Working remotely can sometimes be both a blessing and a curse. The beauty of working remotely is the flexibility, the ability to wear comfy clothes, and the freedom to shamelessly snack at your leisure — just to name a few. The curse of working remotely is that you are…well, remote.
On the flip side, it can be incredibly challenging to feel connected to a work team when you work away from an office environment. Face-to-face contact is absent. Camaraderie is gone. Actual people are gone — remote work can be isolating.
It’s difficult to be on the same page, let alone feel like you’re on the same team when you are working remote. We get it, and we’re here to help. We’ve put together some great team-building activities for you and your teams to help avoid the feeling of isolation and start to feel like a more collaborative, close-knit team no matter where you are.
Let’s talk about team building
What is virtual team building?
Virtual team building is an important part of fostering collaboration and morale within distributed teams. It involves creating human connections between members who are spread out in multiple locations and may never have the chance to meet in person. By taking time out to build these connections, teams can benefit from increased trust and communication — which in turn leads to greater efficiency and productivity.
It’s smart to strike a balance between fun activities that bring everyone closer together and more straightforward work-related initiatives. To ensure productivity and connection throughout your team, virtual team building activities are a crucial factor to success.
A great way to facilitate a feeling of “belonging” and cohesion among dispersed colleagues is to include interactive activities that simulate interpersonal conversations, debates, and discussions. Set up break-out rooms over video conferencing software focused on engaging conversation starters like favorite movies, shared dreams, or experiences.
These topics can create engaging opportunities for members to make social connections with their peers, strengthening relationships and trust. The exercise also allows team members to get a better understanding of each other, providing insight into different points of view and thought processes.
Another way to encourage connection between remote workers is to set up games or activities that require creative problem-solving. Challenges like online trivia will get teams discussing topics that may relate to the business objectives as well as personal hobbies that bring joy into the workplace culture.
Purposely creating time for activities also provides your employees with an opportunity to take breaks from their work tasks throughout the day while still feeling a sense of purpose within their teams. Team building games create fun ways for colleagues to meet each other in a more informal setting rather than strictly professional interactions over hangouts, Slack, or via email.
Apps for making connections in a virtual workspace
In a virtual workspace, teams can use tools such as Trello boards, Slack, and Zoom. Trello is a popular software that acts like an online whiteboard where teams can post notes and tasks to collaborate on projects. Slack is an instant messaging platform for communication between team members that makes it easier to stay up-to-date with everyone on various projects.
Of course, we can’t forget Zoom. This video conferencing software allows teams to communicate face-to-face over the internet, creating an environment that encourages collaboration and camaraderie — even when working remotely. (And inevitably, there is some unexpected entertainment that flashes across at least one person’s screen in the middle of a Zoom meeting.)
Having the right tools at your disposal makes it much simpler for your teams to collaborate effectively, no matter where they're based. With these resources available, your people don't need to worry about being out of sync while working away from each other.
But first … the icebreaker
We know the mention of an icebreaker may have you rolling your eyes — but when done well, it can actually have a nice impact on your events. Icebreaker questions can reinvigorate virtual team games and activities for employees that are spread far and wide.
These icebreakers can be used just for fun or to engage in deeper conversations designed to increase understanding and familiarity between team members. Starting a meeting with a few well-crafted icebreakers serves as an easy (and often amusing) way to create cohesion and strengthen relationships within the group.
Don’t overlook the potential power of icebreaker questions. You just need a video conferencing tool to make it happen. Icebreakers generally require about five minutes or less, making them well-suited to busy schedules. Weekly icebreaker questions may be essential for staying connected and engaged with each other over long distances.
15 activities for remote team building
No matter which type of virtual team games and activities you decide to use, it is essential that you take into account the individual needs of your team. Everyone’s work style is different and while some may prefer collaborative activities, others may need a more relaxed approach. Be sure to create an environment where everyone can participate in order to get the most out of your team-building sessions.
1. Scavenger hunt
A virtual scavenger hunt is a great way for remote teams to come together and have some fun. Scavenger hunts can help boost team morale, foster collaboration, and promote creativity.
Have your team split into small groups and give them a list of items to find on the clock. Yep — time them! Have them hunt for things like pictures of animals from around the world, a particular type of item from their home, or even something funny they can create.
Once they’ve completed the scavenger hunt, have each group present their findings to the rest of the team. And to ensure more participation, you might even want to offer a prize to the winners.
2. Start a virtual book club
You may have people on your team who love to read, so why not start a virtual book club? You can choose books that are related to the work you do or just something interesting that everyone can enjoy. (Remember to let your team vote on their book!)
Then, have your team set up a schedule for when to read and discuss the book. This is a great way to get new perspectives on a topic and learn something new together.
3. Photo contest for the messiest desk
Working from home has given us all a chance to be more relaxed when it comes to our desks. There’s no need for office norms that demand and obsess over what constitutes "a good desk.” As you can imagine, this means people who aren’t naturally organized might need a little inspiration to make sense of their chaos.
