With 16% of agencies in the US now reported to be completely remote operations as of last year, it looks like remote working is here to stay.
As an agency owner for the last 10 years, I’ve found there are many advantages to offering remote working to your employees, including:
Having access to even more talented workers outside of your locae
Not requiring employees to relocate for work
Improving employee satisfaction and, therefore, quality of work
However, there are some downsides that come with fully remote working too.
When you work together every day in the office, relationships form naturally. Colleagues quickly get to know each other first-hand, and the beautiful and unique force that is the office friendship is born.
But in hybrid or work-from-home environments, employees are deprived of these social opportunities and connections. Feeling disconnected can result in reduced morale, less motivation, and inevitably moving onto a more engaging opportunity. Research shows that an engaged team increases company profits by 21%. Focusing on team building and morale across the entire team boosts employee engagement and give seriously great results!
That’s why putting time and energy into carefully-considered team building activities is even more important for remote teams than those who work in an office or even hybrid working models.
Why Is Virtual Team Building Important?
As agency owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure our teams of remote workers get the attention they deserve so they can feel like they belong to a “real” team. It’s essential to provide plenty of fun ways for your employees to mix with their colleagues, get to know each other a little better, and form real bonds despite the distance.
Top 7 Benefits of Virtual Team Building:
Strengthen your team: Promote a sense of community within your team to help members bond and feel connected
Encourage and improve communication: Practice makes perfect, and communication is no exception!
Raise employee morale: Help your employees have a better experience of remote working with fun and engaging team bonding activities
Expand scope for creativity: Encourage your employees to find new solutions and ideas together
Boost productivity: A strong team with boosted morale increases motivation and productivity
Refine problem-solving skills: Your team can use their new sense of community and creativity to think outside the box together!
Solidify overall company culture: Even when everyone is working remotely, you create a strong identity and culture for your agency
Is Virtual Team Bonding Actually Achievable For Marketing Agency Owners?
The answer is yes, and not to sound too boastful, my team is living proof.
With a talented crew of marketers, copywriters, and content creators living in different locations, how do you manage to maintain the dynamic of an unrealistically tight-knit ensemble cast from a 90s sitcom? Is it delusion, wishful thinking, or could you BE the closest virtual team ever?
Finding some common interest between your team so they can identify with one another is going to make effective team bonding infinitely easier. For my team, it’s a love of sharing perfectly timed and obscurely accurate GIFs in the group chat.
A company group chat provides a lot of opportunity for laughs and a simple way of checking in, however, it’s not exactly the most fulfilling means of communication.
You’ve got to make a bigger effort to stay connected when you can’t see your colleagues in real life every day. (This is one of those times when a colleague would opportunely insert a GIF of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam or E.T. 's illuminated finger reaching for contact.)
So, when in-person meetups aren’t realistic, what can you do to ensure your employees feel united and keep your team together?
Ongoing Virtual Team Building Efforts
Like any organization, everything trickles down from the top. If you’re an agency owner or team lead and want to encourage team morale, you must lead by example, so your employees and colleagues feel secure.
Prioritize creating a friendly and relaxed working environment, so everyone feels comfortable with each other. If you don’t have a healthy working atmosphere, you’re not giving people the space to form bonds in the first place.
Creating trust between everyone on your team is essential so that they feel comfortable sharing about themselves and forming deeper connections.
Here are some ways to help your team feel supported in a day-to-day capacity.
Routine Virtual Meetings
Take about 30 minutes every morning to get together for a Zoom meeting. These sessions provide a great opportunity for your team to discuss what they’re working on for the day and ask any questions they may have. This is also a way to help your team really feel like a team by allowing each member to talk about work with their colleagues.
Not only this, but taking the time to talk every day forms the basis for team building and relationships between other team members. Make sure to keep things light - always allow some time at the beginning of each meeting to catch up on each other’s news or and share things the others will enjoy.
It’s super important, especially for people working from home, to have interaction with their colleagues every day, even if it is virtually!
Set and Share Goals
Another great way to help your team gel is by encouraging them both inside and outside of work. Help your team members set and share professional and personal goals so they can support one another in achieving them.
This creates a healthy work-life balance for each team member, promotes morale, and presents many wonderful opportunities for organic bonding between team members.
Keep your teams on-point by incorporating goal-tracking into your agency's daily ops. Try AgencyAnalytics free for 14 days.
A great way to do this is to allow everyone to discuss their goals during your team meeting if they feel comfortable doing so. Then, create a shared doc where everyone can input their short-term and long-term goals. This can be anything from wanting to spend more time reading or listening to podcasts to campaign execution goals to wanting to buy a new house.
Make sure to check in regularly on your team’s progress and see if there are ways you can help each other on the journey to get there.
It’s a great way for your team to know each other on a more personal level and show that you care too.
How Can You Go Beyond Day-to-Day Virtual Team Building?
