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A team starting to get to know each other is always the best beginning, especially when they will soon begin doing collaborative efforts through team building. Trust building, essentially needed for success in collaborative work, is accelerated by informal interactions occurring outside formal meetings. Every team is different and team-building efforts should be tailored to meet the needs of that team. There are many different options available for building and fostering trust within virtual teams so choosing the best options for you team is important.


In other words, make sure that technology is serving the team and not the other way around. Choosing technologies are important, the team should not forget to manage social processes on the team. therefore, building and maintaining trust and relationships, maximizing the potential and ability of each person, and increasing the overall performance of each team member. Begin by defining the concept of virtual team. It will then go on to present some of the challenges that virtual teams face, and show how a virtual team can overcome these challenges. This segment will also identify some of the more practical aspects of virtual team work, such as the key elements needed to build successful teams, leadership, relationships and trust. At the end, some practical guidance will be given on how to prepare for and conduct virtual meetings.


Throughout this article, we aim to define three virtual team building methods and then rate them against one another based on three different measurement criteria. By creating this rating matrix, we will be able to identify which team-building methods work well for some team environments over others and provide others, who may be on a virtual team in the future, with a starting point for choosing the best team-building methods for their team.


Team/Trust Building Methods


There are many well known methods and practices for how to build and increase team- and trust building in virtual teams. One of the most important things is to get together and know each other on a personal level (Holton, 2001). According to research, teams that are good at team building and reach higher trust are more likely to perform better and the chances of project success will increase dramatically. For this research we have chosen to focus on three methods, that according to studies has a significant ability to increase such a team spirit (Pauleen, 2013; Holton, 2001). The methods chosen are “virtual coffee breaks”“virtual team games” and “video conferencing” in general. In the following paragraphs the execution of these methods is described in detail and their effects is discussed.


Virtual Coffee Break/Happy hour

In a normal collocated workforce, coffee breaks place an important role in the sense of sharing values, feelings and caring talk. Theses are factors that can regularly “enhance group trust and make other, more critical kinds of conversations possible” (Holton, 2001 pp. 36-37). In principle, virtual teams lack of these kind of moments where you can reflect and react on non work related subjects. One method that is discussed to increase team and trust building in virtual teams is the concept of “virtual coffee breaks”. Virtual coffee breaks can be a scheduled ritual every two or three weeks to break off and streamline the everyday work within the project team. They are meant to replace the traditional coffee break with an informal and relaxed atmosphere.


Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is one of the most commonly used tools for virtual communication. Video conferencing are used both for everyday and professional use. The most commonly used tools nowadays is Skype and Google Hangouts and the total number of video calling minutes will approach 550 billion minutes in 2015 (Deans, 2012). The reason why the concept of video calls and video conferencing seems to have to do with social perceptions. Studies show that people interpret the situation differently when they get to know somebody directly through a video channel (Muhlfelder et. al 1999). The reason of that is pretty simple. The video channel allows more dimensions of communication than a regular audio channel. Using video allows you to not just share your voice, but all your expressions; body language, face expression and also your surrounding environment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, is then a video worth a thousand? Since a video channel gives you more data about the person you are communicating with, it’s a great tool to increase team and trust building for virtual communication and collaboration.  


Virtual Team Games

Virtual team games are a growing trend in organizations to enhance trust and increase the level of cohesion and intimacy in a dislocated workforce. Virtual team games allow the team members to learn more about each other on both a personal and professional level. Virtual games are usually used as a project kick off or a get to know each other in the initial phase of project. One huge benefit with virtual games is that they enable flexibility in the team and trust building process, one can for example chose to target a specific attribute when selecting the game. If the manager want to stimulate the workforce ability to deal with cross cultural issues he/she can chose a game that touches these features.




Measurement Criteria


Our team decided on three measurement criteria for evaluating our selected team-building and trust-building methods. When selecting our criteria, we aimed to find measurements that would both allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of each team-building method and also differentiate the methods from each other. These criteria were also selected to specifically focus on virtual team-building where employees could be from very different areas of the globe.


Boundary Crossing

This criteria will help us evaluate whether or not a team-building method is effective across different cultures. Is this method something that will help foster trust in team members from different countries and cultures or is it tailored to one specific culture? Methods that score high in this category will be able to enable team-building across any culture.


Employee Engagement

This measurement criteria will help evaluate how good a team-building method is at engaging employees. Is this method something that needs minimal engagement and can be participated in passively or is this something that causes employees to actively participate and engage with their teammates? Methods that score high in this category will require active participation and help employees truly engage with their team.


Lasting Appeal

This measurement criteria will evaluate how long a team-building method will last. Some methods will enable short lived boosts of trust and team-work, while others will create a sense of team that lasts for months or years. Methods that score highly in this category will facilitate team-building and trust-building that lasts over an extended period of time.




