Collaboration (how people work together) is one thing, but feeling connected (how people feel) to your team is another. It is not surprising that the stronger the bond of a team the greater the collaboration and the output produced. But how do you create and strengthen this bond? What does it take to feel connected? The short answer is time and investment in your people.
There is definitely no one size fits all solution, so in this article, we are going to share a few options for both in-person and remote team connectedness exercises. We recommend choosing a few things to do over a quarter and varying it up from casual (something like drinks) to a more organized longer ‘get-to-know’ each other session. The goal is to shift mindsets from colleagues to peers (human beings), in turn, building stronger relationships.
*All times shown are estimates only and can vary based on team size
- Ice breakers (5 mins)
- Team drinks (20 - 90 mins)
- Coffee buddies (30 mins)
- What’s your party trick? (2 hours for a team of 6)
- Charades (60 mins for a team of 6)
- Telephone charades (30 mins - best for groups of 10 or more)
These can be used at the start of meetings, while you might be waiting for people to join, between sessions to have a break, or anytime you want to get a little bit light-hearted.
- What animal would you choose to be, and why?
- What is the last dream you remember?
- Where would you vacation if money were no object?
- If you can take one book to a deserted island which one would you take and why?
- What car did you learn to drive on?
- When you read or watch TV, do you go for fiction or nonfiction?
- What’s your favorite cuisine and why?
- Who is someone that inspires you?
Fill in the blanks
I have never ________________.
My friends love me for my ________________.
If my pet could talk, it would say ________________.
One ____________ is better than ten ________________.
This is a no brainer, getting together over a couple of drinks (alcoholic or not) and snacks allows for people to down tools and chat about anything and everything. Of course, a little bit of alcohol always loosens things up but adding in games or activities can also connect people. Games often bring out the camaraderie and competitiveness, it can be surprising finding out who can’t stand to lose!
This can be set at a regular cadence and also divided amongst the team to take turns organizing. If you are doing this remotely there are services which can deliver drinks/ snacks and also plenty of online games eg: Pictionary, escape rooms, quizzes, etc.
Game recommendations: Code names, Jenga, never have I ever.
Whether you are in the office and can take a walk around the block or remote and working from home, it is important to take breaks. Why not use this time to connect with colleagues? This does not have to be exclusively within one team, in fact, it is recommended to be company-wide to encourage cross-team collaboration.
All you need to do is randomly pair people for a 30-minute coffee (or tea) break! This can be automated via slack using a bot, or you can do this manually using spreadsheets. It is then up to the two people paired to find a time in their diaries that works.
If it helps you can recommend themes like sharing books or podcasts or leaving it to be an organic conversation is also great!
What’s your party trick
This one takes a little bit more prep and time from everyone beforehand, but it is definitely worth it! Each team member should fill out their own board (see image below) with their own personal answers. We recommend giving people a couple of days to think about it and to complete it in between other tasks.
The questions are written to be fun and exploratory, draw out insights that others might not know, and also find common experiences with each other.
Once you have shared individual boards with everyone, block out a time slot for a couple of hours in the next few days, and encourage everyone to come prepared with completed boards.
During the session, you should take turns sharing your answers to the same question, that way it is not a one-way monologue and it is more interactive. Some of the questions are for the team to guess such as the music names and the true or false statements, make sure the person speaking doesn’t give it away!
It might be a little awkward at first, but this one is all about thinking outside the box and communication. You can do this all together as one team where you each take turns acting and everyone else guesses, or if you have enough people you can break up into multiple teams. This could be a good opportunity to mix it up so people aren’t with someone they work with every day.
The goal of the game is to help your team guess the word you are trying to act without using your voice, only body language (pantomime). Words can be generated yourself based on books, movies, famous people, actions, animals, your company, anything you like really, or you can use an online word generator. You then take turns acting out a word, making sure you time-box it, 90 seconds is generally a good amount of time. If the team is unable to guess it in time, the opposing team gets a chance to guess it before the answer is revealed. Points are given to the team who guesses it right.
The aim of the game is to have the most points at the end, it’s up to you how long you wish to play. For smaller groups, we recommend each person gets to act 4-5 times, or for larger groups, everyone gets to act 2-3 times.
This exercise can be great before long team days of listening or brainstorming.
- Divide into teams of 5-8 people.
- Ask one team to come to the front of the room and stand in a line, all facing in the same direction (it's important that they can't see the person standing behind them).
- Show the person at the back of the line a word to act out silently, but don't have them do so just yet. Show it to the "audience" as well so they know what's up, but make sure nobody else in the line sees it.
- When the person at the back of the line is ready, they will tap the shoulder of the person standing in front of them. That person turns around so now the two are standing face to face (but again: the rest of the line continues facing forward).
- The person acting pantomimes the word as best they can. Do it 2 or 3 times so the person watching can really absorb and memorize the movements. But do not tell them the word being acted out!
- Now the person watching becomes the actor – they tap the person in front of them and repeat the pantomime as best they can. (You see where this is going, right?)
- Repeat steps 4-6 until everyone in the line has seen the pantomime.
- Laugh your head off as the pantomime morphs dramatically from how the person at the back of the line originally acted out the word.
- If the person at the front of the line can correctly guess the word, that team scores a point.
Make sure all teams get a chance to act at least once if not multiple times. Looking for words to have the teams act out? Try these: mermaid, lawn sprinkler, firefighter, Gollum, light bulb, snow shovel, jet ski, surfer, walkie-talkie, frying pan.
Tip: For all games including drinks can be fun - if you are remote, get cocktails delivered so you are all having the same thing at the same time!
Feeling connected to your team is extremely important especially when working remotely. As a leader, it is your role and responsibility to sense when there is a dip in morale and work hard to keep people energized, motivated, and connected. Try these simple exercises to get started, and continue to invest the time and energy in staying connected.