We have an elephant in the room (about remote team spirit)

In 2018., just 2 years ago, only 1.4% Croats ‘usually worked from home’. To work from home ‘usually’ was obviously not that usual at all, but when we change the ‘usually’ with worked from home ‘sometimes’ numbers don’t get much better either. In 2018, according to Eurostat data, only 5.3% Croats ‘sometimes’ worked from home. This means that the vast majority (95%) of workers working from home now have never before experienced this type of work. It’s not only that for the first time we have whole teams working from home, we also have team managers managing and leading from home for the first time. Croats were definitely not prepared to work from home, and how prepared some others countries might be, you can draw your conclusions from the below chart I prepared.

It is a challenge to properly lead a team in normal circumstances, but how do you do it now? How do you keep your team engaged, motivated and productive in this environment where not only everyone has been sent to work from home with no preparation at all, but everyone is also facing some of the biggest fears day to day? There is no magic pill, but you as a team leader should at least try to keep the team spirit up during these challenging times.

How to do that?

Think about how you usually care for your team in a normal environment and what type of activities work well for your team members.

Do they love chatting about the weekend next to the water cooler in your office kitchen? Then go ahead and open a Slack channel #watercooler for your team members to have a place to chat about things not related to work.

Do they bond best when going for a beer on Friday after work? Schedule a video meeting on Friday 4 pm, but beforehand make sure you sent a package to everyone’s doorstep containing some special beer assortment.

If you don’t have an original idea about team building activities for your team, go to Google or continue reading because I’ll give you an example of a team building activity that you can do with your team even if everyone is working from home. Team building activities performed from home or on site both have the same the goal: to transform individual workers into a cohesive team that works cooperatively and to improve the efficiency and performance.

Here’s a fun and easy example of an activity that might do just that – boost your teams’ productivity, strengthen the bond, improve focus of individuals and lift the spirit of the team by having some fun during office hours.

We have an elephant in the room

Every game needs a name so let’s call this one: We have an elephant in the room

How to play

On Monday, in your #watercooler channel, your team picks one animal. In example, let’s say they picked an elephant for this week.

  • Team leader searches for the best origami instructional video for the selected animal and shares the link with others. A hint: subscribe to Jo Nakashima’s Youtube channel, there you will find some beautiful and well explained origami videos. For the first week: an elephant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dWRopbNdeY by Jo Nakashima or another that is also very cute is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InIpbaPdA54 by Leyla Torres.
  • Origami paper – if your team members don’t have original origami paper, they can use wrapping paper, newspapers or just plain paper cut into size that is usually defined in the beginning of every origami video.
  • During the week every team member can fold it during those small breaks from work, within office hours. If the instructional video is about 20 mins long, you should count everyone will need at least 40 mins in total to finish the animal, because there will be a lot of rewind, replay and pause moments during the folding. This is why you should give team members enough time for it – Monday to Friday should be just about right.
  • Why should we fold origami? This is a question your team members might ask you. You can’t just say ‘because it’s a good team building activity’, even though this is true. It improves concentration and spatial awareness, and it develops imagination and creativity – something we could all use especially now. But it is still a boring answer to give to a team member. So, make it a contest. Contests are fun. And don’t forget – this is fun during working hours.
  • It’s Friday, and hopefully everyone has folded something that looks like an elephant. Organise a video meeting and prepare a scoreboard. Share the scoreboard with your team members via Google Drive so that everyone can edit the document at the same time. If you have a team of 8 people, your scoreboard might look something like this after the first two people presented their elephants on camera to the rest of the team and received their points:

Every team member gives 3, 2 or 1 points to every other team member.

3 – Are you sure you did this yourself?
2 – This one looks a bit like mine.
1 – You did your best!

  • Once you have your winner of the week, it’s up to you as a manager to see if playing together with others and winning is a prize enough, or you think an additional prize would be suited. Adding a prize is not mandatory and sometimes can even be a bad idea, but selecting the right thing tailored by your team’s preferences might motivate them even more. Possible prizes: food basket delivery or giving the Monday morning free.
  • If you play this game for a few weeks during the ‘Covid19 work from home’ period, your team might end up with an impressive collection of origami animals. Don’t throw them away. Once you all return to office* keep that Zoo all together in a hallway, as a monument to some tough times you and your team members went through. Keep them next to a water-cooler.

*Disclaimer

This text is written in hope you and your team members will return to office someday soon or simply continue working remotely from home. I know that for many this will not happen; the reality is many people will lose their jobs and offices will not be the same as before the crisis. It might come across as insensitive to suggest playing games in times like this. It is up to a manager’s common sense to see if a team building activity like this is suited or not. For some teams it is not. But if you have a team that is working, don’t be ashamed to share a laugh or two with them – it is OK to have some fun during crisis. Don’t force games or other team building activities on your team members – ask them if they are willing to try out a game. If they don’t feel like it, accept it. Games are a good way of building your team’s spirit while working remotely – but never forget to talk to your people even if it’s just simply asking them how they feel.

**Recommendation

For video calls check out the free plans Webex is giving – up to 100 people per video meeting with no time limit.

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