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Team Building for Remote Teams

How and how much you talk will determine how your team survives in a virtual community

You've probably heard it said before that workplace satisfaction comes down to liking the people you work with.

The data backs up this conventional wisdom: a study by Gallup found that close work friendships increase employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to fully engage in their work.


So what does this mean for companies? Investing in team building activities will pay dividends in employee satisfaction and engagement.

This is especially true for remote companies, where a lack of face time and chances for 'water cooler talk,' can prevent bonds among employees from developing organically.

Team building for remote teams isn't as straightforward, but it's absolutely imperative and with some creative uses of technology, it's absolutely doable as well.

Read on to learn 5 ways you can engage in team building exercises with your remote team!

How To Do Team Building Exercises When You're Team Is Distributed:

1) Lean on Technology

In our personal lives, we lean on technology to help us do our grocery shopping, guide us through meditation, and even find our next suitable date. In the workplace, we can lean on technology to empower human connection and productivity.

Slack has so many different layers to it. Start Slack channels dedicated to creating buzz around favorite books, movies, travel tips, recipe sharing, etc. People can choose what channels to contribute to, discover people with common interests, and build communities within the larger company community. This can lead to team members naturally planning their own social activities outside of working hours.

2) Plan Team Health Challenges

There's more to good health than relationships and feeling connected. Physical health should be prioritized because if you're not feeling 100%, it's hard to give 100% to your relationships and work.

Have fun with your team's physical health! Plan challenges for water intake, steps walked per day, meditation, and more. You can hold each other accountable and encourage healthy competition.

3) Share a Virtual Cup of Coffee

We all know how well two people can bond over a glass of wine or a margarita...but because those types of beverages probably aren't permitted during work hours, try a cup of coffee. We definitely know coffee is permitted, encouraged, and at times, needed!

Set aside weekly or monthly video meetings to share a virtual cup of coffee with your remote team members. Try to avoid work talk and focus on getting to know each other on personal and social levels. Go the extra mile and send a gift card for their favorite coffee shop so they can change their routine and environment.

Your remote team is likely made up of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. There is so much to learn about each person beyond their role at the company. And slipping on a cup of coffee can help remind us all to slow down and enjoy each other's presence, no matter where in the world each person is.

4) Plan a Virtual Retreat

Virtual coffee chats are a great way for employees to catch up informally and get to know one another organically, but don't underestimate the power of curated questions and activities that will help team members get to know one another on a deeper level. You can block off a few hours each month to get the entire team out of their comfort zone and in a new environment like a co-working space.

There's a difference between small talk and real conversation so embrace those silly icebreaker questions to push boundaries. Try these!

Virtual retreats are also great opportunities to spend time talking about high-level company strategy and encouraging team members to share ideas, regardless of their position at the company.

5) Host an In-Person Retreat

All of these activities have the potential to build awesome cohesion across your team. But in a digital world, we're all aware that in person quality time takes the cake. Shaking hands for the first time with someone you work with on a daily basis can be an amazing feeling.

Might be pricey, but having your employees connect in person will pay dividends in the long-term.

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By taking time to understand and acknowledge the emotional dynamics of not being with or around people, you're showing your remote employees and team overall that you care about their wellbeing. And by implementing these methods, you're setting your remote team up for success to produce, create, accomplish, and bond.

Loud and clear, for everyone sitting in the back, I'll repeat it for good measure — your people are everything so put them first.

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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


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So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

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