40+ Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
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There is more to work than work! One of the important contributors to the company's success is the connection between the employees.
If you don't invest in team building, the team likely won't be built. And you need strong teams that work well together, even if they are working remotely.
This is why we've come up with a complex, diverse, and well-explained list of useful team building activities for remote teams. We've also listed them by categories, so you can find what you need quickly. Scroll through and start implementing; the sooner, the better!
Required resources for team building games
To organize virtual team building games, you only need three things - time, resources, and the right attitude.
You can't expect your employees to work for eight hours straight and then stick around for two more hours for a team bonding exercise. They are most likely tired, hungry, and their loved ones, who have been patient all day, require their attention. This is why you need to include them in your daily schedule.
Like we mentioned, you can have an amazing team building activity for remote teams without spending a single dollar.
However, since your employees will be glued to their computers, it would be preferable to provide them with tools to help get your message across. Platforms like Skype, Zoom, Slack, Google Meet, etc., can be very useful for video chats, and make sure you have good tools for messaging since you will definitely use that a lot. Try a couple of different ones to see which one works best, and then choose one and stick with it.
Nobody likes change, at first. Implementing something that requires your remote employees to talk, or draw, or reveal personal details won't necessarily be met with great enthusiasm. No is the most likely answer because it's the easier one. If you really want to achieve the desired results, you need to assign a dedicated person, probably from the HR department. They will encourage participation and help your timid coworkers relax and enjoy themselves.
Make sure you choose someone who is well-liked and knows most of the employees, so their message will get across more easily.
Different types of virtual team building activities
- Have a five-person remote team, and you want them to get closer?
- Have 100+ internationals in your team, and you want them to get to know each other?
- Have a team whose team members are shy and timid?
Well, you need to find "a shoe that fits". Below is a list of many different activities for remote workers that will bring them closer and bridge that virtual gap all of them have been experiencing. If you've never done something like this, start with something small. Perhaps you won't be able to organize a completely virtual scavenger hunt, but you can start with a few simple games that are equally fun when done remotely. Let's take a look!
Nothing like a good icebreaker to release the pressure!
Icebreakers are often used in workshops and sessions to get everyone on the same energy level. If you've never done any type of remote team building activities, this can be a great way to start. Icebreaker games are always easy to conduct, they require no previous planning or tools. On the other hand, they can provide entertainment that most remote workers desperately need.
1. 5 seconds in the hot chair
This game is best played in smaller teams since it requires everyone's participation. Of course, you can also do it with more people, but it might last too long. Usually, it's best to start with someone who knows the rules and will help others understand the game. It starts with one person asking the question and then saying the name of the person that should answer it. The colleague whose name was called has 5 seconds to answer the question, answer another, and say another colleague's name (not the same one) that needs to answer it.
The game goes on until everyone has answered at least one question, the last one being directed to the person that started the game. The idea is for this game to be very fast, although, in the beginning, it probably won't be. The questions should be easy, no-brainer, short ones, such as:
- Where did you vacation last summer?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is your favorite movie?
If you are working with a remote team that doesn't know each other that well, you can have one person asking all the questions and roll-calling other team members to answer. As soon as everyone knows each other's names, you can switch back to the original version.
2. Firing up the team
Anyone who has ever worked remotely can tell you that being enthusiastic all on your own isn't very easy to accomplish. Enthusiasm is best preserved when spread around, and this game will help you achieve it. At the beginning of every team meeting, you should ask the participants to say this phrase - I am __________ and I am in! It would be preferable if they could shout it, or at least say it a bit louder. What should they say? Whatever they feel:
- I am stocked, and I am in!
- I am tired, and I am in!
- I am hungry, and I am in!
It doesn't matter how they feel, but it matters that they share it with the team. That way, you will not only know how everyone is and who needs some extra attention, but you will also get everyone fired up and ready to start the remote meeting with energy.
3. Choose your favorite
This game is great if you work with a team that still doesn't know each other very well. As far as icebreaker questions go, it is fairly simple. At the beginning of your virtual meeting, a designated facilitator asks a question. Keep in mind that a facilitator can be someone else each time you play. Their role is to pick a category and ask about everyone's favorite. It can be ice-cream flavors, western movies, places to vacation, world capitals...