Method vs. Criteria Evaluation Table



Virtual Coffee Break

Virtual Games

Video Conferencing

Boundary Crossing




Employee Engagement




Lasting Appeal







Explanation for Evaluations


Boundary Crossing

Virtual Coffee Break - High impact (4/5)

Virtual coffee breaks enable the team to in share values and experiences from their everyday life. The virtual coffee break increases multicultural knowledge and enhances the team's ability to work in with people from other cultures.


Virtual Games - High impact (5/5)

With a virtual game suited for multiculturalism, this could be a fantastic tool to increase a team’s awareness of cultural values and behavior. In that sense virtual games will enhance team and trust building in a multicultural team.


Video Conferencing - Medium impact (3/5)

In general the concept of video conferencing have the lowest impact on boundary crossing. Only the existence of the video channel should not change the team's ability to deal with multicultural issues or enhance value or experience sharing significantly compared to other ways to communicate. Though, a sinde video conferencing gives a conversations more dimensions it could still be considered as an important factor.


Employee Engagement

Virtual Coffee Break - Medium impact (3/5)

Coffee break offers the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and speak freely without fear. However, it is possible for some teammates to remain passive and not participate as much as others if they do not feel comfortable.


Virtual Games - High impact (5/5)

Virtual games are a great way to keep employees engages with the rest of their teammates. Games, by nature, require each person to participate so those who may not normally participate in team building will be required to play at least a basic level.


Video Conferencing - Low impact (2/5)

Video conferencing does not score very high on Employee engagement because, although there is video of each team member, those who do not enjoy contributing can still get away with remaining silent and participating minimally.


Lasting Appeal

Virtual Coffee Break - High impact (4/5)

Virtual coffee breaks tends have a longer lasting team building and trust relationship, since through this methods, members are able to learn about the pros and cons working on collaborative work with other members. In this particular method, members will be able to trust each other once they know a little about the other member making the relationship stronger in work related assignments over long period of time.


Virtual Games - Low impact (2/5)

Virtual games are essential as a start off in building relationships amongst members in teams. However, rather than improving trust and team building like a regular ritual meeting, virtual games are commonly used as an introduction or “ice breaker”. Since introductions are not use for a long period time, most likely the team members are not able to build that trust or connection.


Video Conferencing - Mid-impact  (3/5)

In facilitating team building and trust, video conferencing is more common to use and has an impact in collaboration and division of work. There is a start off connection with teams learning from one another through virtual face to face meetings, however, this does not add on a trust building technique as much as a coffee break exercise. The main reason is that video conferencing is  seem or most likely used for formal meetings rather than informal meetings.



Other Team/Trust Building Methods Considered


Social Media

As technology advances, communication evolves from a simple beep message to virtual conversations and meetings through google hangouts. As communication evolves, traditional office meetings become a virtual lifestyle for corporations, even team meetings. Specifically in technical start up companies and consulting agencies, we start to notice how social media has became a prominent role for everyday human connection. In building team trust, social media can be a method use among members to interact with each other and learn more about each other on a personal level. This can include audience engagement reaching beyond human relationships that traditional work meetings may not offer as what virtual team meetings can possibly offer. Here, according to Brent Gleeson, contributor to Forbes media and former Navy Seal states:


"As social media use advances, so does the frequency in which brands are reaching out to their audiences to engage them through these channels... As humans, without trust, our relationships can never go past a certain level. Before true customer engagement can happen, companies must first build a social media dialogue that leads to a trusting relationship. How do they do this? If you think about it, social media isn’t really new. Social media used for digital marketing is a form of traditional public relations disseminated through new channels. But unlike traditional marketing, social media gives brands a chance to interact directly and immediately with their customers."


Gleeson discovers that unlike traditional marketing, social media opens a role for direct interaction from companies to customers and that can lead off a great customer engagement through social media dialogue and trust. Since social media is another form of traditional public relations, virtual teams can use social media as form of news feeds and discussions from previous meetings. This will define a more personal relationship between team members that are connecting with one another through virtual tools. Furthermore, Gleeson lists and explains that there 6 ways brands can build trust through using social media.


  1. Communication thought Leadership

  2. Transparency

  3. Quick and Responsive Customer communication

  4. Ensures accountability

  5. fun and simple engagement

  6. Social responsibility


Although these methods are commonly use for businesses to build brand trust for customer satisfaction in a digital space, however, the same methods can also be used for trust building in a virtual team based environment.


