I am not sure whether I should call now (July 2021) the "post-COVID-19 era", but let me just use that in my question. About team building I don't mean those "fancy" outdoor activities I mean keep team bonding together, make them keeping learning, keep developing themselves and of course keep doing their jobs.

I have managed my team, around 10 engineers for 5 years. Only 3 of them remains for 5 years, 5 of them for 3 years. For a startup company I will argue it is not bad. But one thing I find more and more challenging is to build my team.

The obvious reason are a) people work from home quite often b) people do not eat lunch together any more and seldom hang out together out of office time. The subtle ones are, and not limit to, a) I can sense their mentalities shift, people do not buy "word hard, play hard" mindset that much. Life is fragile and full surprise, why bother? b) I can sense their priorities shift over time. For example, to stay fit and healthy is the most important. Of course that is always the most important thing but now I feel people overemphasize it, at the expense of anything else, e.g get your work done. c) People also worry about the company's future which I can't do anything about it.

I may be exaggerate a little bit but you get the ideas.

So my question is how do I build a bonding/strong team in the post-COVID-19 era.

--- update ---

I need to further elaborate the part "stay fit and healthy". I knew that would be tricky one. But my goal is to raise a serious question not to please everyone and I don't care how many down votes I would get. So for example it happens more often, compared to the pre-Covid-19, people just called in sick or said I needed to work from home for couple of days for no particular reason. I think being a manager long enough you would know whether the excuse is real/valid or not, your job is to decide when to be okay with and when not.

Let's face it when work from home the productivity is normally lower than in the office.

  • 1
    A remote team or a hybrid team?
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 5 at 5:00
  • 2
    How is their productivity? All those "in-person" signals you get for people being "productive" are mostly false. I've seen more than enough people saying their day are wasted in meetings, and they have to duck out for 2 hours to be productive, but the managers think it is the 6 hours of meeting that is "work". Take a serious look at how to assess productivity, because it is still an unsolved problem in many organizations (read: most companies have no idea how to measure productivity).
    – Nelson
    Jul 5 at 5:03
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    What I experienced during these days is, team building is not affected by having lunch together or working from home. It's a question of mind. Eating together is an effect of this mind but isn't the origin of this mind. You can place people together at a table to eat or work without bringing them really together. Or you can place people at their homes and they still are or become a perfect team. This can't be enforced by "hey come on, do team-building - now and like this!". Create the environment so that it wants to happen. My question: why do you think you would have to become active?
    – puck
    Jul 5 at 5:35
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    "people do not buy "work hard, play hard" mindset that much". This is a good thing, because "work hard, play hard" is code for "please burn yourself out". Jul 5 at 9:24
  • 2
    @PhilipKendall > "please burn yourself out and here's a ping-pong table for you to relax when you're done" ^_^
    – Laurent S.
    Jul 5 at 10:03
  1. Get them more involved & engaged. Do you have a new project coming? Pull them into the meetings earlier, ask them to help with the design, and ask them "how would YOU do it?".
  2. Let them feel their voice is heard (and actually do it). Ask each one of them: "what can we do better as a team?" Embrace the good ideas.
  3. Encourage their teamwork. Give them the ability to work together on different challenges
  4. Encourage their learning. Ask them "is there a topic you like to learn about? Do a tech-talk about this topic to the rest of the team"

A team is built by a shared purpose and by communication among the team.

What you noted is that there is less shared purpose. People who are more concerned about staying alive than working on yet another client issue - don't work as hard on the client issue.

You are at a disadvantage because of "People also worry about the company's future which I can't do anything about it." In other words, they are not just concerned about staying alive, they also worry about still having a job.

I see two things. 1) Talk to your supervisors about the concern about the company future. This needs to be addressed by top management, not you. 2) Find a grander purpose for the team. For example, in the book, Soul of a New Machine, the manager found a way for the team to "save the company" by designing the new machine. If you can't find a grander purpose within the company, find a charity that the whole team can agree on supporting.

The second part is communication. One technique is to make sure that the team has a "side channel" for informal, fast communication. Simply arguing over the dance moves a person did on a video helps pull a team together. The team has to be able to informally communicate between the members, not just have the formal meetings run by the manager.

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