Working remotely can be as freeing as it’s flexible, and most of us have had a taste of it by now. What’s missing though, is the office camaraderie you’ve gotten accustomed to when everyone’s in the same physical workspace. Remote team building becomes all the more important when distances grow.
Luckily, there are many team building activities that can be conducted online. The best part is that it can go on for however long you like so long as everyone’s available and able to join in.
This blog’s going to talk about remote team building, the challenges surrounding it and a few ideas to activate your creativity!
1. Challenges of Remote Team Bonding
The biggest challenge of remote team bonding is also the simplest one; forgetting to regularize it. Many companies think work discussions in a virtual office suffices for interaction. But the truth is, we’re conditioned to want to find something in common with the people we work with, and connect at a deeper level. Remote team building is an effortless way to cement this relationship. Other challenges include:
1.1 Insufficient Time
When the focus is on finishing things on time, you’ll hardly have any to spare for games or team building exercises. Your mind would be on the priority so that you don’t have to stay back late, log in early or work weekends when deadlines and targets are at stake.
1.2 Uneven Involvement
When you accidentally exclude some members, they end up feeling undervalued or insignificant, which impacts them more than you think.
1.3 Workplace conflict
Remote team bonding becomes awkward if two or more members do not get along with each other. Workplace conflict impact the rest of the team.
Remote team building activities are designed for group participation by default. This can overwhelm introverts who perform better solo or in smaller-sized cohorts.
People on a deadline are likely to be averse to staying back for something they consider a frivolous pastime..
Now that we’ve looked at a few challenges associated with remote team building, it’s time to explore the importance of cultivating and reinforcing the right remote work culture.
2. Importance of Remote Work Culture
The distributed team setup works differently to a collocated team. Remotely distributed goes three ways;
The team’s members are all in the same location as the office OR
Everyone is in different geographies. There may or may not be office space that serves as headquarters.
With businesses experimenting with a hybrid workforce, there are even attendance percentages where some members belonging to the same department choose where and when they work remotely.
Whether your team belongs to the first, second or third category, building a culture that connects and engages people is important. A strong remote work culture encourages collaboration over competition and unites teams no matter where they are physically. It places emphasis on mutual trust, support and motivation.
The right remote work culture aligns your people to organizational values and beliefs. It also plays a crucial role in demonstrating to candidates what the company looks for when recruiting, and enables prospects to carefully consider if they’re the right fit for you, and vice versa.
Culture-building is an intentional activity companies undertake to make sure they hire, onboard and retain top performing employees. It informs and includes everyone in change and governance decisions, and establishes context to conversations. The more engaged the workforce, the more likely they are to have a reason to look forward to maintaining a rapport with their managers and colleagues.
3. Virtual Icebreakers, Games and Activities
It’s time to Go Big or Go Home. Oh wait, my bad, we’re already home! This shouldn’t stop us from having a little fun though; so here are a few icebreakers to kick off your remote team building;
3.1 Wheeldecide [Free]
The Wheeldecide is a classic spin-the-wheel icebreaker. You can either create your own wheel with a set of questions to ask at the next virtual meet, or use one of their templates. I tried my hand at their “what should I do in quarantine” wheel and got gardening as my answer. I’m sure my potted plants will rejoice at this. Kidding aside, it’s a great virtual activity to get everyone warmed up.
3.2 The JAM Storytime
JAM, or Just-A-Minute is a recitation where everyone takes turns to share their most embarrassing or memorable moment in the past year. You can time this to under a minute so that everyone gets a go and there’s plenty of time to run through all the activities you have planned.
3.3 Dream destination
Have everyone share where they’d like to be if they got a one-way ticket. Simple and relaxing!
3.4 Guess Who I Am?
This is a simple guessing game where the meeting facilitator (or really anybody who’d like to moderate this) describes members. Remember to keep it respectful when describing people! You can choose to talk about the person’s favorite color, celebrity or sportsperson, beverage or primary skill or hobby to make it easier to guess.
3.5 The Unicorn
The unicorn refers to that star employee who has performed exceptionally well in that particular month. It’s a version of employee-of-the-month or virtual kudos. It’s a great ice breaker that lets everyone know who is doing well.
3.6 Virtual cookoff
Turn a lunch catch up into a cookoff where everyone has to make a dish they know. You can make it interesting with chits pairing coworkers for a recipe swap. Whoever is paired has to share recipes they want the other person to cook and present on the day of the cookoff.
