Looking for some effective team building exercises to bring your team together?
As a former leadership trainer and coach, I have run several types of team building activities for teams of several sizes – with participants ranging from entry level employees to C-level executives.
But with COVID-19 disrupting businesses all over, most teams have been forced to go remote.
So how do you run team building games for remote teams?
You can always run virtual team building activities.
See how Time Doctor’s easy-to-use time tracking software can help your team be more productive.
That’s why I’m sharing this carefully designed list of virtual team building activities and exercises. These engaging activities have always worked during my training programs and they will help you build a close-knit and successful team!
Oh, and they’ve worked well for my own distributed team too!
The entire Startup Voyager team is remote and distributed across four countries!
And that’s not all!
We’ve also added some tools, tactics and strategies you’ll need to implement these team building exercises successfully.
If you are looking to build and manage your virtual teams instead, you can check this article: 26 Tips to Help You Manage a High-Performing Virtual Team.
Table of contents
- What is virtual team building?
- 26 virtual team building games and activities
- 24 virtual team building icebreakers to start conversations
- 13 other team building activities that build deep connections
- What do you need for virtual team building?
- 9 tools for virtual team building
- Who benefits from virtual team building?
- Team building FAQs
Let’s get started.
What Is virtual team building?
Virtual team building is the ongoing process of bringing remote teams together. It’ll help your team achieve deeper bonds by creating a collaborative environment that’s similar to an in-office setting!
Why is virtual team building important?
The physical distance of remote work can quickly turn into emotional distance which, in turn, leads to isolation. And when your employees feel isolated, they won’t be comfortable working alongside their fellow team members!
This is why it’s important to create a comfortable team environment that remote workers can rely on.
Virtual team building efforts consist of several carefully designed strategies, games and activities that are meant to bring more human interaction to virtual work. It’ll help your team connect with each other – making them feel like they’re actually part of a community!
And of course, a happier team obviously leads to higher employee retention!
26 virtual team building games and activities
The difficulty with building chemistry in most remote teams is that you could be spread across several time zones.
To tackle this, many of these activities and exercises can be performed by recording videos of the activities before putting them on a workspace channel where everyone can view them.
However, if you can gather your team on a group video call together, then that’s the perfect scenario!
This will make playing these games more fun since it’s happening live, whether you’re playing:
- Virtual board games or different jigsaw puzzles
- An online game of Pictionary or office trivia
- Another icebreaker activity such as virtual karaoke
Additionally, getting on video call is even better for team chemistry.
Don’t believe us?
A study by Remote.co found that “87% of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing.” So if you have the opportunity to use video alongside your team building efforts and icebreaker games – grab it! There are many free video conferencing tools available, like Zoom, that can be used.
Here’s a list of fun team building ideas and engaging activities you can use to bring your virtual team closer:
The first 5 exciting activities are from Outback’s team building and training activities.
After almost a year of remote work with minimal social interactions, you can bet that your team is ready to socialize and have fun. Good news. Outback Team Building & Training can help!
Outback offers a variety of team building solutions specifically designed to help boost your remote team’s morale, encourage collaboration, and keep them social while social distancing.
You can trust that you’re in good hands. Outback comes highly recommended by over 14,000 corporate groups!
Check out their remote team building options below. Each activity is available in a virtually-hosted format or DIY self-hosted format, costs as little as $8 per person, and can accommodate groups of up to 1,000+ remote employees.
1. Virtual Escape Room
There is a heist to steal a priceless collection of precious jewels. You and your team need to recover these jewels before time runs out. Virtual Escape Room: Jewel Heist will foster more collaboration, creative problem-solving and brainstorming as your team will together uncover hidden clues and solve mind-boggling challenges.
2. Virtual Jeoparty Social
Try out this high-energy and immersive virtual Jeopardy-style competition with your teammates. Boost morale, build bonds and work collaboratively in this activity with a social twist.
3. Virtual Clue Murder Mystery
Teams will race against the clock as they try to solve the mystery behind the murder of Neil Davidson. As they examine clues, review case files and be detectives, their problem-solving skills, collaboration, analytical thinking and communication are being strengthened as well. This is a fun and exciting virtual team building activity for the whole team.
4. Virtual Happy Hour Trivia
Your host, Hamish McDuff will make your team feel like you just had a memorable happy hour in the pub with good old friends. He will host two rounds of virtual pub trivia and will have a ton of surprises ready for the multiple category options to choose from. With themes like “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” to Sports and even Celebrity Real Estate, your team will definitely have a memorable night at the pub.
