Before the Corona crisis, four percent of employees worked exclusively from home; in the midst of the crisis, the figure is over 27 percent, according to the latest study “Home Office: Potential and Use” by the Institute of Economic and Social Research. According to other surveys, almost half of all employees work completely or partially from home.
What effects does home office have on teamwork?
Team connectedness can be lost or not built properly. Social bonds decrease. Team cohesion should therefore be actively strengthened and built.
But how to build new teams virtually?
The phases of team development after are not a linear progression. This means: to set up detailed rules for communication and process once at the beginning, will not be purposeful. Because what a team needs, shows up only in the so-called “Storming Phase”.
So, if after the “Team Forming” there is a demand to set up all the rules, meetings, communication channels, processes, etc., this is an immense effort, which most likely may be repeated in the next phase. This is due to the fact that the team has not yet had a chance to figure out what it really needs. And thus no “real” commitment to the rules can emerge.
Orientation in the “Forming Phase”
It is better to give the new team orientation in the “forming phase”. It’s about getting to know each other and figuring out the “why am I here”. For the first kick-off, we therefore recommend: less is more. The team needs to be able to understand the vision of what they are supposed to accomplish as a team.
So that everyone can grapple with it, enough time should be planned for questions. Because as we know: Motivated employees are those who can identify with their work. Therefore, the team should also be able to participate and contribute to the vision.
If individuals cannot identify with it, but the rest of the team is behind it, the team can also be changed. The greatest possible freedom of the individual enables a WE feeling and ultimately a team that harmonizes very well with each other. Another point of successful teamwork, according to a recent Google study, is the psychological security of the individual.
The first step toward psychological safety for individuals is getting to know each other. To do this, there are a number of games that can be done virtually. For example, “Either…or” games are well suited for making commonalities or differences in the team visible at first glance: Tea or coffee? Sea or mountains?
Here, it is not necessarily about the “extremes”, but about the short discussions that help to get to know each other.
The classic round of introductions should not be missing either, but we recommend adding some fun here as well: It helps to answer one or two unusual questions in addition to the usual ones, such as “What is your superpower?” or “What should definitely not be missing in the office or on vacation?”.
This reveals more about a person than their birthplace. If you want to create more closeness and connection, tell not only about your professional stations, but also what moves you privately.
Large teams ideally come together virtually in groups of fewer than ten people to get to know each other. You can use breakout sessions for this purpose.
After getting to know each other and discovering what you have in common, the teamwork already starts. This is sure to result in a few things that are not quite running smoothly yet. An ideal approach for empirical work! We recommend defining common values in the next step – the entry into the “Norming Phase”.
Values manifest themselves in thinking and doing, which is why rules can be derived based on them. Both again lead to motivation and commitment. However, it also requires courage and confidence to talk about it.
Defining shared values – how does this work virtually?
First, a list of values is needed –here you can take a cue from, say, the Encyclopedia of Values.
When selecting values, it is important that they are formulated constructively. You can also make a pre-selection where similar values are grouped together. All values can be listed and voted. The values with the most votes are then clustered and voted again if necessary. The team is allowed to discuss. The final value clusters are then given an umbrella term. Alternatively, pre-polls can also help.
A value test with pair comparison can also enable a pre-selection.
If you want to derive rules from the values, you can do this in the next step. To do this, ask openly in the team: what is important to you? Retrospectives are also an excellent way to expand the list. Here, too, it is important to ask whether everyone in the team can accept and support the rules. Options for digital approval are the “thumbs up” button or signatures with initials.
Try something out and adjust it if it doesn’t work. The same goes for meetings, tools and processes. To do this, create opportunities to continuously “Inspect and Adapt,” such as team retrospectives.
Generally, the higher the participation, the higher the motivation – and the more successful the team!
In addition, create opportunities for virtual, regular exchange such as professional exchange rounds (e.g. for special roles), access to communities, virtual lunch breaks, brown bag sessions or even “silent working” opportunities where the camera and sound can stay on outside of meetings.
Game ideas – free and paid
From our experience, we are happy to provide you with a few proven game ideas that promote team building and getting to know each other.
- The Werewolves of Bleak Forest
- Among Us
- Photo quiz e.g. Whose office is this?
- “Who said it?” Online quiz
- Virtual scavenger hunt on the Internet
- Who am I?
- Ten commonalities in ten minutes
- Escape Room Games
- Crime Games
- Drum Sessions – build and play together
- Guided online quizzes