Traditional business teams were built on trust that comes from working alongside the same people for a long time. To foster closer collaboration and more extensive relationships between workers, managers often organized team-building activities aimed at breaking down interpersonal barriers and allowing the people to learn a bit about each other in a less formal setting.
Most of those activities took place either inside an office or at another location where all team members would gather. That renders a majority of team building exercises poorly suited for remote teams that sometimes include individuals residing in a different country. Thus, business leaders are currently searching for replacements that could produce a synergistic effect within remote teams.
This article will discuss some ideas for activities that can easily be organized virtually and that are inclusive enough for team members of all genders and ages to enjoy.
You can also check out the guide to find 7 Must-Have Remote Work Skills if you need them.
Workers that know each other well tend to collaborate more effectively. This is achieved organically after many years of sharing a job, but with team building activities the process can be greatly accelerated. It could be argued that the impact of those fun and engaging activities is even more crucial with remote teams that don’t have the chance to bond over trivial office activities such as ordering lunch or celebrating a colleague’s birthday.
Companies that adopt some form of virtual team building activities can accomplish several important objectives and ensure long-term benefits, including:
Anyone can take part in this simple team building exercise. Much like in real-life, participants are asked to locate a list of items or complete certain tasks, only in this case they can do it without getting up from a computer. Since all challenges are timed, there is an element of pressure that simulates real working conditions. On the other hand, scavenger hunts are fun and they are easy to play with strangers, so this exercise can serve as an excellent ice breaker for teams that are just coming together. No particular skills are needed for engagement, so everyone has a chance to win with a little bit of effort.
Remote workers often put in long hours and rarely leave their rooms, which can lead to health problems down the line unless some recovery is mixed into the schedule. Virtual wellness sessions allow teams to do this collectively, helping individual members to remember they need to take a break and focus on their bodies. It’s possible to create a shared calendar and allow each worker to input the activities he performed, so the progress is visible to everyone. In this way, members can hold each other accountable and assist others with protecting their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Not everyone can sing, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Karaoke is one of the classic team building activities that can be most conveniently moved to a virtual format. Teams can use the same video conferencing apps they would for a normal meeting, only they will perform popular songs rather than talk business. It’s inevitable that some very funny moments will occur, leading to shared laughs and stories to mention for years to come. After all, the whole point of having a karaoke night is to come out of the shell and act silly in front of everyone.
This simple game is ideal for teams composed of very competitive individuals. It’s very simple to administer and participate in, while the results are pretty much undisputable. An additional benefit is that the game is based on skills that have a direct application in business practice and should be developed by all team members, namely speed and accuracy of entering text. Just be aware that professional journalists, bloggers, personal assistants and others who type for a living every day hold a big advantage in this contest over anyone else.
People feel more appreciated when they are allowed to share some personal stories or explain their main passions. Thanks to video conferencing software, they can do that remotely by engaging in a show-and-tell exercise. Each team member gets an allotted time slot to present a certain item and provides some context around it, while others get to ask questions. The point of this activity is to discover unexpected sides of co-workers, which is crucial for accepting them as whole persons rather than just roles they play during business hours.
Popular psychology can be fascinating, and even non-scientific tests can provide interesting insights and talking points for the team. There are many personality tests designed specifically for business teams, and they can easily be administered online. Taking one of them as a group can be an experience that binds the team closer together and gives it a foundation for understanding each other. This is also a way for individuals who are too shy to talk about their personal life to still gain some recognition of their uniqueness and importance.
One of the biggest dangers that remote workers face is the absence of physical movement, so what better way to shake things up than with a coordinated, team-wide dancing break? In fact, this is one of the rare virtual team building activities that represent a clear improvement to anything that could take place in an office. People tend to be more relaxed when they are in their own environment and therefore might try some wild moves straight from the dance floor. Everyone can dance to their own music too, so there is no need to argue about genres and styles.
High-stress jobs can be tough on the nerves, so workers in such positions need to seek any way to calm their senses they can find. Meditation is a proven tool that can improve personal balance and help people regain their inner peace. A guided meditation program can deliver those benefits to an entire remote team, with sessions timed to provide relief after periods of intense work. In addition to individual gains, the shared experience can be another pillar upon which identification with the team can be built. Meditation is practically minded and doesn’t require acceptance of Eastern spiritual concepts, so it can be practiced by anybody willing to learn.
If your team is stacked with nerds who play games most of their free time, they will probably enjoy a chance to face off against their colleagues. Since the idea here is to play together rather than seriously compete, it’s best to choose a simple, free-to-play game that has a low skill threshold. This allows casual gamers and people who don’t regularly play to stand a chance against more experienced gaming enthusiasts. The contest can take place over multiple weeks, with the results regularly updated and posted on the team dashboard, and the winners can get symbolic rewards.
Being away from office is never a reason to skip a good party. The ages-old tradition of celebrating a co-workers’ birthday with a cake and some soft drinks can remain alive in the digital era. Instead of offering snacks, the person celebrating can play some music and perhaps show some photos, while the guests can express their well-wishes with animated greeting cards and similar digital goodies. A party can last for a while and include party games, gossip, and everything else you would expect to find at a birthday bash. One big advantage – it’s much easier to clean up after a virtual party.
Meetings held at the end of the year can be spiced up by demanding everyone to create a seasonally themed background before joining the call. This is an opportunity to showcase the Christmas tree that took so long to decorate or the electric lights that illuminate the room. It takes only a minimal effort to take part in this team activity, so even people who don’t regularly get excited by the holiday season can easily prepare a small display. Since this activity takes place at a time when teams have mostly finished their obligations, the atmosphere tends to be quite leisurely and jolly.
Trivia quiz is another staple of team building meetings that works really well in the online form. If it’s organized as a contest between teams consisting of three or four colleagues, it can be a fantastic way to learn how to cooperate. Different people tend to have expertise in various fields, so constructing a team that can cover a lot of ground is an important strategic concern. Trivia quiz games can get quite competitive and fun to follow, even for players who get eliminated early. The winning team gets the bragging rights, but the losers get another chance next week or month.
Social awareness in the workplace is getting stronger lately, and companies can demonstrate their responsibility and activate their remote teams by hosting an online fundraiser. Selecting a worthy cause shouldn’t be too hard, although sensitive or political topics should probably be avoided. The managers can set a target and ask all team members to make contributions in any amount they choose and invite their friends to join the initiative. If the target is reached, the company can pledge the matching amount to double the overall value of the collected funds.
In the old days, coffee breaks were the perfect time for debating all kind of issues with colleagues. Since that’s not possible anymore, organizing a structured debate can be a good alternative. Debates can be staged live in a group video call, with the team members who are not actively participating voting to select the winner of each round. The persuasiveness and clever use of arguments necessary to win a debate are more than applicable to business situations, so this activity has the added benefit of serving as practice for an important skill.
You can never get too many compliments, and there are limited occasions to appreciate the qualities of co-workers during the regular hours. That’s why ending the week with a praise train can lift everyone’s spirit and make them feel more appreciated. This simple game requires all team members to be on the same call, with each one telling the next what they really like about them. The compliments should be as honest and personalized as possible, but should be limited to traits that contribute to business success. Positive vibes created with this kind of conversation are sure to translate into better collaboration.
Virtual team building activities are essential for teams that include numerous out-of-office members and more and more businesses are adopting them. This article presents some possibilities that are easy to implement and would likely be well accepted by the workers, but the list is by no means exclusive. Managers can come up with creative ideas how to get the whole team on the same page, or even ask the workers for some suggestions. In the end, each team is composed of individuals with specific interests and sensibilities, so online team bonding activities should be chosen to reflect that.