Click here to check more highly engaging virtual trivia team building activities for your team.
5. Virtual Team Pursuit
Team Pursuit is a great way for teammates to get to know each other better. This is a series of online physical, mental, mystery and skill challenges. While doing the activities, you get to enhance your communications skills as well as see your colleagues’ hidden talents.
Check out a quick video to see how Outback’s virtual team building activities work:
Also, check out these recent reviews:
“I participated in the event with about 50 of our team members – and the feedback has been very positive. The group had so much fun and enjoyed the game show event that they all hope to do something like this again in the near future. Especially during this time of Covid-19, people are feeling isolated working from home and miss seeing their friends and colleagues at work – the entire social aspect of work is missing. The fact that we could get away from the stress of work and have so much fun as a team was exactly what we needed. Thank you for facilitating such a wonderful game show event for us. We will be sure to pass it along to other depts. in our organization at FortisBC. Brynne was an awesome coordinator and we look forward to perhaps doing another event with you soon!”
– Fortis BC
It was a pleasure to work with Heather and the event was a huge success. It was fun and competitive, and I received great feedback from the team ! Everyone was engaged and had a blast !
Check out Outback’s Virtual Activities to see more.
6. Get your team to Virtual Paris!
Woyago has created a unique tour aimed at groups of people who are looking for a fun way to spend their time with their teams led by an experienced Parisian, who whisks the group off to the City of Lights.
By combining storytelling and cheeky virtual activities, Woyago’s lighthearted and comedic tone of the tours make this a very effective morale boost for virtual or hybrid teams of any size.
Between delivering a Parisian Picnic Box to your home, live bike rides from the streets of Paris, French stereotype trivia, French vocabulary that will make you laugh out loud, and different team-building games (or “jeux” as the French say) you’ll end up obsessing over Paris!
7. The Team Quest
If you’re looking for a laugh-inducing game with just the right amount of rivalry, you can’t miss out on The Team Quest! It doesn’t matter what size your group is, you and your team will have the time of your lives playing this awesome and exciting game!
The dedicated host will guide you through the whole experience, crack jokes and engage with absolutely every member of your team! In The Team Quest you will have a chance to experience our fans’ all-time favourites: test your knowledge with Trivia and Buzz-In Challenges, see how well you know your colleagues during a round of fact-matching and show off your artistic skills in Pictionary! The event will wrap up with a photo-booth, where you can get silly, strike a pose, use the virtual props and end the game play with a laugh!
To ensure you have the best experience ever, you can even personalise all of the content and theme the game to any occasion or topic of your choice! And one more important thing to remember: every bit of this fun experience takes place on a dedicated browser platform.
8. Bond and connect with the “Feel Good” Game
From the creators of Totem, the “Feel Good” game, a unique card game gamifying personal development concepts, now comes with a “self-service” version for virtual team building.
Building on the game’s success (they have sold more than 100,000 games in 33 countries), this team building game truly is one of a kind. The self-service format alternates between training via pre-recorded videos and practice on Totem’s specially designed all-in-one platform, which means you can hit the ground running for teams large or small.
- Bring teams together
- Highlight one another’s strengths and qualities
- Learn and practice giving positive feedback
- A fun and rewarding activity
All you need to do is divide yourself into player groups of 3-8 participants. These can be the colleagues you work with day to day, you can mix things up with cross disciplinary teams, or you can have team members from different locations playing together.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to take care of your employees!
You can try it for free with your team. Should you decide to purchase the game after trying it out, use the code TIMEDOCTOR to get 10% off the price!
9. Solve an escape room as a team
Virtual escape rooms provide a challenging and immersive adventure for teams of all kinds, whether in the office, at home, or a mix of both! Players get the same puzzles and tasks to overcome as they would in a physical room all while working towards a shared goal – escaping!
Played via Zoom, The Escape Game’s Remote Adventures hold up to 8 players and are guided by a host in the room with a live camera feed. Teams will direct their guide through the adventure while picking up clues in their digital dashboard to solve puzzles and complete their mission in 60 minutes!
With themes like breaking out of prison, finding the gold, or solving an art heist, this is a great way to better communicate, bond, learn about your remote team’s personalities, and have fun!
10. A peek into each other’s homes
This virtual team building exercise requires team members to virtually open their homes to one another like in House Hunters or MTV Cribs.
