Teambuilding online: 5 practical tips from our experience.

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2020 was a year of massive changes in the way HR departments work. Our company had the ambition to switch to “remote-first” modus operandi way before the pandemic. We like to work with a wide range of interesting people from different corners of the World. We don't want to limit our operations to Czechia only. The current situation only accelerated our plans. It was exciting on one hand but a great challenge on the other. Especially in the field of “human relations.”

How to take good care of the relationships with employees, and ensure no one feels excluded when they all live in different parts of the country, and some of them in different parts of the World?

One possibility is to organise for everyone to travel to the same place where a “bonding party” takes place (or teambuilding if you wish). Our “offline teambuilding” was supposed to take place in September. At the same time when a second wave of the pandemic occurred. Meeting the team in person wasn't an option anymore.

We were faced with a challenge of coming up with an alternative solution. If we were to go ahead with the event it would have to take place online.

If you are considering doing something similar we have 5 tips for you for activities that worked well for us.

5 practical tips

Online teambuilding is beginning to gain popularity just now, therefore finding inspiration isn't easy. Our goal was clear - to organise an event online, that would at least partially compensate for the lack of personal contact.

The crucial question was how to make the event truly relaxing. We spend a majority of our time looking at screens, so how do we make it feel like it isn't work? Do we play some online games? Nope. We drove them away from their computers and made them move their muscles.

1. Warm-up

We started our morning with exercise. We connected with lads from “Office Fitness” through video conference. They prepared a set of exercises for us that helped us actively start our day. It was executed perfectly and we had tons of fun! Believe me when I say that seeing your colleagues jumping in front of a camera will put you in a really good mood from the start.

TIP: Incorporate short exercise sessions throughout the entire day, and keep them voluntary.

2. Online workshops and talks

We organised a series of online workshops and talks. Each one was prepared by one of our employees, who volunteered to do it. We encouraged the rest of the team to go for a walk outside, connect with us from their mobile phones and listen to these talks on their headphones.

The talks and workshops were about living abroad (our colleagues live in Ireland, Estonia and Romania), the popular sport of cold swimming (thanks Jarda!), and we also had a dance lesson led by our HR Team Leader (thanks JJ!) His choreography was a great success!

TIP: Involve colleagues who have something interesting to share and try to make the talks light and funny.

3. Online escape game will help with getting to know each other

Next activity on our agenda meant going back to our computers. We have joined our forces with an event agency who organised an online escape game for us in the evening. We purposely assembled teams in a way so that colleagues who didn’t know each other well would have to play together. This way we achieved the main goal of teambuilding - getting to know each other. The winning team was rewarded with a voucher for a meal in the restaurant of their choice.

TIP: An online escape game is a great way to introduce newbies to stalwarts. The game requires people to communicate intensely from the start and fulfil tasks that will help them to get to know each other.

4. Food and beverages are a must

There's no teambuilding without food and drinks. We've asked one of our colleagues who is a cooking enthusiast to prepare an online cooking class for us. We've sent people the list of ingredients needed ahead of time.

TIP: If you have a budget for it, you can make the experience even better by organising delivery of the necessary ingredients to everyone.**

5. Ain't no party like a teambuilding party

Our event took place in November, so it was clear we have to incorporate the Halloween theme in it. We organised an online costume party. During a video call, we had the best costume competition, played games and enjoyed home-made drinks. We couldn't miss “Never have I ever” and sharing surprising fun facts about our colleagues.

We asked our colleagues ahead of time about the things that other colleagues might not know about them. It was enough to prepare a Google Form with a few questions and ask everyone to fill it. It could be anything starting from their favourite food, through guilty pleasures to the strongest experience in their lives. Keep the answers to yourself (i.e. don't share with anyone outside of the organisers' team. Then, during the party, share a “fun fact” about someone and let others guess who this person might be. It's a great way of bonding and learning more about your team and

TIP: Assign a host of the evening. Someone who will help you lead the discussion and will make sure that people don't interrupt one another. They will also keep the discussion going in the right direction and prevent it from getting boring.

TIP 2: To spice things up, you can choose a word that is often being used in your team. Each time someone says the word take a sip of your drink. (Our word was “cloud”) :)

FAQs

Was it a success?

We planned to finish our party at 9 pm. At 2 am when I left the party was still going strong, so I think it's a sign of a big success.

Any f*ck up's?

Not a F*ck up per se, everything worked great.

However, next time we will do a few things differently. For once, we will make sure to emphasise to everyone, that a day of teambuilding is a day to relax. Meaning no one expects you to do any work whatsoever and people should just try to relax and forget about deadlines.

Can it replace an “offline party”?

I think online interaction can never fully replace meeting people in person. But, it can be a way to help build relationships within the team and get to know each other a little better.