It's hard to deny the fact that remote working is on the rise. 85% of millennials say that they want to telecommute 100% of the time, and 91% of virtual teams feel that they get more done when they're not tied down to a physical office. Of course, while there are plenty of benefits to running a virtual team, it's worth noting that the digital workforce comes with some unique challenges to face too.One of the biggest issues that leave managers biting their fingernails over the concept of remote work, is the question of how they can make their team feel connected and engaged when they're working in different parts of the world. After all, once you've assembled your ultimate dream team, you need to make sure that they know each other well enough to collaborate each day.The good news is that just because your employees are separated by borders, doesn't mean that they can't be connected. Today, we're going to look at 5 team-building activities you can do with your virtual team, to help remind your staff that they may be out of sight, but they're not out of mind.1. Schedule a Weekly Video Conference
While remote working might make your employees happier, it also makes it harder to ensure that everyone in your team is kept in the loop. For staff to feel committed to their employer, they need to feel as though they're part of a community. Unfortunately, virtual workers are often isolated from that team experience, because they spend their days alone, miles away from other professionals.The good news is that thanks to the rise in new conferencing technology, remote workers don't have to be as isolated as they once were. Video conferencing is a trend that's becoming increasingly popular for many companies, with tools that are accessible to anyone.A weekly conference allows you to make sure that everyone's updated on crucial brand information, and it also gives your employees a chance to speak out about their concerns. Additionally, because people are meeting "face to face" - even in a virtual format, they get to know their co-workers better. The key to success is creating ice-breakers that help your people to feel less camera shy. Ask people what they did this week or start with an interesting announcement that's sure to raise questions.
2. Increase the Chit-Chat with a Virtual Coffee Break
Conversations come in many different forms, and they're all valuable. When you're trying to improve the bonds between your virtual team members, it's important to remember that conversations shouldn't just be about work.One of the oft-cited disadvantages of a distributed team is that it can't benefit from the "water cooler effect" of a regular office environment. This refers to the moments that people spend in the office talking about things that have nothing to do with their career. It's these conversations that help to build comradery and bonds between employees. As trivial as it might seem, this personal chit-chat could be key to keeping your staff connected.Fortunately, you don't need a water cooler to embrace the water cooler effect. Get people together for a regular 10-minute coffee break, where people can sip on their favorite beverages, and enjoy friendly, informal discussions. To break the ice, you can always try adding a weekly theme to the mix like:Sharing a childhood photo
Showing off something creative you did that week
Sharing YouTube videos or favorite songs.
3. Put Them on the Map
Sometimes, it can be hard to connect with someone you've never met on a personal level. Whether your team members are in different cities, or different countries, a good way to bridge the gaps and make the world a little smaller, is to put them on the map. Use a virtual world map online and ask your employees to add a picture of themselves and their family to the place where they live.During your weekly coffee breaks, or longer video conferences, you can ask your employees to tell you a little bit more about the place, and what they'd recommend people do if they ever visit the city. This helps to give the team a better insight into the different places where your employees come from, and it can even help them to better understand how different cultures and backgrounds contribute to a professional's work-style.A person's background can have a real impact on the kind of personality they have. The more each of your staff members learn about what makes the others unique, the more they can begin to establish the bonds that turn strangers into team members and team members into friends.4. Ask for a Tour
Often, team-building in a virtual office environment is all about getting to know the people in your group as much as possible. A good way to help your staff feel stronger connections with each other is to ask them for an introduction to their life. Once a month, you could ask a new team member, or an existing employee to share a video or picture from one of their favorite places and tell the rest of the team a little bit about it.Thanks to social media tools like Facebook live, you could even ask your hires to get involved with some streaming if they feel comfortable with that. In between those moments when you're asking your people to go out and explore their local area on your behalf, you can always consider other "tour" moments too. For instance, you could ask your employees to give you a brief tour around their office.Ask your staff to show off the view from their office window or introduce you to the pile of healthy snacks they keep in their desk drawer when they're feeling peckish. There are countless of great ways to get to know your employees, one meeting at a time.5. Enjoy Some Fun and Games
Finally, remember that team building isn't just about making people more efficient and productive for work purposes - it's about building a connection. Sometimes, the easiest way to really break the ice between the members of your teams, and convince them to talk to each other freely, is with a game. One popular option is the game "Two Truths and a Lie".This game works when you instruct each member of your team to write down two things about themselves that are true, and another thing that is a lie. The fun part is that the lie should be completely believable, so it's much harder for other staff members to guess what's real, and what isn't when they're trying to get to know a new employee. Once everyone has written down their answers, go around the group, and have each person read out their statements, while the rest of the team guesses which claim is a lie.Game-based remote team building exercises add a touch of fun to the process of getting to know your staff. People start to learn more about each other while discovering opportunities to laugh and joke together too. Remember, it's best to play this game in a video conference, so people can look for non-verbal cues in their coworkers when they're trying to spot the lie.Building Your Remote Team
While you might be comfortable simply leaving your virtual team members to work individually on their own projects, it's worth noting that connecting your staff on a personal level can lead to huge benefits for everyone involved. When your people feel connected, they can collaborate and communicate better over their work projects, leading to better efficiency and productivity for your company. Author Bio: As the founder and CEO of his own company, JavaPresse, Raj Jana knows a thing or two about managing and leading remote workers. When he's not looking for ways to delight his employees and bring them together on projects, Raj is investing in his coffee company and delivering delicious coffee to the world....