Although remote work is becoming more popular, it’s the COVID pandemic that has thrust virtual teams into the spotlight. Now, virtual teams are an everyday reality that are here to stay. If you’ve never managed a work from home team before, the task can seem downright daunting. To help you out, below is a list of popular and effective virtual team building activities. If one doesn’t work, experiment with a few others to see what happens. Check back often because we add to this list on a regular basis. Before you know it, your lackluster remote team will become a creative powerhouse!
- The Virtual (Team-Building) Happy Hour
- Friendly Competitions
- Photo Competition
- Cooking Competitions
- Themed Decor Competition
- MTV Cribs for the Virtual Office
- Five Questions
- Staff Fun Facts
- Be Productive
- Recapture the Water Cooler
- Spread Some Good News
- Mindfulness Sessions
- 20 Questions To Get To Know You Better
- Weekly “Chat Roulette”
- The Video Call “Coffee Chat” or “Company Lunch”
- The “What If” Group Project or Plan
- Show Us Your Zone
- Pair Up Staff for Quizzes
- Schedule A Virtual Movie or TV Show Night
- Organize A Scavenger Hunt
- Celebrate Holidays and Special Occasions Online
- Sign Up For Our Remote Employer Partner Services
The Virtual (Team Building) Happy Hour
If you’ve implemented a company happy hour after work on certain days, you may find that it increases team building and improves company culture. Furthermore, it provides your team with the opportunity to unwind and talk about anything other than work. Despite its lack of work-related conversation, happy hours can actually help boost engagement at work. As others get to know each other better and work together, they can look forward to happy hour as a reward for completing a goal.
Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic had other ideas, all but eliminating a work happy hour. However, the pandemic shouldn’t prevent you from launching a “virtual” happy hour. Using video-conferencing software such as Zoom or Skype, you can get the team together for conversation and games.
If the conversation stagnates or you want to engage the team-building aspect, try a few games. These games should have a casual approach, giving your remote workers the opportunity to learn a bit more about each other. Some popular virtual happy hour games include:
- Show and Tell
- Never Have I Ever: Safe for Work Edition
- The Bucket List (share your bucket list items)
You could also try classic board games that translate well to the virtual realm, such as:
- Pandemic (the topical selection of the bunch)
Whatever you decide to do during your virtual happy hour, just make sure that your team interacts and gets to know each other. That’s one of the most effective team-building activities you’ll find.
Pro Tip: If you aren’t a drinker or don’t have time to have an after-hours happy hour, switch to a morning social event with coffee.
Casual competition is a constructive way to introduce virtual team building activities to a newly minted remote team. These are similar to games that you’d play at the virtual happy hour, but with an added layer of competitiveness.
Not everyone has an inner Ansel Adams, but the advent of smartphones provides a solid medium to take outstanding photos. Invite your team to take pictures of things around the house or just outside and have a vote to see who’s the best. The upside to this competition is its simplicity and the little time it takes to complete. Plus, you never know if the quiet girl from accounting has an exquisite eye for photography.
You won’t have a chance to taste the culinary concoctions that your team makes, but in some instances (especially those with a lack of cooking prowess), a picture will do more than suffice. If you need some inspiration on how to run this competition, just check out Netflix’s “Nailed It!” for some inspiration.
Themed Decor Competition
Challenge your team to home office decor competitions. You could choose a Halloween theme, a Fourth of July theme, or any other theme that your employees agree upon. Throw in a small prize like an Amazon gift card to add some extra motivation.
MTV Cribs for the Virtual Office
For the past 20 years, MTV has satisfied the curiosity of the masses with “Cribs.” On this reality show, celebrities bring camera crews into their home to showcase what it’s like to live in luxury. Well, your remote team may not have crystal chandeliers, grand pianos, and Ferraris, but they might find it fun to show off their place (or home office) “Cribs” style.
Ask for volunteers to do this live or on a recording, and let everyone enjoy the insight into the real-life of a remote worker.
Five Questions is another awesome team-building game that opens the floor for agreement, discussion, and debate. Each workday, list five questions on your collaborative work platform. Give everybody a few hours to answer, and then open the table for discussion. For example, your five questions could include:
- In your opinion, what’s the best sci-fi movie?
- What’s the greatest music video of all time?
- What’ss your favorite Taco Bell menu item?
- Who’s the greatest athlete ever?
- If you could meet a politician past or present, who would it be?