3.7 Virtual team building bingo
Online bingo is a fun team building activity where remote employees can play collectively. Teambuilding offers a free game board that you can use.You just need to send your colleagues the link , download the image and you’re good to start!
3.8 Virtual escape room team building
Escape rooms have become popular because it sends everyone into a virtual fantasy. It also reveals how good the remote team is working together to find and crack the clues. You can select a theme for your team size and turn the hour into a super-sleuthing, ghostbusting or murder mystery!
3.9 Virtual Team building Kit
Kraftylabs has come up with a virtual team building kit that will leave your remote employees wanting more. Currently, they provide workshops on soap, candle and terrarium making, mixology, global coffee tasting, Yoga and meditation. There’s a two-step reservation process where you fill out a form and enter in suitable dates and activities you’d like to enroll as a group in. Each person will receive a kit based on what they sign up for. For example, those who opt for soap making will receive microwave-safe utensils, molds and essence oils.
3.10 The Beard Is Weird
Don’t let the word “beard” fool you, because this is a game that both men and women play! All they need to do is wear their hair (or beard) in a ridiculously goofy style. Bonus points if you have enough hair on your head to style into an impromptu beard. The weirdest beard wins a beer, or the Most Beard-able Employee award!
4. Virtual Team Building Activities
The main purpose of digital team building activities is to help coworkers and managers connect with each other. It demonstrates that work can be challenging, interesting and fun all at once if you cultivate the right mindset before rolling up your sleeves.
Team building activities for conference calls improve existing team dynamics by enabling employees to put aside any personal differences. Put simply, it encourages conversation, builds rapport, and lets employees collaborate to come up with solutions to a challenge.
Here are a few team building activities that answer the question of how to make virtual meetings fun!
4.1 Jungle Jumble
I like to call this one a jungle jumble for two reasons. One, my mum used to tell me my room resembles a jungle whenever I couldn’t find something. And two, I like wordplay! But in all seriousness, this game is about spotting the differences. It lets you know how observant the team is.
Everyone’s camera should be turned on for this. The rules are simple. Everyone gets thirty seconds to visually take in each other’s room or workstation. Next, switch off your camera and move one item around the room to another location. It can be a book, charger or whiteboard. Make sure that the item you’re moving is within sight of the camera. You can set a time limit of a few minutes to find a new location before turning your camera back on. Whoever is quickest in guessing the item moved and points out where it is wins! Bonus points if they can guess most of their coworker’s rearranged items.
4.2 Word of the day
Want to know how to make virtual meetings fun and get people to pay attention to what you’re saying? Announce at the start of a meeting that you’ll be slipping in an unusual word into the conversation. The participants have to guess what that word is, and where you used it. You can opt to give them a hint. If they guess right, they have to exclaim, ‘word of the day!’ it can be something as silly as ‘Hobbit’ or ‘Ducati’ or anything else.
4.3 Trivia hour
How well do you think you know your coworker? Find out in trivia hour! Digital team building activities aren’t complete without a quiz designed to help your coworkers discover something about the people they interact with. You can create the trivia questions from employee records, social media profiles(such as their Twitter account and conversations you’ve had with them in the past. They would have mentioned a favorite band’s concert they went to, or their talent in arts, music and creativity.
You can upload the quiz link while on the call and encourage attendees to respond before ending the meeting. You can share answers in the next meeting or upload the results in a group chat to see who got most of the answers, and therefore aced the quiz!
4.4 100 Point Puzzle
We had to work through riddles to answer the final question, and had lots of fun in the process! While neither team got the final answer right, I would highly recommend the experience because we got pretty competitive, but found that we worked best when we worked together!
4.5 Giftbox meets
Who says you can only exchange gifts if the office is playing Secret Santa? You can always organize a gift swap and set aside an unboxing meeting just to have everyone open it up once they all receive their gifts!
Set aside a budget, pick chits and get your coworkers to send a thoughtful item to the person they pick. The only difference is, you’re doing this on camera and can virtually show appreciation! You can even record the session and upload it on the group channel or on the company’s YouTube channel to increase viewership and subscribers!
4.6 Social potluck
You can recreate the lunch hour vibes online through a potluck special. Have everyone prepare a dish. Or if someone you now is the type to burn down the kitchen while making an aioli, let them order in!
