What is the value of teamwork in the workplace? Well, it takes many forms, including greater workforce efficiency and productivity, increased innovation, higher employee morale, and improved retention. And all those things can translate to real, bottom-line benefits for your company and its customers — further amplifying the value of teamwork.

Of course, fostering teamwork in the workplace isn’t easy, especially when some of or even your entire staff may be working remotely. But teamwork is often a core value of many successful organizations. In other words, fostering a spirit of teamwork is well worth the effort.

This post offers a couple suggestions for team-building activities you can do virtually or in person with your employees. But first, let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important to maximize the effectiveness of your staff through better collaboration — and how you can help your employees get on board with promoting teamwork.

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Find inspiration for building teams from the world of sports

A discussion about building teams naturally leads to a sports analogy — in this case, we’ll use baseball. On a baseball team, every player is working toward the same goal: winning the game. But every player brings different talents and abilities to help the team achieve that goal.

The pitcher and all the position players have to excel in their roles. (The manager and coaches, too!) That’s a given. The trick is that they have to do it together, in harmony. By combining their strengths, they do something critical to team success: They cover the skill gaps on their bench. 

For example, pitchers are generally not expected to be good hitters, and in that vast majority of games, managers use designated hitters in the lineup instead of letting the hurler swing the bat However, pitchers certainly appreciate and encourage production from their teammates who are paid to swing the bat and drive in runs. And of course, pitchers help teammates who are covering bases or in the outfield by keeping an eye on baserunners and trying to prevent opposing players from hitting the ball well. 

Drive higher performance through teamwork in the workplace

As the old saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” But that’s only half the story. Effective managers in the office, just like effective baseball managers, know the importance of keeping the team in harmony and putting people in positions where they can succeed.

By getting a good handle on the strengths and weaknesses of each employee, managers can assign responsibilities more strategically. Then different duties are performed by people who excel at those types of tasks — illustrating and emphasizing the value of collaboration, mutual support and team cohesion. 

There may not be an “I” in team, but there is most certainly a “we” in well-balanced. Successful teamwork balances employees’ skills with the needs of the organization, resulting in a more collaborative and stronger organizational culture.

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Underscore the benefits of collaboration

Teamwork takes work — and becoming more team-focused can be an adjustment for managers and employees. Some managers may be more comfortable with the one person/one project method of defining job functions and distributing responsibilities. And some employees may prefer to work alone — or worry that collaboration might slow them down.

Employees who are used to working independently also may be concerned that their contributions will be overlooked or underappreciated. To ease any reservations staff members may have, underscore the value of teamwork in the workplace and set clear guidelines and goals for working more collaboratively. 

Consider using a framework or criteria, like SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound), to help jump-start your team-building efforts and structure your goal setting. For example, you could set a goal to complete three hourlong team-building activities over the next three months. (This is a specific goal that is time-bound, as well as attainable, measurable and relevant, too.)

This approach can help you establish a process for teamwork that you can apply to future initiatives that require team focus — like a major project for a top client or development of a new product or service to drive a competitive advantage.

Of course, teamwork doesn’t just benefit the organization; it can also boost morale and camaraderie, increase job satisfaction and help employees stretch their abilities and raise their profile. Working in teams provides people more opportunities to release their creative ideas and increases their sense of belonging. So be sure to stress these positive outcomes, too.

Try these virtual team-building activities

Good teamwork comes from practice and familiarity, so consider using team-building activities to foster a more collaborative work environment. These exercises will help your staff members get to know each other better as people and grow their trust in each other. Trust is especially critical to effective teamwork.

Team-building activities should be opportunities to develop skills and knowledge while also having some fun. There are many ways to further your goal of building teams, even if your staff is working remotely right now. Here are two creative ideas to consider:

1. Host a game show

How about a virtual game show? Use a popular format, such as Jeopardy, to share information and training messages in an engaging way, and group participants into randomized teams. Stick to content your employees can apply to their everyday work or that relate to your company and its culture. An example might be: “This is the fourth pillar of our company’s core values.” Answer: “What is ‘integrity.’”

If you’re up for a more informal type of team-building exercise, include interesting facts about employees (with their permission, of course). Focus on positive stories and career accomplishments — like a colleague’s successful completion of a 5K race for charity or the fact that an employee first worked at your firm as a college intern. 

Have teammates submit their facts to you in advance. Then share them during the meeting and have employees try to pair them with the right people. 

2. Use virtual coffee chats to brainstorm

Set up a monthly virtual coffee chat with your team where you encourage informal idea-sharing. Prior to the meeting, send out an agenda that includes one or two things you’d like your team to think about. For example, you might ask, “How can we reduce time spent on X process?” Or “What are some new services we could provide to our customers?” If your budget allows, consider sending your employees snacks to enjoy during the meeting.  

These are just two ideas that are easy to carry out, whether your team members are working at the office or remotely. Over time, you’ll learn what types of team-building activities resonate best with your employees and help them build trust and rapport. And in addition to being a meaningful way to promote teamwork in the workplace, team-building activities can help strengthen your organizational culture.