Usually at this time of year I am planning our library’s Youth Services Winter Retreat. Sometime around the second week of December the Children’s Services department of eight staff members and the Teen Services department of three staff members take a whole day to reflect on the past year’s programming and services, to plan for spring, and to begin summer reading plans. We also have at least one fun activity that serves as a team builder. Retreat sounds fancier than it really is, we don’t actually go anywhere. We gather in the meeting room of one of the branches and might go out to lunch.
Well this year, the retreat will be virtual. The meeting over our virtual platform we’ve got down pat. But team building seems more important now more than ever. We have three new librarians who have only met in person maybe a couple of times. I did an easy Google search for “virtual meeting team building” and got a lot of hits! Most of the ideas out there are from the corporate world. A few will work for us. I’ve also thought how we can use remote work technology to adapt some of the activities we’ve done in the past.
Most of your favorite ice breakers will translate well to the virtual meeting space. You can try out ice breakers you plan to use with kids and teens, or use more professional “grown up” ones. Good communication skills are especially important when we are not meeting in person. Activities or games that involve honing these skills make great team builders. A game like Mental Blox (or a home-made version) can be adapted to virtual play. Make sure everyone has an identical set of 5-7 blocks of different shapes, sizes, and colors (or colorful shapes cut out of any material.) Take turns playing in teams of two. One person is designated as the director, the other person is the builder. The builder turns off their video. The director builds something with their set of blocks. They then give verbal directions to the builder who has to try to replicate the building. If you can create break out rooms in your meeting platform, teams can play simultaneously. If not, watching another team without making a comment is a good exercise in itself!
One of my favorite team builders was the time we played a library adapted version of Apples to Apples. I made up library themed red cards and green cards and interfiled them with cards from the actual game deck. If your group is not too big and you can supply everyone with an identical deck, you can play over a virtual meeting platform. One round where everyone has a turn to be the dealer should bring tons of laughter. Cool Mom Picks has some adaptations of other board games. Another game that is easily adapted is Bingo. Do a search and you will find lots of hilarious templates and ideas for cards for working from the office and working from home.
Show and Tell is another great way to learn something about your coworkers. Ahead of the meeting ask everyone to come prepared to share an object that is important to them and why. We’ve had staff show us bottles of water from a trip to Cuba, a photograph of a special relative, etc. Another way to show and tell is to surprise everyone with the activity. Each person reaches out and grabs something that is within reach. I recently did this activity and I shared my beautiful yummy salad that I was munching (that was why my video was turned off!)
There are several game based learning platforms that have free trials such as Kahoot!, Acadly, and Quizlet to name a few, that can be used for trivia, “Three Truths and a Lie”, or to reinforce training. If you are planning virtual programs for kids, testing them out at your team building meeting does double duty- you can work out the details of the program and also have fun with your coworkers.
Meeting all day virtually can be really stressful on the body, and mind. If your meeting is longer than an hour, keep these suggestions in mind. Remind everyone to stay hydrated! Take short breaks every hour. Now is a good time to teach a new action rhyme or have a mini dance party. Weather permitting, take a break where everyone goes outside for a few minutes. Breathe- find a short mindful meditation or sound bath that you can share over your platform that everyone can follow. There are several free meditation apps out there and many list offerings by time frame.
We all miss face to face interaction, chit chat before meetings start, and making connections with our coworkers. With virtual meeting platforms and some creativity, we can still learn more about each other and reinforce a teamwork atmosphere.