Jesse Sussman at MuseumHack thinks this is a “hilarious” way to get to know your remote team members and their personalities.
Each team member will take a short video showing off their home and some of their favorite things. This activity allows team members to get to know one another on a more personal basis, and can lead to cohesiveness and feelings of camaraderie.
This fun game may be better suited for smaller teams, but it’s still a great team building exercise for any group looking to get the process started.
Another way this can be done is by allowing one team member to show off their home at the beginning of each week’s work meeting. This way, you won’t have to spend an hour looking at multiple people’s houses!
11. The desert island scenario
Many of us played similar icebreaker games like this in school.
In this virtual team building game, group members are given a scenario where they’re stranded on a deserted island with seven objects – but they can only grab three.
Make these objects as obscure and challenging as possible so that your team members are forced to really use critical thinking and planning.
Examples of items are a bag of fruit and vegetable seeds, a pocket knife, a 100-foot rope, a bedsheet, a bucket, 2 liters of kerosene, pen and paper, and so on.
Then split the team into small groups and allow them to collaborate on which items they want to pick for the desert island. Once all discussions have finished, get onto a team video chat and discuss the results.
Activities and exercises like this force team members to work together and engage in healthy competition and excitement within their team.
Such games and exercises also demonstrate how working together helps a team achieve better results, and can help virtual workers learn how to collaborate without being in the same room.
12. Personal facts guessing game
The personal facts guessing game is a great way to learn your team member’s interests outside of a work environment.
Here’s how it works:
- First, the manager asks each team member to share some personal facts with them.
- These facts will then be compiled in a document that’s shared with each individual in the team.
- Next to each personal fact there’s an empty column where every employee will have to guess which team member the fact belongs to!
Not only can this ice breaker game be hilarious, but it is a great way to develop successful team cohesion and camaraderie. Once all the guesses have been submitted, an answer key will be provided so that team members can see how well they guessed.
This activity can also take place live on a group video chat.
The facilitator will have the sheet open on a digital whiteboard on their computer and will share their screen while employees try to guess the answers. As each answer is guessed, the facilitator can follow along, putting answers into the empty column.
13. Weekly trivia contests
There’s a reason Jeopardy’s been on the air for 50 years: people LOVE trivia.
That’s the same reason why teams flock to Water Cooler Trivia, a platform for automated weekly trivia quizzes. It’s an activity employees eagerly anticipate each week.
Each Monday morning, teams are emailed a trivia quiz with responses due that night and results sent the next morning. That schedule is totally customizable.
Importantly, it’s not a one-off event but a source of weekly fun and conversation for the team without any ongoing setup or maintenance tasks. It’s the thrill of pub trivia without the two-hour time commitment and logistics.
The contests are super customizable, meaning you can decide the:
- Categories (pop culture, current events, science & tech, etc.)
- Difficulty (easy, medium, hard)
- Timing (day of the week and the time for the quiz and results)
- Region (if you have global teammates and want to exclude US-centric questions).
The best thing is that there’s a risk-free 4-week trial to figure out if it’s a good fit for your team.
14. Picture sharing
Don’t have time for a long problem-solving challenge at the moment?
Picture sharing activities help your icebreaker team bond in no time. It can facilitate laughter and surprising responses that will leave employees feeling happy and connected.
Set aside designated time, perhaps at the beginning of each meeting, for a team member to share one personal photo that is unrelated to work. This photo can contain pets, hobbies, gadgets, family members, etc.
Then have the team member explain the photo such as what’s going on there and why they chose it.
Remember, allowing team members to share part of their personal lives makes teamwork more fun and can bring a new element of camaraderie to the workplace.
15. Share your bucket list
A bucket list is a list of things you want to do or experience within your lifetime.
Naturally, each person’s bucket list says a lot about them.
So, what better way to get to know your team members than by sharing their own bucket lists?
Each week, designate one person with the task of sharing their bucket list ideas. You can specify the lengths of these lists and whether items already completed should be included.
Everyone listening can then spend a short amount of time discussing the bucket list — whether it’s comparing similarities or simply asking fun questions!
By sharing bucket lists with people, you stand to learn a lot about their personalities and realize how you’re very similar.
Who knows, maybe a coworker could help you clear a few things from your own list!
16. Building a storyline
Everyone loves a good story, right?
Building a storyline is one of the oldest and most fun team building activities.
Here’s how it goes, step by step:
- Get the entire group to virtually “form a circle” on a video call to start the process.
