Traditionally, every quarter Symetris holds a full-day, all-hands teambuilding event to engage the entire agency. It’s essential for Symetris to ensure that our values are not only on paper but lived by the team. These “Journées Coeur” days are a chance for us to promote Symetris’ values and bring our employees together.
While we’ve always done these teambuilding events in person, with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, our quarterly events and annual retreat were all cancelled. Undeterred, however, we were set on turning lemons into lemonade and instead brought everyone together from a distance.
How We Made Our Virtual Teambuilding A Success
The biggest factor in making our virtual teambuilding a success was careful planning. Our goal was to surprise and delight our team members with thoughtful themes and careful orchestration.
Given that our colleagues now use Google Meet and Slack for all their conversations, with our virtual teambuilding event we wanted to recreate something of what the pandemic has taken away from us, from in-person project meetings to banter around the office. With the lockdown we lost some of our spontaneity and shared activities, as well as spaces to be vulnerable, and some of the understanding of our colleagues’ individual contexts.
The scheduled events took up the full workday, and as much as possible the planned activities were a surprise, with only minimal details shared beforehand.
The day began with the opening of a care package sent to everyone’s home. It was our way of sending a little part of Symetris to each member of the team. We then split up into groups (organized over Slack), with a member of the social committee assigned to each group to facilitate the experience.
The element of surprise surrounding the day and the themes (carefully chosen based on current events inside and outside Symetris) are what made these events special.
Our team members had previously established channels in Slack to chat about their interests—TV and film, for example, or cooking, or gaming—to help replace the watercooler talk they missed from the office.
Each team and its assigned virtual activities for the day played on these shared interests. For instance, the cooking group received cupcake-making supplies in their care package and found themselves baking cupcake clowns together over Google Meet. Our TV group watched a series then critiqued it together, in our own version of CinemaSins.
In the afternoon, we reconvened as a large group to watch the video “confessionals” we’d all made. In these videos, we were encouraged to share what has been most difficult for us during the pandemic and identify how someone at Symetris has helped us deal with these feelings of loss or isolation. This was a touching compilation and provided an opportunity for vulnerability and transparency, as well as recognition and appreciation of others on the team. And to help us through, we had the comfort food of popcorn from our care packages.
To finish off the day, we split off again into smaller groups to enjoy a virtual beer with colleagues—definitely a BYOB event this year!
All in all, our first-ever virtual team building event was a success. Despite the pandemic and the restrictions it has led to, we felt it was important to maintain employee engagement and camaraderie as we all work through this challenging time together. From the feedback we’ve received from our employees, it seems we did just that.