2020 saw many teams having to transition quickly from in-person processes and norms to virtual work. We learned that what worked well face-to-face doesn’t always translate when everyone is connecting via a screen and/or phone line. As we see a slow return back into the office this year, we recognize that the ‘new norm’ for many will be remote-first and more flexible hybrid work options.
As some people start to gather in person again while others will stay remote, finding meaningful ways to connect will be critical to ensuring an inclusive work culture. We’ve pulled together some inclusive team-building exercises that would work for either a fully remote or hybrid team, many of which have been tested out by the SGO team.
During a team gathering, give everyone a set amount of time to go grab items from a predefined list. People can take part whether they’re in an office or at home! Once everyone’s scrambled around their space, come back together and have each team member present their items to the rest of the group. If you really want to get competitive, assign point values to each item and pick a ‘winner’. Something to keep in mind: consider what people might be likely to have lying around their homes, and remember that older people, or partnered people, might have different types of possessions than younger or single employees.
Give each employee the opportunity to do a virtual tour of their home space! This can be a fun way to build connections within the team. However, we recommend that this be a purely optional activity, as not everyone may feel comfortable opening up their home to their colleagues, and not everyone will have the same types of living spaces. If you choose to use this activity, consider having a more senior member of the team model not showing their space, to make it ‘okay’ for others to opt out if they so choose.
AirBNB has leveled up their game with hundreds of Online Experiences from folx all around the world. SGO has taken advantage of these offerings several times (including sangria-making adventures with drag queens in Portugal and a lesson on making tiramisu from an Italian chef). What we love about this activity is that it’s a great way to expose your team to other cultures around the world in a fun, playful way. Make sure you find out if any of your team members have food allergies, restricted diets, or issues beforehand so you can appropriately set up alternatives in advance (for example, we included mocktails and vegan options as part of our team activities).
This activity can be done all together as a large group or in smaller pairings. Have each team member take turns sharing where their name (first, last, and/or middle) comes from. This is a really fun activity that helps people get to know each other better, and is something that we’ve found to be new and informative even for team members who’ve known each other for a long time. It also can expose a piece of cultural history that might be new to some of your team members.
Schedule unstructured time for the team to just spend time together without talking about work. This can be centered around food, drink, and/or a meal, or it can just be a chance for people to chat about non-work-related topics. We’ve scheduled different variations of the office hang over the past year. Sometimes we’ll invite everyone to share a meal (and we’ve sent out gift cards or stipends to staff members so that the meal is paid for by the company), and other times we just take some time to chat and catch up. Working virtually, we don’t always get the chance to have those casual conversations and catch ups in the hallway or cafeteria the way we used to in person, and this approximates some of that back and forth discussion.
Did we miss anything? Let us know! If you’d like more, see our previous post on Inclusive Team-Building Exercises.