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Virtual Team Building Activities — The Negatives No One Wants to Discuss

Virtual team building activities could be a way for remote employees to get together. And during the Covid pandemic, some organizations had no choice but to arrange virtual team building events. After all, most states had restrictions on in-person meetings and hosting large events. Therefore, virtual events were the only option for many remote teams.

Since the end of the pandemic, many companies have failed to realize the disadvantages of virtual team-building activities. As a result, some organizations now outsource much of their work to remote teams. However, virtual activities could do more harm than good when it comes to building strong, resilient teams.

In this article, we will discuss eight disadvantages of team building in a virtual environment. You will discover why in-person team building exercises are always better than using an online platform.

What is Virtual Team Building?

Virtual meetings for team building are touted as a way for remote employees to come together and build relationships. The virtual events typically take place on online platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Virtual team building typically involves collaborative activities like problem-solving tasks, communication exercises, and trust-building games.

Here are some examples of online team building games popular for video conference software:

  • Virtual icebreaker questions
  • Virtual scavenger hunts
  • Online office games
  • Sitting around a virtual campfire
  • Virtual employee wellness sessions
  • Virtual escape rooms
  • Virtual wine-tasting experiences

Of course, during a major health pandemic, working remotely and collaborating with employees online is sometimes the only way to connect and boost remote employee culture. However, virtual conferences lack many of the benefits of in-person meetings.

What’s Wrong with Virtual Team Building Activities?

A virtual team building game lacks the interaction and experience of being together in the same room. Studies conducted after the pandemic on working from home found it had advantages and disadvantages. For example, remote employees felt more isolated, had communication difficulties with colleagues, and experienced less-defined work-life boundaries.

Additionally, studies on the effects of learning on virtual platforms during the pandemic found that children’s mental and physical health suffered. In addition, the report concluded that in-person learning is vital for a child’s academic achievement and mental and physical health.

Although there are no studies on the impact of virtual team building events on remote teams, anecdotal evidence suggests that virtual team building challenges are huge. After all, not everyone has reliable technology at home.

Who Are Virtual Team Building Events For?

Organizing virtual events should only be a last resort when there is no possibility of getting remote or disparate teams together. However, getting larger teams together at off-site events or corporate retreats should be possible even with remote workers. There is no way that a virtual team building experience can ever compete with an indoor or outdoor event.

8 Disadvantages of Virtual Team Building Activities

The major disadvantage of any virtual team building activity is the lack of human interaction. And this issue leads to other problems with organizing virtual events, thinking they will positively impact the entire team. For example, it’s known that working remotely has more distractions, communication skills suffer, and any online platform can have technical glitches.

Let’s explore the disadvantages of virtual events used for team building.

1. Virtual Team Building Exercises Lack Human Interaction

A lack of human interaction is a common problem when working remotely. And engaging in virtual team building games can increase feelings of social isolation. For example, engaging in casual conversation during a virtual team building event is impossible. Without good and productive interaction, it is difficult to forge bonds and friendships between colleagues.

2. Virtual Team Building Processes Have No Eye Contact

A lack of eye contact is one of the biggest disadvantages of team building activities online.

Typically, when conversing in a virtual meeting, a person looks at the person on screen with whom they are talking. However, this means that the speaker loses eye contact because they are not looking at the camera. However, if the speaker looks directly at the camera, they cannot see the facial reactions of the listener.

The journal Frontiers in Psychology reported that the lack of shared eye contact significantly hinders communication. The study reported that “the eyes, part of our enactive system, work with the brain, body, face, and voice in both neurological functions and social cognition.” Additionally, we show various emotions in our expressions—interest, boredom, shock, anger, and happiness.

disadvantages virtual team building activities
Team building Image: Virtual team building activities leave employees feeling disengaged

Unfortunately, with team collaboration software, it is impossible to keep good eye contact, especially in large group events. Therefore, rather than boosting communication skills with team building, virtual team events could have the opposite effect—to weaken them.

