Do you want to find real ways to connect your remote team members beyond shared projects, company goals and weekly team sync meetings? We recommend virtual team-building activities.
While many in-person and in-house teams have the benefit of being able to bond in ways that make the most of being in the same physical space, the same can’t be said for remote teams. Building team cohesiveness in a remote environment requires additional planning and effort.
Virtual games and activities are a simple and enjoyable way to help your team members connect and get to know one another. Fortunately, video conferencing tools, which most remote teams use on a regular basis, make it easy to connect and host these virtual events. In this post, we look at what virtual team building is and explore why it is challenging for remote teams. Then, we’ll show you our favorite virtual team-building activities so that you can start boosting remote team cohesiveness even if members of your team are located in every corner of the world.
What Is Virtual Team Building?
Virtual team building is an ongoing process for remote teams to connect and form strong bonds using digital communication technology. Virtual team building comes in many forms but typically includes team-building activities and games using collaboration tools like video conferencing to help facilitate the flow of each activity.
Why Team Building Can Be Difficult for Remote Teams
While we can all acknowledge the need for bonding and shared activities for any team, remote teams will experience a unique set of challenges that are otherwise nonexistent for in-person teams. That said, here are a few common challenges that remote teams face when trying to boost team cohesion.
In-house staff and teams can easily interact in the office every day. When you work in a fully remote environment, you aren’t able to see your coworkers face to face every day when you come into — or log into — work. While there are online messaging apps and video conferencing tools, remote workers may have fewer conversations and interactions with their teammates.
No water cooler chat
Water cooler chat can be a healthy avenue for in-house team members to bond and talk casually over short work breaks. However, remote team members typically don’t enjoy these same venues for having non-work-related conversations.
Differences in scheduling and working hours
Team building is often easier done when teams are able to get together physically. Everyone is present in the same space at the same time, and they can interact with real tools and materials, giving them a wider range of possibilities for team-building sessions. Remote teams who plan to conduct virtual team-building games and activities can experience scheduling conflicts, especially if team members work different hours.
Language and cultural barriers
Language and culture can also play a role in the success or failure of your team-building activities. There may be certain widely accepted practices or traditions that employees from other countries may not understand. This means remote teams with members from all over the world may need to take extra time to make sure their online team-building games and bonding activities transcend cultural and language barriers.
15 Virtual Team Building Activities and Games
Want to boost team cohesion and foster long-lasting bonds with your remote team members? Check out our favorite virtual team-building games and activities, perfect for any distributed team.
1. One-on-one or team lunches
Just because your team can’t have lunch or breaks in person doesn’t mean you can’t have them at all. Group team members by location and help them schedule weekly one-on-one virtual lunches to get to know one another. For some added fun, create themed lunches so everyone is eating the same type of food on the conference call.
2. Story time
Nominate one or two coworkers to tell a funny or engaging personal story that happened to them recently or in the past that nobody on the team knows about. You may keep the topic general or come up with specific story topics like, “Tell us about your first job” or “Describe your most embarrassing moment.” This can give team members a fun glimpse into one another’s personal lives.
3. Personal passion presentations
Have your team members do monthly or even weekly personal presentations on something they are passionate about. Perhaps team members talk about the charity they support or an animal shelter they volunteer at on the weekends. Or an employee with a love of plants can teach the team how to pick low-maintenance houseplants and provide helpful tips for properly caring for them.
4. Digital card games
Because of the recent advancements in technology, even well-loved card games have found their place in the digital world. Get everyone together for UNO, Cards Against Humanity or other fun online games that encourage people to let loose and unwind.
5. House tours
Let your team show off their creative side by having one or two members volunteer to give everyone a house tour. Present your space Architectural Digest-style or MTV Cribs-style just like your favorite celebrities would. Team members can learn a lot about their coworkers’ personal styles and tastes from a virtual house tour.
6. Desert island
Desert island is an entertaining game you can play just about anywhere, especially online. Use this popular setup as one of your virtual team-building activities by asking everyone to share one item they’d bring with them if they were stranded on a desert island. Opt to do this via a live video meeting or consider making it a weekly themed Slack or Microsoft Teams thread. For example, this week you can ask people to share one movie they’d take with them to the desert island; the next week, one music album; and so on.
7. Virtual happy hour
Traditional in-office teams are used to bonding over drinks after work. You can still carry on this tradition with your remote team by planning a virtual happy hour using video conferencing technology. To make your happy hours even more enjoyable, have your team talk about their favorite cocktails or beers or assign one employee to teach everyone how to make their favorite mixed drink. Additionally, try adding virtual backgrounds, filters, masks and 3D effects to make your virtual happy hours even more fun and engaging.
