After a challenging 2020 full of unexpected disruptions and adaptations, employers and their employees feel a bit shell-shocked. Anxiety and uncertainty about the global pandemic lingers, but employers are innovating to build stronger teams and strengthen bonds between employees. Team building in the wake of a traumatic time requires some creativity and flexibility, but employers and HR professionals are stepping up to meet the challenge. In 2021, effective team building may be more important than ever.
The Importance of Team Building Activities
Team building is much more than fun and games, but enjoyment and engagement are huge components. In today’s workplace, team building entails a series of events designed to strengthen bonds, promote cooperation, and increase motivation between coworkers.
According to research from Wan Idros Wan Sulaiman of the School of Media and Communication Studies in Malaysia, team building has been show to improve morale, productivity, engagement, efficiency, and employee retention, while building a greater sense of community within organizations.
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So many aspects of our working lives have changed in 2020, but we are working to get to the other side of the pandemic. Team building definitely looks different today than it did before 2020, but the core benefits and strategies of team building remain the same.
Challenges to Team Building in 2021
With 42% of workers working remotely full-time and significant portions of the U.S. workforce working reduced hours or caring for their families during lockdowns, employers need to approach team building events differently.
The pandemic has made team building challenging for the following reasons:
- Limitations to in-person gatherings
- Childcare and family concerns
- Liabilities for employers in the event of COVID-19 infections
- Feelings of disconnection and isolation
- Work/life balance issues
- Fatigue related to increased screen time
These challenges and concerns should be top of mind when planning and launching team building activities. Fortunately, advancements in technology have enabled meaningful connections through team building, despite the challenges of today’s working environment.
Virtual Team Building Activities
As mentioned above, unprecedented numbers of workers are working remotely. Unfortunately, the lack of in-person communication can result in feelings of isolation and disconnection. A 2020 Buffer study on the effects of remote work found that the biggest struggles for remote workers are loneliness (20%), collaboration and communication (20%), not being able to unplug (18%), and distractions at home (12%).
Fortunately, virtual team building events are excellent for creating and strengthening connections, even when working remotely.
Virtual Team Trivia
One of the most popular team building activities to emerge in 2020 was virtual team trivia. In team trivia, a large group is divided into smaller groups (usually three to ten employees per group), and given trivia questions on a wide range of topics. Several web services offer virtual trivia events that take place over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype or other video conference platforms.
Some virtual team trivia services include:
Virtual Scavenger Hunts
Virtual scavenger hunts are similar to virtual team trivia as competitive events for remote team building, but with a different format. Instead of questions and answers for small teams, individual employees are challenged to find specific objects they may have in their houses or apartments. Unlike virtual trivia, virtual scavenger hunts can be arranged without paying for a service to host them. All you need is a list of items, rules for game play, set time limits, and a prize to award the winner or winners.
Virtual Happy Hours
Before the pandemic and widespread remote work, happy hours were ideal in-person team building events. Fortunately, virtual happy hours offer similar opportunities for camaraderie, commiserating, banter, and connection. Virtual happy hours are easy to arrange, and generally don’t require a hosting service aside from standard video conferencing software like Zoom. As an added bonus, virtual happy hours eliminate driving from the event, mitigating transportation costs and potential hazards associated with drinking and driving.
It’s important to recognize some of your employees may not drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Never put pressure on your employees to drink, and make sure the happy hour participants that don’t drink feel included and supported. If drinking with coworkers is a concern, virtual lunches, coffee breaks, or desserts may be lively alcohol-free alternatives.
Virtual Escape Rooms
Virtual escape rooms are virtual events in which employees must explore virtual spaces, find clues, solve puzzles, and decipher riddles to “escape the room.” These are great opportunities for team-based problem solving, collaboration, and creative solutions. Additionally, it’s a fun way to highlight team members’ strengths. Unlike virtual scavenger hunts and happy hours, you will probably need to book an event through a service.
Some virtual escape room services include:
- The Escape Game
- International Monster Hunter
- The Grimm Escape
- Mystery Escape Room
- Brain Chase Escape Rooms
Team Building for Workers Coming to the Office
Even if your employees are not working remote and coming into physical workplaces (following the CDC’s safety guidelines for social distancing and safety protocols), in-person team building events are not recommended during the pandemic. Onsite and in-person team building activities are simply too risky for organizations during a pandemic. This may change in the coming months as vaccinations become available to essential workers, but when it comes to the safety of your employees, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
We recommend the virtual team building options listed above for essential workers and remote employees alike.
Get the Staffing Support You Need
If you need help with staffing or hiring skilled workers, we provide pre-screened, qualified workers tailored to your specific business. We’re here to provide essential staff with the skills your company needs, moving forward from the chaos of 2020. Reach out to TERRA Staffing Group today for staffing solutions that make a difference.
Additionally, we’ve developed a resource center for employers for information and best practices on essential workers while we look forward to a post-pandemic world. We’re here to help as a committed partner, no matter what the circumstances are.