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Team Building in the Time of Corona…Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Published Date: December 16, 2020

Team Building in the Time of Corona…Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Download: 8 Team Building Trends for 2021 (PDF Version)


For the past 2 months, I have been posting regularly on LinkedIn about the impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 on the economy, business, and corporate teams.

The Canadian Government which I have criticized HEAVILY for being MUCH too slow to respond to COVID-19, has now ordered:

  • the cancellation of all gatherings with more than 200 people
  • a travel ban on ALL individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has strongly urged ALL Canadians abroad to come home.

The Province of Ontario, where I reside, has declared a state of emergency and ordered a temporary halt to all gatherings of more than 50 people.

Similar measures are in effect around the globe.

There is NO DOUBT that this pandemic has wreaked havoc with the economy and businesses large and small. The fallout from COVID-19, which will continue for the foreseeable future, includes:

  • a direct hit to the airline and hotel industries
  • disruption of the technology, automobile, and pharmaceutical industries that source their components, raw materials, and finished goods from China
  • the domino effect of the cancellation of meetings, conferences, trade shows
  • the ripple effect of Government ordered closures of restaurants, bars, recreational facilities, museums, concert venues, and even churches

Almost all businesses are impacted by:

  • a disruption in the global supply chain which was overly concentrated in China
  • a decline in demand from their usual customer base
  • a slow down in the collection of payments and receivables from customers
  • cash flow problems

Billionaire experts like Brian O’Leary have been chanting the mantra “Outsouce to China to reduce your overhead and boost profits.” Greed and a lack of diversification in the global supply chain are coming back to bite us.

The Chinese characters for crisis represent danger + opportunity. This is the time to uncover the opportunities. In other words, find the silver lining in the cloud.

Expertly facilitated business team building can guide you through this process and give you and your teams the tools and strategies to “shorten the curve”.


In 2003, when SARS hit Toronto and Asia simultaneously, it was a scary time. As my company’s clients were concentrated in Toronto and Asia, our phones stopped ringing.

To emerge from this time of crisis, I consulted business experts, obtained peer support, and availed myself of pryer support A strategy slowly emerged. We re-branded, spun off services executive retreats, team building, and executive coaching to the new brand, and launched a brand new website.

The new brand, Executive Oasis International, designed and released a brand new business simulation that is also ideal for the situation we face in 2020:

During the 2008 global financial meltdown, my company designed and released two brand new simulations that are are also ideal for this time of Corona..coronavirus that is my:

  • Quest for Black Gold
    To help companies identify hidden business opportunities. We will use toy oil rigs instead of taking you into the desert.
  • Cash Flow Game
    A simulation to understand the stock markets, financial statements, and business cycles

In response to COVID-19, Executive Oasis International has just released a brand new business simulation called:

  • Lemons to Lemonade: Squeezing Opportunities Out of Adversity When Business Goes Sour

It is so new that we don’t have a webpage for it yet. Use the link above to navigate to the description on LinkedIn or contact us directly for details.

Team Building in the Time of Corona – What NOT to do

1. Don’t cancel team building.

In the wake of coronavirus COVID-19, companies have been cancelling meetings and conferences left right and centre. During turbulent times, the kneejerk reaction of many companies is to hit the brakes cancel team building.

  • Facebook Cancels its Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco
  • Google Cancels Internal Conference in Las Vegas Over Virus Concerns (Bloomberg)
  • Google employee in Switzerland tests positive for coronavirus.
  • Google and Amazon both limit employee travel.
  • Google, one of the world’s leading buyers of corporate air travel, booked US$220 million in flights in 2017

Alternatives: Bring participants together but keep groups smaller, ensure that no one with flu or cold symptoms attends. Use a hybrid meeting format in which remote teams and team members are linked via technology to the main venue.

Don’t cancel. A better approach would be to pull teams together through hybrid meetings to foster innovation.

If you are afraid to have team members travel, link local pop-up events (even in different countries) via technology.

Team building doesn’t have to involve spending a few nights at a resort either. Do it on-site.

2. Don’t replace team building with recreational activities.

Another tendency is to replace facilitated team building with low-cost recreational activities. It’s like Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

Newsflash: Your business can’t “axe throw” or “escape room” your way out of this crisis.

Alternatives: Team building should be targeted and focused on improving team cohesion and unleashing creativity to foster innovation. Focus on the challenges your business is facing rather than just fun and games. Areas of focus should include supply chain assessment and identifying new target markets for clients.

3. This is NOT the time for cooking team building.

It boggles my mind that my company is still getting requests for cooking team building. One supplier STILL is insisting that teams cook a meal and share it on a buffet. At a time like this, this is SHEER MADNESS!

Alternatives: Select a simulation like Restaurant Inc. in which teams design menus with signature dishes. Until the pandemic is over, don’t have the teams cook the cuisine. Hire professional chefs and cater the meal. Ensure that the chefs wash their hands and wear masks gloves during meal preparation.

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Team Building in the Time of Corona – What to do

  1. Bring all or part of team building on-site.
  2. Keep the group size to about 10.
    (Please note this number has been adjusted downward and will need to be adjusted based on local Government regulations and the phase of transmission of the virus.)
  3. Send out a notice alerting team members to stay home if they have cold or flu symptoms.
  4. Link remote teams and team members who are at home to the session via technology.
  5. Use smaller non-conventional venues to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  6. Provide plenty of soap and water as well as hand sanitizers.
  7. Have masks on hand in case anyone develops symptoms during the course of team building. Arrange for them to go home or obtain medical help promptly.
  8. Avoid team building that involves cooking.