Pick a day to share before-and-after pics of desk spaces, making jokes and sending messages of support to each other in the process. It makes you feel less alone in your chaos.
4. Plan regular online lunch meetups
An online lunch meetup is a great way to stay connected with peers from all around the globe. This real-time social event is meant only for fun—not work. Once a week or once a month, teams can link up via video conferencing on the company dime!
Each team member can put in money to enjoy their favorite cafe food or even have something delivered right to their door so cooking isn’t necessary. (One less stressor!) This encourages team bonding, even over long distances, and allows every teammate to participate in the conversational environment of a shared meal.
The online lunch meetup isn’t only about connecting people. It lets allies bond over common interests and assignments while allowing each member an equal amount of air time and respect. Not only that, but it helps build comradery and can generate creative ideas that are stronger when combined with different mindsets and backgrounds.
An online lunch meetup once or twice a month promotes healthier working habits by providing an uplifting break in the day as well as positive reinvention among teammates. When meetups happen regularly, they contribute to successful problem-solving—both inside and outside of workspace boundaries.
If your team is spread across various time zones, adapt your lunch meetings by grouping employees together who have lunch at the same time so everyone can participate.
5. Strength in your numbers
Isolation primes people to feel like they are failing. This activity is designed to help team members uncover their superpowers within the team. It allows members to take a practical, fun, and real-time approach to understanding what makes them unique.
Starting with an individual preparation time of 30 minutes for each person, take an online strength finder assessment such as Clifton Strengths to identify their own unique powers. Then have each person collectively share their results during the 60-minute group session held over video conferencing.
This exercise can help members go beyond surface-level connections to explore all the strengths that each person brings to the team to maximize efficiency and productivity.
The insights derived from this activity present an opportunity for both personal growth and development among team members by helping people discover who they are as individuals and how they work best together as a collective unit. The stronger the team members become, the more successful they will be in reaching their end goal — whether it be improving overall performance or achieving a certain target.
6. Out-of-the-box escape rooms
Escape rooms are all the rage these days, and there’s no reason why you can’t bring this popular activity to the virtual world. A virtual escape room can be a great way for your team to come together, think outside the box, and practice problem-solving skills.
All you need to do is get on Google and search “virtual escape game.” There are over 20 options for online escape rooms.
7. Have a group trivia night
Trivia nights are always a fun way to bring people together, even if they’re miles apart. Because this is an evening activity, people will probably need some incentive to attend. Don’t make it mandatory, instead offer a prize for attending and a better prize for the winners.
You can organize an online trivia night with questions related to current events, pop culture, or your company’s history. This will not only be a fun way for team members to test their knowledge, but it can also help create conversations about topics outside of work.
8. Plan a game night
If trivia isn’t appealing to your team, maybe they would prefer to play board games. Virtual game nights can still be a great way to get your team excited and engaged.
You can organize online game tournaments, play classic board games like Scrabble or Monopoly, or even break out video games like Mario Kart. Or if you want to take it super old school, play Pac-Man! It’s a great way to help your team bond, have some fun, and take a break from work.
9. Make a group chat
Group chat is an increasingly important utility for distributed teams to stay connected and organized. In this post-pandemic world, group chat has become even more invaluable as many of us are now in remote-only work arrangements. Many companies have developed internal chat channels to allow coworkers to socialize over topics that don’t necessarily relate directly to work.
Through these channels, team members can keep each other informed on useful topics like upcoming events, the latest news articles, or how they are adapting their lifestyles to a remote-only environment. Offshoot channels can also be created based on location so that team members living near each other can connect with relevant local information and support.
This type of socializing isn’t just helpful, it's also good for team members who may be working solo and feeling isolated. Group chats provide an opportunity to build relationships with colleagues outside of your regular task list and make remote work more fulfilling.
10. Learn skills together
Learning circles are an ideal way to help professionals grow their skills and form a connection with their colleagues. Held regularly, these sessions are fast-paced and aim to get team members up-to-date quickly on topics related to the job.
Through video conferencing, peers can share their ideas and experiences while learning together. It’s an effective way to gain knowledge in a fun but practical environment, since everyone involved is trying to move forward at the same speed.
Depending on how much time can be devoted to each session, the topics that can be explored in the learning circles range from management techniques or new technologies for current projects. Discussions could even go into specialty areas within your respective fields of expertise.
Maybe there's something you'd like to explore further or you simply want to hear what others have done successfully with their own projects. By having dedicated study materials available for reference, learning skills together can provide a great opportunity for remote teams to stay connected while they brush up on their professional skills together.
11. Battle of the GIFs
Chances are, some people on your team have already sent gifs back and forth for fun. GIF battles are a fun and convenient way to enjoy some friendly competition with remote team members. It’s an asynchronous game that allows participants to have very unique conversations without having to worry about time limitations.
The game can be played pretty quickly, taking between 15 and 30 minutes to complete. To join the battle you will need access to video conferencing software and an invitation link from a shared Trello board template. Once everyone is on the board they can view the instructions on how the GIF battle works.
