Virtual team building events and activities were hailed as the solution to strengthening relationships, improving teamwork, and creating effective teams. Employers see virtual events as a way to connect remote employees or involve more team members in group activities. However, most employees agree that they detest participating in virtual team building events.
This is a sobering fact if you are an employer or team leader. It means you could spend time and resources organizing virtual events without the desired results. Unfortunately, you may only create tensions, frustrations, and a disengaged workforce. Moreover, team building in a virtual environment could exacerbate—not solve—existing problems in teams.
Why does virtual team building fail on so many levels? Why do employees hate team building events that take place online so much? This article explains the reasons team building in a virtual environment can never strengthen cohesive teamwork.
The Definition of Virtual Team Building
Virtual team building is the process of creating a virtual environment to organize team activities. The goal of online team building games is to promote collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills between team members remotely. The remote team uses online tools like video conferencing to participate in activities in an interactive setting.
The goal of organizing virtual activities for team building is the same as for in-person events—to build trust between colleagues and create more productive teams.
The Benefits of Virtual Team Building
Do virtual meetings and team building events have any benefits? These events have limited benefits when teams can’t be in the same physical space. For example, some organizations have remote workers spread throughout several countries. Or governments could impose “shelter-at-home” restrictions during a health pandemic.
Therefore, in isolated circumstances, virtual team building games could have benefits. However, attending online team building events can be agonizing even when employees work remotely. For example, after spending a workday cooped up at home working online, the last thing an employee wants is to participate in cringe-worthy games.
Why Virtual Team Building Goes Wrong
Team building in a virtual environment goes wrong because it’s impossible to include the necessary features that make team events useful for fostering strong teamwork. Of course, some live team building activities can also fail. However, this is usually because organizations use below-par team building facilitators to organize events.
An article published by BBC entitled “Why virtual team-building activities feel agonizing” highlighted two reasons why trying to facilitate team building in an online environment fails. These are the following:
- Remote workers battle with “Zoom fatigue,” and sitting at a screen for even longer is agonizing.
- Virtual events don’t allow facilitators to provide specialized attention to attendees.
Additionally, participating in online games does not allow supportive interactions among team members—something that in-person team events do. Here are a few studies to illustrate this fact.
- Research in 2009 analyzed data from over 100 studies on the effectiveness of team building. The results showed that team building positively impacts team performance when done correctly.
- A study from 2012 found that offsite team building events resulted in greater employee engagement and job satisfaction. This was because employees felt more valued.
- A 2018 study entitled “Shared Adversity Increases Team Creativity Through Fostering Supportive Interaction” found that supporting others through combined hardships strengthens connections. This is why the best team building events combine healthy competition, support, and challenging circumstances.
Studies showing the effectiveness of team building have a common thread—none of the activities took part in a virtual environment. It is almost impossible to form strong bonds when people are not physically in the same place.
The Effect on Employees When Virtual Team Building Goes Wrong
Virtual team building activities can have a negative effect on employees. Here is a list of five ways virtual events for team building can negatively impact an employee’s productivity.
- Virtual events takes away from their already limited work time.
- Employees feel like they’re just being asked to do more work on top of their existing responsibilities.
- Employees lack the same level of enthusiasm as when participating in face-to-face events with colleagues they know and trust.
- Participating in virtual activities for team building from home has too many distractions—taking care of the kids, pets, or knocks at the door.
- Attending virtual events can be more tiring than in-person activities.
Related reading: The pros and cons of virtual team building.
Reasons Why Employees Hate Virtual Team Building
Team building activities are not effective in a virtual environment. Many team events rely on body language, facial expressions, and physical interactions to be beneficial. Additionally, technology issues can cause frustration when the screen freezes or cat pictures appear superimposed on faces.
But what happens when employees still lack interaction and engagement? Here are eight reasons why employees hate virtual team building
1. Virtual team building causes screen fatigue
One of the reasons why employees are unwilling to participate in virtual team building games is screen time. Virtual meetings and activities require concentration and mental energy from participants. Therefore, spending time trying to bond through a screen leaves people feeling drained and exhausted.
