Fall 2021

An illustration of a person in front of a computer screen displaying a Zoom video call with four other people.

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Team Building in a Virtual Workplace

Figuring out how to engage employees starts with listening and learning.

Q. My staff of 30 hasn’t been in the same room since early 2020. In person we had retreats and incorporated games into meetings. But since we’ve been stuck in Zoom, I don’t know how to bring back the fun and team morale. What should I do?

Mike Caldwell

Mike Caldwell is the executive director of TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development.

A. In pre-pandemic times, the options for team-building activities were plentiful. We could plan off-site or on-site meals, recreational gatherings and myriad other group programs. Many organizations have found creative ways to engage employees in virtual and hybrid spaces over the past year. From virtual scavenger hunts to interactive games and activities, many employers made tremendous efforts to build community and support opportunities. Now, with in-person programs becoming feasible and after a full year of Zoom meetings, planning team-building activities can be even more challenging. Following are a few suggestions to help with building team morale.

1. Start with basic needs. Check in with your individual team members. Listen and learn ways that you can support them and provide resources to help them deliver great products or services to your clients, customers or staff. Don’t skip the essential needs like training and individual development before moving directly to a team activity. Also, this will help inform you of the preferences for team-building activities.

2. Get creative. Okta, a growing security/technology company (a technology vendor partner of TCU), moved away from its usual virtual annual meeting format. Instead, for 2021, the company created a documentary film that told the story of the company over the past year, weaving individual employee experiences into the film. This process was not only more engaging, but it also enabled team members to directly contribute to the final product rather than participate in a one-time program or conference. You can see the trailer for the documentary on YouTube.

3. Gather input. Have candid conversations with your team regarding what types of activities might have the most impact. Individuals and teams may have differing preferences for formal vs. informal team building or the timing or setting for activities. Also, check in following team-building activities to assess the outcomes of the program. 

No matter what your role with an organization is, the value of teamwork cannot be overstated. Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveys recruiting organizations to learn the skills employers are focused on when reviewing candidates. The ability to work in a team was identified as a top attribute by 86 percent of responding employers, second only to problem-solving. Whether you are leading teams or are a contributing team member, the ability to collaborate, build relationships, listen and learn from others will be an essential skill for years to come. 

Review the full list of NACE Career Readiness Competencies for 2021 at

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