This article includes virtual team building ideas to help boost remote employee morale and engagement. Many of these ideas are inspired by this list of virtual team building activities.
Why virtual team building? When working from home, the struggle to resist wearing the same pair of sweatpants for the third day in a row is hard enough, let alone the challenge of building and maintaining relationships with colleagues who live and work far away.
As Harvard Business Review says, fun games and activities are a great way to make virtual teams work.
Remote workers often report feeling lonely or isolated, but smart online social time can alleviate disconnection, and thus boost remote worker productivity, morale, and job satisfaction. Those are some huge benefits.
So, try some of these ideas with your team!
1. Group Photo Album
Thanks to cloud-based software, your team can instantly share smartphone photos with the rest of the team. The first step is to create a shared album on iCloud, Google Photos, or a similar photo-sharing platform. Then, invite teammates to contribute pictures.
You can designate themes for your albums such as:
- workday diversions
- baby pictures
Alternatively, allow employees to upload whatever pictures they want to share.
Swapping photos requires little time and energy, but reveals a great deal about colleagues’ inner lives. Photo sharing is an intimate experience that creates a sense of familiarity and brings the group closer together.
2. Icebreaker Questions
An easy way to get started with virtual team building is to add icebreaker questions at the beginning of each of your meetings. For example, you may prompt attendees to share their favorite restaurant or the last book they read.
These questions will help build relationships between your people by encouraging further conversations about shared interests.
Here are some prompts:
- What is your earliest memory of school?
- Dogs or cats?
- Would you move to a space station for 5 years?
And here is an entire list of fun icebreaker questions you can use.
3. Hometown Showdown
Virtual teammates often reside in different cities, countries, or continents. Hometown Showdown enables employees to share their surroundings while engaging in a friendly rivalry with coworkers.
Each showdown will follow a specific theme like:
- Best Festival
- Primo Pizza
- Loveliest Lake
- Most Interesting Museum
- Summer Fun
- Winter Wonderland
- We Are the Champions
- Fashion Forward
- Sweet Treats
Participants share pictures, videos, and stories about hometown traditions, and a guest judge declares a winner for each round.
Hometown Showdown is a fun way for staff to show regional pride and learn more about each other’s environments.
4. Virtual Campfire
A charming way to bring remote teams together is around a virtual campfire. You can send your people s’mores kits, then invite everyone on a video call for camp games and ghost stories. This event is fun, nostalgic, and a unique way to celebrate with your team.
You can also hire a company like tiny campfire to run the event for you.
5. Zoom Background Challenge
Zoom enables users to swap out real-room backgrounds for virtual images, such as haunted houses, tropical beaches, or game show sets. Consider running a Zoom background challenge to spark creativity and add fun to team conference calls.
To host the challenge, assign a theme and give teammates a couple of days to design or find a background. Then, create a poll with each participant’s name and allow attendees to vote for the best background during the call.
Some ideas for background contest themes:
- Dream vacation
- Holiday spirit
- Movie moments
- Under the sea
- Animal encounters
- Opposites day
- Time travelers
Feel free to concoct your own categories, or crowdsource the team for ideas.
The low-cost and low-effort nature of Zoom background challenges make them ideal repeat activities.
6. Remote Team Workout
Office work tends to be sedentary, home office work especially. Without a commute or a need to walk to a colleague’s desk, remote workers’ daily step counts decrease. Remote team workouts use the power of social connection and support to encourage regular exercise.
As a group, pick a group exercise to try. A few suggestions:
- Indoor cycling
Either sign up for a live remote class together or queue up a video workout on YouTube. Then, follow the fitness instructor and cheer each other on while you work up a sweat.
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7. Virtual Happy Hour
While heading to the corner bar at the end of a long workday has a certain allure, virtual happy hours have several benefits, such as not having to shout over the jukebox or hail an Uber home.
To host a virtual happy hour, pick a date or a recurring date, and then invite attendees to a video call. Guests arrive with a beverage of choice, or mix up a cocktail during the call. Best practice dictates that the employer cover or reimburse the first round of drinks.
When online happy hour arrives, enjoy activities such as team trivia, icebreaker questions, and drinking games as you enjoy your beverages.
8. Virtual Coffee Break
In traditional offices, colleagues often chit chat while popping into the breakroom for a snack or cup of coffee. Virtual offices lack these opportunities for casual conversation. However, you can remedy this situation by encouraging virtual coffee breaks. Virtual coffee breaks are short conversations held on video calls that center around non-work topics. Despite the name, coffee is not a necessary requirement, although enjoying a cup together can have a relaxing and rejuvenating effect.
The conversation should flow naturally, but feel free to supply topics to help spark discussion.
Some examples of topics include:
- Best concert attended
- Most interesting place travelled
- Strangest coincidence ever experienced
- Favorite foods and recipe recommendations
- Last thing learned
You could also use props as conversation starters. For instance, encourage attendees to bring an interesting mug to the call, or ship participants plain white coffee cups to doodle and decorate.
To schedule regular virtual coffee breaks, install the extension Donut on Slack. Donut will match teammates and help them set up a call based on calendar availability.
9. Lightning Scavenger Hunts
Virtual scavenger hunts that give players long lists of clues to find often struggle to capture people’s attention spans. However, lightning scavenger hunts are optimal for virtual engagement. These short hunts involve a leader giving the group assignments one at a time.