Employee Roundtable

In most traditional meetings, there is the leading person that creates and conducts the meetings with each team member. However, in an environment of virtual team building, members are not likely to be available to meet at one time and location according to those traditional meetings. In one method, employee roundtable meetings are design for a less formal yet more casual employee discussions. Each roundtable meeting can typically last for about 30 to 45 minutes through oral presentations or discussion among the team members via in person, conferencing calls or web meetings. This particular method can be a great use for virtual team meetings especially building trust among the members in collaborative work. Below is a list of steps on how to conduct roundtable meetings, cited from “Thought-leadership through Roundtable Discussions” by Linda Oneill.  Oneill discusses the purposes  of roundtable meetings in the following:

  • Typical roundtable meetings are 30 to 45-minute oral presentations and discussion with attendees seated, attending via conference call or web meeting.

  • Roundtable presentations typically include 15 minutes of presentation, followed by 30 – 45 minutes of discussion and feedback.

  • Roundtable presenters should prepare to facilitate and elicit input and participation from all attendees by preparing a targeted list of questions to pose to others in attendance in order to learn from and with those attending.

  • Roundtable meetings are an ideal format for collaboration and discussion on a particular topic of interest and relevance to the business and/or industry, or to bring people up to speed on current events and activities; and to make decisions about actions that may be necessary based on the new learning.

  • Depending on the topic, roundtable meetings may be scheduled for longer periods of time to cover information adequately. The key is to remain flexible and encourage discussion and dialogue with participants.


Conducting the Roundtable Discussion

Below O'neill explains how roundtable discussions should be conducted, this method although commonly used traditionally for in person meetings. However, the method can be used successfully through virtual meetings. Consequently, roundtable meetings are less formal and need l                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

While preparation is at the core of executing a successful roundtable meeting, you will also want to adequately prepare your participants.

Before moving directly to the content of the meeting, take a few moments to address your audience’s needs and to ask for their focused attention through a few simple steps.

  1. Review the agenda, the objective, time allotted and ask for participation.

  2. Put participants at ease by ensuring everyone can hear clearly and has access to any materials directly and through use of technology.

  3. Inform participants that while you have information to share, you will also be relying heavily on their participation to make the meeting a success.


In concluding a roundtable meeting, the team lead or individuals must come to a summarize agenda or points from the discussion. This can include the success or fails from the meetings, results according to their goals, their plans or future for next roundtable meeting.

After the Roundtable Meeting

Consider publishing meeting notes immediately after the meeting while information is fresh. Notes should recap the following elements at a minimum:

  • Purpose and objective of the meeting

  • Agenda

  • Results

  • Action items / next steps for decisions or follow-up that may be required.


Other Measurement Criteria Considered


One other measurement criteria that was considered was “Communication”. We decided not to use this particular criteria in favor of the other three because of its generality. Communication is important to all of the team-building methods and would not differentiate one method from the others very greatly. The other criteria we picked allowed us to clearly see how different methods may work well in some areas, but not others.


Conclusion/closing remarks

Facilitating virtual meetings through methods such as coffee breaks, video conferencing , and virtual games can establish a trust and team building in collaborative work rather than traditional in person meetings. First, one can understand that virtual meetings are designed to flex around each member schedule as well as fit the needs for location and distant issues. Collaborative projects teams are successful when each member is able to communicate thoroughly and trust that the other member can partake in their roles. Every team building method has pros and cons when considering their effectiveness for collaborating with virtual teams. The key is finding the right methods that will work for your situation.




Deans, D.H. (2012) ‘Video Chat Use Upside - 550 Billion Minutes in 2015’ SocialMediaToday, http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/video-chat-use-upside-550-billion-minutes-2015 [Web. 10.05.2015]


Holton, J.A (2001) ‘Building Trust and Collaboration In a Virtual Team’, Team Performance Management: An International Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3 pp. 36-47


Muhlfelder M., Klein U., Simon S., and Luczak H. (1999) ‘Teams without trust? Investigations in the influence of video-mediated communication on the origin of trust among cooperating persons, Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol 18 No. 5, pp. 349-360


Pauleen, D.J (2003) ‘An Inductively Derived Model of Leader-Initiated Relationship Building with Virtual Team Members’, Journal of Management Information Systems, Vol. 20 No. 3 pp. 227-256


Gleeson, Brent (2012) “6 Ways Brands build Trust through Social Media - Forbes/Entrepreneurs


[Web. 10.05.2015]



Team Members

  • Jimmie Björling

  • Dominique Carney

  • Pat McGuire 
  • Saud Bin Muammar



Comments (1)

Danny Mittleman said

at 5:51 pm on Nov 9, 2015

Methods development and explanation is excellent. Little here presented to justify the measurement criteria. While there is content justifying each cell score in the matrix, it is rather sparse.

Team Grade of A-

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