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leadership

Leading a Virtual Team: Our Team Day experience

This month is our first full Team Day of the year. This post shares what we did, why and how.

The ‘why’ of our virtual Team Days

As a distributed team we have had a blended approach to individual catch up and team get togethers for a couple of years. Due to the impact of lockdown living and working from home with family, pets and under pressure, we didn’t have formal Team Days last year and instead shorter, more frequent social gatherings online. For example, we used birthdays as a prompt to have a virtual team get together, often with cake or similar treats sent by post to everyone in advance. Things have improved over the last few weeks and months and our team is now ready to come together for a full day.

A full day is a lot of time, particularly in a small team with mostly part-time workers. We don’t have any external commitments on the day and Out of Office messages are firmly ON. So why do we have Team Days:

  • To give ourselves time to hang out together
  • To work together on something as a team
  • To have fun and focus on our social relationships

Preparations

Shaping the day

For us, it’s really important that everyone plays a part in shaping the day and the focus of what we do. We discuss our plans and this year I also set up a survey giving a lot of different options for formal and informal CPD, group activities, fun things and also a catch all space for everyone to contribute their own ideas. The winning “not at your desk” activity for this Team Day is to go for a walk together whilst using text chat and, weather permitting, to do a photo competition of what we encounter.

Staff survey for the Team Day

Team Day Supplies

Virtual Team Days are much better if there are some tangible elements and this year I sourced something for each part of the day, and then shipped a box with all the ingredients to each member of staff. We also looked at options to order ready made hampers or boxes, which work better for larger teams, but in this instance, it was cheaper and more practical to make up a box for each member of the team:

All the boxes together and then an individual box as example of the contents.

All together it cost around £200 for 7 staff, including a gift for each person (£70), food and snacks (£60) and shipping and packaging (£70). Depending on your budget, that may seem a lot or a little, but in comparison to what it would cost for us to travel to meet up and cater for the day, this cost is lower.

Stickers from the Team Day parcels.

All vegan Team Day

We have some staff who are vegan and usually when we order provisions for team activities, we cater for everyone separately. Comparable food, but different for each according to dietary preference, is usually the result. This time, I chose to go all vegan and also gluten free, which means that everyone gets the same except for the cake, of which there were different ones in the box we ordered. It’s a win for everyone.

We also re-used packaging and wrappings to help limit the environmental impact.

On the Day

Here is our agenda for the day, which we used to help plan what we do when:

Unboxing Team Day

One of my favourite moments of the Day was when we unpacked our Team Day parcels. Each parcel had a contents page on the top, so that everyone could see what was included and what it was for. The parcel included:

  • Treats & Snacks: To keep you going through the morning. All snacks are vegan.
  • Cake! For lunch is always a solid life choice. Enjoy this vegan & gluten free cake as part of our team lunch 🙂
  • Pick & Mix: For the Team Portrait… also vegan and yummy. Which one is your favourite?

And a surprise, which we opened together at the end of the day and which contained a mug in a different colour for each member of the team as well as a special badge for each person.

The contents sheet of the Team Day box and the actual contents.

Reflection

I do miss seeing my colleagues in person. There is no way around that. That said, not all Team Days have to involve meeting up in person and Team Days can be and are amazing online.

We had a wonderful day as a team, working, chatting, eating and having fun. It brought us closer together, helped us spend time together and also focus us on what’s ahead.

The biggest hit of the day was the Alternative Team Portrait with special guest Bryan Mathers. Whilst it was great to have a whole day as a team, it’s always helpful to have some external facilitation for sessions you can all take part in equally.

One thing we want to try for the next Team Day is to distribute some of the planning and preparation for individual activities so that more staff can get actively involved in that aspect of things.

Overall, our virtual team virtual team day was a huge successful and brought joy to us 🙂

Bryan in action during our visual thinkery session.
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