By Carly Bauer, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

I started here at Heinz in the middle of the pandemic, we were already a full year in and we are still working virtually to this day. As my first job in my career field, working virtually is all I have known. I have not had the chance to work the typical office life everyone was accustomed to before the pandemic hit. But even I have found myself struggling with the remote work blues, so I know many others who had to make the transition from in-office work to remote and are either still remote or are now doing hybrid-work are struggling with it too.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I enjoy with remote work. I enjoy not having a commute and being able to work out of the comfort of my home (in yoga pants). But if we ignore the struggles and hardships that come along with it and how it affects ourselves and our teams, we are going to see it negatively affect internal communication, team cohesiveness, quality of work, and much more.

Disconnection through lack of social interaction

In the office, it’s easy to approach colleagues whenever you want to discuss things in person. However, with remote work, you have to constantly rely on instant messaging and video calls to communicate with your team members. While video calls can be a great solution for discussing the nitty gritty details of projects, it takes time to schedule and set up calls instead of just walking over to your co-worker’s desk.

This also applies to everyday office small chat. It’s hard to create time to catch up with co-workers and teammates and go into the details of conversation through instant messaging compared to talking in-person. As it gets harder and harder to keep in touch you soon realize that you haven’t talked or kept in touch with your colleagues in weeks, maybe even months aside from work meetings. 

Those easy avenues for connection and conversation among co-workers that came with the office space are gone – lunch break gatherings and watercooler chats are long gone. Employees start to silo themselves from each other, busy in their work, attending meetings left and right, there is no opportunity to take breaks to catch up on things outside of work.

So, how do we solve the potential for internal disconnection in a virtual work environment?

In order to keep employees from silo-ing themselves internally and continue to engage with each other outside of meeting discussion, opportunities and spaces need to be made. That feeling of connection through communication is a key piece to team comradery and provides a sense of comfortability overall to have more open communication among your team for all aspects of work.

Ways to overcome and prevent internal disconnection

Here at Heinz Marketing, we have created a few different ways to promote team bonding and engagement in a remote work style over the course of the pandemic.  We continue to create new opportunities as our team grows and we receive feedback from coworkers on what their needs are to continue feeling like they belong, are part of a team, and what helps them work effectively in our company.

For starters we have different Slack channels for various topics of conversation to keep connected with one another:

  • ‘Watercooler Channel’ – for random topics and conversation as you would in the office
  • ‘Food & Drinks’ – for sharing our favorite dishes, drinks, restaurants and all things food and drinks related because if you didn’t know it already, we are BIG foodies around here
  • ‘Good Reads’ – to share books and articles we have read or found we want to share with the team

Slack is an instant messaging platform that we used even before the pandemic but once we went remote, we found the need to use it more often since we weren’t in the office anymore and needed a way to communicate about various different things.

We share bad, and I mean really bad dad jokes on Wednesdays in our ‘Watercooler’ Channel on Slack for Hump Day.

We recently started sharing our daily Wordle results in our ‘Watercooler’ Channel – for those of us that play it.

We take turns hosting a virtual 30-min Happy Hour on Thursday to give the team a chance to relax, catch up and enjoy a game or topic of conversation together. Once a month this virtual Happy Hour is done in-person locally for anyone that wants to or is able to attend. The monthly in-person events are great because we still crave and need face-to-face interaction, especially for our more extroverted co-workers.

This year, after collecting feedback from the team on what people’s needs were to continue to thrive and do well in the workplace, we put together a Team Bonding/Social Committee made up of our work peers. This group organizes additional opportunities for our team to get together in person and enjoy time together outside of work.

  • The Social Committee planned a pottery painting event in place of an in-person happy hour
  • They put together the food and activities for our end of Q2 and Summer BBQ celebration
  • A Mariner’s baseball game is currently in the works

Additional ways to create bonding opportunities

Greenhat Games has a variety of different virtual team building games including:

  • Online Office Challenge
  • Beat the Hacker
  • Team Trivia Challenge
  • 10-minute Icebreakers

Escapely is another virtual team building site and includes activities such as:

  • Virtual Escape Rooms
  • Virtual Murder Mysteries
  • Virtual Trivia

If you are looking for free alternatives, Jambar Team Building put together a list of 50 Free Fun Virtual Team Building Activities and Games to Play Online.

All these games have a specific purpose in team building including fostering creativity and innovation, icebreakers, improving morale and motivation, enhancing productivity, and encouraging teamwork.

The importance of team bonding

Whether you decide to give virtual team building games a try, create special chat channels in Slack or another IM platform, or schedule designated virtual meetings or in-person get togethers to connect. Team bonding leads to effective teamwork and improves overall team performance. Employees become more aware of one another’s strengths, weaknesses, skills, and interests. This knowledge enables them to work together effectively in the future and contributes to the company’s success and growth.

Team bonding activities improve communication among team members. Everyone wants to work in a welcoming workplace where they can talk openly with each other, collaborate with one another, and feel both seen and heard. This also helps with boosting office morale and allowing the office to operate more efficiently in resolving common workplace challenges by better understanding each of your team members.

Research shows that competition can be a great booster to productivity. Employees can bond in ways that are harder to achieve during their day-to-day work by incorporating higher productivity into a fun, inclusive team bonding activity.

When companies engage in team bonding, team members are more likely to learn from one another and build on one another’s strengths. When compared to working on a project alone, cooperation offers different perspectives and ideas, blending experiences with fresh, innovative concepts, making work more enjoyable and efficient– Ultimately promoting creativity and innovation.

As companies continue to do work remotely or shift to a hybrid setting, it’s vital to have opportunities to participate in team bonding activities to keep teamwork, communication, productivity, and creativity alive.