Everyone should say their favorite, and the rest is up to the team - they might get excited if someone chooses the same thing, start a discussion with someone who thinks differently, or even start writing down suggestions. Let the discussion flow naturally and start the meeting once everyone has said their piece.
4. Do you really know your team?
Suppose you are working with a team that isn't completely new but don't really know each other that well; this is a great game for you. It works best if you do it at the beginning of the team meetings and if you do it consistently.
It requires little preparation beforehand. At the end of one meeting, let your people know you will send them a question and that they should send you a short answer. It should be a simple question, for example - What is your favorite TV show? Once they send their replies, come up with a way of presenting them- a simple PPT will do. At the beginning of the next meeting, show them the answers and let them guess who answered what.
As the game progresses, you can ask them to send pictures or ask more complex questions. It would be best if you could encourage participation and get them to ask the questions themselves.
5. Rose/Thorn virtual icebreaker
This game works best for smaller teams that know each other or have worked together previously. Ask everyone to share their "rose" and "thorn" for the previous day or week. A rose can be something positive that happened, work-related or private. A thorn the opposite, a negative thing, or a blocker that occurred.
Entice them to help each other solve their thorns and give advice and praise. If you stay consistent, your team members will subconsciously start thinking about roses and thorns during their workdays, so they will have something to talk about the next time you meet. You can, of course, come up with your own terms and replace the roses and thorns.
6. Virtual open mic
This game is great for a business whose company culture includes a little goofiness and likes to play as much as they like to work. Announce to everyone that at the beginning of each meeting, the team will have 10 minutes to take the virtual stage. They can tell jokes, sing, play, recite a poem, or anything they feel comfortable doing. If no one is signing up, ask someone who you know feels comfortable with an audience to be the first one. This way, every meeting will start with something positive and possibly hilarious.
Spoken word games and activities
Working from home during a pandemic can mean one of two things - either everyone is on lockdown with you, so there is too much talking and noise, or you are stuck in isolation alone. Both of these things can be tricky, but these kinds of activities are designed for the second situation. They are also great if your team members don't need to talk to each other too often, and if most of the communication is written.
Engaging in activities like these ones can help them become more comfortable with talking in front of an audience, which will in turn increase their level of participation in business meetings.
7. Talk like a pirate day
Every serious business day needs to have a little goofiness, humor, and jokes in it. The idea behind this game is to set up a rule - for the next 15 minutes, everyone needs to talk like a pirate. Or with a weird accent. Or like an old lady. Or really, really fast. You can come up with easier or more complex rules; it matters that everyone needs to follow them.
Chances are you won't get much done during those 15 minutes, but you will definitely amuse your team members and get them to open up more. If your group is a bit more uptight, start with an easy task, so everyone can participate without feeling too self-conscious.
8. Two truths and one lie
When it comes to team building games, this one is one of the very first ones. It is very easy to play and you can use it for new and old teams alike. Every participant needs to say three things about themself. Out of those three things, one needs to be a lie. The rest of the team has to guess which one it is. If you want to make things interesting, you can always come up with a little prize - the one with the most guesses can start work half an hour later tomorrow. This will definitely encourage participation!
If you enjoy team building activities that are a little more complex and require preparation, this one is a great choice for you. Each team member receives a random country they need to present to others. Of course, they can't say the country's name. The rest of the team guesses the correct answer. If you have a smaller team, you can play this game for a longer period and have a ranking list each week. For bigger teams, you can make it into a tournament.
10. Company podcast
Do you have a person in your company that likes to talk a lot? You probably do. The interesting thing about big talkers is that they are usually great when it comes to making people listen to them. If you create a strong team of great talkers and have them come up with a podcast for the entire company, you will definitely give everyone something to talk about.
You can even get them to share some important information, encourage the rest of the employees to join them as guests, and open up discussions based on the topics they covered.