8. Virtual movie night
Synchronized streaming allows groups and individuals all over the world to come together and watch the same movie in real time. To keep things interesting, start a roundup of movie suggestions for the month and have everyone vote on which one they want to watch, or set a theme for each month. For example, horror or thriller movies could go great in October, while holiday-themed blockbusters might get everyone in the holiday spirit in December. Encourage everyone to bring some popcorn and their favorite drinks to enjoy a fun virtual movie night with their coworkers.
9. DJ sets
Do you know your coworkers’ music tastes? Do you have some avid music lovers or amateur DJs on your team? This simple team-building exercise lets one coworker volunteer to share a playlist of their favorite songs, their favorite working tracks or even favorite home workout music. You can combine this event with a virtual happy hour to really spice things up.
10. Water cooler channels
You might not be able to gather around an actual water cooler when you run a remote team, but one thing you can do is create a specific “water cooler” channel on your preferred messaging app. Whether your team is on Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp or Telegram, you can easily create a new channel that’s designed for non-work-related conversations within your company or coworking center. Additionally, you can create a virtual water cooler meeting room using Lifesize that allows employees to casually chat about their personal lives, check in with one another and share any good news happening in their lives or local communities.
11. Talent show
How well do you know your staff’s hidden talents? With a virtual talent show, you can see just what your team is passionate about outside of work and give them an avenue to showcase those passions. Get a group of volunteers to show off their hidden talents, whether it’s a song, a dance, a magic show or their origami collection. To encourage participation, you can give out prizes to the top talent.
12. Weekly themed contests
Themed contests can be a fun way to inject a little levity into the day-to-days of remote work. Create simple themes each week that let everyone take part, like cleanest home desk, funniest selfie or best dressed at home awards. Invite staff members to recommend categories for your next contest. Make it more interactive by letting people vote on their favorite entries, then announce the winner at the end of each week. If you can, give a special reward like a gift card or even send a gift to each of the winners so people are excited to take part in the contests.
13. Themed trivia night
You can translate those beloved trivia nights at the pub into virtual trivia games using video conferencing. Use themes to keep things interesting, like blockbuster movies, 90s music or sci-fi villain’s trivia. For additional team building, create small groups that can work together to answer the questions and compete against the other teams.
14. Remote scavenger hunt
Since you won’t be able to hide items for your team to physically find, create a list of items that remote workers are likely to have in their homes. Here are some examples:
- Find a penny minted in 1989
- Find a book written in a foreign language
- Find your picture from first grade
The first team member to bring back the correct item and show everyone on the conference call wins a point.
15. Virtual bingo
Last but not least, many remote teams have turned to virtual bingo as a way to stay connected and have some fun. You can play traditional bingo virtually or use the Lifesize Conference Call Bingo board to make your team calls more enjoyable. These simple games can play a solid role in keeping the bond alive in your team, even when you’re apart.
The Benefits of Virtual Team Building
Investing time and resources into virtual team building may seem like a distraction from getting work done, but it can actually help build a stronger, more connected team that accomplishes more together. Here are a few benefits of virtual team building.
Positive team cohesion
Team cohesion can help keep employee engagement and morale high, especially when team members form strong bonds with their coworkers. Team-building activities that promote a positive company culture help employees get to know one another on a deeper level, strengthen relationships and contribute to the overall success of the team.
Trust in other team members
Collaboration is an essential ingredient for just about any team, and it’s difficult to develop excellent and seamless collaboration in teams whose members have low trust in one another. With virtual team building, remote teams can get to know their coworkers outside of work and find deeper ways to bond and trust one another. Ultimately, this cascades into the way they collaborate on the job and work toward the same business development goals.
In 2018, Gallup found that 85% of employees were disengaged at their jobs. This disengagement led to decreased productivity, higher absenteeism and overall loss of revenue for companies. With virtual team building, you can keep employees productive and engaged, especially when coworkers form strong bonds and personal connections. The higher level of engagement will lead to greater output and productivity.
Upgrade Your Virtual Team Building Activities with Lifesize
If you want to take your virtual team-building games and activities to the next level, Lifesize is equipped to help you host high quality and immersive video conferencing experiences. The lifelike video quality and superior audio lets your team members clearly see and hear one another to connect on a deeper level. Lifesize also integrates with popular calendar and scheduling tools and chat apps so you have a seamless experience across all your collaboration tools. To really add some fun to your team-building activities, try using Lifesize whiteboard sharing to capture content from a standard whiteboard in real time and present a clear digital image to everyone on the call.
Fostering a healthy remote team culture involves giving team members the space and time to bond outside everyday work and team sync meetings. Use this list of 15 virtual team-building games and activities to boost remote team cohesion and have a happier, more engaged workforce. For shorter ice breaker questions and activities, be sure to check out our blog 5 Virtual Meeting Icebreakers for Distributed Teams.
About the author: Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant that helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.