Creating an Online Team Building Event
The idea of an online team building
In recent years it more and more often happened that colleagues worked from different places and teams became remote. Then COVID-19 happened, the quarantine hit everyone and home office turned out to be the only option for most of the companies. Whoever could afford stayed home and worked from there, using all available online conferencing tools to keep in touch with colleagues. While business matters can be effectively discussed via video calls, team spirit, connectedness and personal relationships are hard to maintain in such an environment. Therefore the need to organize some team-building activity arises naturally, but realizing it while the team members are physically separated can prove to be a difficult task.
Only after a few weeks of quarantine time, a company approached us with the request if we could create a fun online event for their entire team as an online team building activity. At MindMaze, we understand how crucial it is for colleagues to know each other well and feel part of the team in order to work efficiently and effectively together. We had organized multiple events for this company already in the past - they have already tried all the team building options we regularly offer from escape games to virtual reality. However, this time they asked for something we did not have right away available in our portfolio but we accepted the challenge.
The task was to organize an online event for up to 50 participants, with easy online access using a simple platform available for everyone. We had to take into account that their team is multi-lingual and also make sure that the activity is engaging and fun for everyone in the team. The goal was to create an event which provides the chance for all colleagues to spend some fun time together even if they are physically separated. The recommended time limit for the event was 2-3 hours. So we got to work!
The first challenge was that 50 people in a single conference call eventually become chaotic if we also want them to interact and cooperate. Therefore we divide the players into smaller groups of 4-5 people. Then these smaller teams compete against each other by completing various tasks and fun activities. We assign a time limit to each of the tasks, to make sure we keep the time of the event under control.
In order to keep the teams connected we create a live scoreboard for the event. After each task, the scoreboard gets updated and teams can check how they did versus the other teams. This awakes the competitive spirit! Also, each team gets a joker option. Before the task starts the team can commit their joker if they feel they will be good in it and double the points collected for that particular activity. A well-timed joker can bring a group from the last place to back into the front row of the competition! In the live event, there was a lot of guessing and plotting against the other teams, when and how to use the joker option.
We created a wide range of activities for the players. All tasks are designed to encourage communication and cooperation between teammates, but also leveraging the online platform to do so. While creating the tasks we wanted to make sure that everyone can find something they like and good at. Some tasks require creativity, while others require general knowledge or attention to details as well as humour. We had a challenging time to include some physical activities - that are inclusive enough for everyone and have some fun value even through the online space. But with the help and consultation of the client, we managed to include a physical challenge category in the game, that made players stand up from the computer and start moving.
The game is divided into rounds; with 8-10 tasks, that last roughly 2 hour. When the tasks are done and the competition is over, we join everyone into one meeting for a quick evaluation and feedback time - 10-15 minutes is enough to wrap-up the event.
Usually we recommend Google Meet or Zoom as the online video conference tool - anyone can join the pre-created meeting just via a link. No need for any special log-in or access code. We can also manage the games via MS Teams as well.
Each team has an assigned game master who monitors the game, evaluates tasks, calculates points and controls the time. The game master is not actively participating in the call, however he or she is assigning tasks and communicating with the team via the built-in chat option. However, this option can be tailored based on request. The game master is also there to help the team in case they need it - to clarify a task or assist with technicalities.
Testing and the live event
We had 2 weeks to prepare the game and test it before the live event. We organized two rounds of the tests - one with our own game masters from MindMaze. It was tons of fun and gave us a great opportunity to have some of our own team building during the quarantine time.
We adjusted the activities and refined the back-end management tools after each test round to make the event smoother for players and operators as well.
In the end, we had 34 participants for the live event divided into 6 groups, supported by 6 game masters and a master-mind who was coordinating the event from the background. Five of the groups were Czech and we had one English speaking team. Luckily there were no technical issues and everyone had lots of fun! Some people could not wait till the end of the event, they shared their creative solutions with the entire team already during the game and multiple players were joined by their children or even pets helping to solve some of the tasks.
Survey and feedback
After the event, we sent out a survey asking for feedback from the participants. More than half of the participants sent their response. From one exception everyone rated the event 4 or 5 out of 5 stars and everyone would recommend the game to their friends or other colleagues that made us really happy.
Of course, we got some constructive feedback as well. One of the most recurring points was that the scoring system wasn’t clear for everyone and that made the decision about when to use the joker complicated. The other, that we already figured even before the event, that the event introduction email sent by MindMaze landed in the spam folder of a few people. We have looked for a solution for both problems already.
There was one very positive feedback highlighting a big advantage of the online format; from the client-side, they could involve their employees working from Slovakia and Brno as well, who work remotely from the core team and can only join a teambuilding event when they actually travel to Prague. The online format allows players to join from anywhere in the world - from a different city or even from a different continent. So finally, even remote team members far from the office could join the fun!
A lot of events happened since...
Since the first event in March 2020, we have organized many-many more Online Office Olympics for remote teams. We had different audiences from cheerleaders to general managers from more than 20 different countries and we organized casual games for colleagues and friends but also events for an international conference. But all events are unique on their own, and we gained more knowledge and experience.
All in all, we believe that we developed a game format that highlights the importance of teamwork in an entertaining way and gives a 2-3 hours fun team experience for players even if they are remote and physically separated.