How To Foster Virtual Environments For Your Dream Team To Thrive.

Hands joined over table

Humans are social by nature! Our ability to communicate and collaborate is one of the key parts of our success as a species. Throughout the ages we have lived and worked in communities to achieve major milestones. Teams of people that embrace differences and rally around a common purpose achieve phenomenal results.

One of the key factors of high performing teams is the ability to understand each other, even to the extent of understanding the non-verbal messaging.  It could be how you understand underlying tension in a meeting when someone is reacting uncomfortably. It’s picking up that your team is getting restless due to a possible problem with their workload. These unspoken team dynamics are developed from socialising and engaging with each other on a personal level. Social interactions are crucial for a team to work together effectively, it creates bonds of trust and collaboration for achieving goals. More so, cohesive and in-tune teams have developed the trust to be more creative and innovative having the confidence to introduce new ideas and methodologies to the table.

A global pandemic has seen the world disrupted, with many group and face-to-face engagements, being placed on hold. Overcoming physical distance, business has leveraged teleconferencing technology and the internet to continue work, collaborations and meetings in the virtual world. It may take a bit longer and more effort …however we are seeing that it is possible and a viable alternative.

Physical contact and interaction strengthen teams and ability to complete complex tasks. In our next step of this virtual evolution will be exploring how to recapture some of this sociability and interaction of the old physical workplace. Now that we know our teams can work virtually, how do we enable them to thrive virtually ?

Team performance graph

We have three ideas which can help you bring back the social aspect to virtual meetings and collaborative sessions.

1. But first – Coffee

Instead of starting a meeting at full steam, ease people in with inviting them to make tea/coffee and maybe grab a snack. Have a question of the week; favourite series, least favourite food, last meal they ate out, last place they travelled.  If you want people to focus in your meeting, get them involved in the meeting. Much like with a game, people actively engaging and contributing on a personal level, leads to more commitment to the rest of the meeting.

2. Short Check-In Events

Gamify your digital workplace, provide a set of cues for team members to share artefacts or mementos in their “work-at-home” space. Give rewards out for those who engage and participate. Focus on shared interests and sharing over the virtual medium you are using.

3. Virtual Game

Thanks to the evolution of technology, virtual games allow you to host a highly engaging session.  A virtual game which is relatable, such as online pictionary or a trivia quiz creates a burst of high energy and instant connection to any team meeting. There are plenty of available games which can be selected to match the tone and team members preferences. The exciting part is the simplicity of incorporating into a meeting. Another bonus is it happens in real time!

In the beginning of our lockdown, the Game2Change team started experimenting with virtual games in our internal team meetings.  We appreciate the value of games to foster team dynamics and improve relationships. Our internal pilot was so engaging and successful that we have also extended this to our associates and our current clients.

We have observed the following benefits to achieving a more humane and engaging virtual session with this approach:


1. Contribution

Games give everyone an equal opportunity to contribute. Every participant is a player and partakes in game play. One of the challenges of engaging virtually, is the ease of checking out and not being fully invested in a session. When a session requires participation by all in the team, it is simpler to set a precedent upfront with all round participation in a game. We can then extend this commitment to contributing towards the work tasks down the line.

2. Ease into new technology and practices

A team game is low risk and encourages people to engage and interact. This focus away from performance and task, leads to a sense of comfort. This is particularly useful if a team member is new or may be apprehensive about using technology – especially for those interacting on a new digital platform. Unknowingly the brain overcomes any psychological hurdles or fears and places its attention on the game and actively participating. A great hack for speeding up adoption of new technology.

3. It’s not about the work

Most face-to-face meeting incorporates an element of connecting and socialising beyond business issues and tasks. With a sudden move to the virtual world, it is easy to forget about this human touch. While we adapt to this new way of connecting, the incorporation of virtual game can encourage a more social aspect to virtual meetings. It can also be a great energiser for sessions which require concentration and tackling challenging content afterwards.

If you are considering including a virtual game in your next session, you may be wondering how to get started ? Do you need a technical wizard to set your team up for a virtual game?  What technology and platforms make this option feasible? The good news is that there are easy- to- access platforms which only require a teleconferencing platform (with screen share capability) and stable internet connection of each team member.

Some great websites to explore are:

Website examples
Founder at Game2Change
Deirdre Jensenhas had a career of over 15 years in education and business consulting working in an entrepreneurial venture, an NGO (British Council) and for a performance consultancy (LRMG). Thereafter she spent 3 years as an independent consultant to PWC, EON (Engineering) and Blue Pebble (Oracle) - designing and innovating solution for people productivity in banking and information technology.

In 2014 she established Game2Change Consulting Services to bring gaming, play and experiential learning for the changing workforce. Since its inception Game2Change has pioneered a new methodology in change and learning across multiple and diverse teams in South Africa.

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