March 16, 2022

Bridging the Gap with a Hybrid Team

By: Tamsynn Moodley

So, your team’s hybrid and you’re not quite sure how to keep everyone connected? After two years of navigating the challenges of COVID-19 in the workplace, there is one thing that teams are trying to maintain: engagement in a hybrid world. 

As the future of work becomes a blend of some employees working completely remotely, some in the office, and some choosing a combination of both, it is critical that we continue to find ways to build and maintain genuine connection.

Here are five ways to help take the complexity out of hybrid team building and bridge the gap between your audiences. 

1. Water Cooler Conversations

One of the easiest ways we build relationships with those we work with, and one thing many people miss about being in a physical office space, is the informal coffee station/water cooler conversations that take place. Whether it’s laughing over a popular meme or chatting about your weekend, in a physical office you are bound to run into someone and have a quick chat.

Now, what used to be organic conversation needs to be intentionally fostered. Adapting your everyday collaboration experiences using platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom are great options. These are easy ways to incorporate quick, fun, and interactive conversation starters. 

Why not initiate an ice-breaker game which is a great way to get to know each other in a less formal way? You could try incorporating a fun polling question like “Would You Rather This or That” (e.g., fries with ketchup or fries with mayo, New York pizza or Chicago pizza)—the more obscure the question the better. Another option would be to have the group find 10 things that everyone has in common at that moment, or chat about what TV shows everyone is binge watching. 

Sometimes water cooler conversations can take just a couple of minutes. For a more intimate and in-depth option, try setting up a round robin of 15-minute chats where two people are paired with each other so they have some time for a more meaningful connection. Tools like Donut integrate well with Slack and can automatically facilitate this for you.

Quick Tip: Use your fun polling questions to divide the team into groups for future teambuilding activities or breakout group work. 

2. Teambuilding Activities

Fun group activities allow members of your team to get to know colleagues that they may not have a chance to work with at all or very often. Traditional teambuilding can consist of in-person problem solving activities or general team bonding like the infamous human knot. Today, we must think outside the box (or the knot). 

Look for activities that can work well in both a virtual and physical environment. Start by dividing everyone into colours or named teams and offer opportunities for them to compete for points and/or amazing prizes. Examples of activities under this umbrella could be a virtual escape room, trivia games like Jeopardy, a virtual murder mystery game, or a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt. 

Alternatively, you can encourage your team to work towards a philanthropic goal that aligns to your organization’s mission. For example, if you are in healthcare software, you may decide to give back by supporting a hospital foundation. Or you can tie your philanthropic activities to specific times of the year such as the holidays or back to school. Encourage your team to donate to their local holiday food drive programs, pack a backpack of school supplies or wear pink for “Pink Shirt Day” to bring awareness to anti-bullying. 

These philanthropic activities can be done whether you are in the office or working remotely and can be a fun way to work towards a social responsibility goal outside of work that unites and promotes stronger bonds.

Quick Tip: Use teambuilding activities that engage everyone so that no one is hanging out on the sidelines and feeling left out. This is a great opportunity to encourage everyone to take a leadership role at some point during each activity.

3. Wellness Activities 

Ever heard of Wellness Wednesday? This is a great way to let your team be a part of the social movement to promote wellbeing. Incorporating mental and physical wellness is an important way to build connection and promote holistic health in a time of resilience and virtual meeting fatigue. 

Build in wellness activities such as yoga classes, meditation sessions, or fitness challenges. Apps such as such as inKin, Wellness 360 or Stridekick are great options for team challenges and personal goal tracking. Be mindful to create opportunities that give people time away from their screens. Encourage your team to try to take meetings away from their desk—for example, take a call while walking around the block, especially if they do not need to be on the computer. 

If you are looking to combine wellness and giveback activities try an app such as Charity Miles. This app will let you track your movements and use those miles to support a charity!

A more passive option for a wellness activity is to make time for laughter. You can do this by watching a comedy event as a team. Try The Second City or a local theatre program for a fun and hilarious way to take a break together.

Remember, “wellness” looks different to everyone. Customize this experience by creating special interest groups or clubs through your communication platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack, or through a recurring weekly Zoom meeting. Shared interest clubs are a great way to bring your team together naturally with the things they love—pets, anime, coffee, or Dungeons and Dragons…the sky’s the limit! 

Quick Tip: Just like any social group, encourage member meet-ups for special interest groups throughout the year. This will help your team strengthen their connection naturally.

4. Long Live Happy Hour  

Another important way we build relationships with our work peers is through shared experiences. Remember that amazing team dinner at Nobu? We know food has always been a cornerstone of teambuilding, so find activities where your team can be engaged, have fun, AND enjoy a delicious meal. 

Options such as virtual or hybrid cooking classes are great examples. Kick it up a notch by inviting a celebrity chef, cooking a meal that is inspired by a theme, or having the team participate in a vintage wine tasting or cocktail-making class. Be sure to take into consideration any individual restrictions or allergies to avoid team members feeling isolated or left out.

Quick Tip: To enhance the experience, have curated mailers sent to everyone in advance with all the ingredients they need to participate. Also, it is imperative thatyou remind instructors (whether virtual or in-person) to connect with everyone participating to not compromise the attendee experience.

5. Organizational Alignment

Lastly, bridging the gap between hybrid audiences can also be fostered through alignment around team or organizational priorities. Use educational opportunities to strengthen team connection by ensuring that members of your team are engaged and feel that they are a part of the important conversations within the business.

Having open dialogue on key priorities for the quarter or strategic goals for the fiscal year builds trust that whether you are working remotely or in the office, you are valuable to the organization and are included in company wide news. 

Prior to hybrid teams, we participated in lunch & learns or town halls in-person. Now that teams are hybrid, these benchmark events should not stop. In fact, it’s important that they continue even if they look a little different. Food delivery platforms like UberEats, SkipTheDishes, or Grubhub make it easy to ensure everyone can order a meal. Purchase e-cards and send them off to all remote staff so they can enjoy a nice lunch like everyone in the office while being a part of a town hall, a team learning session, or a mid-year check-in. 

You could also try a virtual retreat. For many teams, these are a big part of teambuilding. Try structuring a hybrid retreat for your team over two or three days with all the fun of content sessions, social activities, gifts/swag, and team bonding activities that teams know and love (all with the help of some great audio-visual technology). Bring together in-person and virtual attendees for activities or breakout sessions by allowing remote attendees to be part of dialogues and question periods through video interaction. Use hybrid teambuilding games as mentioned above to engage all attendees and send swag directly to the remote attendees to keep them involved in the fun. 

Hosting educational activities like these will help the team feel connected not only on a social level, but also strategically. This avoids frustration and seclusion when it comes to everyday work.

Quick Tip: With hybrid teams it is even more imperative that there is a lot of communication around the company’s strategy and goals. Communicate as frequently as possible with all staff to keep them engaged and aligned with the company mission.

In Conclusion

You can see there are many ways to bridge the gap with your hybrid team. It’s not always easy to find the right combination of activities specific to your team, but it is worth the effort to try various approaches.

Don’t forget, teambuilding is an ongoing year-round activity that is ideally incorporated into all elements of the business. Happy connecting.