So many of us are just now returning to the office and having a semblance of the old normal restored in our work routines; it is more important now to maintain and even improve the drive, enthusiasm and team building efforts your employees carried through the pandemic.
After working from home for so long, some companies have opted for hybrid work situations where employees come to the office for part of the week and work from home the other part, or have even opted for some employees to work completely remotely. This works great for some employees’ schedules or productivity—what it doesn’t work well for is employee interaction and morale.
When we work permanently from home and don’t come into the office, the only interactions we have with our coworkers might be project meetings. Working at home offers the flexibility many of us crave, but doesn’t offer the conversations you have in passing at the office. Team building activities, even accidental ones, that happen in the office may be lost on those working remotely.
Another piece of this is how many people got hired at the peak of the pandemic. Many employees hired during the pandemic have never even been in the office due to work-from-home policies; how do we help these team members feel like they are actually on the team?
The short answer? Team building.
Eye-rolls and groaning aside, team building is not all cheesy, corporate events where everyone counts down the time until they can go home. Think monthly happy hours at Oliva on the Hill, listening to speakers your whole team enjoys at City Cottage, or even hosting holiday parties for your employees and their families at Three Barn Farm. Team building is about creating real connections between your team members, and the best way to do that is to get people in an environment where they’re comfortable.
Team building can improve so many different aspects of your company’s culture and is crucial with returning to the office. See below for ways team-building exercises positively impact your team.
Networking, meeting and connecting with your coworkers
How many employees did you hire mid-pandemic? How many have never even been in the office or met most of their team in person?
These employees only have a digital relationship with their coworkers and, really, don’t have much of a relationship outside of project meetings—working from home takes away the catch-ups that happen in the break room or impromptu meetings that happen in passing.
Morning huddles, group lunches and other activities allow employees to get to know their coworkers in a relaxed environment. After-hours events, like planning a private happy hour at Wine Down Wednesday at Oliva on the Hill, are even better! Giving your team time together outside of work helps them get to know each other on a different level. They can better understand each other’s roles and how they can work together to achieve the best possible results.
You have to know people in some regard to trust them, and, in turn, you have to trust people to work with them well. After being apart for so long, some of that trust may have dissipated some from losing that regular contact.
Similarly, if you don’t know someone, you can’t know what they’re capable of. So if you don’t think they can complete a task or vice versa, your relationship will likely be strained.
Trust makes people feel safe. When people feel safe, they are more willing to open up. When they open up, they will share new ideas and make something even better than before.
Encouraging positivity in the office
The key to making team building activities effective is making sure they aren’t one-time events you and your team will forget. Keep the momentum going by planning regular events. In the office, you could hold daily or weekly huddles for project check-ins or celebrating milestones and achievements.
Plan quarterly or monthly events outside of regular work hours to encourage relaxed, positive interactions with your team. During the pandemic we were unable to host or attend conferences and seminars. What better way to get back into it than planning your first post-pandemic seminar at the Whittemore House at Washington University?
It is a large venue where your team can spread out and have lunch indoors or outdoors, and then gather together in one of our ballrooms to listen to your speaker. Having your employees plan the event is another good, easy way to make the event both positive and fun (and not cheesy). Rotate who on your team chooses the event or speaker to generate excitement and positivity around your event!
Interacting with coworkers outside of work hours, learning what they enjoy doing and keeping that positivity going in the office helps grow relationships and improve your company culture (even if it is already healthy and strong).
Team building activities post-pandemic
As you and your team return to the office, think about different ways to get—and keep—them excited to work together in person again. Recreating the positive atmosphere you had before the pandemic is important and, in some ways, crucial to keeping your employees happy and your culture strong.