Does Virtual or Online Team Building Work?

Challenging Times for the Team Building Industry

When COVID-19 hit us back in early 2020, the MICE industry here in Thailand and around the world took a massive hit. Corporate groups immediately stopped travelling and conducting events. As we begin 2022, not much has changed.

Many team building companies in Thailand, including my own, have been severely affected. At the higher end of the market, my clients are primarily companies from Singapore and Hong Kong. The industry fell off a cliff overnight and I’ve been spending my time since then getting fat. I’ve done quite well at it actually.

Many team building companies have tried to shift to online team building. You know the sort of thing – quizzes, escape the room challenges, photo sharing and the like.

So, is it worth it? Is online team building a viable option?

In my opinion, no. There, I said it. I’ll give you my reasons.

Zoom fatigue

After two years of working from home, the last thing people want to do is to have virtual games as well. We’re all fed up of looking at a screen. One of the main benefits of a team building day is that it’s off-site. It gets you away from the office and out into the fresh air for a lighthearted day of bonding with your colleagues. Who wants to sit at the same well worn desk chair in the name of fun? Since it’s not an off-site experience, you’re already at a disadvantage.

Low Energy Levels

As a team building facilitator, one of my jobs on event day is to keep the energy and engagement levels high. Positive energy is infectious and the banter between my guests and I helps to build these energy peaks. It’s just not possible to do this when everyone is sat at their desks trying to resist the urge to show off their cat.

Poor Bonding

Team bonding occurs when individuals are sharing interactive and enjoyable experiences. Things suddenly happen that make us laugh. We see something that raises an eyebrow. We discuss scenarios, share ideas and come up with solutions. These memories stay with us long after the event finishes. If we’re not all together in the same place sharing the experience and engaging in the ad hoc conversations that take place, the fundamental point of team building (bonding) is lost. It is simply less memorable. Quite frankly, it’s a little boring if we’re all waiting for our turn to speak.

If There’s No Other Option, Why Not?

When clients have asked me to conduct an online team building program for them I have always said no and explained my reasons. If I can’t do something properly, I’d rather not do it at all, I say. I’m not comfortable charging people money for something that I am not happy with myself.

There will be some situations in which this type of team building might be somewhat acceptable. For example, a small group of tightly-knit colleagues may appreciate the opportunity to have a little online fun after not having seen each other for some time.

However, for any group larger than ten or for groups that do not know each other particularly well, I simply don’t feel it would be engaging or stimulating enough to call it a team building program. An ‘online get together’ or ‘a bit of face time’ maybe.

That’s why I’ve decided to stay away from it. I’ll be patient and wait for the world to get back to some form of normality. Like James Bond, traditional team building will return. Until then I’ll just have to buy some bigger jeans.