11. Guess the word
Playing this game will definitely bring out the competitors in your remote team! Assign pairs inside your team, and have them pick a random item from a list - it can be objects, animals, plants, even celebrities. You can use one of the already set up apps or websites for this. One person needs to explain the word while others guess. It's a little like Pictionary, but instead of drawing on a whiteboard, they will be limited to just describing the word they got. Don't forget to time your team and keep score!
12. What would you do?
Although it's played best in pairs, you can play this game in teams of 3 to 6 people. For bigger teams, split them into smaller groups. At the beginning of the session, have someone ask the participants what they would do in a certain situation. The game works best if you choose situations that require a little more discussion, and not just everyday events. Instead of asking: What would you do if you have a flat tire? ask them What would you do if aliens invaded? Have them discuss this in pairs or small teams. The goal is not to reach a certain conclusion, it's just a simple exchange of opinions.
13. 10 things in common
Sometimes it is difficult to get employees to participate, and they might be too timid to talk in front of everyone. If you ask them to say fun facts about themselves and aren't used to public speaking, you might get many "ummms" as a response.
This is why this game is great to encourage them to open up without feeling pressured. You should split everyone into pairs and give them a goal - they need to find ten things in common. It should be fairly simple to do this, but it will definitely require a lot of talking. If you want to make it more difficult, merge teams, two by two, until the whole team has ten things in common, a list that includes everyone.
14. Rank it
This game is another example of an activity that encourages participation and out of the box thinking without making anyone feel pressured and anxious. In the beginning, choose five random items. Split your team into smaller 2-3 person teams. Give them an event - zombie apocalypse, robot uprising, wild west showdown. Ask them to rank how important those five items would be in such an event. They need to come up with the rankings together, and everyone needs to agree with it. Continue by either giving them new items, new situations or merging teams to get to the ultimate ranking.
Written games that promote remote team building
After a whole day of talking and video conferencing, not everyone wants to talk some more. However, you still have the daunting task of getting your employees to be a better team, bonding them, and making sure they are having fun. This is why we've gathered a couple of activities that are focused on the written instead of spoken. Try it out and see if it works for your virtual teams.
15. Never-ending story
This activity is a really simple one - it just requires you to start a shared document that everyone can access and start writing a story. Once upon a team, there was a young prince... Or something like it. Don't use any templates or advice, just let the story flow naturally. Promote this among your team and get them to participate by leaving a line or two every couple of days. Before you know it, the page will turn into a full-blown short story with the prince embarking on many adventures. Don't forget to save the final version and email it to everyone!
16. Typing speed race
Every once in a while, promote a remote team building activity that is competitive, with a clear set of rules and an obvious winner, who should definitely get a prize. Typing Speed Race is a great start since it judges something everyone could benefit from - how fast can your employees' type. Give your employees the chance to try the 1-minute challenge on typingtest.com to start. Afterward, ask them to sign up for a tournament. Everyone likes winning, so make sure the employee who ultimately prevails gets at least bragging rights!
17. Internal blog
One of the ways to make sure that your employees are staying connected to one another, even if they are working apart, is to give them a chance to express themselves. A written word lasts the longest, and having an internal blog means that your employees can always revisit previously posted articles, learn something, be inspired, or simply read something funny.
Promote discussion underneath the posts, and reward the employee that generates the most content, as well as the one that reads it.
Virtual team building activities that require previous knowledge
None of the games we mentioned so far required any information any knowledge in order to be played. However, if you are running a company filled with competitive, knowledgeable employees that are feeling bored at home, that stop right here and grab a pen and paper. We might give you some interesting ideas.
18. Name that throwback
Before you start this game, make sure that everyone has their mics on! Come up with a playlist of songs that were popular ten to twenty years ago. You can use Spotify for this. Play a song and have others guess which song it is. They need to say the entire title, as well as the performer; otherwise, it doesn't count. Whoever gets the most songs right wins. If you see your employees responding with enthusiasm to this game, continue playing it a few more times, and then switch to something equally competitive. It will keep them on your toys and waiting for meetings in anticipation.