This game consists of four rounds, each with its own theme that players must match GIFs within. Teams of two or more people can collaborate on strategic GIFs that are aimed at winning a particular round or the whole game, promoting teamwork and friendly competition.
Whether playing for points or for laughs, GIF battles provide a great way for remote teams to come together, have some fun, and bond over lighthearted content regardless of physical location.
12. Move Over Flat Stanley … It’s a Snail Mail Plushy
This game is kind of like Flat Stanley. It’s an asynchronous, just-for-fun fellowship where plush toys travel between friends and colleagues. The goal is to create meaningful connections as each participant passes on their plush toy to someone new, along with a personal message of encouragement. Through this way of connecting, the fellowship brings joy and peace to our busy lives.
To join this game, you only need a group chat app such as Slack or any other available option. Once you join the conversation, members will usually discuss who will receive their lovely traveling companion. Each participant must choose someone special who could use some extra love that day and send their plush toy off with a personalized message.
Then, it's up to them to accept it with open arms and give it an even more amazing journey. By constantly moving from one corner of the world to another, this game serves as a reminder that we’re always connected even when apart. It has become a great way for everyone to feel more connected to those around them — despite physical distance or time zones!
13. Embracing Your Enneagrams
Enneagrams are a wonderful tool for discovering and understanding yourself and those around you. For those who are unfamiliar with the system, it is based on nine different personality types labeled from one to nine.
With this knowledge, your teams can benefit greatly from taking time out of their day to learn about each other’s Enneagram type. A real-time workshop that not only yields great insight into individual teammates but also offers practical solutions on how to better interact with each other can be just the thing that teams need right now.
This experience can be done in just over two hours over video conferencing and will likely inspire lots of conversation, laughs, and ah-ha moments. Participants will get a better sense of who their team members are at their core as well as techniques for using the Enneagram to work more effectively together.
By exploring what motivates people, each person's natural talents, vulnerabilities, and areas of growth, this session will provide a fun and practical opportunity for learning about yourself and those around you in an engaging way.
14. Virtual Breakroom
We love this idea. The concept of a virtual break room is a great way to bring remote teams together in an environment that can represent an office setting. With the use of video conferencing and web chat services, having such rooms is easy peasy.
This would give remote workers the opportunity to connect outside of scheduled meetings and allow a more natural flow of conversation. In a virtual breakroom, team members can share small updates and stories, or just take their leisurely break while enjoying each other's company virtually.
In order for these efforts to be successful and effective, however, it's important for the team manager to make sure that everyone knows about these virtual breakrooms and actively encourages their use. This will turn them into integral parts of your team member's daily routines in which they can relax, destress from work, and build strong relationships with one another.
15. Team Tunes
Creating a collaborative playlist might just be the perfect way to bring together remote teammates and cultivate a strong team connection by making sweet music together. (Yes, we know everybody has their own taste in tunes and that some of the music may not seem sweet to everybody!) Through Spotify or Google Play, remote teams can connect through a group chat app like Slack to share their favorite songs and discuss the latest artists that have caught their attention.
This simple but powerful collaboration tool makes it easy for teammates to create a shared soundtrack that just gives the collective mood a kick in the tail and elevates everyone’s workday experience. As an added bonus, by exploring each other’s musical tastes, employees can learn more about their coworkers’ personalities and interests, fostering understanding and rapport even when they can’t be in the same room.
So why not pull up Spotify together this week with your remote team and make an epic playlist of team tunes?
Virtual team building is an art
In the modern world, virtual team building has become essential for businesses that need to collaborate and innovate without geographical restrictions. Thanks to the help of many online tools and platforms, it’s now a definite possibility for individuals and teams to stay connected, even if they are on opposite sides of the globe.
Virtual team building provides a way for people to connect with one another both professionally and personally despite physical distance. This creates an environment where people can go through processes such as productivity discussions, idea sharing, feedback sessions, conflict resolution, brainstorming, and so much more.
The process of virtual team building requires something more than just having access to different technological resources. For your virtual team to work properly there must be a genuine effort from everyone involved in order to foster relationships among those who may never actually meet each other in person.
This involves getting to know each other on a personal level as well — after all, trusting relationships form deep bonds that help inspire cooperation between group members who might otherwise not trust or support each other's ideas. It also helps when crafting agreeable resolutions during moments of interpersonal conflict within the group. With these efforts made, virtual team building can be successful!
Virtual team-building activities are a brilliant way to make remote workers feel less remote and more connected. And now you have fifteen of the best ideas for making it happen for your team. Maybe you’ll even come up with ideas of your own!
If you find yourself wondering how you could possibly squeeze in the time for team building, we can help. Our team at Harvest can show you how tracking your time across tasks will make your team more efficient, therefore, freeing you and your teammates up to be able to bond virtually, more frequently.
Who knows? Between team building and time tracking, you might just find yourself with a happier and more productive team on your hands!