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While it is common to spend a great deal of time working on team building in an office where several employees work together, employers often miss the importance of team-training remote employees. However, this is a mistake, because it is equally important to build a rapport with individuals who do not have the benefit of working face to face with each other on a daily basis. One of the hazards of telecommuting is that employees can become isolated and impersonal. However, learning to work as a remote team can help them strengthen their business and work ethic.
Do some basic introductions. If possible, use an interactive program for a more personal experience. Divide your team into pairs and have each pair spend 10 to 15 minutes interviewing each other on a video chat program such as “Skype.” Have the employees report back to you with a few sentences of information they learned about the person they interviewed.
Email an icebreaker question to the group that will get everyone chatting. Instruct the employees to answer the question via email and "reply all" so that everyone gets to know each other a little bit. You may choose to ask a personal question like "Where to do you hope to be in five years?" or a question related to the type of work your team is doing.
Fun and Games
Bring out the team's competitive spirit by having them engage in some online games. You may use a web-based game or you may opt to create your own trivia questions (this option will also give you a chance to get your employees more acclimated to your handbook or policies). Taking the time to play games together gives employees a chance to build rapport with one another, which will be helpful later on when they need to communicate about getting work done.
Bonnie Sludikoff completed her bachelor's degree in creative writing and screenwriting in 2006 and has been freelancing ever since. Since graduation, she has written for several companies and sites including "Poker Player Newspaper," The Choice Effect and Internet Brands. Sludikoff specialties include such topics as performing arts, education, health and fitness and home design.