Going remote has kept businesses worldwide afloat during the pandemic. While having this option has changed the landscape of business forever, employees are struggling with isolation. Morale continues to dip and engagement is slipping in line with mental health.
The world knows people and businesses need solutions, enter virtual team building.
The search term “virtual team-building” alone has seen a 1500% rise over the past year, 7400% over the last 5 years. So what’s going on with this shift to remote work and how can we make it work for you?
The Shift to Remote Work in Statistics
Over 40% of US and 60% of Canadian businesses have switched to being either entirely or partly remote in the past 12 months. While many expect this number to retract when things return to ‘normal’, researchers actually believe remote work is here to stay. By 2025, 36 million Americans will be working remotely which would be an 87% increase from pre-pandemic rates.
The problem is that this cannot happen without resolving the issues people continue to experience. 70% are still experiencing severe challenges to the adaptation with communication, wifi, and distractions topping the bill. A further 45% report feeling lonely and completely disconnected. The strangest finding is despite the loneliness and disconnect, many would like to keep remote flexibility.
This would suggest that employees would rather fix this issue virtually than sacrifice the benefits of remote work.
Remote statistics snapshot:
- 41.8% of US and 66% of Canadian businesses have switched to remote work – Upwork
- US Studies estimate 36 million Americans working remotely by 2025 – Upwork
- 80% of companies plan to allow remote working at least part-time for the future – Gartner
- 70% still experiencing issues adapting – SMHR
- 45% feel disconnected from their teams – Forbes
- 98% would like to continue remote work in some capacity going forward – Buffer
- 97% recommend remote work to others – Buffer
Business Concerns Necessitating Virtual Team Building
As time has whittled on and the novelties have worn off, remote work and the economic climate are unearthing serious business issues. Everything from water cooler conversations to passive learnings and venting sessions has basically disappeared at a time when the team needed them most.
Employees are living in constant fear of redundancy or having their hours reduced. This is having the most detrimental effect on morale and trust. Morale is proving to be an issue for so many remote businesses including 83% of professional, scientific, and technical professions.
In addition, company and team cultures are being drowned out by detachment from management and business values leaving employees without a sense of belonging. The impacts trickling through are widespread as productivity, psychological safety, commitment to the company purpose, and more, all showing signs of decline when left unaddressed.
As each of these factors festers in the undercurrent of the remote business, sales, customer service, and many business-critical issues come under fire. A solution is urgently needed whether your business has acknowledged the problem yet or not.
Turning to Virtual Team Building as an Antidote
To arrest slipping metrics, forward-thinking companies are turning to a host of pioneering solutions with the most common being virtual team building.
Team building has been around for decades and has routinely been given a bad rap. The very mention conjures images of awkward sing-alongs and feigned togetherness. What is typically missed by many is the depth to which team building diagnoses and solves detachment and other business issues. Challenges and games are constructed around specific desirable outcomes such as psychological safety, trust-building, stress relief, and employee engagement.
Silly activities may seem childish in many ways but look to humanize senior leaders, break down barriers between departments and instill togetherness through collective problem-solving. Simply having fun together does immeasurable work toward strengthening connections and instilling a sense of belonging.
The entire industry of team building is founded on reconnecting teams and workers across a shared set of values. Businesses who are experiencing remote world detriments have begun to leverage the uncommunicated impacts through virtual platforms to enhance their teams.
How to Foster Virtual Team Building In-house
Team building effectively looks to work on or replace what is lost within an enterprise. For it to work in-house, a manager or leader ought to assess what has been missing or where people are struggling on an interpersonal level.
Where interconnectedness or isolation is an issue, the easiest thing is to introduce a social component to the workplace such as a Friday Happy Hour or quiz night or even sending out delivery food where possible. The most important piece is to remind employees that they are seen, heard and valued by the team.
Where social events are inappropriate, work related events might be plausible. Hackathons are growing in popularity with many tech-forward companies. They typically involve leadership figures posing a work-related or unrelated problem to a selection of teams created at random. Each team is given an hour to come up with a fleshed-out novel solution before presenting to the rest.
Ultimately the team just needs to be given the green light to work collaboratively, offered an easy topic of conversation and a measure of intensity to add excitement. Using this combination allows any leader to achieve better togetherness.
What External Virtual Team Building Experiences are Out There?
Virtual team building experiences can roughly be broken into two different categories: Fun and simple or fun with facilitated connectedness.
Fun and Simple Virtual Team Building
The simple part of these virtual team-building sessions refers to the underpinning aims of the experience. Businesses will choose this option with a view to just getting people together to do something different without any real depth. This might be through a quiz show night, karaoke session or cocktail party. Participants will enjoy an evening of entertainment that brings people together and creates memories.
Fun with Facilitated Connectedness
A facilitated virtual team-building experience tends to go deeper with customized aims. Challenges and games are designed to attend to business issues such as isolation, problem solving and communication. A debrief is often standard as it creates an open forum for participants to express what is important to them and what they have experienced over the last few months. Companies will choose this option for the longer-lasting, intentional impacts that give everyone a voice.
Now that the novelty of remote work has fully worn off, we are faced with some business-impacting interpersonal conundrums. Employees are feeling despondent, isolated, and even detached and the businesses they serve are encountering the resultant impacts.
Without addressing the experiences of our teams, the further we proceed into the remote lifestyle, the bigger these issues become. Productivity and customer service will be the first to slide before sales and profits inevitably follow. Without acknowledging the root causes, businesses will face a downward spiral that could easily go undiagnosed until it is too late.
Thankfully, the growing attention paid to mental health has granted us new tools to address disconnect. Whether internally or externally sourced, businesses are finding ways to introduce virtual team building. We are leveraging what we know of social needs and expression to create unity from afar. By instituting virtual team building, anxiety, stress and disinterest are giving way to unity, togetherness and collectivism.