As employers scrambled to pivot their teams to remote work during the pandemic, a number of employees reported losing the sense of connection, relationship, and cultural values they used to have on-site, according to a Gallup survey.
In fact, employees who worked in a different location than their manager were 10% less likely to feel cared about or recognized for their contributions, 7% less likely to feel aligned with the core mission, and 5% less likely to feel their opinions matter.
What’s more, according to TinyPulse, while 91% of employees rate their colleagues on a positive scale, just over a third (36%) describe their company’s team-building efforts as “poor” and 30% reveal they don’t have much fun at work.
Not only do you need to build trust with your remote employees—especially as a new manager who is still learning the team dynamics—but now is a great time to make it fun. Use these ideas to keep things light while connecting more deeply as a team.
Host a virtual summit
Company summits are always a good idea because you get to move out of the office and do something different for the day. Take your summit virtual to build trust among your team while having fun and connecting on upcoming projects, company values, and company-wide goals.
To make your virtual summit more enticing, try these ideas:
- Create a branded virtual Zoom background for everyone to use or hold a contest to see who can create or choose the funniest background.
- Use break-out rooms to give employees time to connect one-on-one.
- Take a page from Spanx founder Sara Blakely and include a comedy section where each employee has to tell a joke.
Create team playlists
A shared music experience can reinforce the bonds of social cohesion and inclusion among people in diverse locations, suggests Frontiers in Psychology. The good news is, you can easily create a shared music experience to build trust and reinforce team bonds with shared playlists.
This idea comes from “15 Principles to Manage a Remote Team,” in which communication experts explain that a collaborative music playlist allows colleagues to share their music preferences and introduce one another to new artists, so the team gets closer as a unit.
Start a company book club
A remote book club is another group activity that requires minimal planning or resources but can lead to meaningful collaborations and interactions that boost trust. The idea is simple: Choose a book to read, then organize a Zoom chat to discuss the book once everyone has finished it. The benefits of this initiative are clear, says Jessica McCaughey. The assistant professor of writing at George Washington University suggests:
“[Book] clubs allow for members to not only share their perspectives on a text but also to share some of the life experiences that led them to these perspectives. The book serves as a jumping-off point or a prompt . . . for conversations about life outside of the book.”
Play virtual “would you rather . . .”
When employees participate in watercooler talk, it enhances their productivity and sense of belonging, according to a recent study published in the Academy of Management. This connection time builds trust as employees learn facts and personal details about their coworkers, like their favorite music or pets’ names.
Use a virtual platform like Donut to pair team members with a different coworker each week so they can talk one-on-one. But don’t stop there. Keep it fun and interesting by giving everyone a “Would you rather . . .” question to debate during their chat.
Play remote trivia
Trivia games have been around since the ’60s and can easily be used to connect and build trust as a team. As employees work together to beat their competition, they build greater trust in one another, and, as the facilitator who organized something fun and nonwork-related for the team, you can earn trust points as well.
Use this trivia generator to get a list of questions, break into teams, and get started. Make it even more fun by turning it into a trivia happy hour to help everyone loosen up and have a little more fun.
As the new manager of a remote team, you have been tasked with the unique challenge of building a culture of trust, solidarity, teamwork, and cohesion during stressful, uncertain times. It’s a difficult job, but it’s not impossible—and these activities can help you create and strengthen the bonds of trust with everyone on your team.
Jessica Thiefels is the author of 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions, podcast host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.