Why now is the time for small businesses to focus on team building

Johnny Edser of Wildgoose explains the increased importance of team building in your small business during the coronavirus pandemic

Like everyone else, at Wildgoose, we’ve spent recent weeks unlearning much of what we knew about running a company. The nationwide switch to remote working has thrown small businesses into uncharted waters. Even companies who’ve had home working practices in place for years will have been uprooted by moving their operations entirely into a virtual space.

In a time of such panic and uncertainty, it’s very easy to focus solely on the practicalities and logistics of keeping a business running – sourcing equipment, ring-fencing crucial funds and keeping the phones answered. But doing so risks losing sight of the single most important assets any business has, which are its people and its culture. Maintaining your workplace’s unique atmosphere without a bricks and mortar office is no easy task, but by adopting the right routines and keeping communication at the forefront, you will keep staff happy and productive.

That’s where team building comes in. It’s a common mistake for companies to see team building as an optional extra, something to factor into the budget after everything else, making it the first thing to go when the purse strings are tightened. But the fact is that team building is more important than ever in difficult periods like this, and it’s surprisingly easy to set up effective events even with the barrier of no face-to-face communication.

At Wildgoose we’ve been developing remote team building for some time. We’re proud of the great team spirit that makes our company a special place to work, and wanted to find ways to keep that same sense of vibrancy even when staff are working in different parts of the world. We came up with the following remote team building products that we continue to use on a daily basis.

The Daily Kick-Off

With The Daily Kick-Off, teams can get the day off to the best possible start with a quick exercise that helps them feel connected. Guided by a facilitator, staff are challenged to shoot a short motivational video or photo from wherever they are and share it with colleagues in a presentation.

What they come up with doesn’t have to be particularly fancy or inventive – it’s about doing something light-hearted that gets people into a positive mindset. There’s real power in seeing your colleagues working in their home settings, and it reinforces the sense that everyone’s in the same boat.

The virtual pub quiz

Even in normal circumstances, team socials shouldn’t be an occasional extravagance that management splash out on after a particularly good month. They’re a crucial way to ensure that genuine and meaningful links are forged between colleagues – when people have got more than just their work in common, they’re more likely to collaborate effectively and inspire one another. What better way to get the team together than with a traditional pub quiz? They’re easy and fun to set up via video conferencing, and there’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition to keep spirits up.

The virtual away day

An away day doesn’t necessarily mean decamping an outdoor pursuits centre and sticking staff on a canoe. It’s possible to run a truly inspiring away day even with colleagues scattered miles apart. By working together from the comfort of their homes to answer questions and complete themed challenges, teams can develop the same long-lasting communication and cooperation skills that they would on a regular day out.

What you can do

As companies face weeks and even months of remote working ahead, now is the time to factor team building into your business plan for the immediate future. Here are some simple, easy-to-implement ideas that you can put into practice.

  • Hold a weekly town hall meeting call. Depending on the size of your business, this could be all-staff or all-team – what’s important here is to ensure it’s not all about work. Make it a chance for employees to have a laugh, catch up on life in isolation and feel supported by one another. Use video conferencing software wherever possible in order to replicate the unique value of face-to-face contact.
  • Put a work social in the diary. You’re free to use your imagination when it comes to what you can do via video call, but a pub quiz is a great place to start. Encourage employees to bring along a drink of their choice, split them into teams and with the help of some screen sharing, they’ll soon forget they’re in their living rooms.
  • Find a way to communicate informally. Whether it’s a WhatsApp group chat or otherwise, teams need to be able to talk like they would by the coffee machine. Email chains are all well and good in the office, but they can’t replace spontaneous conversation – and that’s one of the things employees will be missing the most.

Johnny Edser is the founder and CEO of Wildgoose.

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