By Hollie Simpson

Remote working hasn’t just changed how we work, but it has changed how we develop and build relationships, especially with our colleagues. Before the pandemic, we once saw our teammates in hallways or crossing paths at the printer, but now we see them on screens whenever we need to. And while online meetings have become shorter, have our communication skills become better?

Being at home has its positives, but along with every good thing, there are some negatives. For example, missing out on social events, celebrations and other opportunities for team building exercises has taken its toll on the workforce and our relationships with our colleagues.

So, in this article, I discuss how working remotely has changed the way we approach team building and what the best exercises are to engage your staff.

What is team building?

We work with the same people day in day out, and while we develop relationships with them, there’s a difference between a professional and personal rapport. Team building refers to various activities and events that businesses use to enhance social connections and build relationships within their workforce. In some cases, team building is used as a method to address workplace problems and build a better relationship between team members.

Ultimately, team-building activities aim to improve performance within a team and help them work together to achieve goals.

How does team building work?

Team building exercises fall into two categories: social and productivity. They both have very different end goals but do share similarities in how they promote inclusion and problem-solving. Choosing which one to use all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. Let’s break them down:

Social: when you hear the term ‘team building’, we all think of kicking back and relaxing together with other employees after a long week at work but, it’s so much more than that. And while being social certainly has its benefits, it also offers more variety in what type of event is organised. This side of team building has taken a big hit with the sudden onset of remote working; however, businesses have learned to adapt their social gatherings to an online forum.

Productivity: this covers events and activities that are designed to improve or enhance how a team functions. Building a team’s productivity is an ongoing task as people come and go from the workplace all the time. Organising activities such as identifying a team’s strengths and weaknesses, rewarding team achievements or even group viewings of TED talks or other inspiring speakers can all help to improve how a team works together.

Has working remotely impacted team-building opportunities?

Working in a distributed workforce has emphasised areas that businesses need to improve on and have largely gone unnoticed within a traditional workplace setting. And while teams have missed out on face-to-face social events that would bring together a workforce, other things have taken their place, initiating conversations that ordinarily wouldn’t have happened.

Aside from missing out on the usual social calendar events such as charity events, end of financial year parties and company-wide charity events, social committees and HR teams have had their work cut out for them organising unique and engaging ways to connect their colleagues. Organising online events ranging from trivia sessions and cooking lessons to Pilates means there’s something for everyone.

Transitioning from what we used to know to what is now our new normal is going to take time, and some people will have reservations about participating in group activities and being in crowds and that’s understandable. Businesses need to find ways to support their staff during this transition and keep the virtual connection going for those who need it. For example, FCB has adapted from sporadically walking in and out of offices to frequent video calls and check-ins that wouldn’t have ordinarily happened. The prospect of improving our communication further now that it has been such a big focus point opens a whole new avenue of team-building opportunities.

How important is team building to creating a positive culture within a workplace?

It can be hard for anyone to switch off from the working environment at the best of times and now that flexible working arrangements are the norm, it can make having that all-important work-life balance just that little bit harder to manage. Knowing the people you work with on a personal level can help with maintaining this balance, making it easier to switch between work and personal time. Being able to interact both professionally and on a personal level not only helps teams work better but also brings out the best in people.

Whether it’s online or in-person, team building activities are vitally important to any workplace. They provide the space for employees to grow and develop and improve how teams function. Investing in your employees’ wellbeing and growth not only helps to build a positive culture within a workplace but also benefits your business.

We believe HR should be simple. Simple enough for you to run your business confidently. enableHR has everything you need to manage the entire employee lifecycle from recruitment and onboarding to managing your people and their needs. If you’d like to see enableHR in action, contact us to learn more about how we can help your business.

Hollie Simpson is the HR Coordinator at FCB; enableHR’s sister company. Hollie is passionate about creating meaningful HR initiatives that add value to our people and our company’s culture. In addition to her role in HR, Hollie heads up FCB’s Social Committee and is always on the lookout for new ways to engage and connect with colleagues.