It is often misunderstood that team communication refers to personal interactions or exchanging viewpoints. However, purposeful team communication extends beyond mere gossip or personal conversations. At work, team communication has multiple aspects to it like, the audience of the communication, the objective of communicating and the method of communication. Due to communication channels being limited to video calls or emails in remote work, the focus is on communicating formally.
As employees started to experience ‘Zoom fatigue’ later in the pandemic, employers noticed that open and purposeful communication was lacking in teams. Organizing virtual team building activities is one way to strengthen communication in remote teams. There is a common misconception that virtual team building games are not as engaging as physical ones. However, when planned well virtual team building games are much more engaging, intriguing, and cost effective than regular ones. Singaporean companies are a classic example as to how this can be done. Virtual team building games in Singapore have evolved from online board games to virtual escape rooms. Escape room activities are highly collaborative and involve many tasks to complete. If activities like escape rooms can be organized virtually and be engaging, there is no doubt that other activities cannot be. But some games are more engaging than others.
To avoid being repetitive or boring, here are a few tips to build strong team communication with virtual team building games:
Organize interactive events
Employees often say that communication is one of the key areas employers need to improve. Whether it is an online or offline meeting, employees report feeling unacknowledged or unheard. Unfortunately, one sided communication during meetings leads to unhealthy communication patterns and disengaged employees. On the other hand, interactive meetings help in facilitating a two way communication that motivates employees, provide clarity, and a clear sense of direction. Virtual team building activities are a great tool for making online meetings more interactive. Some examples of interactive events are ice-breakers, escape rooms, puzzle games, scavenger hunts etc. These activities do not have to be organized separately but can rather be integrated into a meeting itself. For example, weekly check-ins can begin with ice-breaker activities or weekends can end with puzzle games. This will help start off on a lighter note or relieve stress after a busy week. Although quick, these activities are highly impactful in strengthening communication by acknowledging communication from team members.
To foster a healthy communication, creating a trust-worthy and safe environment is the first step. Activities that build trust like blindfold games or mystery games help teams feel psychologically safe to interact with one another. Also, effective communication is sometimes about being able to disagree and offer a new perspective. When team members trust each other, they can put forth new perspectives without the fear of being rejected.
In teams that work in a highly collaborative environment, disagreements are common. Teams that do not disagree cannot think out of the box or produce creative work. However, conflict needs to be resolved as soon as it is identified. Unresolved conflicts are a hindrance to productivity. Transparent communication is of utmost importance in conflict resolution and the need for it is even higher in remote teams. While virtual team building activities may not be the solution to resolve conflicts, they help in team members opening up to each other, accepting disagreements and moving ahead after conflict resolution. Examples of ideal activities in these scenarios are ice-breakers, debates, or group discussions. Conflict management is an ongoing process and team building activities are an integral part of it.
Effective communication cannot be facilitated when your team members do not have good listening skills. Listening is an integral part of communication. Without listening, messages cannot be interpreted or responded to in the apt way. Active listeners not only encourage active communication but also build lasting relationships. Virtual team building activities like memory games nurture listening skills of your team members.
Encourage collaboration, not competition
Lastly, team members need to collaborate with each other not compete. As everyone works towards a collective goal and achieving the organization’s vision, resources need to be shared, decisions made, and ideas exchanged. In a competitive environment, resources and ideas are hidden and team members start to feel insecure. A competitive environment does not facilitate communication. In remote teams, as there are less opportunities for personal interactions, it is easy to misunderstand each other and feel insecure. Virtual team building activities like escape rooms and puzzles can encourage team members to collaborate while having fun and building personal relationships.
To conclude, virtual team building activities help remote teams communicate better by helping team members form personal relationships. It is also essential to understand that communication is not limited to talking to each other but also includes body language, tone, and expression. In a remote environment these factors become more important than exchanging words. Virtual team building activities help team members engage with each other beyond just words. However, efforts need to be ongoing to build bonds and team building must be an integral part of your organization’s human resource management strategy.