Virtual team building activities aren’t new, but until recently these team activities, online games, and training workshops had a limited audience. Now, with more organizations implementing work from home and remote work policies, virtual team building is more relevant and in demand than ever.
The purpose of this article is to explore some of the reasons organizations do rememote team building, compare the similarities and differences with non-virtual team building, and share resources that may be relevant to you. These resources include companies that offer virtual team building activities as a service, remote team building games, fun activities for remote teams and more.
- The Benefits of Virtual and Remote Team Building Activities
- The Best Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
- Free Remote Team Building Activities
- Online Team Building Games for Remote Teams
- Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual Team Building
- Final Thoughts on Virtual Team Building Activities
First, why are companies investing in remote team building activities?
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The Benefits of Virtual and Remote Team Building Activities
Sometime in the last twenty years, the American Dream shifted from a puppy, two kids, +1 and a picket fence to something more like, “working from home without pants.”
And this desire for rolling out of bed, turning on a screen and being at work is totally understandable. You save hundreds of hours a year in commuting time, the only people stealing your lunch are those you choose to live with, and pants are for the most part completely optional.
Yet, for as long as people have been fawning over the dreamy grass on the other side of the remote work fence, they have also been underestimating the unique challenges that come with it.
For example, loneliness. Before I started working remotely, I took for granted the social aspect of work. Strolling into the office, nearly on time, saying hi to a few folks and then hanging with mostly Dennis was an important social outlet. We didn’t have a water cooler, but we talked.
Remote workers do not have this basic social support system. If you live alone, and even more so without furry friends, then socializing becomes something you need to plan and execute on deliberately. Multiply this requirement by 10x for introverts and 100x for me, a known recluse. The result is lonely days, lonely nights, lonely weekends, and putting End Game on as background noise for the 47th time.
Virtual team building activities are like rays of sunshine is an otherwise cloudy, seasonally affective disordered day. When you get together with your remote work colleagues, you can have meaningful conversations, do team activities together, play games and build strong relationships. With time and intentional effort these co-working relationships become genuine friendships and sometimes life partners.
More benefits of virtual team building activities include:
- Increase engagement for remote workers
- Play online team building games that build skills like communication and collaboration
- Fun activities for remote teams contribute to job satisfaction and retention
- Remote team building is a way to invest in company culture
There are more benefits of investing in remote team building too.
The Best Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
There are at least thousands of companies around the world that provide local team building activities, but relatively few that offer remote team building options. And even fewer that offer the same quality experience online as you would expect face-to-face.
I believe the best virtual team building activities are live experiences, led be creative faciliators, that stimulate more than just visual and auditory senses, and build meaningful relationships between your people. I direct this belief into my companies detailed below.
100% Virtual Team Building by teambuilding.com
Via our teambuilding™ parent brand, we provide a variety of team building activities for remote teams. These options include Online Office Games, which is a speed-series of team activities including typing tests, spreadsheet pixel art and the world’s fastest dance class. For slightly less fun and more learning we also run workshops like How to Manage Remote Teams, How to Work Remotely, and Online Storytelling Workshops. We also have a variety of experts available to run virtual team building lunch and learns for you and your coworkers.
tiny campfire 🔥
tiny campfire runs virtual campfires for remote workers. The experience includes historic ghost stories, fun online team building games and activities, trivia, and real s’more making. Before the event, the camp team sends each of your team members a care pack that includes a campfire-candle, matches, s’more ingredients and other goodies. Then, on camp day, we send out a link to a virtual team building video call and introduce your team to their camp counsellor. The experience is smart, fun, wildly engaging and highly recommended for remote teams.
Tea vs Coffee
Tea vs Coffee, also known as 🍵 × ☕, is a zen experience that includes friendly icebreaker questions, a guided meditation session, and tasting experience. We send each of your team members a kit in advance that includes four exotic coffees and teas. During the event, your expert barista shares stories about the origins of the beverages, mostly unknown facts about the tea and coffee world, and the science behind the flavour compounds your team members are enjoying. The experience is calming, informative and designed from the ground up for virtual team building.