Remember to switch up the questions to fit the interests of your team. The idea is to keep them engaged, keep them talking, and keep the team building at full steam ahead.
Staff Fun Facts
Regardless of whether your team is full of introverts, extroverts, or a mixed bag, everyone has an interesting anecdote or fact about themselves. If you want your team to identify more as friends and teammates than simply co-workers, have your staff send you some facts about themselves.
Once a day or once a week, release one of the facts via email or collaboration software. Then, let your employees guess who the phrase or story describes. With a few surprises and twists, your team will learn all about their colleagues in a more exciting manner.
Games and competitions are a lighthearted way to work on team building. But as an employer, you surely won’t forget that productivity is still important. Fortunately, training seminars and Q&A sessions can help you improve the productivity of your team while allowing your crew to learn from each other. This isn’t as fun as other team-building activities, but it’s a necessary part of moving forward during the pandemic. With your other team-building exercises, it’s doubtful your team will even notice they’re in training.
Recapture the Water Cooler
Water cooler talk is a way to chat about the latest movies and sports while taking a break from work. You can implement virtual team building activities that recapture the essence of water cooler chat each day or once a week.
To do so, start a “water cooler” channel on your collaboration platform. This will allow people to periodically post their thoughts on the latest current events or what they’re up to during stay-at-home orders. Not only does this equate to team building, but it also brings people together during one of modern mankind’s strangest times.
Spread Some Good News
No one loves to wake up each morning to hear how many people died or became infected over the last 24 hours. That’s why a great way to boost morale is to post some uplifting news. The Good News Network is an ideal place to start, but you can also scour your local news. Even national news outlets have feelgood stories buried at the bottom of the page. The idea is to bring forth a glimmer of hope and find stories that can reduce feelings of distress, gloom, or isolation.
Sometimes, team building is taking a step back and just breathing. You can forget about the project your team is diligently working on and forget that it might be months until life returns to normal.
To do this, set up a regular mindfulness session. Ask your team for a volunteer(s) to lead a meditation or a yoga session each morning. Don’t make these mandatory. Instead, welcome anyone who wants to join. This will help alleviate some of the stress that goes along with transitioning to a new remote team.
20 Questions To Get To Know You Better
This activity can be one of the most simple and fun. Although starting by asking personal questions may be tempting, it is crucial to keep the topics light and fun. This small questionnaire helps spark a conversation between colleagues. The deeper-level connections come later.
You can set up this game in one of two ways:
- Option 1: Include questions as a survey for new hires so that they can share some non-personal details about themselves, and the existing team can get to know their new colleague better.
- Option 2: Break the questions up during the month, either as a daily question or five at the beginning of the week. Since long answers would not be required, this would be perfect for a virtual bulletin board or team communication hubs such as Slack, Discord, or Microsoft Teams.
Weekly “Chat Roulette”
There’s no better way to get to know someone than with one-on-one conversation. Regrettably, these types of interactions occur much less frequently with remote teams. Enter Donut. For employers using Slack as their preferred remote work communication or collaboration tool, this application makes it easier to establish personal connections between individuals who work from home.
Donut regularly and randomly pairs up team members and encourages they meet or chat remotely. Employees complete these virtual meet-ups via video conference or chat. To make things less awkward for participants, management can include some talking points to help get things started.
The Video Call “Coffee Chat” or “Company Lunch”
Everyone loves a free meal, and some of the best conversations usually happen during a nice long coffee break or lunch. For companies with a distributed workforce, getting the entire company together in-person for a meal requires extensive coordination and significant funding. Fortunately, video conferencing and food delivery software can make things a lot easier for remote managers wishing to take everyone “out for coffee.”
Employers should set a date and time for their chosen event well in advance to ensure most remote staff can take part. Since not everyone drinks coffee and many people have dietary restrictions, it is best to ask participants for their preferred meal or snack and have that meal delivered a few minutes before the informal video conference call.
Using reloadable gift cards so everyone can make order their own food ahead of time is also convenient. While it might be slightly strange to hear some slurping and seeing fellow staff members chewing via video, the socialization and bonding that occurs by seeing each other’s faces and discussing non-work-related things are priceless.
The “What If” Group Project or Plan
Out of all the virtual team building activities, this one may be the most creative yet. The object of this activity is to get staff members who would not regularly interact to show their most creative selves and work together to solve a “fun” problem. Because adding additional stress is not a goal for this project, it is essential to encourage the participants to have fun when dreaming up solutions and remind them that there are no wrong answers or plans for this project.
