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Team Events in spite of Covid-19: Why we shouldn't do without them, particularly in these times

Daniela Huber

Team spirit is important – especially in a large, geographically distributed team. If the team members don't know and trust each other thoroughly, establishing a collaborative mode will be slow and difficult. In the following we give an insight into the necessity of remote team events and how we organise their planning and implementation.

Insight in brief

Our colleague Daniela Huber on…

  • why remote team events are an important part of our corporate culture
  • aspects that need to be taken into account when organising and running remote team events

Team spirit is a success factor for good cooperation. Managers and project members at Zühlke understand this and regard it as the most important factor. That is why, during the course of a project, various actions are taken to strengthen team cohesion. In addition to using tried and tested working methods in the project, it is of course also very important that the team members get to know each other on a personal level. Team events then become more relevant: from building cardboard castles, or having dinner together, to going go-karting, there are many possibilities. Reciprocal visits to the various Zühlke sites also offer a further stage in developing close cooperation within the project teams.

Promoting team spirit even in Home Office times

But what can we do when, suddenly, these possibilities no longer exist? When contact restrictions only allow meetings with a maximum of 5 people, travel is restricted and the risk of infection would simply be too high? The result is a lot of demanding and tiring remote meetings. It is true that, even in this situation, modern means of communication offer ample opportunity to work closely together and achieve excellent results. But the fun and the feeling of togetherness, which team events are particularly good at creating and promoting, unfortunately fall largely by the wayside.

However, the team concept and the advantages of a well-coordinated team are taken very seriously at Zühlke. We place particular emphasis on ensuring that our teams work independently and that team members are well matched so as to deliver the best customer value. To meet the needs of the whole project in the best possible way, colleagues also frequently work in distributed teams drawn from various locations and covering a wide range of disciplines.

With this diversity, it is therefore essential to bring all the colleagues closer together so that the team can become one unit. The Zühlke culture strengthens team spirit, interpersonal communications and the exchange of ideas. Only a team whose members trust and can communicate with each other will ultimately lead a project to success. For this purpose, the project teams are given the opportunity to get together virtually and strengthen their team spirit, and not just as part of the day-to-day project routine.

For the organisers of the team events, the current situation gives rise to many new questions: for example, we had to think about which activities could be done well but remotely without the team becoming bored or being overwhelmed. As well as that, we have to include all team members, even if they are spread across several locations or even countries and thus time zones. We don't usually face this challenge, because team members normally visit each other's locations, and team events can be held on site. Some rules, for example that "Yes, please" or "Sorry, I can't" will be binding, also need to be established. This is especially important when materials have to be despatched or places have to be firmly booked.

Tips and tricks for research, preparation and implementation of remote team events

The first thing to do is research the possible offers. Of help here, as always: Google and brainstorming. Providers for remote team events are currently springing up all over the place. To name just a few examples: whisky tastings, wine tastings, beer tastings or even chocolate tastings. All kinds of tastings can now also be carried out virtually as a team. There are also a variety of online games that can be played in larger groups, such as "Among Us". Many different Escape Rooms covering a wide range of variations can now also be booked online. In addition, there are virtual cooking or baking courses for teams, as well as moderated celebrations and parties. The range of services on offer is continually expanding. However, we must not lose sight of the focus of the team events: strengthening the 'We/Us' feeling in the team and having fun together.

For our project team the choice was for a mutual virtual pizza meal, followed by a beer tasting under professional guidance and finishing off with a games round, where we divided into several teams. The team was first allowed to vote among 3 different tastings. The final draw was to decide between beer and wine tasting. Chocolate tasting was the definite loser! Thanks to the professional guidance of the tasting, we also acquired some technical expertise. On the other hand, the games at the end of the event didn't need any specialist leaders, and this gave the team members enough leeway to shape the games the way they wanted.

Just as in the case of a team event with the participants physically present, the preparation includes coordination of the date, coordination of the proposals for the event itself, as well as establishing the binding Yes/No numbers. For very large teams, break-out sessions should be prepared so that, after a joint start, smaller groups can get together. A discussion with a large group is often even more difficult when conducted remotely, and there is a higher inhibition threshold for cancelling one's own virtual mute i.e. people are more reluctant to speak. If teams are located at different sites, then before setting a date for the event the planning should take into account the possibility of delivery delays. If half the team still haven't received the beer-tasting samples, it will be a very dry affair! One of the most important rules for remote team events, however, is "Camera on": even the best-organised event will not be a success if the only participants are profile still photos and no one talks.

Personal conclusion

Basically, a remote team event cannot completely replace the real thing. But I want to emphasise that this is no reason to sacrifice team building, even under difficult circumstances. On the contrary, at this time it is particularly important to boost the team's sense of togetherness and to maintain and promote communication even from the home office. During these Corona times, I was able to take part – with my team – in an online event, and I am convinced that we grew as a team and became closer as a result. I am glad that we at Zühlke are given the opportunity to organise remote team events together with our customers and thus contribute to the success of the project.