If you’ve been working remotely, it seems normal now to have co-workers you have never met in person. By now, you know which room at home has the best lighting and WiFi signal. You can guess who is most likely to be photobombed by a pet on a zoom call.
These are the lighter issues remote teams faced last year. The challenge of working through so much change while maintaining productivity is more serious. Many professionals found themselves spending long hours tied to technology. Not only is that approach bad for work/life balance, but it’s also not efficient.
Less Work, More Breaks
It turns out forcing yourself to sit at the computer and focus on a task for hours is not the most productive approach. A study by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track the work habits of a group of employees. It reached a surprising conclusion. The most productive people took frequent breaks.
Researchers found that the ideal work rhythm is 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. The reason is that the brain is wired for periods of intense activity, followed by rest.
For this system to succeed, the hour of focus must be just that. No checking emails or peeking at Instagram. And the quarter-hour or so of downtime should be a real rest. Stand up, go outside, talk to a friend.
Less is also more when it comes to increasing the productivity of a team. Much of the expert advice on helping people work better together involves experiences outside of conference calls.
Video Games Boost Team Productivity
A study by Brigham Young University discovered a surprising way to boost productivity. They assigned volunteers to teams and had them play 45 minutes of video games. Work teams that played video games improved productivity by 20 percent on subsequent tasks.
If those results are typical, lots of companies benefited during the pandemic. In a survey of online gamers, 33 percent played online games with co-workers last year. But they weren’t goofing off. Their companies used video games as team-building activities. If you’re wondering who gamed the most, Gen-Xers (age 41 to 46) edged out other age groups.
Team-building activities provide many benefits. They strengthen a company’s culture, encourage collaboration and improve team communication. But there are other hidden benefits of team-building activities. These include:
- Encouraging creativity
- Making managers approachable
- Identifying leaders
- Uncovering hidden talents
- Meeting different co-workers
Best Team-Building Activities
Despite these benefits, employees perceive some activities to be more valuable than others. In a survey of team-bonding activities, volunteer days ranked as the most effective and valuable activity.
For volunteer days, employees visit a local organization, like a school or nonprofit. They help by cleaning up, serving food or whatever is needed.
Work-related events with alcohol came in as the most enjoyable type of event. Sports-related activities, like team sports or fantasy brackets, are a close second.
Companies sponsor a number of innovative events to increase productivity. Here is a list of popular remote team-building activities.
Remote Team-Building activities
- Organize a video game tournament: in the experiment noted above, even inexperienced gamers benefited. They communicated more with team members to understand the rules. In 2020, the most popular multiplayer games were “Among Us,” “Animal Crossing,” and “Fortnite.”
- Try trivia: you’ll soon see who remembers baseball stats from 5th grade. Vary the trivia categories to learn more about your team members. There are online apps that will send you games each week.
- Play Pictionary: in this hilarious game, players draw pictures and others have to guess the clue. For a remote team, use an app like Skribbl to make a virtual room for drawing.
- Begin a book club: designate a time each month to discuss a book. Take turns recommending a novel or choose themes like history, mystery, or biographies.
- Start a photo challenge: have people share a photo each week. Choose a theme, such as pets, the garden or “I cooked that.” Each month, participants vote on the best photo.
Team-Building Activities for Local Teams
With pandemic-related restrictions easing, businesses are phasing in a return to meeting face-to-face. Here are activities your team can do in person.
- Create a games area: spend that 15 minutes of break time mentioned above in the company game room. Furnish it with ping pong tables, arcade games or foosball.
- Launch an exercise challenge: have a lunchtime walking competition or cycling group. If your workplace has a health club, take a fitness class together.
- Plan trivia pursuits: this is in the virtual list, but it works in person too. Schedule your own game or visit a restaurant that hosts a trivia night.
- Host a hackathon: it sounds illegal but it’s actually a technical design challenge. Software developers and others with technical backgrounds form a team to develop a product in one or two days.
- Plan a fun brainstorm: there are lots of ways to tweak this business standby. You can ask for terrible ideas, encourage participants to doodle or hold a silent meeting. In the latter, everyone writes down ideas and gives them to the moderator.
- Host skill-sharing sessions: have staff members give presentations about their specialized skills.
- Take in a baseball game: buy a block of tickets and take the office to a ball game. Extra points if you splurge on a skybox or a suite.
Out-of-the-Box Ways to Increase Your Team’s Productivity
When it comes to increasing a team’s productivity, there are plenty of classic tactics like goal setting and deadline management. But much of improving productivity involves knowing who to call and how they could help. The team-building activities mentioned above help employees meet colleagues from unfamiliar areas of the business. They learn each other’s strengths and interests and share a laugh or two. Players who join for a lunchtime video game tournament might collaborate to solve a problem a year later. If you’d like to increase your team’s productivity, find an entertaining activity to help them bond.