19. Pub trivia games
The days of drinking in pubs are behind us, but until it becomes acceptable to engage in such activities again, trivia quizzes have gone online! Come up with questions on your own, or consult some of the many websites. It would be best to come up with a strict set of rules in the beginning and set expectations. Playing these kinds of games is great for morale and bonding, but it can get very heated. Organize a tournament and pair up your employees with someone they have never worked with before. Remember, the idea behind it is for them to bond, not to figure out who knows more random information than anyone else.
20. Six Degrees of Wikipedia
Suppose you want to get your team collaborating on a certain project without having to pay for an expensive online escape room. In that case, this is the game for you. Have you ever heard a theory that you can get from any person on the planet to another person in just six people? Meaning there are only four people between you or, let's say, Brad Pitt. Well, there is another version of this called six degrees of Wikipedia, meaning that you can get from one topic to any other, completely unrelated topic, in 6 clicks or less, traveling through Wikipedia pages.
You can play this game with your team members as a race, giving them assignments and watching them try to get to the end result as fast as they can.
Remote activities for teams that include pictures and videos
It is a widely known fact that everyone learns differently, some by hearing, some by writing down, and some by visualizing the material in front of them. It is the same with every other activity, as many people prefer visual stimulus. Check out this list of games as well so you can come up with a well-rounded remote team building that makes everyone feel involved and eager to participate.
21. Who is this baby?
One of the most entertaining games is based on guessing how they looked like when they were young. Ask them to send their baby pictures to one person, who will then use screen sharing to show the pictures to the rest of the team. They will, of course, have the goal of guessing who is who. Start with baby pictures, and work your way up to the embarrassing teenage period. It will guarantee a good laugh.
22. Mini museum
Although many people associate museums with valuable art and famous artists, any collection can be worthy of a museum, even if it's a virtual one. In order to get to know your online team, come up with a list of ordinary items, and have them send you pictures of them. Use Google Drive or Microsoft's One Drive to preserve the collection, and make sure everyone has access to it. Create a mini-museum of notebooks, desks, coffee mugs, pets, and gardens. It will be a great conversation starter, and it will allow your employees to get to know one another better.
23. Pass around the world
Have an international team that probably won't ever meet in person? In that case, it would be great if they could do something together that isn't related to work. This team-building exercise promotes cooperation and creative thinking and is great for any team working remotely. The goal is to create a video together, with everyone contributing a sequence connected to the previous shot. You can start with someone opening a bottle, and another person can pour the water, the third shot will be water being poured into a mug, etc. Let your employees be creative and just give them guidance and resources if they require it.
24. Home office guessing game
Most people aren't so keen on sharing the privacy of their home with their coworkers, and you definitely shouldn't push people to open up more than they feel comfortable. However, a little bit of sharing won't hurt, and in the age of video calls and remote work, how your home office looks isn't such private info. You already know how your coworkers' workstations look like if you are working in the same office, but when everyone is isolated in their homes, the situation might be different. Ask your team to send pictures of their home office to their team leader, so they can share them with the rest of the group, without revealing which picture belongs to which colleague. Make sure everyone has made their guess before you reveal the answer.
25. Guess the film buff
When you work in an office with someone, you spend a lot of time talking about their preferences - cars, restaurants, music, etc. One of the most common topics for office chitchat is movies and TV shows. In order to recreate that in a virtual environment, have everyone take a picture of their DVD collection, watched movies on IMDB or Netflix. First, have everyone guess who the lists belong to and then open a discussion. If nothing else, the rest of the team will get great ideas for what to watch next.
Moving around is just as important for team building
Obviously, you can't meet up with your remote team and have a walk, or a run, or chitchat by the watercooler. But it is important to move around regardless, especially now that we are spending so much time behind our desks. So, let's see how you and your team can move around together.
26. Virtual dance party
If your team members are new and shy, you might want to skip this game, at least in the first month or so. For everyone else, schedule a 30 seconds dance party at the beginning of every video chat. It might seem a bit awkward in the beginning, but everyone can dance for half a minute, even if it's just moving your hips slowly. If you have a problem coming up with a song, just turn on MTV, and you are good to go! Teamwork sometimes grows from laughing at each other's incoherent movements with an 80s pop song blasting in the background, and your Zoom calls will never look the same.
