Beyond beer and baseball games
Tech teams are becoming less and less homogenous—and that’s a great thing. It also means that when it comes to team-building activities and events, the average beer-and-baseball-game group outings may not be that fun for everyone. Here are some outside-the-box ideas to get to know each other and boost morale that are inclusive to different groups, from remote workers and introverts to parents and international employees.
How to tell if it’s time for some team building:
- Friction between coworkers. Maybe it’s just an icy glance or brusque interruption during a meeting. Unless there’s been a formal complaint to management it’s hard to know if there’s truly an issue—but if you’re sensing tension you’re probably seeing the tip of the iceberg.
- Work dynamics are imbalanced. Are the same three people always talking during brainstorming sessions while the others type quietly and rarely contribute? Are certain team members viewed as new idea generators while others are simply expected to do their job and stay in their lane?
- People seem drained. Productivity is flatlining. Staffers feel overworked, bored with their work, or a toxic combination of both. They’re getting things done, but they’re not doing their best job. This is especially destructive in a smaller-sized business that has to make the most of every employee—particularly when a string of resignations follows.
Here are some ideas that’ll boost morale and build bridges across your diverse team:
For remote workers:
- A “watercooler” channel in your team collaboration app. Team building doesn’t have to be a formal in-person event—just adding a small social building block like this can go a long way. Keep it localized to your tech or IT team only—when these channels go company-wide they start getting a little intimidating and less fun. Create some loose ground rules (“be respectful and don’t make anyone uncomfortable” is a good place to start) and then let the funny memes-posting begin. This is a good way for in-house staff and remote team members to get to know each other every day in an informal, casual way.
- “Donut” day. Tech is full of introverts, many of whom view any sort of group team-building exercise as something to be endured. If your team is full of quiet types, give Donut a try. It’s a Slack plugin that randomly pairs employees together to go out for a donut (or smoothie, or coffee…you get the picture) and learn a little more about their job. Donut lets introverts get to know their coworkers on a casual, one-on-one basis, which is easier for them than a big, formal group event. It’s also brief—far less time than an evening out or even a sit-down lunch—which makes it feel like less of a commitment.
- 9-to-5 anything. Parents are obviously a diverse group of people, but the one thing they have in common is that they have to hop on a train or into their car and pick up their kids from daycare before 6 pm. Casual afternoon beer-and-brainstorms that stretch past 5 require them to awkwardly excuse themselves (and look like they’re not team players). They may have to bail on evening events if they can’t find a sitter. Be aware of their needs and plan at least some of your team-building activities during work hours when they already have childcare covered. (Chat channels and Donut days work great for parents, too.)
For international team members:
It’s important to be culturally sensitive and talk this over with your international team members first. Ask them for ideas and input and make sure they’re not only OK with it, but excited as well.
- World sports. Stream the India national cricket team on a big screen and get catering from a favorite Indian restaurant. Or watch F1 racing in Dubai, or the Africa Cup rugby union tournament—wherever your team’s interests lie. Get tickets to a Team USA soccer match or other sporting event if there’s interest and you have the budget.
- An international cooking class. Not everyone likes sports—but almost everyone likes food. A group cooking class is a great way to develop teamwork skills, celebrate culture and learn some awesome new recipes. (If you have any vegetarians or food-restricted employees be sure to keep their needs in mind, too.)
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