point within your team. This can be a great talking point at the start of meetings or in 1-1. One reason why this is so important and valuable is that you can learn if there might be distractions or things to be aware of (e.g. Brexit, political instabilities, cultural events like Baking Shows etc).
What should you not do?
Ignore your team or continue to do things which are not working that could negatively disrupt or cause I’ll feeling in the project.
As an example: I’ve coached someone previously who didn’t see the need to interact with their remote team and just used them as “resources” rather than treating them as “people”. This person didn’t even learn the name of the team members as “he just needed them to work and they all had the same name anyway”. This caused the team to not really care about the quality of the work and did not check for any questions. This resulted in a lot of rework and hostility.
What if it doesnt work?
Keep trying! And try different/new things if it doesnt work. As I mentioned above, there is not a one size fits all approach so if something doesn’t work, then try something new/different. You can always chat with your colleagues in your organisation and see what works well for others.
Team building is vital in any project but it becomes a valuable and needed life line in remote working environments and can be the reason between success and failure.