War of the Wizards
War of the Wizards is a virtual role playing game (RPG) for teams. The format is similar to Dungeons and Dragons, and very much simplified for the audience and time available. The premise of the game is that two wizards, neither particularly good or evil, are in an ongoing battle that neither quite knows how started. Participants at the event are the wizards’ minions, and must complete games and challenges to earn resources to fuel the war effort. The game is wildly fun, smart, and story-based; perfect for both RPG noobs and advanced gamers.
You can also visit Museum Hack’s blog to learn more about virtual team building activities for remote teams and other fun activities for remote employees.
Free Remote Team Building Activities
Investing in team building doesn’t have to be with money, it can also be with time, effort and care. If you are planning your own virtual team building activities for remote teams then consider the following.
Mister Rogers Calls
One of our favourite ways to do virtual team building internally is via something we call Mister Rogers Calls. On a given frequency, for example 1x per month, an app matches our team members to setup a thirty minute video call. The only guideline for this call is that you aren’t allowed to talk about work. Giving employees paid time to talk about common interests outside of work projects is a powerful way to do remote team building and build meaningful relationships.
Online Team Building Bingo
Bingo isn’t just for summer camp, retirement homes and cruise ships; it’s a fun online team building game too. You can challenge your colleagues to a quick round of Remote Work Bingo, awarding points for accomplishments like hearing someone say, “Sorry, I was on mute” or trying the Pomodoro Method to stay productive.
Here is a virtual Bingo board you can use:
You can “Right Click + Save As” to download the Bingo board.
Bingo is a quick, fun and easy option for free remote team building activities. If you do want to and are able to make a small investment in the game, then you could also add real world prizes like an Amazon gift card or something more fun and unique to your group.
You can and should start most of your virtual meetings with a quick round of icebreaker questions. Setup the experience by stating the prompt, then telling the next person up to get on deck, and then sharing your answers to the prompt. For example, you could have participants share their name, role or responsiblities, and why they prefer cats or dogs. If you are new to using icebreakers for remote team building then choose prompts that are easy to answer and share about, otherwise the quieter folks in your squad are going to be pretty damn nervous.
Here are some lists of icebreaker questions you can use for your remote meetings:
- Museum Hack: The Only List of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need
- Team Building Hero: 120+ Team Building Icebreaker Questions for Work
- teambuilding™️: Icebreaker Questions
Icebreaker questions are an entirely free way to get started with virtual team building, and it only takes a few minutes. Try it!
A common challenge for hosts of virtual meetings is making these calls via fun and engaging for attendees. When you screen share a slide show it kills the vibe, and often causes people to surf off to other corners of the internet like Instagram, Twitter and cute photos of baby hedgehogs.
Instead, use breakout rooms to measurably increase engagement for your remote workers, and give them an outlet to participate. To form the rooms, use a tool like Zoom that allows you to allocate people to sub-calls of the existing one. You can either assign people according to who you want in each room or randomly. Then, give people an assignment and a timeline to return to the main call. The assigment could be sharing a quick story about themselves or doing a round of trivia together. In general, try to keep breakout room sessions to less than fifteen minutes.
Virtual Show & Tell
To add an element of remote team building to your next virtual call, try doing a quick show and tell. You can either have participants plan to bring an object in advance, or just grab the nearest unique object within arms reach. For the actual share-out, give a simple framework to help ease nerves about sharing something personal. For example, you could have people share what the object is, where they got it, and why they like it.
Online Team Building Games for Remote Teams
Similar with virtual team building activities, the plush woodland of online games gives way to a virtual tundra when you add the “team building” criteria. I believe the reason for this gap in the market is that online games are typically designed for either the mass market, ardent gamers, or as a trick to steal your credit card information. Compared to these consumer markets, B2B online team building games look like a unicorn at Christmas; cute but out of place. Still, there are some online team building games for remote teams that you can play.
You may have played Werewolf at summer camp or on one of our recent company retreats. Werewolf is a game of wits, deceit, and skilful manipulation as you seek to survive the night. The entire game is based on speaking, careful listening and voting, so you can run the experience in a virtual conference room.
To start the game, players draw cards that assign the role of werewolf, villager, medic or seer. Werewolves do the eating, villagers vote werewolves off the island, medics can save a player and seers can peer deep into another player’s soul to reveal their wolf-status.
