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Virtual Teams Book: Building a virtual team spirit… extract from Chapter 2

Progress since the last post

Since my last post, I have been working on Chapter 2. It was great to work in this chapter as it includes a lot of practical strategies and case studies, which were fun to revisit.

Next, I will be working on Chapter 1, Setting out as a virtual team.

I have completed drafts for three of the six chapters now, and I am a total of 29,000 words into the process, which means I am halfway to a complete draft.

As planned, I will be sharing extracts from work in progress (read this month’s extract below) and invite you to read along, reflect and share your thoughts. As part of the book writing process, I will also organise virtual drop in sessions which are open to all and free to attend and there is a regular newsletter with updates about the book and upcoming events or get in touch with me directly.

Chapter overview: Building a virtual team spirit

This chapter focuses on ways to engage a virtual staff, managing people who may never meet in person and finding ways to create a proper team spirit. Some of the examples in this chapter include show & tell sessions, team days and activities as well as physical items such as team merchandise, treats and presents. 

Before we look at practical approaches, let’s consider some of the key questions that determine what team building activities will be the most effective in your context: what shapes the way a virtual team works? How do you find the right balance between online and in person activities? What do you want your team to feel like on a day to day basis? 

It can be liberating to consider these questions outside of practical constraints. The way your team works, how often you can meet or what sort of activities you can make happen may be determined by constraints outside of your control, such as internal policies for example. That said, it is still worth getting a feel for what you hope the culture of your team can be and then work with the practicalities involved.

Draft Chapter extract

Below is an extract of the draft chapter.

Team Meeting Ice-breakers

In this case study, every weekly team meeting starts with a short ice-breaker activity. The chairing of the meetings is rotated, so that every member of the team takes a turn chairing the meeting. It is the responsibility of the chair to include an ice-breaker activity on the agenda. 

In a team of ten or less, rotating the meetings can be a great way for bringing their own personality and style to the proceedings. What follows are examples of the kind of ice breaker activities we designed as a team: 

  • Animal corner: For this activity the team was asked to share your four-legged friends if you have one, or any animal that makes you smile! . 
  • Favourite recipe: Here the team shared what has been your favourite recipe discovered during lockdown, through which we discovered Freezer Vegan Breakfast Burritos and Ottolenghi’s Feta and oregano fries! 
  • Musical Mayhem: share a link to whatever song or piece of music that makes you feel alive! This ended up with a very eclectic mix of songs and also gave a sense of what made the team tick, covering tracks from the Bee Gees to N-trance. 
  • Movie recommendations: sharing box set or movie recommendations including links to reviews, personal reviews and ideas for further watching. 
  • Hogwarts House: the team took a free online quiz to find out which house each of us belong to (our team includes someone from every house…). 
  • Emoji Weather check-in: sharing what the weather’s like in emoji works well during heat waves or cold snaps. The team compared who was in the coldest place.
  • Air punch: share a thought or memory that you go to for virtual air punches. There were a very interesting range of responses to this, which like “Hogwarts House” stimulated some nice conversations. 
  • Pictionary Jam: where we had a round of Pictionary each drawing on a Jamboard. Plenty of other whiteboard tools are available to try this out and if a Pictionary game isn’t handy there is a website for that.

Whilst every individual brings their own ideas to these activities, they all only take 5-10 minutes to complete, are easy to do and are very casual. 

Planning your own virtual ice breakers? Start with these questions:
Do you have any practical limitations or requirements?
What, if anything, do you want to avoid?
What examples can you share with your team to get started?
Is there a particular time limit?