What are good virtual team building activities for a virtual law firm?
Cohesive company culture is a challenge in the time of Covid-19 when so many remote team members are working from home. You don’t see people in person anymore. Spontaneous conversations just don’t exist right now, unless they’re at the end of a virtual meeting in a Zoom call. How does one connect with one’s colleagues and create a synergistic teamwork that’s not just a forced virtual happy hour on a video conference call? To reconnect, it must be intentional.
Lawyers are independent and many law firms operate on the “eat what you kill” model, meaning that within the law firm, each attorney is akin (but not exactly so) to an independent contractor. They create their own practices. Why would they want to be on a team?
Stress-free team building activities can help lawyers remember why it’s important to stay engaged with their colleagues. Without the opportunity to pass each other in the hallway on a regular basis, barriers can inadvertently get established along the lines of a law firm’s job titles, organizational chart, and practice areas. Besides the ice breaker capability, it boosts problem-solving, camaraderie, and builds those personal connections that are so critical for law firm success.
Why Virtual Team Building Games are Important
When a lawyer participates in fun games and team building events within the law firm, she’ll get to know her colleagues better – their strengths and weaknesses as well as their interests. When you know someone better, it creates a trust and appreciation for each other that can result in increased productivity. The cohesiveness of the law firm benefits from this kind of human resourcefulness and understanding.
Here’s the thing: in challenging times (now), you never know when you’re going to need the cohesiveness of your law firm — there is strength in numbers. Familiarity breeds trust and that’s what you’ll rely on if your law firm ever gets into a bind: financially, politically or ethically. When you know your colleagues better, the attorneys can better support one another.
If you haven’t built trust and you’re just a bunch of individuals, in bad times, you’ll be in trouble. An escape room won’t solve that by itself, but team building activities are simple things that you can do to support that strength.
Most law firms are 75% men and support staff is 80% women. When you break down those gender and status barriers and get to know each other, you will experience better things at the law firm. If your firm is too stuffy to do this, how is that working for you?
If you’ve never tried online team building exercises, now’s the time. Try scheduling them on a bi-weekly basis or once a month. Get feedback from the attorneys. Offer incentives to join – at least to get the ball rolling. Make sure partners and senior attorneys join, to lead by example. Online team building exercises are more than frivolous time sucks. They’re a fun way to get together that can lead to a deepening of the culture at your law firm.
Below are some examples of online team building exercises.
Icebreaker: Design The Perfect Vacation
This short activity can build listening skills and introduce lawyers and remote workers within the firm that might not otherwise be familiar with each other.
If you’re using a tool like Zoom, you can assign pairs of people to breakout rooms for 15 minutes. During the 15 minutes, each person tells their partner about what a perfect vacation would look like, given unlimited time and money.
When everyone returns to the main Zoom team meeting, each person will explain their partner’s perfect vacation to the rest of the group as a team bonding experience.
Ask your team: what gets your mouth watering? What’s your go-to favorite food, comfort food, or latest food that you’re craving? Is it bougie donuts, wood-fired pizza, waffle fries, or something else? These non-work related icebreaker questions are easy for even the shyest to participate.
Similar to “Behind the Scenes,” each person can present their favorite recipe. Extra points for having prepared it for a show and tell.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Colleagues share a picture that tells a story about themselves. The photo could be from childhood, a current photo or from a life event — anything that reveals something about the person’s life.
It could be an epic Halloween costume, a picture of their family, maybe a favorite hobby or even something silly. The goal is to lighten the vibes and create that water-cooler employee engagement to breakdown barriers and build trust across your team.
Behind the Scenes
One person “volunteers” (a senior partner?) to show his colleagues what’s going on in his life outside the office: styles, prized possessions, personal stories, significant others, pets, and more.
You’d be surprised how many home office renovations happened since the pandemic shifted the workforce culture to allow for remote work and remote employees needed an at-home work environment!
Trivia: That Your Office?
Before the video call, all participants upload photos of their home offices to whomever is administering the game. Photos can include a favorite mug, view from the window, long shot of the entire room.
During the game, everyone tries to guess whose workspace is whose.
They say that even five minutes of intentional mindfulness can refresh you. There are lots of free online resources available to create a quick pick me up during the day or even at the start. Find a zen playlist and start to unwind.
Finding a way to plug into calm, kindness, compassion and caring during this stressful moment that we’re living through is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your colleagues.
A bucket list is a list of things you want to do or experience within your lifetime. Each person’s bucket list says a lot about them. Post the question in your slack channel ahead of time so employees have time to think through it.
An oldie but goodie.
Virtual Talent Show
Set up a time for law firm colleagues to share their secret talents, however zany they may be: musical, magical, or ridiculous, the opportunity to showcase talent is a fun and engaging way to highlight interests outside of work for the team.
Recipe Roundup and Cook Off
Let’s face it: everyone cares about good food. Everyone can submit a favorite recipe and then show special techniques for preparing during a video chat. Alternately, everyone could submit a themed recipe (dessert, vegan, Indian, etc.) and a vote could be taken at the end for best in show.
Whether it’s one of these options or other initiatives your firm comes up with, this is a great time to make it a point to connect internally. After you do, you’ll likely see improved team dynamics, a positive impact on company culture, and an overall lightening of mood across your firm.
Remote Team Building Activities
Here’s a shortlist of all the virtual team building activities we’ve tried at LeanLaw – we are a first remote company!
- Virtual offices! We use a platform called TeamFlow where each person and each team can set up their own virtual offices – no limits on the design! Some virtual offices at LeanLaw have mountain views and campfires, others have ocean views, and there’s even a virtual tiki-bar. People can interact with each other, schedule video conferencing meetings, and even bump into folks in the virtual halls. Think remote-work meets the Sims game.
- Round Robin. We set people up in pairs and gave them 5 minutes each to chat and learn more about each other, then after 5 minutes we switched! It gave our team a great opportunity to learn more about team members in other departments that may not interact all the time.
- Online Pictionary! Remember when you were a kid, and you were given a word that you have to draw, and everyone else had to guess correctly? Meet https://skribbl.io/ – it’s a free online version of Pictionary.
- The Emoji game: Guess the Sentence in Emoji. This is perfect for Gen-Z and Millennials. Boomers might even have a chance at this one too!
Here’s how it works: the creator comes up with a well known sentence and translates it into emoji. Your team then has to guess what the sentence is – with NO context!
Here’s a few examples:
(insert image of Taco Bell / emoji Taco + bell)
- Escape Room
- Virtual Scavenger Hunt
- Virtual Book Club
- Play Detective and solve a crime with your team! Break into small groups and decipher the clues to see who the biggest suspects are! The team with the most points, within the time limit will win the bragging rights. Here’s a list of Virtual Murder Mystery Games
- Painting. This one requires a little more preparation in advance, but you can send members of your team paintbrushes and water colors from Amazon, and then present a Wine-and-Paint themed YouTube video and have the whole team follow along. You can make the decision on whether to include an adult beverage or not during the workday. At the end, everybody can show off their artwork.
The best team building ideas are light-hearted online games that incorporate the entire team, and build on fun activities! It’s OK to try something once and then never again. Keeping it fresh and switching it up every time is part of what keeps it interesting and keeps employee engagement up. You’ve got this.