Some of our simulations have faciliated exercises around the theme of cooking. They are just as effective with and without the cooking component.

You can schedule the cooking component as part of a follow up session when the pandemic has passed.

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12 Tips for Working Remotely

Many teams are working remotely due to COVID-19.

Especially if remote work is new for your team, it is essential to be proactive in order to preserve team harmony.

  • 55% of communication is non-verbal
  • 38% of communication is para-verbal (i.e. reliant on tone of voice.)

Without these cues, misunderstanding and conflict are likely.

  1. Schedule weekly virtual checkpoint meetings for team members.
  2. Use short business simulations to form cross-functional teams to address specific business issues and challenges.
  3. Equip ALL teams with tools to be effective.My company’s business simulations introduce teams to a shared suite of brainstorming and planning tools.Our brand new brand new Lemons to Lemonade: Squeezing Opportunities Out of Adversity When Business Goes Sour simulation which can be delivered virtually or in a full day or 2 half-day sessions will expedite the process of equipping teams with the tools they need.A self-paced self-study guide will soon be available.
  4. If possible, have small teams gather weekly to brainstorm, plan and strategize.
  5. To prepare for meetings, ask cleaning staff to disinfect doorknobs, desks and meeting room tables.
  6. Ask anyone with flu symptoms or who has travelled recently to stay home. Conference them in through technology.
  7. Provide hand sanitizer upon arrival and wipes for door handles. Have everyone wash their hands upon entry and FREQUENTLY.
  8. Provide, masks, if possible, so that anyone who is uncomfortable can use the
  9. Don’t just rely on email. At the first sign of a miscommunication, get on the phone or communicate via Zoom or Skype.
  10. Don’t micro-manage but Make sure that action items and deliverables are clear. Keep a running list for the team and individual team members and review them frequently.
  11. Team leaders, at the fist sign of tension, diffuse conflicts quickly with 3-way calls so they don’t spiral out of control.
  12. Don’t tolerate gossip or backbiting. They will wreak havoc with team harmony.

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Some of the most effective sessions for turbulent times include these sessions that my company released during SARS and the 2008 economic crisis. They are highly effective for remote teams.

  • The Cash Flow Game
    Here is a brand new simulation that my company has just brought on-stream in response to COVID-19. It can be delivered as a full day session or 2 full half day sessions.It can be delivered on-site, virtually or through a hybrid meeting format.

Instead, leverage facilitated team building to design, assess, and implement solutions. Here is an example.


Lemons to Lemonade: Squeezing Opportunities Out of Adversity When Business Goes Sour

An Interactive Business Team Building Simulation

Our brand new business simulation guides you through this process.

  • Suggested Group Size: 21
  • Format: 2 – 3 days or weekly 1/2 day to 1-day session.
  • Venue: Facilitated on-site, off-site, virtually, or through a hybrid meeting.

Here is a brief outline:

  • Executive Briefing:
    Pinpoint specific challenges your team & organization face.
  • Connecting the Dots:
    Identify emerging trends & threats. (See my Connecting the Dots feature on Tuesdays.)
  • Lemons to Lemonade Simulation
    Teams will create a beverage and/or dessert using lemons, lemon juice, or lemonade as their mystery basket ingredients.Until the coronavirus has been contained, there will be no hands-on cooking component. Instead a professional chef or mixologist will bring the creations to life for judging and tasting.
  • Supply Chain Mapping: Systems Map out your current situation from supply chain to service/product delivery to clients.
  • Inventory Turnover Analysis
  • Receivable Chain Analysis
  • Models for Innovation


  • SWOT Analysis: Pinpoint threats and opportunities and assess your team’s readiness to deal with them.
  • Flow Charts: Identify process improvement opportunities. Design improved process.
  • Idea Chains/Mind Maps: Brainstorm options.
  • Force field analysis: Assess the viability of your plan of action.
  • Storyboards: Design presentation with recommendations.

More About Lemons to Lemonade

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Parting Shot

The coronavirus is a wake-up call for executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners.

  • Don’t wait for the fallout to hit your business.
  • Be proactive.
  • Map out your business from supply chain to client delivery.
  • Identify vulnerabilities.
  • Brainstorm options.
  • Design & fine-tune a strategy.
  • Take action.

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Want to avoid team building pitfalls and uncover more best practices?

Team Building and R.O.I. for Executives (PDF)

Team Building, Innovation, and R.O.I.: An Executive’s Guide to Boosting the Bottom Line is a call for a return to sanity in team building.

For a fraction of the cost of a consulting session, this 55 page e-book explores how team building can, once again, be used by executives to produce bottom line results. You’ll walk away with tips, tools and proven strategies to improve the effectiveness of team building and executive retreats.

Download a Preview (PDF)

Purchase the E-book (PDF)

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Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. @executiveoasis is the President of Executive Oasis International.

Executive Oasis International

Survive, Thrive, & Grow
Even in the Midst of Turbulence

Executive Oasis International, a Toronto team building and management consulting firm, designs and facilitates virtual team building, executive retreats, team building retreats, and business team building simulations for organizations facing rapid change.

Services are available globally including Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa), USA, Dubai, Oman, Caribbean (Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla), Europe (Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Italy), Japan, Singapore, Malaysia.

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