Hybrid workforces present unique conundrums – the contrast between those in the office and those not can increase the difficulties of engaging remote employees. For team building, this often results in the haves and have-nots. Beyond having great audio-visual equipment, that can make group meetings sound and look close to their in-person counterparts, there are a few things leaders can consider to create team-building activities that engage and unite both constituencies.
Here are three concepts spectrums to consider when planning out events for your team that may or may not be 100% in person. Making sure you’re getting the balance right across these spectrums will ensure a rich and inclusive environment for your hybrid team-building activities.
Coordinated vs. asynchronous
With people in disparate locations, it’s hard, and sometimes impossible, to do something simultaneously and have it be fun for everyone. Speaking as someone who has worked 11 time zones away from their colleagues, Zoom pizza-making classes just aren’t that fun at 5 am.
Another factor with asynchronous events is that getting people to act silly or be vulnerable can be more challenging because you have to save the proof and share it across time zones. This is why Snapchat was so successful; people are much more willing to share things if their video disappears in 24 hours. Thus asynchronous isn’t great for emotional team-building events, but it can be good for light-hearted competition or driving repeatable 1:1 engagements. That being said, live events are the gold standard for shared experiences. Setting up opportunities for group experiences is a core foundation of many team-building plans.
- Visual bake sale. The entire team bakes something off of one recipe, competing to make the most visually appealing version. Those in the office can taste test, but the winner is for the presentation. Points are also awarded for the biggest failures!
- Scavenger hunts designed for teams that are mixed between home and office ensure people are mingling despite the location. This is also a great virtual-only option
- Coffee Donut in Slack, an often noted application over the pandemic, but it’s much better when there’s a chance for a real, barista-made coffee for those coming into the office at least sporadically
- Magicians and other entertainers who have pivoted their shows to virtual are now offering combo performances, where they perform live in the office but professionally recorded so those at home can also experience it.
- Some classes can work in a hybrid situation, such as cocktail making or a virtual painting class. It’s not quite the same for people at home, but it does allow everyone to enjoy their output.
- Meyers-Briggs and other personality or work style assessments. While the inputting of the survey is alone time, understanding how different styles work together via a facilitator works just as well in person and virtual.
Collaborative vs. Competitive
Lots of team building, particularly the “fun” stuff, is either competitive or collaborative. To decide which option is suitable for your team, it’s good to ascertain what problem you are solving. If your team is suffering from disenchantment and a loss of purpose – competitive! Harness the bonding power of “us versus them!” But a collaborative event is more beneficial if your team is suffering from too much-siloed work and losing the chance to problem-solve together.
- Screenshot Bingo: Challenge your team to screenshot or photograph humorous office moments off of their custom Bingo cards, like twin outfits in the office, someone’s cat appearing on screen, or the ubiquitous “you’re on mute” moment in the team call.
- Murder mystery (and other traditional games): Anything that can be played over a more extended time period, allowing people to dip in and out, is great for hybrid teams. Fun prizes for winners are a must!
- Escape rooms: make sure they are built on the idea of collaboration; if everyone is solving the same puzzle alone, it doesn’t give much bonding opportunity.
The Delight Factor
And one bonus! The delight factor! Delight is a way of saying how much of this activity is a special treat. Inviting a famous cocktail mixologist to share their craft using unique ingredients versus everyone grabbing a glass of their favorite beverage and doing a basic happy hour over Zoom are opposites on the delight scale. In normal times, both have their benefits, and not everything can be over the top. But this is an unprecedented moment in workplace rapport and aiming for the delight factor is an excellent way to welcome colleagues back to “normal” office life.
Bonding with colleagues is an important part of having a trusting, happy, productive team. Leaders who find ways to connect their remote and in-person teams, giving everyone ample opportunity to form deeper bonds with their colleagues, will find they have a more engaged, more effective workforce.