- The first person begins the story with one opening sentence and another incomplete one. For example: “On Mark’s first day at his awesome new job, his car broke down. At first, he felt helpless, but then he…”
- The next individual completes the previous line and adds another incomplete sentence.
This way, each remote employee contributes until everyone has had a turn. Aim to develop a comprehensive story structure by the end of the game!
Not only does building a storyline force teams to use their creative juices, it also helps them listen to each other and improve team cooperation.
The best part?
These collaborative and listening skills are the building blocks for clear and effective communication in a remote team!
17. Show and tell
Most of us probably remember show and tell from elementary school.
But did you know that it can actually be an awesome team building activity for virtual teams as well?
Basically, each team member gets one minute to show and talk about something they own or even something intangible! This could be anything – such as your favorite straws, a tug of war trophy or even a passion project!
After each turn, save some time for a conversation from the rest of the team (make sure you set a time limit for these or else it’ll go on forever!)
By sharing these intimate possessions, you get a better insight into each individual which will help you develop strong team bonds and trust.
18. Simulated problems
When you want your remote team to step up and brainstorm on a problem-solving challenge, use this experiential team building activity.
The simulated problems exercise goes exactly how it sounds:
First, create a tricky and challenging scenario related to your team’s role.
For example, if you’re handling a PR team, you could create a situation where the company has suffered from a scandal and needs to save face.
Ask them to strategize a press release and series of conferences step by step.
Make them answer questions like:
- How does the firm save its credibility?
- Do you come out with an apology?
- How do PR priorities or your marketing plans change after this?
These engaging activities help participants build their decision making skills to learn about thinking out of the box. This way, they can prepare for an unforeseen situation while maintaining cooperation to increase team effectiveness.
Who knows? It may even prepare you for a problem your business could actually face in the future!
19. A look at the future
This is a short and interesting activity.
Share an e-newspaper or magazine with the team, and ask them to mark ten headlines that could be related to the company in the future.
Headlines like “World’s best place to work,” or “How this company changed the world” are good examples.
This helps you to understand each member’s goals and expectations from the company. You can even compare each choice to analyze differences in commitment or priorities!
20. The perfect vacation
This is another short activity that’s great for developing your team’s listening skills.
- First, participants are asked to grab a partner.
- For the next step, each duo gets on a personal call and tells their partner about their perfect vacation – if they had unlimited time and money.
- After everyone is done, all the team members get together on a call and try to explain their partner’s dream vacation as accurately as possible!
Since you’re describing your partner’s vacation, you’re forced to really listen and might even realize how both of you share similar interests.
21. Two truths and a lie
Two truths and one lie is a classic icebreaker activity.
Each team member presents three statements about themselves: two that are true and one that is false.
The team can then take turns to recognize what’s true and what the lie is. After everyone has guessed, the speaker reveals their lie.
To make the game even more fun, add some healthy competition with a points system that’s recorded digitally or by the manager with a pen and paper.
The person with the most correct guesses will grab the win!
22. Guess the emoji board
Everyone loves texting with emojis, right?
This is one of the shortest fun team building activities – making it great for quick breaks or post-meeting sessions.
Here’s how it works:
- Send a list of the players to all participants.
- Next, give them five minutes to guess each person’s five most used emojis.
- After the five minutes are done, reveal the correct answers to the participants.
The person to recognize the most correct emojis is declared the winner.
For a fun twist, offer prizes to the 3 best ones!
23. Never have I ever: Rated E edition
Most of us have probably played Never Have I Ever in college and know that it’s not a game meant for work!
But don’t worry, this version of the game doesn’t involve alcohol or explicit stories.
Here’s how this goes:
- Create a list of general topics like “Never have I ever stepped on Lego” or “Never have I ever eaten an entire pack of marshmallows.”
- Everyone starts with five points, and loses a point for each activity they’ve done. For a virtual team, these points can be represented by fingers! Start with an open palm, and fold a finger for each point you lose.
- The last person standing wins!
This way, you get to learn some fun new insights about your coworkers – all while engaging in some healthy competition!
24. Virtual book club
Reading is a hobby that’s great for both your profession and daily life!
To encourage your remote workers to read, you can start a virtual book club.
To make sure the club runs smoothly, set up a few rules:
- Each member must complete the assigned reading. If not, they’re excluded for the next two readings or the meeting doesn’t take place at all! While the latter sounds extreme, it actually works as a great accountability measure.
