Virtual team building activities for remote work

“Remote” and “Agile” have long been commonplace – you won’t surprise anyone with these terms, indeed. However, during the last five years and especially after 2019, their fame has skyrocketed. It is now predicted that by the end of 2021, the number of employees working from home will double. Chief information officers from various companies declare that  72% of their subordinates regularly perform remotely. With tech pioneers, like Twitter and Facebook, being in the frontier of a “let’s switch remote” slogan, smaller and/or local companies begin to rethink operations and launch out-of-office performances. But how to drive employees if you never meet them in person?

Poor engagement is a big disturbance for shifting remote entirely. While managers struggle to maintain productivity and retain talents, employees become less connected with the company, hence, are more willing to accept other job proposals. Chatting, regular Skype calls, daily online stand-ups, weekly email reports – these serve well to organize work, but not to build a genuine allegiance. If you brood about building relations between remote teammates, a Friday-evening online team building will be your savvy.

Is team building essential for remote teams?

We’ve already touched upon some negative consequences distance work can bring to an employer. But what about the employees? People face no fewer risks than companies when working at home – from scattered attention to burnout, anxiety, and even depression. The threat is that only 1 in 5 workers are willing to discuss concerns or job-related worries with the HR manager. In other words, a regular company has no idea about employees’ feelings or plans for a professional future. This makes staffing unpredictable – you never know when the next massive wave of specialist layoffs occurs.

A team-building can somehow prevent the aforementioned threat:

  • it aids newbies’ onboarding
  • it’s an exclusive opportunity to launch informal communication between scattered people
  • game-based activities allow one to know better vis-a-vis character’s peculiarities and determine soft skills, like leadership or problem-solving
  • it for some time eliminates hierarchy, hence, allows to build trust and confidence.

A good Internet connection, some calling tool, a can of beer or something non-alcoholic, a positive mind and an interesting agenda – these are all means you’ll need to come up with an excellent virtual party.

How to organize team building online?

Generally, you can run whatever event – from online dinners to quests. But to get maximum benefits, follow a few manageable recommendations:

  • Allow joining at will

Be okay with the fact that not everyone will want to participate. Don’t push, condemn, or publicly censure refusals. Otherwise, people will wait for the next event with a shudder.

  • Consider participants’ interests

Create and email a short questionnaire to discover what employees are interested in – books, movies, hobbies, table games, etc. Don’t struggle to come up with ideas – be proactive and ask about them.

  • Announce early

Don’t act at the last moment. Decide on the date and announce it a week before. A good idea is to mention an approximate duration so that participants will schedule their personal affairs respectively.

  • Email invitations and attach templates, rules, schemes, or what’s suitable

Turn a video conference into a true event. Don’t be lazy – spend 15 minutes or less and create personalized tickets. There are various convenient free tools, such as Greetings Island, Paperless Post, or Canva. Also, if you plan some games – make sure to attach associated printables and guidelines.

  • Plan scenario

Of course, you can’t shape people’s attitudes or behaviors. But it’s important to moderate the conference – or it will shift into an incoherent messy event. Prepare notes and timelines, for example: 

  • 10 min – a small talk
  • 10 min – welcoming and introducing the agenda
  • 5 min – questions and ready to start
  • 30 min – the first part
  • 10 min – a “pitstop”
  • 30 min – the second part
  • 10 min – to wrap up.

Try to fit the activity in no more than 2 hours.

  • Follow up

Come up with notes for the future. Take an interest in what participants liked and wishes they had. Provide anonymity, of course.

Although team building is an amusement, business etiquette isn’t canceled. It’s more satisfying to choose neutral activities. However, mature democratic collectives can agree on parties with spirits or gambling. 

20 best virtual team building activities

To assist you with ideas, we’ve collected an all-purpose list of remote entertainments:

  1. Alias

This is an addicting game that will thoroughly suit small groups. Rules are simple: pairs receive various cards with printed words on them. Within a 1-minute round, Partner A has to explain the word, and Partner B – to guess it. Participants receive a point per guessed word. The pair with the most points wins. Players can explain through associations, but cognate words are forbidden.

“Adapt popular table games to the online environment”, source

Although Alias is a physical game, you can adjust it to play on the screen. Prepare word lists, a timer, and choose a moderator. Assemble words on your own or search for free printable word cards on the Internet. If you know participants can’t print cards, share a link to an online words generator instead.

  1. Guess the movie/artist/character

A “Guess what…” is another good team building option – it’s simple and doesn’t require any preparations. Similar to the Alias, divide participants into groups of 2. You can proceed in two ways – play with word cards or with movie screenshots. The latter requires pre-prepared footage from movies or celebrities’ photos, however, playing with visuals is by far more interesting.

All pairs rotate between sessions. To double the game’s speed, organize a tournament with qualification, regular rounds, and – the closing selection. To share visuals, use some cloud storage and an online whiteboard and provide access to teammates. 

  1. Tell in 5 minutes

Here, every participant takes 5 minutes to describe his or her personality portrait. Although the game is not quite vibrant and impressive, there are certain advantages. First, it’s suitable for brand-new groups – in cases when participants haven’t met earlier. Thus, everybody gets a definite moment to speak to other teammates. The activity will also fit introverted groups, who usually find it difficult to launch informal talks on their initiative. 

