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As a manager of a firm with a traditional office, you can hold events from time to time in which you get the team together for something non-work related to help build a sense of comradery, togetherness, trust, and support among each other.

But if you get rid of the office and have employees that work in different places... what events or alternatives can you do as a manager to help build that same comradery, togetherness, trust, and support among each other?

Edit:

I believe that is different than the "water-cooler" question because the OP is asking for a replacement for quick, in-office, "water-cooler" moments rather than a replacement for those longer, out-of-office, teambuilding, events (there may not be some, but I would love to hear if someone has ideas!). Valuable for me to read anyway (thanks!), but it doesn't feel like it's asking the same question

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Organize something good enough so that that people would actually want to travel to participate in.

I used to work for a company where the majority of the team spent their time working remotely on customers sites or at home. Every so often, we'd get an invitation to an event at HQ where we'd all get together and do something.

Of course this somewhat depends on the geographical spread of your employees (if there's a wide enough spread, local events might suffice).

Remote workers attending a virtual event might not be so attractive.

  • thanks! Are you able to provide examples of some of the types of events that were good enough for you, as a remote worker, to travel to participate? – Rbar May 9 '18 at 5:35
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    Karting, dinner at a swanky golf club, organizing a hog-roast after a departmental meeting, office olympics. Google for more. – user44108 May 9 '18 at 5:42
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I've had some experience in several consulting companies, where consultants were spread all over the region. Here are some suggestions that were put in place and that might work for you :

  • The most important bit in my opinion, which I've seen in several companies : a monthly "catch up" meeting.
    • I've seen 2 formats, either a physical reunion (consultants all took half a day off from the client to meet in a hotel/conference hall/etc... with all of the employees) or a digital one (a 1 hour talk was held in HQ and streamed over Youtube for remote workers to watch. Employees were allowed to ask questions live on YT or on the company slack. Replays were stored in a private google drive.)
    • The goal of those meetings is twofold : create a feeling of belonging (especially for worker who don't interact often with the company), and offer an insight on the company's progress (who started a new mission, how is R&D progressing, who are the new clients, ...)
    • On top of that, you can add workshops, feedback presentations from an employee using a specific technology, etc ...
  • Continuing on the same idea, if all the employees work in the same area, a monthly afterwork meetup can be something easy to setup. A pub is the easiest/most classic thing to do, though you can get wilder and go for an escape game, a session of laser tag, or an ancient stamp exhibition.
  • If you have the budget, a company weekend will do wonders and is often an event that most of the employees will attend. You can set up a few work related activities, but I would reserve the majority of it to leisure.
  • Last but not least, provide the tools for the employees to set up meetings themselves :
    • Have a list of all your employees with their current mission location on your intranet. People can then set up lunches/afterworks with their local colleagues.
    • Have a list of conventions/meetups related to your business, and set up a google doc to keep track of who's interested for them to be able to go together.

The basic idea is to initiate the team building events to create a company culture where off-work meetups are favoured. Then, give the tools for people to create those meetups themselves, and they will do it on their scale. If some of your colleagues are working with absolutely 0 contact with other, they could still catch up with the regular events.

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