- Start with shorter materials. Not everyone reads rapidly, and you need to make sure that each employee can keep up. As the club progresses, you can switch to a few long or challenging texts!
Not only does a book club help remote teams mingle and socialize, it also encourages them to engage in critical thinking and be open to differing opinions. These are all great qualities to develop effective communication skills and listening skills among remote employees!
25. Aliens have landed
A bit of imagination can make any creative problem solving activity more exciting!
Divide the whole team into smaller groups of three to four members.
The scenario is, aliens have finally landed on Earth — but they don’t speak English.So, each team must pick five symbols or pictures to best describe the company!
As the manager, check out the images and see if you realize any common themes or symbols. This helps you to understand what the remote employees feel about the company culture, while also improving effective communication and problem solving skills.
26. An icebreaker quiz game to get to know each other
QuizBreaker is a super fun way to keep a remote team engaged and connected. Players answer icebreaker questions and then have to guess each other’s answers in automatically generated quizzes. Admins can set up the quizzes to go out via email at set times during the week.
An example quiz question might be: “Was it Emily or Sam who said the book that had the most impact on their thinking was Sapiens?” or “Was it Jade or Nathan who said their dream holiday destination is Iceland?”
With badges, levels and a weekly leaderboard – it’s a great way for teams to get to know one another on a deeper level (even when they don’t share an office). Remote teams all over the world use QuizBreaker to boost engagement and morale, including at companies like the New York Times and Google.
It also comes with a free 14-day trial.
24 virtual team building icebreakers to start conversations
Ever been unsure of how to start your team bonding activities?
Getting team members to open up in engagement team building activities can be as tough and awkward as navigating a minefield!
Luckily, that’s what you have icebreaker games for!
An ice breaker game is an awesome activity to let team members dip their toes into the bonding experience without feeling awkward or insecure.
First: You can start with 12 surface-level questions for your icebreaker team.
These questions are good for new virtual teams that are just getting to socialize and mingle with one another. These answers are opinion and preference-based, meaning employees are less likely to feel judged on their responses in the ice breaker game.
Next: You can dig deeper with 12 carefully designed questions that require employees to step out of their comfort zone, open up a bit more and be vulnerable.
These questions allow team members to shed light on their goals, successes, struggles and needs. They also facilitate the real team building process and let individuals be open and honest with each other.
Let’s get into it:
Team building icebreakers: Surface level questions
- Do you want to stay the same age forever? If yes, what age would that be?
- What is your favorite possession?
- If you could grab one superpower, which one would you pick?
- Are you a morning bird or a night owl?
- Which season is your favorite? Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer?
- Do you prefer writing with pen and paper or digitally?
- Do you prefer large group hangouts or smaller groups?
- Would you prefer to go to the mountains or the beach?
- If you could live anywhere on this planet without having to leave anyone or anything behind, where would you live?
- What is the coolest vacation you have ever taken?
- What’s your favorite food?
- Which historical figure would you want to meet?
Team building icebreakers: Be vulnerable
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- What do you want people to remember you for when you die?
- What aspect of your personality is the most valuable to those around you?
- Recall the best day of your life. Why was it the best?
- Recall the worst day of your life. Why was it so bad?
- If you could add or improve upon one characteristic of your personality, what would you add/improve?
- Who has been the most influential individual in your life thus far?
- When considering what makes you feel engaged and dedicated to work, what three characteristics do you look for in a work environment?
- Name a few things in a work environment or situation that would compel you to look for a new/future job and leave?
- What qualities and skills does a good boss/manager have in your opinion?
- What is one of your biggest goals within your personal life?
- What is your biggest accomplishment within your academic or professional life?
Now that you have the conversation going with the icebreaker activity, you can move to games and activities to build stronger team cohesion and healthy competition!
13 other team building activities that foster deep connections
Sure, team building games and activities require a little more team effort, cooperation and commitment than any icebreaker activity.
However, once employees are open and honest and feel less awkward, they’ll be more inclined to participate in games and exercises and continue putting efforts into building work friendships!
While the earlier team building ideas were centered around having fun and playing games, these 12 ideas are centered around building deep connections with your team and really cementing your camaraderie:
1. Virtual team meetings
Team meetings are essential for any company – whether they’re conducted in an office or virtually.
While team meetings are often focused around work, it is important that virtual work teams recognize them as tools for building team cohesion, empathy and commitment.