  1. “Two Truths and a Lie”

The exercise serves well to establish a fun and relaxed mood. The person tells 3 facts, of which the two are true, and one is fiction. Participants listen to the story and try to distinguish genuine facts from fakes. If nobody picks correctly, the storyteller wins.

“Try to find a false phrase”, source

  1. Bingo

Who hasn’t heard about BINGO? The principle of the game has hardly evolved since Medieval. Participants receive cards with printed numbers, a mouthpiece or computer spins the lottery drum and announces winning numbers. The one who has crossed out some or all numbers and was the first to shout “Bingo!” wins the game.

“Make your own Bingo cards”, source

Bingo gives vast opportunities to play via the network. Search for online bingo card generators, like MyFreeBingoCards, and design printable templates with either number of words. To announce winning combinations, use online bingo callers, like Online-Stopwatch.

To make Bingo even more engaging, think of prizes. These may be money incentives or some achievement points.

  1. Two sides of a Coin

A glass is half empty or half full? The purpose of the game is to find good in bad. Players interact in pairs. While one tells a negative real-life tale, his or her vis-a-vis rethinks the event and points to its positive aspects.

  1. Quizzes

The pastimes list wouldn’t be complete without quizzes. Divide teammates into groups of 3 to 5, or – call for joint guessing. Prepare questions – either google some or use helpful programs, like QuizBreaker or Watercoolertrivia.

  1. Who wants to be a Millionaire?

“Millionaire used to be one of the most popular TV shows in the world”, source

The game assumes that only 2 participants will be active, so, of course, it will not gratify everyone. However, watching someone puzzles over questions can be quite enjoyable, as well. Moreover, the “Millionaire” can ask peers for assistance, thus, all team members will contribute to the game. For questions, you can use the same quiz tools. The only point here is to think of a valuable prize. One better choose something non-monetary, otherwise, you risk gliding into gambling.

  1. Microsoft Teams Trivia

If you don’t want to deepen excessively into planning, try team building solutions, such as Trivia. Participants will answer different general knowledge questions in 6 categories: Entertainment, Sport, Science, Geography, History, and Art. Trivia has a free option, by the way.

  1. Never Have I Ever

You can play this game with no means, except for a good video and audio connection. Every phrase begins with “Never Have I Ever…” words. Each participant explains what he or she never did. The activity runs in series – the one who refuses to answer the question leaves the game.

  1. In-group puzzle doing

Although it may seem one can assemble puzzles offline only, you can adapt them to virtual team building and offer them to energetic groups. Choose some online environment, like Jigsawexplorer, and set time frames for solving. You can use either individual or multiplayer mode.

  1. Share one’s emoji board

“Share frequently used emojis with one another”, source

This activity can’t be a distinct pastime, indeed. It’s simply a funny joke to diversify other games. Ask teammates to post a screenshot of their frequently taped emojis in your group chat. We bet everybody will be surprised by combinations.

  1. Typing test

Set a minute assignment for fingers and motor skills and launch a typing speed test. After hours of writing code or working with spreadsheets, the test will be challenging. Although it may seem simple and even a little childish – try it and witness it’s not.

  1. Collective mind map

“Online mind maps maker from Weje”, source

Run team building to both entertain and enhance employees’ imaginative skills. Spread participants into groups, provide them with the same subject and ask them to think of the solution. Not to turn leisure into work, think of some ridiculous or out-of-the-box problems. Equip participants with online mind mapping tools so that they create and present ideas neatly.

  1. Random storytelling

Ask participants to place their favorite things on the table early before the event starts, but do not explain what they need to do next. When the game begins, challenge everyone to pick up random items and write short and funny stories about them. Restrict by time, say, 3 minutes per player. Therefore, participants will improvise, and you’ll hear marvelous stories. 

  1. “Things..”

Every participant adds some topic to the collective pool. Sentences start with “Things…” statements, like “Things I hate to eat” or “Things my cat adores in me”. After the session begins, participants get random topics and talk about them.

  1. Personality tests

During team building, people can not only learn more about their colleagues but also about themselves. When thinking of some psychological or personality tests, don’t choose too detailed or intimate. Give preference to rather generic ones – DISC, Myers-Briggs, SAPA, or other tests.

  1. Online escape rooms

Do not refuse the pleasure of escaping quests, even though you sit in a chair at home. There are numerous virtual escape rooms you may attend for either free or for money. The quest is being run directly through the video conference and includes puzzles and hidden clues. The plot is enhanced with sound effects and storytelling.

  1. Trash hunting

Time to examine one’s shelves! Schedule a video conference and raise everybody to the challenge. Announce a list of particular things that participants should place in front of the screen – as fast as possible. The person who will come up with objects faster will become a winner.

  1. Multiplayer drawing

Designers or creative teams will appreciate multiplayer drawing competitions. Use an online painting environment, like Skribbl. Divide participants into groups and provide visual benchmarks to refer to. Ask to make customized painting and time the process.

Take time to develop a favorable interpersonal environment, and you’ll see how this boosts group productivity and well-being. When preparing for virtual team buildings, be creative and reasonable so that these events will turn into a sound tradition.

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