3. Remote Team Members Get Easily Distracted

Virtual team building tools cannot prevent remote employees from getting distracted easily. For example, pets, children, or a knock at the door can distract anyone participating in a virtual event at home. Additionally, remote workers can be tempted to check emails or social media notifications during the team building event.

This is in contrast to the benefits of team building events held in-person. The goal of the activity is to get everyone involved and engaged. And the skills learned at these events are directly transferable to the workplace. That is why organizations organize leadership team building events and activities to promote problem-solving skills.

4. Virtual Team Building Doesn’t Build Trust

Effective virtual team management relies on trust. However, it can be challenging to build a sense of trust without seeing each other in person. Furthermore, this lack of trust can lead to micromanaging, which can cause frustration and disengagement from the employee. After all, we only usually see a head and shoulders in a virtual meeting.

5. Online Team Building Activities Are Limited

Although hosting a virtual event for team bonding is better than nothing, the activities are limited in scope. For example, engaging in casual conversation on an online platform is impossible. And in a large group, only one person can talk at a time. And breakout rooms are also problematic or organize.

There are also limitations in the type of virtual team activity employees can engage in. For example, they are limited to what a person may or may not have at home. This means that virtual events will never reach their intended goals.

However, suppose you organize an in-person event with a trusted team building company like FullTilt. In that case, are assured that every participant is engaged and has what they require to enjoy the fun games. This results in better social interactions and better relationships between colleagues.

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6. Remote Team Building Activities Have Hidden Technological Costs And Difficulties

Difficulties with technology and glitches are disadvantages of team building in a virtual environment. Slow internet connections, unreliable technology, or inappropriate locations can all affect team events on video conferencing platforms. We’ve all seen viral videos of the lawyer with the cat face or people standing up only to reveal they’ve no pants.

team building activities cons

Then there is the long-term cost to consider. Online team bonding activities are not as effective as in-person events. And they can have the opposite effect. They can cause employees to become disengaged, distracted, and unproductive. Therefore, team leaders should weigh the pros and cons of organizing virtual events.

Although the overhead costs of in-person events may seem higher, having an in-person team building strategy is a long-term investment in the organization’s productivity.

7. Online Platforms For Team Building Have Potential Security Risks

Even the best team collaboration software has security risks. Or course, virtual team building tools have inbuilt security measures that limit access to virtual events. However, team leaders cannot ensure that all employees follow security guidelines on their personal devices. And it is impossible to stop an employee from screen recording an event with third-party software.

The negative impact on company culture could be tremendous if online security is breached. Therefore, many team leaders realize that getting remote teams together in in-person events is the best way to reap the benefits of team building activities.

8. Online Team Building Activities Can Worsen Tensions

One of the worst disadvantages of hosting virtual team meetings for bonding is that they never resolve existing tensions. Instead, they may only make them worse, making virtual team management challenging. For example, a disengaged remote employee is unlikely to feel better after a virtual event. And virtual events can never achieve the results of in-person team building.

Why Avoid Virtual Team Building Activities

On the face of it, virtual team building activities have the potential to help bring remote teams together. However, virtual events have several drawbacks. They stifle good communication skills, make employees feel more isolated, and often suffer from technology issues. Even the most fun online games can never compete with real-life team building.

Call FullTilt to Arrange Your Next In-Person Team Building Event

At FullTilt, we understand the importance of team building and the need for in-person events. Our experienced team of event planners can help you arrange a successful team building event that will bring your remote teams together. In addition, we provide a range of activities tailored to your needs, from outdoor activities to indoor challenges.

Of course, our team building events are not just for remote workers. They are designed to foster collaboration and communication among your employees and help the entire team forge strong bonds that boost the organization’s productivity.

Call FullTilt today at 310-400-6285 or fill out this easy online form to discuss your team-building needs to organize your next effective, fun event.