Once everyone has a role, the game master announces that night has fallen, and everyone closes their eyes and makes pitter-patter noises to mask other sounds. The game master then asks the werewolves to wake-up and select a victim, followed by the medic who points to one person to save, and the seer who points to one person to reveal. Finally, the game master announces the sun is rising and reveals whether a villager became wolf-grub during the night. Unless the medic saved the right villager, the answer to the “did someone get eaten” question is generally “nom nom yes.”
Anyone the werewolves eat becomes a ghost and cannot speak for the remainder of the game, which is more frustrating for the quiet ghost than anyone else. The survivors debate who might be a werewolf, and then vote to either eliminate someone or skip the round. Rinse and repeat until you only have villagers or wolves left.
Werewolf is highly tactical and makes for fun online team building games for remote teams because it fuels a lot of discussion. Also, FYI the werewolf is almost always Kate.
Matchmaker is a game we play at the museum via Museum Hack. Essentially, you pair up team members and then have each person choose a favourite image. You can use famous paintings, historic figures, nostalgic cartoons or presidents. Then, the pairs create a story about how the two characters met, if they fell in love, and where they are at now. This game is meant to be an exercise in storytelling, improvisation and creativity. Matchmaker is an easy way to get started with online games for virtual teams.
Something in Common
One of the quickest online team building games you can play is Something in Common, which is a challenge that encourages your remote teammates to learn more about each other. For this game, assign your people into small groups and then have each group identify the three most unique things they have in common. For example, a group might find a common love for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, experience with childhood violin lessons, and a disdain for fiery Cheetos. If you want to do multiple rounds then you can make the game more challenging by removing broad categories like movies, books and food.
Guess the Emoji Board 🤔
A few years ago, emojis were a quaint part of the internet that you weren’t quite sure if it was okay or not to include in professional messaging. Now, depending on your industry and colleagues, you may have a 50:50 shot; or if you are me, liberally send hearts and sun-shines to nearly anyone.
With more frequently used emojis comes a record of your most frequently used emojis, which you can snap a screenshot of and upload for your team to see. If, like me, you and the folks on your remote team gravitate toward shrugs, flexes, Canada flags and Pokémon balls, then it is fun to see the record of it.
You could also play a quick online team building game like “Guess the Emoji Board.” Here is how you play:
- Distribute a list of all players to each player.
- Everyone has five minutes to guess the five most used emojis by each person on the list.
- Reveal the answers and award points both for “having it in the top 5” as well as “having it in the right order.”
Guess the Emoji Board is a quick game and therefore will entertain your team for a quick amount of time. However, if you are looking for ways to make a virtual meeting fun or engage a virtual team, then a quick round of emoji ranking can help.
Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual Team Building
Here are a few common questions about virtual team building and my answers.
How do you make a virtual meeting fun?
To make a virtual meeting fun, include online team building games and activities. For example, you can play a few rounds of Werewolf or include icebreaker questions that let everyone share a little about themselves.
How do you build team morale remotely?
If you want to build team morale remotely then you need to start with the same principles of local in-office morale building. Show strong leadership, give your people the clearest expectations you can, and do internal team building activities that give your remote workers a chance to relax and build meaningful relationships with colleagues.
How do you engage a virtual team?
One way to engage a virtual team is to make virtual meetings more participate. For example, use call out questions to encourage people to share thoughts and ideas with the group. You can also do breakout rooms during the call that put people into smaller groups where everyone has more opportunities to share.
Why are virtual teams important?
Virtual teams are important because many offices around the world are moving toward remote work. For people that have worked from home for years, this transition is relatively easy. People that are new to remote work will likely need more support, and virtual teams help provide this.
Final Thoughts on Virtual Team Building Activities
I am a firm believer in team building: in-person, virtual, remote or otherwise. I believe that virtual team building and online games for remote teams are a way to unite your people in a way that feels genuine, engaging and playful. Your team wants to do their best work, and virtual team building can help unlock this productivity and potential. Online team building is a really nice way to connect with the people you work with and build connections.
As I learned as an isolated remote worker, friendships are pretty f***ing important.