With so many people working from home, virtual get-togethers and the occasional in-person gathering are more important than ever.

If you’re lucky enough to belong to a team where everybody just clicks, you’ll understand how work-from-home mandates have disrupted group dynamics. Our experts have a few suggestions for keeping everyone connected. 

Even the most productive teams need to let their hair down every once in a while. As team building transitioned over the past 20 months to virtual formats, the objectives also changed, says Sean Hoff, managing partner of Moniker, a team-building and company retreat specialist. 

“Before, in-person meetings and incentives experiences were meant to build camaraderie and trust. Now, in the virtual world, it's more about building connections and making sure people don't feel isolated.”

Korea Town
Why not host a cooking class representing the cuisine of one of Toronto’s cultural districts, such as Koreatown (pictured), Little India, Little Jamaica or Chinatown

Experiences that resonate

After almost two years of virtual gatherings, what have we learned? 

“Team building in smaller groups of four to seven people works much better and is more manageable from a virtual perspective than having 100-plus participants,” Hoff explains. 

“We've also discovered team-building experiences that incorporate an element of dialogue or two-way interaction, for example, with actors or bantering with the host, are much better received than when groups are just completing a task or a game on their own.”

The Idea Hunter ramped up its selection of workshops for corporate groups when lockdown began and now offers anything from mixology, painting and charcuterie masterclasses to seasonally-themed workshops such as BBQ 101, holiday wreath decorating and even how to prepare a home garden for spring planting.

“You get higher engagement when the workshop includes a kit that you can send to participants,” advises Hailey Dawood, owner, The Idea Hunter. 

The beauty of kits is that they can work both for face-to-face and online get-togethers and the best part is that a kit delivered to a participant’s home helps build anticipation until it’s time to unbox the goodies.

Bar From Afar’s Greg O’Brien turned happy hour into a cocktail kit delivery service
Bar From Afar’s Greg O’Brien turned happy hour into a cocktail kit delivery service | Photo credit: Bar From Afar

DIY cocktails reign

Espresso Martini anyone? Cocktail culture never seems to go out of style and with fewer social events and with gathering restrictions in effect, the virtual happy hour is still going strong. 

With three retail stores in the city, Cocktail Emporium is a Toronto go-to for all things drinks-related, including bar tools, glassware and interesting ingredients, and they offer customized corporate gift sets.

“Right now, we’re seeing cocktail culture evolve quickly where bartenders are using dairy, different sugars and spices to infuse and change flavour profiles,” says Greg O’Brien, co-founder with his wife Sarah O’Brien, of Bar From Afar, which offers both single-spirit and mixer kits featuring clear instructions and all the ingredients required to create classic speakeasy-style drinks and mocktails. 

For a recent in-person workshop of 25 people in Toronto, O’Brien provided five different mystery boxes. After a quick tutorial, he broke the group into teams with each crafting a unique concoction and competing for the best cocktail.

A shark swims in the Shark Tunnel at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.
Get your team out exploring the city. Try a scavenger hunt at Ripley’s Aquarium.

Expect the unexpected

Virtual and hybrid get-togethers will continue as we head into 2022. But if your group members are feeling a little been-there-done-that fatigue, try switching things up with these boredom-busting ideas.

Refresh & renew: Ask your game partners to develop fresh new storylines for trivia nights, murder mysteries and virtual escape rooms, or even develop a custom game just for your group.

Engage with artists: If you’ve booked an entertainer, musician, visual artist or dancer as part of your virtual gathering, consider mixing live and pre-recorded content, advises Dawood. “Participants want to engage with the artists. When we organize a dance workshop, for example, we pre-record the dancer’s performance and then include them live to chat with participants and teach dance steps.”

Go off-script: Sure, you could host your own cocktail workshop, but why not have Bar From Afar’s O’Brien, an experienced bartender, walk guests through a mixology class or invite one of his entertainment partners to host your gathering: stand-up comedian and former bartender, Nick Burden; food and cocktail blogger Yvonne Langen; or entertainer Phil Villeneuve.