Assignments may include:
- Grab a bunch of bananas
- Snuggle a pet
- Wear a silly hat
- Retrieve a handwritten birthday card
- Chug a mug of water
Players race to be the first to retrieve an object or perform an action. Leaders assign points to the quickest players. At the end of the game, the team or individual with the most points wins.
10. Compliment Tag
Compliment Tag is an uplifting remote team building activity that spreads positivity throughout the virtual office. To play, one teammate gives another a genuine compliment, and informs them that they are “It.” The “it” person must then give another teammate a sincere compliment. The game continues for a set amount of time, or until every employee has received at least one shout-out. For best results, check to see who still needs a kind word before the game ends, so you can direct the “it” person towards a yet-to-be-blessed teammate.
Throughout the game, keep tally and notes, so you can count the total number of team compliments, and crown a champ at the game’s end. You could also give notable mentions to the sweetest, funniest, and most creative compliment.
Best of all, players can hold onto the compliments and use them as a mood-booster on grey days.
11. Online Dance Party
Dancing is one of the quickest ways to blow off steam, not to mention a means of breaking down barriers between teammates. Once you dance the macarena or the shopping cart in front of your coworkers, you feel much more comfortable asking for help or starting casual conversations.
To initiate your dance party, post a meeting room link in the team chat channel. When colleagues join, pump up the music, and break out your best moves.
Here are a few groove-worthy songs we recommend:
- Happy by Pharell Williams
- Everybody Dance Now by C + C Music Factory
- Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
- Single Ladies by Beyoncé
- Treasure by Bruno Mars
- Modern Love by David Bowie
Feel free to choose your own jams for your impromptu dance-off. Or, pull up a dance playlist on Spotify and YouTube and shuffle for a random tune.
12. Show and Tell
Show and Tell is an activity that translates well to video calls. Before the meeting, assign a theme such as:
Invite attendees to bring a picture or object that fits the theme. Then, give each teammate a turn to explain the item’s significance. Show and Tell is a great way for teammates to get to learn about each other’s past, personalities, and motivations.
Here are more show and tell ideas.
13. Would You Rather?
Use the polling feature in Zoom, WebEx, or similar video conferencing software platforms to play Would You Rather? with your team. Voting via poll enables you to instantly display the results of the dilemmas, at which point you and the group can discuss. To play Would You Rather? simply pose different scenarios and ask attendees to pick the more favorable option.
Sample Would You Rather? Prompts:
- Get dumped via text message or skywriting?
- Travel to the past or to the future?
- Win the lottery or live twice as long?
- Give up tacos or pizza?
- Find out that your favorite celebrity is a jerk, or that your archnemesis is a major philanthropist?
- Own a kitten that stays a kitten or a puppy that stays a puppy?
- Super strength or super speed?
For extra fun, ask your staff to submit suggestions for prompts before the meeting, and use those questions in your polls.
Similar to “Would you rather?”, you can also incorporate virtual icebreakers into your meeting.
14. Short Reads Book Club
Book clubs are great at sparking illuminating conversations, but most working folks lack the time necessary to regularly read a full-length novel or autobiography. Short Reads Book Clubs facilitate insightful discussions based on quick reads. Each week, members send each other short essays, stories, and articles; perhaps a funny David Sedaris essay or a controversial New York Times exposé, or even a satirical Amazon review. Members read the piece, then share opinions during a short video call or via a messaging thread.
15. Secret Pen Pal
Coworker conversations occur less often in virtual offices. Secret Pen Pal is a fun way to establish connection and communication between remote teammates. To start, solicit sign-ups of teammates who wish to participate.
Here is how the activity works:
- Assign each employee a pen pal from the team. Using a random team generator simplifies this process.
- Send each participant the name of their recipient.
- Set a term, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a quarter.
- Encourage teammates to anonymously send messages and small surprises to each other.
- Ask team members to guess the identity of the pen pal.
If your teammates prefer snail mail, then participants can send letters and tiny packages. Otherwise, sending messages from a decoy email address works fine.
To determine the identity of the secret pen pal, players will have to talk to many teammates, meaning the exercise brings all team members closer, not just the pairs.
16. Virtual Holiday Party
Online teams need engagement year-round, and even more so during the holidays. You can plan a virtual Christmas party for your staff to help bring holiday cheer.
For example, your holiday party may include a virtual secret Santa gift exchange, a cheerful session of holiday karaoke, or a classy dressup and drinks.
Many organizations have done in-person holiday parties, and have office traditions that you follow. You can adapt these traditions online to continue the fun with your remote team.
17. Playlist Collaboration
Once upon a time, friends and sweethearts bonded by exchanging mixtapes full of carefully-chosen songs. Now, your teammates can learn about each other’s personalities and musical tastes by crafting collaborative online playlists.
First, create a playlist on Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube. Then, invite the crew to add songs.
You can choose a theme for your playlist such as:
- Soundtrack of my life
- Motivational anthems
- Workout jams
- Best sad songs
- Music for working
Be sure to send the mix out to the whole team once everyone contributes. This activity can be ongoing, and colleagues can add new songs whenever inspiration strikes.
Virtual team building unifies a dispersed workforce and helps to build connections between colleagues who may not communicate on a daily basis. Interaction is one of the most essential components of the practice. For remote team building to be effective, active participation should be present to help create feelings of inclusion and human connection.
The activities on this list provide your teammates with meaningful interactions that build community while emphasizing fun. Try out a few of these exercises, and you may feel inspired to dream up your own!
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