Telehumoring: How to Apply Humor in a Remote Office

photo by _e.t

photo by _e.t

As more and more companies expand globally and more employees choose to work from home, telecommuting at home will continue to increase. But how do you take advantage of all of the benefits of humor when your team or organization is spread out over multiple timezones, countries, and first languages?

The goal of any team is to accomplish more than would be possible if each member worked alone–as the proverbial “they” say, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  But one of the fabrics of the teamwork sweater is the sense of team that is created. It’s not enough to “work” “together,” you must “work together.”

Below are 7 team-building activities using telehumor–a completely fictitious term that will probably never survive past this post–for the telecommuter.

1. Use Pictures

A great way to learn about each other is to kick-off or end a meeting with members of the team sharing photos of themselves and their family.

Pictures transcend languages because they are visual. They are also easy to share via email or in a virtual meeting and aren’t bandwidth hogs like videos often turn out to be.  To learn how to use pictures in your next remote meeting, check out Team-Building Through 3 Pictures.

2. Photoshop Some Humor

One way to incorporate pictures, and have some team-specific fun, is to photoshop the heads of each team member into a single or set of related photos. Share everyone’s face over popular super hero costumes, or as the singers of a band to emphasize the importance of teamwork in a humorous way.

Not a Photoshop whiz? There are a number of sites that will do the hard work for you, you just have to upload a picture. Some of my favorites include Loonapix, photofunia, and Big Huge Labs.

3. Assign Nicknames or Handles

Growing up in high school, I remember just about every one of my friends having a nickname, and whenever someone calls me DTarv, it reminds me of my senior year.

You can do the same thing in your remote office.  Giving every member of the team a personal nickname can help bond the members together and gives everyone something they will remember even after the project is over. For more on how to pick the best nicknames, check out Nicknames: A Simple Team-Building Idea.

4. Conduct Live Humorous Polls Remotely

If everyone on your team works remotely, take advantage of the circumstances by leveraging tools that require everyone be at a computer. The easiest form of this is through polls or surveys you can create when doing a virtual meeting.

If you use a tool like LiveMeeting, you can even do live-polling where you can show real-time results as people answer. Throw up some humorous questions (such as taking a poll of everyone’s favorite Disney character or predicting who will win the Super Bowl) and watch as people weigh in. Of course you could also use polls to get actual work done.

5. Conduct a Phone Symphony

If you’ve already learned to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the phone and want to get more team oriented, you can assign a different number to each phone participant and try to play a song as a group.

For even more songs using phone dial tones, check out Touchtone Telephone Songs.

6. Instant Fun with Instant Messages

One of the most common methods of communication among younger employees (whether remotely based or not) is instant message. With just a few tweaks, you can make those conversations more personal.

For those IM clients that allow you to display images, take advantage of the opportunity to show pictures of yourself to remind people who they are talking to. You can also set your away message or status note to let other people know what you’re working on or what fun personal events are coming up in your life.

And don’t forget about emoticons; they can be a great source of humor such as in this Emoticon Story.

7. Leverage Social Technologies

Facebook, flickr, and Twitter are great ways to stay connected to people inside and outside of work. You can easily create a work group on Facebook where team members can interact on a more personal level, or you can share photos and short videos over flickr.

Twitter can be a great way to know what’s going on in someones life, or you can try out the corporate-minded Yammer that limits your posts to only people that work at your company. For more on the value of Yammer, check out How to Take Advantage of Micro-blogging.

Telehumor Team-Building

There are plenty of things you can do to improve the relationships of telecommuters. Above are just 7 ideas–with a little creativity and a smidgeon of extra work, you can easily come up with more. In fact that could be another way to build your team–hold a brainstorming session of how they can add some telehumor to your remote offices.

Got some other telecommuting tips, or doing some telehumoring already? Share them with the rest of us in the comments.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Merle Montoya May 26, 2010, 4:05 pm

    Great list! I generally practice IM humor, but never even thought of a phone symphony. What an interesting way to pass the time on the phone while everyone sits waiting for the last few folks to arrive. 🙂

  • Lisa July 16, 2009, 9:52 pm

    Great list! I generally practice IM humor, but never even thought of a phone symphony. What an interesting way to pass the time on the phone while everyone sits waiting for the last few folks to arrive. 🙂

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