Because team members who work remotely aren’t able to take part in group team building breaks, such as coffee or lunch breaks like co-located teams.
To do this exercise, conduct a virtual meeting at the end of each month and ask three questions to each team member:
- What’s the one thing that has been going great lately?
- What’s the one thing that can be improved?
- What’s the one thing that’s been going on with them personally?
Be sure that the team leader or manager also answers these questions, as it creates the feeling that everyone is equal.
Such questions not only let employees discuss and improve team effectiveness, but it gives virtual team members an opportunity to share a bit about their current lives and feel empathy for others on the team.
Give employees time to prepare for this beforehand so that they can give some thought to their answers. It may also be beneficial to set a time limit for each employee so that the meeting always moves forward and maintains focus on its priorities.
Fun tip: Suggest that each employee grab a coffee, tea or another beverage of choice to the online meeting so that it feels more like a coffee break!
2. Live remote office
Remember, virtual workers can have difficulty getting into their workflow and struggle with employee motivation.
Because it’s hard for them to feel like they’re actually part of an office – which affects their focus.
A live remote office area gives remote employees the office feel without physically being in an office.
Here’s how it works:
At the beginning of the day, the first team member to clock in starts a video chat that any team member can join. As other members come online, they can join the video and essentially join the workspace.
The video chat room mimics an office as it’s a place where team members can log in and start diligently working on their own tasks.
Distributed team members get to see their teams work hard in-person and are inspired to maintain focus and productivity.
3. Capture important company events
One of the downfalls of distributed teams is that virtual team members are unable to attend all company events.
This can leave virtual team members feeling left out, and can also make it difficult to see how different teams work and contribute to the company.
How can you fix this?
Take videos of company events and post them on the employee channel.
For example: Say your company is going to set up a booth at an event to obtain more clients. Take a video of the event or provide a live video stream to show your virtual team members what is going on.
If you achieve a large success or make a successful team partnership at the event, be sure to celebrate it on a video call and congratulate the contributing team members on their hard work.
This will allow employees to see how their work contributes to the progress that is taking place in the company. It also brings an element of excitement and reward to the remote workplace, which can boost team effectiveness and morale.
However, this strategy doesn’t just apply to large work events.
You can provide a post-call debrief with a client, a video recap of an in-person meeting, or make a video outlining important changes that are taking place within the company!
4. Movie night
This is a unique team building activity that’s great for boosting morale.
When you gather your team for non-work related purposes, they tend to relax and open up more.
Hosting a movie night every so often is a fun way to get the team together to have fun outside of the virtual office.
You may be wondering: “How do we do this when we live in different cities?”
Stream the movie through a video conference room and keep an instant messaging chat box open so team members can comment and make remarks during the movie.
Experiences like this give remote employees something to bond over and joke about later on. Plus it forces team members to take a little downtime and relax!
5. Coffee session
This strategy has proven to be successful in boosting employee motivation by showing them that you value their hard work.
Virtual team members rarely get to experience the office perks of a company-provided lunch, coffee or a team get-together.
How does a coffee session change that?
Each employee will be sent a small gift card to a local or favorite coffee shop.
They are then encouraged to get out of their home office and work remotely in a new upbeat environment for the day. Each employee will snap a photo of themselves working at the coffee shop and will post it to the team chat group.
This strategy can also be used to host your virtual meetings!
Team members designate a time to virtually meet while each of them is at their chosen coffee shop. This makes it feel as if a team meeting is being conducted at a specific location outside of the “common office.”
Be sure to try this out once the COVID-19 pandemic is over!
6. Joint calendar
Employee calendars typically include work events and deadlines. But what if work calendars included more than work-related information?
Remote employees often miss out on the opportunity to chit-chat about personal matters with other team members, such as family, personal events, and hobbies outside of work.
What if work calendars allowed team members to add personal events or a common goal to the agenda as well?
For example: Monday’s list of tasks and deadlines may conclude with something like, “Marissa’s kid’s first day of kindergarten,” or Saturday may include, “John’s family outing to the lake!”
There are several app options out there like Eventbot Calendar that have turned this joint calendar idea into a real thing.
Team members can use it to communicate personal motivating messages of congratulations, and may even realize that they have more in common than they thought.
It also lets people know when team members will be unavailable, which is beneficial for managing team effectiveness, communication and collaboration.
7. Send gifts to your fellow team members
Does this immediately sound pricey? It doesn’t have to be.