The result is that overall employee productivity suffers, and team members can become even more remote.
2. Virtual events lack interaction and engagement
Positive physical interaction and engagement are impossible to facilitate during a team building exercise. Team building is only effective when participants can be creative, open, and engaged. However, in a virtual environment, achieving this level of comfort can be difficult.
For example, consider the importance of eye contact when developing communication skills. Researchers found that eye contact is crucial to non-verbal and verbal communication. They discovered that looking at someone while talking affects brain areas connected to thought processing and emotional responses.
Think how challenging it is to maintain eye contact on a Zoom call. Either you look at the camera and cannot see the other person. Or you look at the screen, and the listener loses eye contact. And think how challenging communication is when many people are on a Zoom call.
3. Poor communication tools make virtual events ineffective
Employees hate virtual team building events because communication tools often fail. This can happen due to poor internet connectivity, outdated hardware, or other issues affecting digital communications. In addition, digital communication tools often have limited features or require expensive upgrades, such as Full HD cameras and good-quality microphones.
However, there is another issue with communication tools—distractions. It’s easy for team members to lose focus on the event due to notifications or things going on in nearby rooms.
4. Virtual team events result in low levels of trust
Low levels of trust are common among virtual teams due to communication challenges and the lack of face-to-face interaction. Unfortunately, virtual team activities does little to build meaningful relationships and collaborate effectively. Therefore, many remote employees—who already feel disengaged—feel even more disengaged after a poorly executed virtual event.
5. Online team building doesn’t give opportunities for socialization and bonding
Another reason why employees dislike virtual team games is that they reinforce feelings of isolation. For example, video conferencing tools do not allow several people to participate in a conversation simultaneously. Also, where is the fun of everyone sitting alone at their screen around a virtual campfire or enjoying a glass of wine by themselves in a virtual wine-tasting event?
6. Technical difficulties ruin virtual events
Technical difficulties lead to frustrations during virtual team building events. Even with the best platforms and internet connections, problems can disrupt video calls or make collaboration difficult. These issues are compounded when everyone is working from different locations and devices. In addition, it’s hard to troubleshoot technical difficulties when the team isn’t in the same room.
7. Employees view online team building efforts as an unproductive use of time and energy
Because virtual team building is so lame, it’s no surprise that employees generally think they are a waste of time. Rarely do team members leave a virtual event feeling energized, motivated, and engaged with their colleagues. Typically, they are left with feelings of boredom, frustration, and a lack of respect for management.
Online team building events also affect company culture. Most employees realize that managers organize virtual events as an easy and cheap “cop-out.” This leads to feelings of being undervalued which, in turn, affects productivity.
8. Oversaturation of meetings and activities
Virtual team building activities can quickly feel like another online meeting employees must attend. And after spending the day or week looking at a screen, spending a “fun time” at the same screen is never an attractive option. Ultimately, this situation can cause burnout, fatigue, and frustration for employees.
Related reading: How team building can benefit mental health in the workplace.
How to Organize Team Building Events that Work
Team building works when events are organized with a specific goal in mind. Therefore, ensuring the activities you plan are engaging and meaningful is crucial. That is why the best team building events should be tailored to your company’s needs and long-term objectives.
Organizations with a specific team building strategy realize it’s one of the most important investments they can make.
Effective teamwork can foster trust, reduce conflict, motivate, strengthen communication skills, and promote collaboration. In addition, incorporating team building activities leads to increased employee engagement, which allows for the development of positive workplace culture and can benefit the company financially.
Of course, for team building to be effective, you use a company with experience in organizing corporate events, and that has expert facilitators.
Call Full Tilt To Organize Team Building Near You
Full Tilt offers custom team building activities to improve your team’s collaboration and communication skills. Our fun activities are designed to break the ice and help individuals participate. This increases understanding and mutual respect and breaks down barriers between team members. Our team building events foster healthy competition, drive productivity, and inspire creativity.
If you are looking for a team building company near you, call Full Tilt today at 310-400-6285 or contact us via this easy online form. We are ready to organize bespoke team bonding and building sessions that meet your specific requirements.