27. ABC hunt
Looking for a fun activity that requires more movement than short dance parties? Look no further. This is the game for you! Name someone the facilitator. It doesn't have to be a senior member of the team, even better if you can include newbies. Have the facilitator come up with three random letters of the alphabet. Everyone else needs to find three objects, or living beings, beginning with those letters. They should find the objects in their surroundings, but they can go around the house scavenging as well. This is a fun way to get everyone to move around and enjoy some healthy competition.
Remote activities that entice sharing and bonding
Everyone knows that team building games boost morale, overall employee engagement, and the sense of belonging to the team. In addition to this, if chosen and delivered properly, certain activities can promote team bonding and help form long-lasting, meaningful relationships between colleagues. These kinds of bonds and connections help push the business even further, benefiting the owners as well as employees.
28. Personality tests
Although it may not seem like it, the results of personality tests are very private and, in most cases, very revealing information. Have your employees do a standard DISC or a Mayers-Briggs test, and divide them into small groups. Encourage them to share the results, complement one another, and come up with ways to overcome the shortcomings they are faced with.
29. What should I do?
This team-building idea is reserved for teams that already have a solid foundation you can build on. It requires no resources, just a lot of trust and some dedicated time. The goal of the game is to get your remote workers to open up to one another and share some struggles they are facing. It can be both work-related and private, depending on what is currently bothering them the most.
Once they share the challenge they are facing, the rest of the group can give advice, support, and words of encouragement.
30. What makes me happy?
In troubling and uncertain times, people often turn to humor to get through the day. Since your employees are spending most of their day with you, you should come up with a way for them to have a stress-release without it affecting the work.
One of the tried-and-tested methods is to have communication channels for informal, happy thoughts and ideas. Dedicate a Slack channel for all the jokes, memes, positive encouragements, and well wishes. They can send emojis, GIFs, and anything else they come up with. It will become the first channel they check in the morning for many employees, and very often outside of the working hours as well.
31. (Pandemic) bucket list
Many goals and plans that were set for 2020 are left unfulfilled. That feeling is dreadful, and it can have a significant impact on the well-being of your employees. In order to avoid such a huge morale drop, let them come up with a new bucket list. Ones that can be done even during the lockdown, with everyone being isolated. Have someone from the company be their remote buddy and provide them with support and encouragement. In the end, organize a call especially dedicated to this activity, where everyone can have a chance to brag about the goals they did accomplish.
Complex and prolonged remote team activities
What if your company has always been remote, and the COVID didn't change anything in your way of working? Well, that is great, since that probably means you have already tried most of the games we have offered so far. No worries, we are ready to take you to the next level. Once you are done with the easier and less time-consuming activities, you can start implementing games and initiatives that require more time, energy, and participants. So, let's see what our suggestions are.
32. Debate club
If you have a lot of strong-willed, opinionated people in your company, this is a great activity for you. Let everyone interested sign-up, come up with teams, and give them a topic to debate about. Assign moderators, judges, audience, get as many people involved as you can. This is a great way to promote constructive and argumentative thinking that can help any business. Make sure that you choose neutral topics so the discussion doesn't get too heated.
Besides movies and shows, books are always a very popular topic. But instead of having everyone guess each other's favorites, start a book club that will read and discuss a new book every month. Or even more frequently, depending on the members! Have someone be responsible for the organization and make sure they let the entire company know what they are up to and how they can participate.
34. Virtual time capsule
Burying time capsules has been a tried-and-tested way to get communities, classes, and teams to bond and enjoy a shared activity. Just because your team is remote, that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy this as well! Have everyone contribute with a digital item - a picture, a letter, a video... Zip all the files and set up a password. Hide the file, so only one person has access to it. Set a time limit and let everyone get excited about it. Remind them occasionally about it, to keep the interest high and the conversation frequent.
