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Team building tips for in-house and virtual teams

Dallas Clark

May 6th, 2021

Written by

Dallas Clark

Category

Tiny Sparks

Struggling to get your teams together for a non-work activity? You’re not alone. You could say “team building activities” in nearly any corporate setting and at least one person will roll their eyes 🙄  

Maybe your team members don’t see the benefits of team building, and stepping away from the desk interrupts their “real” work. Or perhaps you’re struggling to think of activities that your team will like, or you need to adapt them to a virtual workforce.

Whatever challenges you’re facing, it is possible to get your team to enjoy team building! Here at Tiny, our in-house and virtual team building activities are a huge part of our culture and helping our teams gel and do great work. I’ve put together five team building tips that have worked well for us - and hopefully will help your teams, too.

1. Get clear on why

People won't buy into something until they understand the why behind it. So before you introduce a new activity, help your colleagues understand why team building is so important. 

Team building can help your team:

  • Get to know each other 
  • Have fun at work
  • Stay motivated
  • Collaborate better
  • Communicate better
  • Do better work

2. Create a movement

Sometimes the benefits of team building aren’t enough to get your team to participate, especially when you introduce something new. You need to create a movement.

If you’ve got an office pool table or a stack of board games collecting dust, let me encourage you to check out Derek Sivers’ Ted Talk on how to start a movement. The idea is that the first person looks like an idiot, the second person does too, and then the third person transforms it into a *thing*. 

What you’ll find is that you’ll only need a couple of people to respond to the invitation and start playing the game. Once a third or fourth person becomes part of that regular catch up, the rest of your team will get FOMO and join in. So, if you can choose an activity that at least three people will get excited about, you’ll find participation happens naturally.

Holmer Simpson emerging from bushes

Of course, providing an office pool table or some other game isn’t a guarantee that your teams will play it. Before you go and deck out your room with a pool table, it’s important to consider your team’s preferences.

3. Choose the right team building activity

Person playing a video game

You’ve got to listen to your team about what they want. Even though a pool table works for the office next door, it might not be right for you. It’s a good idea to provide different ways your team can hang out together to account for different personalities, interests, and abilities. 

(Plus, Bob might want a break from the pool after he loses his 6th straight game.)

Another good team-bonding activity for the IT/software industry are card games. For example, games like Exploding Kittens and Secret Hitler will likely appeal to your friendly office geeks. 

Multiplayer video games are popular, too - a Friday afternoon watching your teammates smash each other on Mario Kart will probably go down great.

But sometimes you’ll need to adapt your team building activities to suit virtual teams.

4. Adapt to remote team building activities

You may have a permanently distributed team, part-time work-from-homers, or a team that’s temporarily working from home for social distancing. Here at Tiny, we’ve got a bit of all three going on at the moment. When your team is remote, the important thing is that you maintain human interaction and make sure it’s not all about work. 

We’ve adapted three activities to help our teams stay connected while we’re working remotely:

  • Daily standups - Every day, teams share what they’ve worked on, what they’re currently working on, and any blockers
  • Tiny Tea Tuesdays at 2 - Everyone rocks up with a cuppa (coffee, tea, hot chocolate… all beverages are welcome) and we have a yarn about anything and everything
  • Happy Hour on Fridays at 12 - This is a little bit like Tea Tuesdays, but swap in a cold beverage, and I find it’s a good opportunity to interact with the rest of the organization, not just your team

At the moment, we’re doing all of our virtual team building activities on Zoom. Happy Hour is now called Work From Home Happy Hour - aka #WFHHappy. Some of our team members are also continuing to play video games together while working from home and have set up a channel in Slack dedicated to gaming.

5. Remember the goal

Group of people working together

Regardless of whether you get a pool table, an arcade machine, a huge collection of Nintendo games, or you host a virtual chat to wind down the day… remember the goal: helping your teams gel. 

That’s because the more your team members know each other, the better they’ll be able to work together. As they spend more time together, they’ll find it easier to pick up on cues and identify when something’s not right. And as they get to know each other’s interests, they’ll find more ways to improve their experience at work. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

- African Proverb

Team building isn’t all hi-fives and work parties. It can be tricky to get people onboard, especially in the beginning. But once your teams are communicating better, socializing, enjoying themselves, and collaborating better, you’ll see the hard work pay off. 

We’d love to know what your favorite team building activity is and what’s worked well for your teams (especially if you’ve recently switched to virtual team building). Tag us on Twitter @joinTiny and share your team building tips!

AgileDevelopers
byDallas Clark

Associate Manager, DX and Cloud, at Tiny. Find me on Twitter @DallasClark.

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