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Virtual Training is Bringing Teams Together

As a result of COVID-19 and the restrictions on face-to-face meetings, our expert trainers are adapting their training delivery to live, virtual training sessions.

After reviewing the feedback from delegates and Trainers, the evidence shows that virtual training is bringing teams together to learn and share best practice, even though they are not in the same location.

The delegates are also appreciating the team building elements of the virtual training sessions and value the experience of ‘reconnecting’ with their colleagues or meeting new recruits.

Here are some recent comments from delegates about their virtual learning experience:

“It was also nice to see other people I hadn’t seen in the office for a long time and to take part in a mixed group. I do not feel anything was lost undertaking it remotely.”

“It also provided much-needed reassurance which has been lacking whilst working from home. It was good to hear other’s perspectives too. The experience was reassuring and enlightening.”

“I enjoyed the group work and conversations. It was useful to share thoughts with Maria and colleagues and to listen to their feedback too.”

We spoke to 3 of our trainers to discuss with them their recent experiences of delivering positive team building virtual sessions and began by asking:

What do you think are the advantages virtual training can bring?

Maria Orihuela:
“One of the advantages of virtual training is that groups of people can get together regardless of geographical location. This is hugely beneficial for organisations who have sites in different locations, and experiences like shared training sessions are enhancing team rapport. However, even where people are based in the same office, they are unlikely to be physically present at the same time as all their colleagues because of the current restrictions, so virtual training is giving them a platform to reconnect with their team members.

In the Resilience sessions I deliver, people from different departments come together, and through a range of activities, there is a sense of the delegates getting to know their (sometimes new) colleagues, and there is even some banter.”

Michelle Spirit:
“On the practical side of using the virtual platform, delegates discover how easy it is to use the break-out room function on Zoom. Literally two clicks and people can work and chat in smaller groups. “

Dot Gourlay:
“Some of the trends I have observed while delivering virtual training:

  • that there are definite delight reactions from delegates when they see a colleague they have lost touch with recently;
  • the opportunity to share current pressure impacts with each other seems to be a great release for most - and definitely helps to put some anxieties into perspective;
  • that using individual exercises allows time out for focusing on individual needs - with whole group discussion following which is always very interactive;
  • that a final discussion exercise within change requirement and support solutions ensures initial action planning between individuals and across the group absolutely starts to take place.”

How do you create the right ambience for participants?

Maria Orihuela:
“What I find helps with team building virtually is to deliver a high-energy session that breaks the ice quickly and allows everyone to feel comfortable participating. This is a similar approach to face-to-face training, but in a virtual setting, people tend to hold back even more, so creating that energy becomes even more important.

Having everyone do the same activity that involves moving about and stretching and has a fun element to it also creates a sense of shared experience and shared enjoyment.

Giving groups different tasks for break-out sessions and have them feedback in the big group is another good way of fostering team building. I find that the simple things like group discussions and use of chat as well as have everyone do the same thing in their own space, work really well. Whiteboards can be great too.

Activities that allow for individuals to bring a bit of themselves to the virtual table are great for teams to bond virtually (e.g. I ask everyone to bring an object/picture that represents resilience for them). Themes inevitably emerge, and people can relate to each other.”

Dot Gourlay:
“To engender discussion and sharing, I try to get delegates talking openly to each other and to me as soon as the session starts – with the added bonus of generating some laughter early on in the session! As I introduce the online session, I reassure the delegates that they are not under pressure to use any high-tech features, and this usually comes as a relief to some delegates.”

How does a trainer facilitate team working in a virtual setting?

Maria Orihuela:
“The group activities which reveal that everyone deals with similar challenges (have everyone list answers to a question in the chat) and having everyone work towards the same goals in the session, certainly help with team building. People understand each other better; find common ground, and have a laugh together during some of the activities. All that is possible virtually and helps with bonding. By adding break-out rooms, people can have more detailed discussions in a supportive setting.”

Michelle Spirit:
“I find it beneficial to set groups challenging tasks that require a creative approach – this could be the space you need to focus on a challenge that has been facing your company/ clients/staff etc. OR set challenges and invite volunteers to work on them together. Recent research from Harvard found that setting tasks that require innovative solutions was highly engaging for remote workers who are at risk of feeling demotivated and disengaged.

Bringing people from different departments to work and learn together can provide a different approach to avoid ‘group think’ and generate more diverse ideas. Remember that the person that sourced a critical solution to the need to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill was a cement engineer!”

Dot Gourlay:
“Throughout the session, I use a combination of trainer-led slide and document sharing; individual exercises; and whole-group discussion.”

In summary
It is clear that some organisations are promoting online resources to help with COVID-19 anxieties, however, as Dot Gourlay points out, these standalone, individual tools can add to feelings of isolation if people are not encouraged to talk to colleagues about their wellbeing and support needs.

The benefit of In Equilibrium’s virtual training sessions is that they are live, interactive sessions, delivered by expert facilitators and give delegates the opportunity to communicate and share experiences with their colleagues.

As Dot concludes: “I regularly find that a pretty tense-looking bunch of individuals usually leaves the session laughing and actively planning to talk to each other regularly!”

With our thanks to the trainers for their participation, they are:

Dot Gourlay who has been delivering Stress Management and Resilience virtual training

Maria Orihuela who has been delivering virtual Resilience training sessions for Managers and staff

Michelle Spirit who has been delivering Resilience, Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing and Growth Mindset virtual training

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