Here’s How to Create a Ritual for Your Team

Rituals help teammates collaborate and communicate more effectively — and have fun, too.

Written by Gustavo Razzetti
Published on Jan. 11, 2024
Here’s How to Create a Ritual for Your Team
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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Well-designed team rituals can foster a sense of belonging, connect people with the company culture and bring remote teams closer together. During the pandemic, when teams were forced to work remotely, companies started developing new rituals or updating existing ones. 

8 Ideas for Team Rituals

  1. Create buddy systems for employees.
  2. Virtually meet each other’s loved ones, friends and pets.
  3. Praise unsung heroes.
  4. Send welcome packages to new employees.
  5. Celebrate failures.
  6. Celebrate contributions.
  7. Create a team playlist.
  8. Host coffee chats with the CEO.

I was helping teams design rituals even before the pandemic. After witnessing numerous organizations transition to remote work, my team and I gained valuable insights into the power of rituals and how they contribute to building culture, even from a distance. Consider the following areas as you create or refine rituals for your teams.

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Get to Know Your Colleagues

Creating a sense of belonging and connection is crucial for remote teams, particularly when team members join without having the opportunity to meet in person.
 

Create buddy systems

Being part of a group makes it easier to go through experiences such as onboarding and makes it easier for everyone to support each other. Miro, which makes collaboration software, onboards remote employees in cohorts to help build strong relationships. It makes people feel welcomed and part of the company’s culture, history and strategy.
 

ask work-related questions

Some people don’t want to get too personal. However, you can still get to know them more personally by discussing work-related topics. At Liberty IT, employees use a series of questions like “Who was your best colleague and why?” and “Who was your worst boss ever and why?”
 

Meet each other’s loved ones

We are our relationships. Rituals can facilitate connection by introducing colleagues’ pets, babies and anything in between.

GitLab team members host Juice Box chats, bringing together employees’ children, grandchildren and other family members. At BetterCloud, employees like to show off their pets during video calls to strengthen personal relationships among team members.

 

Celebrate Your Team Culture

Team rituals are perfect for recognizing people and strengthening bonds.
 

praise the Unsung hero

Have the team vote and nominate a team member who has gone the extra mile, especially someone who did so without bragging about it. For example, honor and celebrate the shy person who contributed the most or someone who went outside their comfort zone.
 

hold Graduation ceremonies

Welcoming new team members is a critical celebration for every team, primarily when people work remotely. Create a small, virtual ceremony where new hires can introduce themselves and share their washing instructions — how they want to be treated by their colleagues. Build a mural board where everyone’s washing instructions are available for all to see.
 

Send welcome packages

The fact that people work from home doesn’t mean they can’t still get some nice gifts from their new employer. Cupcakes hold significance for Dropbox. Its fifth core value, delight, is represented by a picture of a smiling cupcake. Every new employee receives a wooden box with a recipe and ingredients to bake their own. Of course, they share the experience with their colleagues.

 

Reinforce Positive Behaviors

Team rituals can be used to acknowledge and reward employees for their work and effort. Well-designed rituals reinforce the behavior you would like to see more of.
 

get meetings back on track

At Heiligenfeld, a German company specializing in holistic health care, the “Who will ring the bell today?” ritual creates a pause when a meeting is going off track. When ground rules are not respected, the sound of the bell invites participants to reflect on their own behaviors. “Am I in service of the topic we are discussing? Am I adding value or being a distraction?” The meeting restarts with a more effective mindset.


Show appreciation

Southwest Airlines, a regional airline in the United States, practices cultural blitzes, unexpected events in which a group of employees show their appreciation to flight crews. This ritual includes giving them snacks and good wishes for the day ahead. The key surprise includes cleaning the plane between flights, usually the responsibility of the crew members who were on the plane.
 

Celebrate failures

Many organizations have rituals to increase mistake tolerance and develop a learning culture. Tata Motors, the Indian automotive company, believes that mistakes are goldmines. Ratan Tata, former chair of the Tata Group, created the Dare to Try prize for the best-failed idea.

At Spotify, teams have regular fail-fikas (fika is the Swedish word for having a coffee and chatting together). This ritual encourages people to share their mistakes and learn from each other’s errors.
 

Celebrate contributions

The Small Moments Jar team ritual is another way to recognize everyone’s contributions. Create a virtual jar in which teammates can drop a sticky note outlining something extraordinary a colleague did. Everything counts, from helping out on a deadline to learning a new skill or organizing a virtual birthday celebration. Once a week, the jar is opened and each person shares their notes, acknowledging the person who earned the glory.
 

Boost a Sense of Belonging

Doing things together in a particular way increases belonging and trust among virtual teams. Here are some ideas.
 

Create a team playlist

Nothing brings us together or sets us apart like music. Define different themes and have each colleague recommend a song to build a playlist that represents personal preferences and also creates a shared identity.
 

hold Virtual contests

Creating friendly competitions between various teams from the same company reinforces belonging and also breaks down silos. Organize cross-company contests for best team photo, coolest team pet or best team virtual background, to name a few.
 

Hold virtual bonfires

Hotjar holds weekly events that get employees together in an intimate and casual environment: virtual bonfires. It’s a moment to connect, discuss interesting topics and share new ideas. Sometimes, special guests join and spark interesting conversations around the warmth of a virtual bonfire.
 

Grab coffee with the CEO

Real conversations increase transparency, which is associated with trust and lower turnover. GoTo’s CEO hosts weekly virtual coffee chats that all employees can join. They are recorded so no one misses the conversation. During these chats, employees come up with suggestions and ideas. The company documents all the progress on a website where people can see what was said and what the company is doing to provide employees with a better experience.

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Improve Virtual Collaboration

Well-designed team rituals can improve participation, one nudge at a time.
 

Run a sparring session

This structured way to get feedback comes from the playbook at Atlassian, the software company. Just as martial artists or boxers train with others, a sparring session with your colleagues will improve your game. Share your work in a safe setting and get quick, honest feedback from the diverse perspectives of your colleagues.
 

Call out interruptions

Interruptions have skyrocketed in virtual environments. This ritual invites people to cut them out. To ensure all voices are heard, create a visual ritual to call out interrupters. We use scissors in our workshops so participants can put them in front of their cameras to call out those who are cutting off their colleagues.
 

put teams in Design detention

This ritual by Alastair Simpson, design lead at Atlassian, helps remote teams overcome constant interruptions. Teams need quality time and focus to tackle wicked problems. Design detentions are partial or full days where teams work in the same virtual space without interruptions. Emails, direct messages, meetings and 1-on-1s are banned.

These are just some ideas for rituals — feel free to create your own. Identify the challenges you want to address, then start with small-scale experiments and iterate. “When designing a ritual, don’t overthink it; simply create the initial version and then refine it later,” advises Tim Brown,  CEO of IDEO.

Rituals are symbolic shared experiences that strengthen connections, communication and a sense of belonging. Through repetition, they reinforce desired beliefs and behaviors.

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