Working with a remote team can be tricky, especially when it comes to nurturing a healthy and cohesive culture. One obvious challenge is creating team-building events, which is easier with an in-person team than with a remote one.
Thankfully, we've found success making virtual team-building event planning a breeze—thanks to something we call the 5 Ws method.
Planning Your Team-Building Event Using the 5Ws
Hi! My name is Kristen Campbell, and I’m the Associate Operations Manager at SPI Media. I started working here at the end of 2021, and I have never been happier.
One of my first challenges at SPI was to plan team events that would help build a more robust company culture. I spent the end of 2021 researching virtual events in the hopes of holding a truly special event at the beginning of 2022.
We ended up doing a fun, get-to-know-your-team event in January, which was a big hit.
I would like to share the 5 Ws I used while planning this first event that helped make the activity a success! I hope you find them as valuable and practical as I did in my planning.
The 5 Ws are built around five basic questions: Why, Who, What, Where, and When. Let’s see how they apply to planning your next remote team-building event!
The 1st W: WHY consider going through all this trouble?
Remote work has become more common in the last few years because of COVID. At the same time, more companies are focused on creating healthier, happier work cultures to increase their chances of retaining key team members.
Virtual team-building activities create a relaxed, fun environment separate from demanding and sometimes stressful work situations. These activities help team members connect to one another and avoid workplace burnout.
I came across this episode of the podcast The Crazy One in my research and found it incredibly helpful: “Teamwork: The best remote team building activities.”
The 2nd W: WHO is your audience?
Before you can start planning your remote team-building event, you have to think about who will be participating in the event.
In our case, this was easy because SPI Media is a small business with only 11 employees, most of whom have worked together for several years. We have a great team that loves to have fun and get involved, so I didn’t have any concerns about getting people to participate.
Don’t make this process more stressful than it needs to be! Start by thinking about what engages your team. Do you have a team of jokesters, a group of strategic thinkers, or a crew of cutthroat competitors? Knowing the answer to this question will help you decide what kind of event will work best for your team.
The 3rd W: WHAT to plan for your first remote team-building event?
Start thinking of a goal for your event that will give you the clear objective you want to achieve. My goal for our first team-building activity was to walk away knowing we’d built stronger work relationships and encouraged collaboration.
Once you have set your goal, you need to decide on a theme. Planning your theme will need to align with the goal that you would like to reach with this activity.
Should You DIY Your Virtual Team-Building Event, or Hire Someone?
The next part is deciding if you want to build an event from scratch on your own, or if you are going to hire a professional to build and execute it for you. A DIY event could be cheaper but end up being a lot more work for you. When you think about the time it would take to plan and host an activity from start to finish, would it ultimately save your company money?
In the end, I decided to hire a company to help plan and host our activity. This may sound expensive, but there are many companies out there that offer services across a range of topics, formats, and prices. Most companies that provide remote events will work with you to plan and find the right activity to meet your goals.
Planning an event like this is not easy, so working with a company that specializes in team events can be a valuable investment.
I looked at a lot of companies when researching events, but there were a few that stuck out and offered a variety of ideas and formats. Here are the events companies I found most promising:
The 4th W: WHERE do you host your remote team-building activity?
With our team being fully remote, the decision to do a virtual event was made for us. I chose Confetti to plan and host our activity, and I would absolutely recommend them to you. After selecting our event type and format, I was assigned a personal planner and a host for the day of the activity. When booking with Confetti, the only requirements of us were to provide a Zoom link and have all team members complete a short survey.
Our event was an hour long and allowed our team to take a break and have some fun, but then return to focused work afterward. By conducting a shorter event, the team was able to work throughout the day and not experience unnecessary stress.
The 5th W: WHEN do you start planning your virtual event (and schedule it)?
I am a planner through and through, and I wanted to save a date and time on everyone’s calendars as soon as I could. After all, this is not supposed to cause stress—it should be fun!
So I started planning three months out from our event: October, for a January event.
January tends to be busy for most people, and some people even fall into a funk after the joy and time off for holidays. I planned an activity at the end of January, before the team got too bogged down in projects and promotions, and also to boost morale.
When scheduling an event, consider your team's workload, vacations, and major upcoming projects so that your event doesn't become a burden.
Scheduling Your Event: Mind Your Team’s Needs & Time Zones
Time is vital to everyone, and I wanted to be respectful of that. Choosing the right day of the week is essential, and I would try to avoid planning an activity on a Monday or Friday.
For our team, Mondays and Fridays are always busy with either starting or wrapping up the week's work, so we try to disrupt team schedules as little as possible.
We also have to consider that our employees are spread across all four North American time zones; events shouldn’t be scheduled too early in the day for Pacific folks or too late for Eastern team members. I like to schedule an event to start no earlier than 10 am Pacific and end no later than 5 pm Eastern.
Something else to keep in mind: don’t try to rush your remote team-building activity. These types of events require a great deal of research, preparation, and consideration of all details. If you rush it, odds are the event will be a mess and your team will be able to tell.
Sitting down and thinking about all these obstacles ahead of time will only make planning much smoother.
Investment in Team-Building Events = A Happy Company Culture
I was thrilled that our event turned out to be filled with laughter and surprises. We learned more about each team member and felt the experience helped us grow. I would call that a success.
Planning remote team-building activities can be overwhelming, but they don’t have to be if you plan ahead, ask the right questions, and, if you choose, find the right company to assist you in planning.
Whatever route you choose, when you decide to create your first virtual team-building activity, don’t forget to use the 5Ws to help with the planning process. Take the hard work out of it by answering five simple questions: why, who, what, where, and when? And have fun!