As Ayaka noted in our last blog post, in a recent survey over 70% of companies said that they are not planning on having their year-end parties in restaurants. This is a big change, and it reflects the ways that we haven’t completely returned to normal yet, even though many pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted.
With so many companies continuing to work remotely for now (and likely well into the future), the good news is that there are other options out there besides face-to-face activities. Online team building activities especially are a great option for remote and hybrid teams, and the number and variety of these activities have greatly expanded since the shift to remote work began.
However, virtual team building is still a relatively new phenomenon. And while it reproduces many of the same benefits as in-person team building, there are still some noticeable differences in terms of the types of activities involved and what teams can expect. Because of this, it might be hard for organizers and teams to “imagine” what online team building entails, and how to go about planning a successful virtual event.
So in the following blog post, we’ll give you some simple steps to guide you as you plan your virtual event. This should be particularly useful for those looking to plan online end-of-the-year parties for their teams. But really it can be helpful for planning any type of online or virtual event, no matter what time of year.
The following is based on our experiences creating and developing online team building events from scratch, and from working and consulting with clients who were searching for activities when they switched to remote work. It’s been a rich learning experience, one that will likely continue into the foreseeable future.
So without further ado….
Simple steps for planning a successful virtual team building activity
1. Decide what your goals are
This is the first step that we recommend for anyone that is looking to plan a team building event. But it is especially important when it comes to online events, since they are such a new development. Not to mention the fact that remote teams have their own unique challenges which are important to be aware of, and which might require different goals in order to confront.
As an organizer, it’s really good to come in knowing what you want your team to get out of the event. Whether it’s just the chance to have fun as a remote team, or a more intense challenge focusing on teamwork or communication, knowing your team’s goals for the event will help you choose the right online event and get the most out of it.
2. Determine how long you want the event to be
Once you’ve figured out what your goals for your virtual event are, you can start to get into some specifics, like the date and timing for your event. The date is mostly a matter of working out your team’s schedule. Timing though, is something that requires a little more thought and intention.
The goals that you have for the event (see above) should in large part determine the length of your event. If your goal is fun only, a one or one-and-a-half hour event should be sufficient. Of course, if you have other goals in mind, like getting your team to communicate more through discussion, or having your team learn about a topic together in a lecture, a longer three-hour will be necessary. And if you want, you can even plan a full-day event if your goals as a team are so inclined.
Also remember that things take longer to explain online, and there is greater potential for technical issues occurring, which can slow the event down. Booking extra time for these likelihoods is a good way to properly prepare for your online event.
3. Find the right program for your team
When you have figured out a general sense of the timing of your event, you can whittle down the options for which activity you would like to do. There are a lot of different team building activities that are available out there. Which is why setting your goals and having an image of the timing you prefer will help you tremendously.
At Invite Japan, our online team building activities are based on puzzle challenges, and teams use virtual photo albums to look for clues. Other team building activities are based more on role-playing or “survival”-like games, and there are even activities centered around “pub-trivia” style games. There are also a bunch of online activities that are easy to plan and execute on your own.
The most important factor when it comes to choosing the right program is to know your team. You should choose the program that will engage your team members the most and they will have fun participating in. And of course, you also want to be sure that the program you choose will help you fulfill your goals, too.
4. Check your tech
This is definitely something that is specific to online events. But making sure you and your team have the right tech can be critical. Your remote or hybrid might have the right tools for your daily tasks and projects, but online activities sometimes require certain browsers or the latest versions of applications.
At many of our online events, we’ve encountered problems that have to do with an outdated browser or not having the updated version of Zoom or another communication tool. This slows down the event, and it may cause particular frustration or embarrassment for that individual team member. In order to limit this, it is probably best to check with your team to make sure they have the latest versions or their appas and browsers installed.
Another issue that we often encounter is that teams can’t access certain tools or sites because of internal security protocols. Invite Japan usually offers free demos for teams that have this concern, in order to check that their system allows them to access our sites. Even so, it’s good to check in with your systems operator or whoever is in control of security to make sure that your team’s system will allow you to access online activities from other companies, and to figure out alternatives if you can’t.
5. Decide on any “extras”
By “extras” we mean anything that you want to include outside of the main event. This can be something simple like a prize for the team that finishes the activity the fastest. This can also be extra activities or workshops that you attach to the main online activity, in the case that you want your team to gain extra knowledge or experience working together.
You could also choose to throw an online drinking party after the activity. In the past, teams would often go out for food or drinks after participating in our activities. It was a great way for teams to relax after challenging themselves and an opportunity for them to share their experiences with each other. Even for teams that are online and far away from each other, there are options for throwing online drinking parties, including this delivery service that we ourselves use for our own online parties.
6. Get your team excited and involved
At this stage, you should have your online event pretty much decided. The next step is to get your team on board and excited about it. Part of this includes letting your team members know what to expect from the event and what the goals are, so that they know how to prepare.
You can also get your team more involved by having team members be a part of the planning process for the event. Getting their opinions and input can help you figure out how to make the event more engaging for them, and they may have good ideas about how to break up teams in groups, or what “extras” you should attach to the event.
7. Have fun
Last but not least, have fun at your team building event. Of course, having fun is not something we have any control over. But after organizing and facilitating quite a number of online events over the past year and a half, we do have some advice. Teams that come in with open minds and open hearts tend to enjoy their experience more, and generally get more out of the event.
So rather than simply “Have fun” it might be better to say “Prepare to have fun”. Know that there will be challenges, and maybe some difficulties, but that at the very end, the refreshing sensation of accomplishment awaits.
Invite Japan is here to help you plan a successful virtual team building activity for your team. We have different program options and time lengths, from one hour to one full day, as well as a number of extra workshop topics and activities that can be added on to our main online program. Contact us for more information and get ready for our newest online team building game which will be released December 10th.