Pick a team of four or five workers and dream up a scenario for them that includes anything from escaping a deserted island or creating a new (ridiculous) consumer product to planning the ultimate vacation on a specific (low) budget or surviving an alien invasion. Make sure you schedule the due date for this “project” at least a month beforehand. This allows everyone in different time zones the ability to join in at some point. If you are using collaboration software, such as Slack, make sure each team has their own private project channel. Participants can “present” their final outcomes any way they desire. Use a video presentation, PowerPoint, a blog post, etc. To increase participation in this activity, include a prize for the top two or three projects or plans.
Show Us Your Zone
One benefit of having a distributed team is that everyone has a different view when they look away from their computer screen. A great icebreaker when working from home is to have teams is to have remote workers show the rest of the team a little bit of their everyday environment. This can be their home office, a tour of their city, or just some of their favorite spots.
Set up a shared calendar and have a participating team member schedule a day to upload a series of photographs, a video, or a presentation of their favorite environment. This gives people time to plan where to go or clean up their area if they want to show off their home or remote office. It also allows a bit of time to plan what they want to say as they describe their area.
Pair Up Staff for Quizzes
QuizBreaker is a great ice breaker for remote employees. This service enables teams to learn new things about each other and increase communication among remote staff. You can customize quizzes by day, timing, and frequency, so this service is perfect for a company with an upcoming in-person retreat or meeting. Complete quizzes with staff prior to the event, and it should alleviate some of the awkwardness that comes from meeting co-workers face to face for the first time.
QuizBreaker sends out an email with a list of fun questions. From there, the team receives another email where they must guess and match the answer to the person who said it. This becomes an ideal way to help get to know your team members and have fun doing it too.
Schedule A Virtual Movie or TV Show Night
With the boom of social media and television outlets, “live-tweeting” (sharing one’s reactions to TV episodes, sporting events, or awards shows while they are airing) is another virtual team building activity you can try with remote teams. It can also be quite simple to set up. The main goal here is to provide a means for your distributed team to relax and bond with one another.
The most important requirement for this activity is setting up a screen-sharing software or streaming service. It is easiest when everyone is watching popular global or national events such as the Oscars or Super Bowl. Services like Kast enable users to create watch parties and view the same movie or TV show simultaneously. Determine a set time to stream the film by picking a date and time, and have everyone log on to the video stream at the same time. Kast also offers messaging capabilities so viewers can chat while watching.
Organize A Scavenger Hunt
Running out of ideas of how to build camaraderie for your remote staff? Don’t dismiss classic activities such as scavenger hunts. Two tools that should be in your arsenal for virtual team building activities are ActionBound and GooseChase. These mobile applications take users on digitally interactive scavenger hunts. And because they monitor activities in real-time, they are perfect for encouraging collaboration among distributed teams.
Users can play in teams and complete missions where they score points. You can schedule the hunts for a set time and duration. The applications enable users to submit and use GPS locations, directions, pictures, and videos during the hunt. When the game concludes, the organizer can put together a slideshow of the best photos and videos of the hunt.
Celebrate Holidays and Special Occasions Online
Remote staff have lives outside of work. Because of the geographical isolation that often comes with telecommuting, bonding with colleagues is difficult. Thus, celebrating important milestones in a virtual setting just as much as you would if you interacted face-to-face with your team.
The easiest way is by putting every telecommunications tool in your arsenal to work. If you use a communication tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams, have a dedicated channel for “watercooler” news or personal events. Encourage staff to upload pictures of celebrations (weddings) or milestones (kids, pets, or sports activities). Host virtual baby showers or birthdays by having the team join in on a video call and send a gift or birthday cake to the person being celebrated. Want to make it extra special? Send everyone on the team a cupcake too so that they can join in on the tasty fun.
There are many ways that remote workers can come together and truly become a cohesive team. It just takes work, consistency, and a sincere effort by managers and their distributed staff members to make these virtual team building activities work.
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Using these tips and your own sense of creativity should allow you to regain a small sense of workplace normalcy, even if it isn’t in the traditional sense. When things return to normal, you may find that your remote team-building exercises made your team closer and stronger than ever.
Do you have any virtual team building activities that are effective or that your employees enjoy? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!
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