You can set a gift price limit and assign each team member a person to send a gift to. This can be arranged during the holidays or just for good fun.
For large teams that are dispersed internationally, encourage team members to buy something that is specific to their country and culture.
This will not only make the gift choosing and receiving unique, but it will provide a little bit of insight about the cultural differences – helping them develop empathy for each other.
Gift-giving not only gives employees something to look forward to, but it allows team members to form a deeper bond and feel thankful for one another.
8. A “Random” slack channel
Is your team using Slack or something similar to communicate?
Be sure to create a channel that is dedicated solely to random conversations and sharing.
Employees can share things like quotes, stories, and photos of their animals. This naturally provides large teams with conversation starters and allows teammates to get to know each other’s personalities and personal lives better!
It also allows teams to build rapport, improve teamwork and form a deeper bond without having to delegate time to virtual team building ideas. Think of it as a unique team building activity that employees have constant access to!
9. Team building slack extensions like donut
Donut is a Slack extension that can take virtual team building to a new level.
Donut pairs team members to get them talking every 1-4 weeks. These virtual meetings can last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and the aim is to get employees talking to each other on a one-on-one basis through non-work related conversations.
Want to make it even more effective?
Virtual team members that live in the same city can opt to grab lunch or coffee together instead of conducting a video call.
Donut makes distributed and group team building simple and can create some of those productivity-boosting relationships that we mentioned earlier!
10. Outdoor scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts aren’t just for co-located teams.
These are outdoor team building activities that online teams can take on once the Coronavirus pandemic ends!
Here’s how you do it:
- Create smaller groups from your team and send each group of people an identical list of tasks to complete.
- Team members can then divide the tasks amongst themselves and stay connected while on the hunt through instant messaging apps.
- Each task completion must be accompanied by a photo of the team member completing it. Have all teams gather and submit their photos to the company chat group.
Tasks can include things like:
- Getting a stranger to do a yoga pose while wearing a blindfold
- Taking a photo of your reflection in something other than a mirror or window
- Balancing sheets of paper on your head throughout each task.
You can create the scavenger hunt yourself, or you can use an app like GooseChase to facilitate it.
Similar to the Desert Island Scenario, scavenger hunts boost communication and collaboration while also letting them delegate tasks and utilize each other’s strengths and skills.
11. Meet in person
Want to really bond with your team? Plan a team retreat!
This might not be possible right now during COVID, but when the pandemic is behind us, you should seriously consider this!
Team meet-ups may sound costly, but the networking, team cohesion and morale building that can result from them are priceless!
A team retreat can be a trip to an escape room, a small weekend in a central area, or it can be a large team building event that all the employees get to embark on.
Giving team members the chance to gather and communicate in person with their virtual coworkers is a great way to build strong team chemistry and make team members feel a sense of community.
For internationally distributed team members, cultural differences can be difficult to understand or grasp — however, meeting in person can change that and make your team stronger than ever!
A team retreat is also beneficial for the managers and owners of the company. They are able to gather a better sense of their employees’ personalities and strengths, which will make it easy to improve teamwork and start open and honest conversations!
12. Online office games (Facilitated)
Sometimes, working with an event planner to run your activities can be a big win. For example, you as the organizer can participate and bond with your colleagues too.
One popular virtual team building activity of this type is Online Office Games.
Here is how it works:
- The event is 90 minutes, and conducted with two hosts over Zoom.
- The games and challenges include virtual team trivia and “Can You Hear Me Now?”, which is like Pictionary with a twist.
- You can do events with 5-50 people, or more for large groups.
The company that runs Online Office Games is TeamBuilding,com, and has a great list with more virtual team building activities too.
13. Charity bike buildathon
This charity team building activity is heartwarming, positive and rewarding.
Your team will work together to build, decorate and donate bikes to a local children’s charity.
Not only will the team have fun, everybody will feel great knowing they did something wonderful as a team.
If this is something your team loves, here are more heartwarming charity team building activities for work.
Check out this short video to see how Time Doctor helps makes it possible to live anywhere you want and work remotely:
What do you need for virtual team building?
Virtual team building doesn’t require much, but there are a few things you will need:
1. A leader
Designate a leader, such as a project or team manager, to facilitate these exercises.
Why them? Because they’re used to leading and they’re a figure that the entire team recognizes!
This way, nobody’s going to wonder who’s leading the activities or why they’re there.
The manager should use their leadership skills for motivating people to participate and explaining the exercises in a clear manner. They will also be responsible for maintaining cohesiveness in the exercises and events that take place.