How do you keep remote employees happy and engaged beyond daily virtual catch-ups when you can’t meet up in person?
Organize virtual team-building activities and online games to encourage team bonding. But let’s face it: sometimes Zoom events and ‘scheduled fun’ can feel like a drag.
So, how do you make these necessary virtual team-building events fun for everyone, as opposed to something your team members are dreading attending?
Here are some super fun ideas for your next virtual team-building activity that go beyond what your team might expect so they can actually enjoy their virtual team bonding sessions!
7 Virtual Team Building Ideas For Your Remote Team
#1 - Virtual Mocktail/Cocktail Hour or Dinner Party
Host a cocktail-making evening for your team! Get cocktail or mocktail kits delivered to each employee and have fun making and drinking them together over Zoom. Enjoy the delicious drinks and, of course–the fun with your team!
Or, you can host a fun dinner party for your team members online. Order them a meal from their favorite local takeout and enjoy sharing food together virtually! Who doesn’t love being treated to a good meal?
#2 - Bring Your Pet To Work Day
This is pretty much every day for us at The Content Lab. Real Boss Bosco the border collie usually makes an appearance on our daily calls and is a big part of our company culture. His toy presentations, interrupting meetings by barking at the postman, and general adorableness always brightens up our mornings.
If your employees have pets, encourage them to bring them along to your next virtual meeting so they can meet the team! It’s like looking at cat videos, but make it team building.
#3 - Invite a Goat
I don’t mean invite a G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) because I’m sure your team is already full of them– buh-dum-tssshh! If your team, like mine, is made up of enthusiastic animal lovers, then why not invite a goat (yes, the animal) to your next virtual meeting?
Web-savvy farmers, such as Cronkshaw Fold Farm have started offering their goats as guests on zoom calls–making it easy to add a unique twist to your daily standup.
They’re all extremely cute and would make the perfect addition to any online meeting. You can even select a goat based on their profile that perfectly suits your team! This feels very Phil Dunphy bringing home an alpaca in Modern Family, but for the virtual age.
#4 - Attend An Online Event Together
This could be anything! A gig, a comedy show, a painting workshop, or any kind of virtual team-building event you think your team members will enjoy.
While this was certainly something that was more common throughout the many, many lockdowns (sorry to bring that up), there are still plenty of great online events happening worldwide that are a great alternative to a night out for a fully remote team!
Airbnb hosts some amazing virtual events from local cuisine cookery classes to virtual tours of beautiful locations and tourist attractions all over the world.
They even have specific online activities for team building, celebrations, and client events, so they’ve done the hard work for you in planning your next virtual team event!
#5 - Virtual Book Club
Ok, sorry to be a little predictable on this one! As the head of an agency of writers, I’m sure you’re not surprised to see this one on the list. We love reading, and we love chatting. For us, it’s a win-win.
Make sure to keep it low-pressure and keep expectations realistic. Everyone reads at a different pace, so getting together to discuss your assigned book once a month should be more than enough while still being regular enough to keep your team feeling connected!
#6 - Virtual Murder Mystery
I’m sorry, web designer Poirot? Is that you? I think it’s safe to say everyone loves a good whodunit! This is a super fun game and hands down one of my favorite virtual team challenges.
You can either arrange this for free or use one of the many virtual team-building tools and resources online to organize the game. A member of your team will be the murderer, and everyone has a load of fun over Zoom trying to figure out who it is!
#7 - Get Invested In An Ongoing Event or Competition
For some virtual teams, fantasy football might be the virtual team-building activity of choice. For us at The Content Lab, it’s Fat Bear Week. Notice an animal-related trend here?
Whatever your team is interested in, find something you think everyone will enjoy that you can regularly check in on or get involved in together. It always makes for a good talking point and helps everyone have something to bond over.
Closing Advice On Engaging Activities for Team Building
Bottom line is to do what works for your team. There are lots of other team-building activities I could have mentioned here, but didn’t because they’re not my style and wouldn’t suit my team.
For example, I think a lot of people are completely jaded from certain online events and activities. I sometimes still wake up in a cold sweat from a Zoom quiz-related nightmare. So it’s best to avoid virtual team-building games that are overdone.
The key element of successful virtual team-building activities is to make sure everyone feels comfortable. So, don’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do that makes them uncomfortable or makes them cringe.
Lastly, and most importantly, have fun with it! You know your team best, so try to find something everyone will enjoy together. Ask them for team activities suggestions and leave a doc open so everyone can brainstorm ideas and have a fair say!
It’s easy to hide behind a mask online. Make sure to create a space where your team members feel comfortable being themselves so that they can form real bonds and strong relationships.
Foster an atmosphere of fun and friendliness in all of your team-building activities, and your team will be watertight in no time!
Abby Wood is the founder of The Content Lab (a white label content agency serving digital agencies worldwide) and Content Goodies (providing white label copywriting templates for web designers).