Whether your team is onsite, virtual or hybrid, fostering stronger workplace connections outside of day-to-day tasks and meetings can increase employee engagement and lead to better outcomes, according to research by Gallup.
We recently surveyed our team to understand how they feel about connections at work and were blown away by the results: 75% of our team responded to the survey, and the consensus was clear: they’re looking for more ways to get to know each other. One of our most surprising learnings? While larger company events are always a hit, our team asked for more opportunities to gather in small groups so they can build connections beyond their core group.
If you’re looking for ideas to bring people together, here are ten in-person and virtual activities to consider.
- Speed Icebreakers: We tried this with our own team recently and it was a huge success! Speed icebreakers give your team members a chance to get to know each other in a casual, fun setting. This activity is particularly good for connecting people who may not work together on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s how we did it. Our team had two minutes to ask fun questions (supplied by us) to a team member they may or may not have connected with before. Every two minutes, they switched to someone new for more questions and connection.
Speed icebreakers can be hosted both in-person or virtually using break-out rooms to facilitate virtual networking.
- Coffee meetups: Help your team get to know each other better by hosting casual coffee meetups. Try hosting them regularly—whether it’s once a month or quarterly to create consistency. Tip: Try to host these meetups offsite at your favourite local coffee shop to reduce the pressure to talk only about work.
- Walk & Talks: Some of the best ideas happen while we’re outside and moving. It’s science—just read this article from the New Yorker to learn why walking helps us think. While there are many layers to it, one of the obvious takeaways is chemistry. When we go for a walk, our heart circulates more blood and oxygen, giving our brains a boost.
Try bringing your team members together for some light outdoor exercise to bolster brainstorming and help create new ties between team members. If your team is distributed in different cities, encourage colleagues in the same location to plan local walking meetups. Our Ottawa team did this recently, hosting a dog park meet up and the response was great. 10 people showed up to walk, learn more about each other, and generate new ideas. Afterwards, team members shared positive feedback including how this activity helped foster connections with people outside of their core team.
- Paint Night: If you’re looking to add a splash of creativity to your team building, give painting a try! This is an activity that will help your colleagues try a new skill while talking, laughing and having fun. Plus, they’ll end the night with something special to take home—their very own painting! This memento will be something they can look back on to remember the fun they had.
- Bowling: Who’s up for a little friendly competition? When it comes to team building, bowling has a lot to offer. It’s hosted in a neutral space, it has built-in time for conversation as people take their turns playing, plus the activity itself provides a topic of conversation (who has the ultimate curveball, who loves a good granny bowl, and who is the strike master?). It’s also a great option for most workplace budgets as bowling is a relatively affordable activity.
- Trivia: Trivia is an Altis team favourite and a fun exercise for individual teams or the whole company. Get creative by planning themed trivia (our next one is winter themed) or keep it open with general knowledge questions. Team members can also take turns hosting, choosing topics that interest them (i.e., sports, books, film, etc.).
Tip: Use trivia as a vehicle to help your teams get to know each other. In the past, we’ve hosted trivia where team members all share fun facts about themselves and colleagues put their knowledge to the test. It’s a fun way to get to know each other with some friendly competition!
If you’d like to try it with your own team, you can facilitate trivia using Zoom polls or online platforms like Kahoot.
- Book club: We crowdsourced ideas from our own team and a book club came in as the second most popular suggestion (if you’re wondering, number one was virtual cooking demos!). While book clubs may not be for everyone on your team, they are a great option to connect team members with similar interests. Tip: To link a team book club with professional development, try to include books focused on topics like leadership, time management, and DEI.
- Speaker series: Teams that learn together, thrive together. Poll your team for topics they’re interested in learning about—anything from wellness at work and managing burnout to sales tips or a DEI-focused topic like intersectionality, and then book a speaker to offer a deep dive on it or register your team to attend a public lecture on the topic.
Once you have a solid list, create a speaker series featuring internal experts and external guests to create space for your team to learn together on a regular basis. Some teams might enjoy attending these events monthly while others may find that quarterly sessions are a better cadence. Be flexible and tailor it to your team. Tip: Make sure to book time for team reflection after each session. Team members can build connections and rapport by sharing key takeaways with one another.
- Team time: Team time is a simple but effective tool to get to know each other better in virtual and hybrid workplaces. It’s an intentional practice that helps make space for relationships outside of the day-to-day tasks of work. Team time is flexible and can be adapted to suit your team. Some of our teams host team time monthly while others meet biweekly.
What’s important is that team time is intentional. Make space to talk about life beyond work. For our team, that often means discussing current events, trending tv shows and books, or sharing fun facts and upcoming plans.
- Virtual Water Cooler Chats: In our remote-first workplace, we need to be more intentional about taking time for the casual water cooler/kitchen/hallway chats we used to have in the office, so we block off time in our calendars for virtual one-on-one convos that enable team members to get to know each other and talk about life outside of work.
If this is something you’re interested in leading, start by setting up these chats with each of your team members and at the end encourage them to do the same with one another. Building relationships online isn’t impossible, it simply requires intentional efforts.