35. Pen Pal Club
And while we are on the topic of letters, and long-forgotten traditions, have you ever been a part of a pen pal club? Modern times allow for new traditions, but that doesn't mean that the old ones should be forgotten! Simply adjust this long lost custom by paring up employees that don't really cooperate or have the need to work together. Give them instructions - send at least one email every week to your Pen Pal about anything you would like. There are no limitations nor mandatory length. It is important to get them to start writing. They will do the rest themselves!
36. Collaborative craft projects
If your team has been forced to work apart after spending countless days together in the office, then this is a great idea for you. Providing that you are able to use the local post office, assign them this task, and see their reaction. The idea is for the team to work on a single, physical project together. How? Well, first you should agree on what you will make, together. Then you get to organize the order. The first person starts crafting, and at a certain point, they mail the project to someone from the team. This goes on and on until the project is finished. You can even take the game to the next level by encouraging them to send little gifts and notes, as well.
37. The Amazing Online Race
If you are working with a competitive bunch, this game will definitely be the right fit. The Amazing Online Race is one of the best virtual team building activities for inspiring collaborative and competitive spirit.
Split everyone into teams, and come up with a list of challenges they need to do. On a virtual whiteboard, track their success and the number of points they've achieved. Set a fixed number of challenges or a time period, so they know they don't have all the time in the world. Come up with a prize for the winning team. Teams race to complete online assignments such as "beat the high score in Pac Man" or "make and upload a lip-sync video to Total Eclipse of the Heart."
Throughout the day, you and your group members will check-in via video call to gauge each other's progress. The team that completes all challenges first wins!
38. Personal User Manuals
Have you ever thought to yourself - Oh, I wish these people knew how I like to work! Or wandered that about someone else, but you were too afraid to ask? Well, now you don't have to! The goal of this game is to get to know each other better, without the pressure of revealing too much or the fear of public speaking. Have everyone in your team create a personal user manual - what they like, prefer, and can't stand when working with others. Attach them all in a single file, and share them with the team. This will guarantee better cooperation and understanding.
It is always a great time to start a challenge!
Working with others can be highly beneficial because you can always count on support, advice, and friendship. And that can all be part of your team's culture even if you are working remotely. Start by coming up with a list of possible challenges - exercise, healthy lifestyle, vegan diet, books, number of taken steps, or water drunk throughout the day... Don't pressure anyone into participating and let them join groups out of their own volition. Track the progress in real-time and make sure that everyone who is struggling has enough support and encouragement.
Virtual team building events can be just as fun
39. Virtual coffee breaks or the watercooler hangouts
If everyone is always working - finishing projects, hopping on zoom calls, writing, coding, drawing, and counting, there is no time to stop for a second, take a breath, and simply hang out. One of the biggest downsides of remote work is the feeling that you are never not working. Don't let your employees feel like this, and schedule calls that are non-work related. You can call it a virtual happy hour, but it doesn't have to include drinks. Start by facilitating this, inviting them all together, and explaining how it works. After a few days, let them schedule the calls themselves, inviting whoever they want to have the break with. It is important that you allow them to relax without feeling guilty about it.
40. Holiday and birthday parties
If you aren't used to working remotely, chances are your employees are missing each other. If your team has always been remote, even better since these activities can become something they are accustomed to since day one. Just because you are apart, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't celebrate!
Virtual events can be just as fun, especially for people who suffer from anxiety and don't feel comfortable surrounded by so many people. Christmas parties, End of summer extravaganza, National holidays and birthdays... Schedule a festive video call, let everyone act and dress naturally, and if you are able to, send them care packages beforehand. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, even a simple donuts box will make everyone happy and excited. Don't block the entire day for such events, but a couple of hours won't hurt anyone.
If you feel like the atmosphere feels uptight and forced, you can play some of the games we mentioned or suggest something everyone knows how to play, such as charades or karaoke. The bonding, stress reduction, and overall closeness to the company that will come out as a result, will carry a lot of value for your employees.
No matter how apart you are - your employees should always feel like you care about them and like they are apart of a big team that works well together.
Every investment you make into bringing them closer through a set of well-thought virtual team building activities will bring your company one step closer to where you want to be. In return, you will get dedicated, motivated employees with a sense of loyalty that actually like working with their coworkers!