Being able to gather everyone together at an annual summit is definitely great, although not always possible for smaller distributed teams.
How do we ensure that we remain bonded as we establish a solid team?
Here are several activities that we incorporate into our workflow:
1. Regular group chats – We have a weekly Monday kick-off chat discussing the weekly goals and agenda, as well as team wins and accomplishments we’ve done (sponsoring events, acquiring products, landing mentions, and the like). We ask a few general offtopic questions as well such as “What is the best article you’ve read last week?” or “Share a photo from your weekend!”
2. The offtopic channel – We have a few channels actually, but one of them is entirely focused on YouTube videos, GIFs, memes, and all sorts of offtopic activities that folks want to share with the team. It’s a small effort that often results in fun conversations (resembling the water cooler effect).
3. Online gaming – Some of our team members play Counter-Strike, WoW, and League of Legends. They announce a gaming evening in the group chats and gather other folks who can join the crew and participate as well.
Even if you’re not a pro gamer, playing a game of chess with a colleague or an online pool game is a fun way to spend your evening or a weekend.
4. Team contests – Sometimes, we run regular contests within the team for the best photo of a team member, the best article submitted in a guest blog, a social media status that generated some impact, or a volunteering activity.
Other challenges may include gym activities or other sports accomplishments whenever several members are involved in the same type of activity.
5. Success stories – Another channel that we maintain internally. People can showcase a portfolio project of theirs (or a pet assignment), take a certificate, landing a mention in an industry magazine, or even personal wins they had with their family.
6. Group branding activities – We interact with each other on social media, sharing our statuses across each one’s network, commenting on random stories on Facebook, and the like. As long as people are willing to engage with colleagues, that works quite well.
Plus, we got several teammates sending a short video for Christmas bundled into a clip featured on our channels!
7. Shared learning – We do fund online courses or pay for books and other resources for training. Sometimes, several folks want to enroll in the same program and study together. They may present a summary of their course to the team or take on a project that lets them practice their skills.
8. Regular workshops – Different team members suggest workshops for the company. We’ve had several technical courses for the dev team, a branding workshop, and a business program for evaluating client requirements. Everyone is welcome to suggest a topic they want to discuss and involve other folks who can chime in and share their experiences.
9. Pet projects – Team members can work on some side projects which could be integrated into a real-world application. Or, work together on a side activity that gets promoted through our brand.
Some of our colleagues have built simple (or more complicated) sites for an internal social media network, a documentation repository, a password management system, or other tools that we could use. They become project maintainers and can use company resources for extra help.
10. Local events – Even if people are dispersed across the world, some of them live in the same country (or relatively close). We sponsor WordCamps, meetups, and other industry and networking events and often pay for flights and accommodation whenever possible.
Some team members have even met up at conferences for the first time and kept in touch after the event.