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How hybrid team building can bridge the gap between your office and home teams

By November 11, 2021November 17th, 2021No Comments

In a post Covid world it’s likely you’ve done a virtual event at some point. You may have even attended your 2020 Christmas party virtually!

For remote workers it’s understandable that from time to time people crave some in person contact with their teammates. The reality is that we still haven’t left Covid fully behind us which creates health and safety implications and concerned guests may not be comfortable attending gatherings.

Plus, as a result of the pandemic, hybrid work policies mean not everyone will be able to make a commitment to returning to the office due to their new lifestyles and work habits.

With these extra factors to consider in your future event planning, a Hybrid team team building event may be the ideal choice for you as we navigate learning to learn with COVID-19  together.

What is a hybrid team building event and how is it different from a virtual event?

A hybrid team building event has a mix of participants based in-person and some remote which allow for the widest possible audience. In the case of your team building or team social event, this means you can still get together regardless of where you are without sacrificing the fun. It also allows team members based in other countries to join your in-person team event and fee fully included.

We like to think of hybrid events as adapted virtual events rather than their own kind of event. Your guests will still primarily be making use of video conferencing tools to connect with each other. A core benefit of this format, especially in the winter months, is if Covid restrictions do come into effect you can easily turn your plans to fully remote with no hassle.

Another plus of hybrid events is that you can make use of most existing virtual team events on the market and turn them into hybrid team experiences. But to do that successfully you’ll need to keep a few key considerations in mind.

Some ideas for your hybrid team building event

You may be wondering what ideas there are out there for hybrid virtual events. Here are a few of our favourite choices:

  • Remote Mixology Classes

    • Mixology classes are great as a hybrid event. Everyone has a shared task of learning to make drinks despite whether or not you are in the office or at home and those in the office have the added benefit of seeing what everyone else is doing right then and there. This makes for great conversation and bonding moments. Not to mention you get a delicious cocktail at the end of it.
  • Tiny Campfire
    • Tiny Campfire is an event where you and your team work together to make s’mores on a tiny campfire (actually a small candle). If your team likes the sound of reliving their camp experiences or just have a sweet tooth, this could be a good event for you.
  • For the future tech buffs, you could try using VR and AR to bring the team together.
    • If you feel like your team can hack it, there is lots of opportunity for connecting with colleagues in VR and AR spaces. Games like Rec Room (which is free) allow for various activities to be played and allow for people with or without a VR headset.
    • Additionally software like Spatial (also free) allow for meetings in a virtual space where you can talk to your colleagues and see accurate 3d representations of their likenesses.

If you would like to see more ideas of what to do this holiday season check out our Virtual Christmas Party Ideas that are actually fun blog post.

 

How to run your virtual event as hybrid team building event

There are 2 main challenges in hosting a hybrid event for your team. They are:

  • managing audio and visual tech.
  • creating a sense of togetherness between in person and remote attendees.

The first thing to be aware of is mic feedback. If your office team is too close to each other and using their laptops microphones, which capture a wider sound field than a headset, you will hear the incredibly jarring high pitched squeak of feedback. It will also mean the people at home hear the voices of people in the office twice from nearby laptops.

The ideal scenario would be for anyone within close proximity of each other to wear headphones. This stops laptops picking other people’s voices or feedback. It also has the critical added benefit that people at home will be able to hear your voice come through clearer and vice versa. This makes sure that everyone is part of the conversation.

A lesser but acceptable solution if you have a few laptops is to permit 3-4 people maximum in front for each one inside the camera frame. You’ll need to make sure the in office groups are spread out to avoid the feedback mentioned. If you do it this way you may need to make strategic use of the mute option and choose your moments to switch the mic on. This can allow for a more natural in person setting however this is definitely a lesser option and it’s likely to feel noisy and exclusionary for the people at home without that 1:1 mic to person ratio.

You may be tempted to place a single laptop in front of your group. This in practice doesn’t work very well. This is simply because the mic from your laptop is not able to pick up your voices as you push it away to fit your team into frame. This means that while you may be having fun in the office all your team at home will hear are faint murmurs and it will make them feel excluded.

Speaking of exclusion, I really want to emphasise how important it is to avoid. During our time hosting our own hybrid events with Yolking from Home, one thing that we have noticed is that it is really easy for the people in the office to talk with people in their proximity which sometimes neglects those on the video call. This is by no fault of their own of course. It’s only natural for them to interact with people in their direct vicinity (especially after so long in isolation).

For the most part, as long as guests are making a conscious effort to make sure they are being heard, things should be ok. You could think of your laptop like a member of your group rather than a simple object. This small difference goes a long way in helping you the people in the digital realm bond.

Another tip is to find out if your event is being hosted. This will be a major benefit to your event as the host can act as a bridge between those in office and at home. A great host will be able to see from an outside perspective who in the team isn’t being heard and bring them into the foreground. Also, the likelihood is that your host will be joining remotely and therefore the groups in the office will have to turn their attention back to the computer throughout the event.

 

How to boost the vibe of your hybrid setup.

There are a few ways that you can boost the energy of your hybrid event.

Change your environment

You are in person now! Take advantage of the fact that you can build a shared experience again in a real place with the people you are with by decorating the office with holiday cheer. Those of you at home can probably go even further with the decorations. Decorations will massively change the feeling from an office to a place where people can have fun. If you have special wall lights you can use to give the space a different atmosphere. You can buy these on amazon for about £30 and are a brilliant tool to have onsite when people speak to set the mood.

Move away from your regular work space

If you are at home, I would recommend that you sit somewhere that you wouldn’t normally sit for work to join the call if possible. This will make you feel more relaxed and out of “work mode”. Little changes like this will help get out the mindset of yet  another Zoom meeting and help you unwind.

Snacks!

Let’s talk about snacks! Snacks are, in my opinion, a must for creating a party atmosphere. This is a great consideration for those both at home and in the office. Whatever your snack of choice, we have found that with a snack in hand you can break down barriers and allow the conversation to flow. If you’re the sort of team who brings food in that you’ve made, encourage people to bring in some home made food for the event.

Make sure that you have something to wash those snacks down too and get the beers / mocktails going around the office. If at home, this is a perfect time to make yourself a G and T before sitting down with your team. Bonding over drinks is a staple in relationship building and it’s no different here.

Dress Up

Another suggestion is to encourage your team to get into fancy dress. Fancy dress is a golden ticket to get people out of work mode, especially those in the office. This is something that we have encouraged in our own events and people revert back to their inner child when they are wearing something silly. It also looks brilliant on the call when everyone is colourful, different head gear and tops.

Find fun virtual backgrounds

One thing that we guarantee to break the ice is to find and set creative virtual backgrounds for your video call. This adds another layer of fun, looking at all the weird and wonderful images people choose to make themselves a part of. This aspect of remote team building is one of the few things that you can only do on a video call so make the most of it. You can easily change your background on Zoom and other platforms. Try it out and reduce the distinction between people in the office and at home.

 

In summary

Hybrid team building events are a great solution for teams in different stages of their post covid adaptation. Now that working from home has been embraced by companies as a permanent way of working in many cases, this event format will give you the most flexibility and reach in engaging your team. I hope this article shows you that even with the uncertainty of COVID still present, you can still have fun with your team and scratch the in-person meeting itch. If you keep these points in mind then I believe you can turn even the most remote events into hybrid events and everyone will feel included with no  compromises on the fun you can have.

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