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Virtual team building

Just because your team is spread across different sites, that doesn't mean you have to give up on team building. In this expert response, SSQ site editor Yvette Francino gives advice on how you can creatively engage your geographically dispersed teams in activities that will involve and engage the entire team, regardless of their location.

How can we do team building events if members work in different locations?
Geographically dispersed teams are quite common and come in many different flavors. Sometimes employees are spread between different sites with multiple people at each site. Sometimes there are just a few remote employees with the majority of the team working at a single location. Regardless of your team makeup, the point of team building events is to build one solid team, so you certainly don't want to leave people out! That would defeat the purpose.

Ideally, of course, you would want to allot enough travel dollars to your budget to allow for periodic team-building events so that the entire team could be face-to-face. However at times when travel isn't feasible, there still are ways to have fun with the entire team.

My team once had a "virtual happy hour" via IM. We scheduled a half-hour when we all got on IM, acted silly and chatted about families and hobbies. We bought several rounds of virtual drinks, had a few virtual hiccups and the occasional slurring of words. When the chat started diverging into what people were wearing, I did have to light-heartedly suggest a couple of "boundary rules," but overall, it was a big success. We got to interject a little humor into our work day.

Another idea for virtual team building is to have friendly competitions. I prefer to team up people who are at different sites so that they need to work together to accomplish some goal. I used to have a weekly competition with my globally distributed team, giving points for certain tasks that needed to be done. More points were given for the least desirable tasks. Certain tasks needed to be done in pairs, and more points were awarded for pairs that worked successfully, despite being in different locations. The competition allowed and encouraged the entire team to work together.

Brainstorm with your team to come up with your own virtual team building strategy. Coming up with creative ideas is part of the fun.

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