How to foster team building in a hybrid work world

There are numerous advantages to working in a hybrid environment, writes Genevie Langner, Marketing Manager, Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. People still have much of the same flexibility they did while working completely remotely during the pandemic, while also mitigating some of its drawbacks. Many people, for example, feel isolated when working from home. 

There’s also evidence to suggest that remote workers, especially junior ones, miss out on promotions and other career advancement opportunities, mostly because they don’t get the same kind of opportunities for feedback as their in-office peers. If you’re going into the office two or three times a week, you can get that valuable face-to-face time.

Photo: Andreas/Pexels

One thing that can be more challenging in a hybrid environment, however, is fostering team-wide bonds. Sure, some individual team members might forge bonds by agreeing to go into the office on the same days and by regularly chatting online, but you really want the whole team operating as, well, a team. Doing so requires fostering active team building through the course of the work year. But how can organisations best do that in a hybrid environment? 

“There’s also evidence to suggest that remote workers, especially junior ones, miss out on promotions and other career advancement opportunities.”

The importance of team building 

Before looking at how organisations can execute effective team building in a hybrid environment, it’s worth remembering some of the reasons why it’s so important. 

Not only does team building create trust in peers and leadership, it can also open the doors of communication. When it comes to the former, research has shown that familiarity improves performance, even in high-stress fields such as medicine. Socialising has, meanwhile, been shown to improve communication between team members by as much as 50%

There are other benefits to structured team building too. It can, for instance, improve critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership skills. It can also increase productivity, and make employees feel valued. By enabling career progression, productivity, and employee satisfaction, team building can also reduce employee turnover.

Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront meeting room

Intentional, outcomes-driven activities 

If your organisation wants to achieve those benefits, it cannot simply organise pizza and drinks on specific days when everyone’s in the office. While those kinds of initiatives are useful, the results are always going to be limited. It’s far too easy, for instance, for employees to take their drink and pizza back to their laptops and simply keep working. Instead, your team-building activities should always be intentional and outcomes-based. 

If your goal is to make employees valued and to encourage social bonding, then things like team dinners and end-of-year functions can be incredibly valuable. Ideally, you want this kind of function to feel special. It should, therefore, be a step up from what your employees would ordinarily do for themselves. This sense of specialness and going above and beyond is something that we’ve worked hard to cultivate at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, with our restaurant providing a wide array of exceptional dishes as well as panoramic views of Table Bay.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to improve problem-solving and leadership skills, an escape room might work well. Team spirit, meanwhile, can be fostered through volunteering activities, such as packing relief packs for charities or serving people at soup kitchens. Team spirit and camaraderie can also be fostered through things like company-wide pub quizzes (whether virtual or in-person), especially if you put people who don’t usually interact with each other in the same teams. 

When it comes to sparking creativity, companies can organise competitions and challenges. A dessert competition, whether it takes place virtually or in-person, forces employees to think differently from their day-to-day activities. If you add in a personalised element (maybe you ask people to make their favourite childhood dessert and tell a story about it), these kinds of challenges are also ways for people to get to know each other better. 

Photo: Kindel Media/Pexels

Consistency is critical 

Given the clear value of team-building activities, in 2024 and beyond it’s vital that organisations don’t view them as something that only needs to happen once or twice a year. Sure, there are activities that are special occasions (like end-of-year functions) and require going the extra mile but hybrid teams especially require consistent reinforcement.

For the companies that understand that and bake team building into their cultures, the potential rewards will be immense. Perhaps most importantly, however, where people are working becomes less of a factor. That, in turn, allows the organisation to instead focus on what work they’re doing and how well they’re doing it (something that should also improve with structured team building).

Main photo: Pixabay