Set a time limit for virtual team building efforts.
2. Clear-cut time limits
It’s important that each member gives their undivided attention when you gather your team for these games and exercises. This ensures that nobody comes across as uninterested or uninvolved. Additionally, you can’t let these games go on for too long as you’ll miss out on time to actually work!
3. Collaboration and screen-sharing tools
Considering that virtual face-to-face contact is essential to many of these activities and exercises, it’s important to get a tool that lets you screen share and visually collaborate with team members online. That way, everyone can be present and contribute to virtual meetings.
9 tools for virtual team building
The tools listed below are fantastic for online team building and can make the process seamless.
For Video Conferencing, Screen Sharing and Telecommunication:
- Google Meet (formerly known as Google Hangouts Meet)
Interested in other tools that are essential for remote teams?
Here are some lists that can help you out:
- Top 10 Software To See If Remote Employees Are Working
- 26 Useful Apps to Manage Remote Teams During the Peak Loads
Who benefits from virtual team building?
Hundreds of thousands of companies across the Americas, Europe and Asia have gone remote because of COVID.
However, many people soon realize that managing a remote team comes with its own set of challenges.
Remember, because remote teams aren’t physically working together, they miss out on the chance to socialize, mingle and build rapport with their fellow team members. This can leave employees feeling isolated – which will impact their teamwork, mental health and productivity!
Virtual team building is a fantastic way to boost empathy and cohesiveness to make online communication and collaboration easier.
Whether your team is partially remote or fully remote, it s essential to build a strong team foundation for your company. In fact, a study by TeamBonding states that “65% of remote employees report that they have never had a team building session.”
What does this mean? That a lot of companies are failing to do an easy task that has massive benefits!
Here’s what they miss out on:
- Virtual team building creates a support system for remote members. It can improve teamwork and the onboarding process by making new team members feel welcomed and excited.
- Many of the games and exercises listed above give large teams a chance to collaborate over tasks in a friendly environment, which is essential for innovation, productivity, and efficiency.
- Collaborating on a problem solving challenge is also a great way to build rapport and an atmosphere of trust between team members – building stronger relationships and resulting in higher employee satisfaction.
For leaders and managers:
- Fun activities are not only great for employees, they’re fun for managers too!
- Through these collaborative games and activities, you are able to better understand each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. This makes managing and delegating tasks more efficient.
- You are also able to build relationships with each employee and learn what they need from you as a leader. This can greatly enhance your leadership skills over time!
Remote teams may not get the same face-to-face contact that collocated small teams get, but that doesn’t mean they have to feel disconnected from one another!
Bit.AI reports that “97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.”
So you see, bonding is essential to form a cohesive unit!
Virtual team bonding increases employee motivation, efficiency and collaboration. It makes employees feel connected and valued, which in turn makes them highly dedicated to their tasks and the organization in general.
Collaborative online activities allow managers to improve team leadership skills and recognize each employee’s talents and skills, making for more efficient task delegation.
Managing remote teams can sometimes be tough for virtual team leaders – but it isn’t impossible! And with the right games and activities, you’ll have no difficulty getting everyone on the same page.
Want some more ways to improve the way you run your remote team?
Check out 15 Rules to Live By When You Run a Remote Team or 26 Tips to Help You Manage a High-Performing Virtual Team.
Team Building FAQs
How much does virtual team building cost?
This question mostly depends on what, if anything, you’re willing to spend. You could utilize a costly meeting software application with all the bells and whistles, but there are plenty of free options such as Google, Zoom and Discord that easily allow you and your teammates to take part in virtual team-building activities and group games.
Is virtual team building necessary?
No, virtual team building isn’t a requirement for running a business. However, effective team building exercises can help boost employee morale and bring the team closer together, which in turn can potentially help your business operations run better with all of your team members feeling like they are part of the bigger picture.
How long do these team building events have to be?
Virtual team building activities can be as short as five minutes, or upwards of an hour or longer. However, your aim should be effectiveness in the event, rather than meeting any particular duration. Sometimes, short and sweet events can have a more positive impact than longer, drawn out events.
Peter Banerjea is Co-founder and CEO of Startup Voyager, a content and SEO agency that helps startups outrank top tier sites without backlinks or technical SEO. As a former leadership coach, he has delivered training and coaching engagements for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. His work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc, Huffpost, Fast Company, Lifehacker and many more major publications.