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Staying Connected: Virtual Facilitated Teambuilding

team building

The Internet has paved the way for virtual teams to meet by using web-based tools, free or commercial, anywhere in the world, in real-time to link people effectively. As globally-spread remote teams are increasingly common in today’s workplace, sometimes face-to-face  meetings  where  members  can  most  easily  build  trust  are often overlooked.

Given the proper set of computer-mediated communication tools and collaborative apps (such as Office 365 or Google Apps for Work), virtually facilitated team building is a way for everyone to gets together online and make web projects run smoothly sans travel expenses. After all, team development exercises aren’t just about roughing it outdoors.

Facilitating team building virtually

Facilitated team building occurs face to face. But sometimes, employees are finding themselves quite physically distanced from their work colleagues. Virtual team building facilitation, while similarly conducted in a face-to-face setting, is set via online targeting continuous projects, conference meetings, and strategic planning. Virtual meetings can help restore higher levels of interaction, productivity, and accountability among distance-challenged teammates.

In a research attributed to the combined efforts of IBM T.J. Watson Research Center’s Social Computing Group, Georgia Institute of technology’s School of Interactive Computing, and Carnegie Mellon University’s HCI Institute, it found that team building activities “can improve the success of a virtual team and could help members develop identification with the group.”

Virtual water cooler and 1:1s

Envision an image of work colleagues gathering around a water cooler.  This image simply illustrates informal social interactions where co-workers get to bond and share their own five-minute stories. But it can also improve focus on important tasks at hand. Start each meeting by checking in with each member, asking what’s going on, what tasks are challenging them, and so forth. Regular virtual team building exercises by allowing employees to share their own five-minute stories inject more fun (and work insights) into an ordinary work day.

Additionally, some employees might get uncomfortable with their team leaders micromanaging them all the time. But one-to-one management and coaching interactions are a fundamental part of the success of a team.

Games and virtual worlds

The research, entitled “Games for Virtual Team Building,” suggests “a  potential  match  between  these  needs  and  the  affordances  of  games   in   virtual   worlds.   Specifically,   the   kind   of   social communication    that    pervades    MMOG    and    virtual    world   interactions coupled with the idea of games designed specifically to enhance team identification seemed like a promising approach.”

A prime example is Second Life. This 3D multi-user virtual environment serves as a social sandbox where virtual co-workers can build their own games and avatars, play a round, stop to ask questions, provide feedback. The research claims, “Building in this social environment was largely a boon since it broke down social barriers.” Scheduled meetings are no longer needed for feedback because the “work was on display and feedback was provided regularly and without solicitation.” This can also be done with virtual corporate team building activities.

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