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.
"87% of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing"
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 that would solve the purpose.
Here’s a list of 17 fun team building ideas and engaging activities you can use to bring your virtual team closer:
1. 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 team 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 at a stretch!
2. 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 ft 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. Once all discussions have finished, get onto a team video chat and discuss the results.
Activities and exercises like this force team members see each other as teammates and can lead to healthy competition and excitement within the 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.
3. Personal Facts Guessing Game
The personal facts guessing game is a great way to learn your team member’s interests outside of work.
Here’s a step by step guide:
- In the first step, the manager asks each team member to share some personal facts with them.
- These facts will then be compiled onto a document that’s shared with each individual in the team.
- Next to each personal fact there’s an empty column where each 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.
4. 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.
Teams are emailed a Monday morning trivia quiz with responses due that night and results sent the next morning. That schedule is totally customisable.
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. The thrill of pub trivia without the two-hour time commitment and logistics.
The contests are super customisable, 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 its a good fit for your team.
5. 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.
6. Bucket List— 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. 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 realise how you’re very similar.
Who knows, maybe a coworker could help you clear a few things from your own list!
7. Building A Story-Line
Everyone loves a good story, right?
Building a story-line 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 and start the process like this:
- 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 story-line 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!
8. Show & 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.
9. 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.
It may even prepare you for a problem your business could actually face in the future!
10. 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!
11. The Perfect Vacation
This is another short activity that’s great for developing your team’s listening skills.
Participants are asked to grab a partner each.
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 realise how both of you share similar interests.
12. Two Truths, One Lie
Two truths and one lie is a classic icebreaker activity.
Each team member presents three statements about themselves: two truths and one that is false.
The team can then take turns to recognise 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!
13. 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 recognise the most correct emojis is declared the winner.
For a fun twist, offer prizes to the top 3 best ones!
14. 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!
15. 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 source materials. Not everyone reads rapidly, and you need to make sure that each employee can keep up. Start with short readings and 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!
16. 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 realise 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.
17. 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.
If you you’d like to check out more virtual team building activities, GEM Events offer endless virtually-hosted options for your remote team. Get in touch with us to find out more.