The important thing is that people catch up informally. Encourage coworkers to swap recipes for the next potluck and have someone else from the same team try making it!
Want to start small before going big? You can’t go wrong with a Pictionary game (or will you?). Play it the same way you would in-office. Pair people off, use an IPad slate, large book or whiteboard and put your artistic skills to good use!
The moderator gives out ideas on private chats and the team has to draw it out for the other team to guess. Whichever team gets the maximum number of guesses right wins!
4.8 Karaoke or talent night
Host a karaoke bar or a talent night every few months. Ask around and find out who amongst the team has a great singing voice, plays an instrument, models in their spare time or can put together a great Zumba flash mob!
Give the team a heads up as to when you’ll be conducting this so that it leaves them with sufficient time for rehearsals. You can delegate the coordination efforts to the team to deliver a performance to remember! A team that lets their hair down every once in a while can stay productive and engaged at work!
4.9 Giphster Hipster
Who rules in the memes department at work? Here’s their chance to win with the funniest, most relatable remote work memes! As an inside joke, everyone on the team can change their profile picture or status to reflect this meme until the next meeting!
What makes virtual group games fun is that there’s something to look forward to during and after playing. You can make things even more interesting with some creative incentivizing. For example, the winner gets a wall of fame listing out how many meetings they’ve aced, or a courier courtesy of their department. It can be a care hamper or a gift card sent via email.
5. Virtual Retreat Activity Ideas
Hosting a virtual retreat over a venue-based one has a few benefits, which are:
- You don’t have to reserve a venue and bear expenses to fly everyone to the location.
- With sufficient notice, everyone can clear their schedules to attend.
- The props for games and activities are readily available. You can get creative with things lying around the house!
- You can strategize in breakout rooms and make sure no one from opposing teams overhear you!
Let me list out a few virtual retreat activity ideas that you can try out;
5.1 The Houdini
Named after the famous Hungarian escape artist and illusionist Harry Houdini, the Houdini is a fun magic show that you can organize by video conferencing in a magician. You can hire a hypnotist or artist to entertain everyone. Better still, if there’s a houdini in your midst, why not give them the floor to do a few party tricks to impress their fellow coworkers?
5.2 What’s your spirit animal?
The spirit animal is an online quiz which contains a set of questions you have to answer. You’ll get your spirit animal at the end of it. Be warned, there’s lots of questions to get through, so play this only if there’s enough time for everyone to come back to you with their answers!
Everyone can take a virtual trip around the world. The game is to move around on a virtual map which takes you to different locations.there will be a question about the place. You’ll be awarded points based on your speed and general knowledge. The team with the most points wins the Team Traveler tag!
5.4 Oscar De La Retreat
What beats combining the Oscars with one of the world’s most celebrated fashion designers? You can organize your own fashion show and have everyone strut their stuff, man or woman!
This game encourages you to get creative in your outfit. It can take a while longer than the other games and ideas, so you can limit the prep time to make sure everyone has their limelight moment in their creations! You can take a vote on whose dress takes home the Oscar!
Come up with a set of words related to tea, such as chai, latte, leaf, kettle or brew. Challenge everyone to work the chosen word into the conversations online during the hour. Whoever is first to correctly identify the word wins. This virtual retreat game is also a good exercise to determine if everyone’s paying attention.
If everyone’s up for a social drink, throw in a boozy game. Come up with a list of dog breeds that are difficult to pronounce. Let everyone down a drink while you show them a picture of the dog. Whoever guesses most or all of the breeds right wins an extra shot!
Those who don’t drink or prefer not to when playing can still play this guessing game. They’ll just have the advantage of not tripping over their own words!
6. FAQ About Virtual Team Building
6.1 How do you build teamwork remotely?
Teamwork hinges on rapport. The better team members know each other, the more likely they are to want to work together and hangout. The best way to build teamwork is to hold remote team building activities regularly. This frees people from inhibitions and enables them to let loose.
6.2 How do remote teams have fun?
The most important thing to any remote team building activity you try out is that everyone genuinely finds it fun. The golden rule is to involve members in deciding the number and type of activities they’d like to play. Be open to suggestions and take a consensus so that everyone feels like contributing more ideas to future events.
6.3 How do you bond with a remote team?
Leverage remote collaboration software and create private and group channels.Add team members to it and make sure you don’t leave anyone out. Set reminders on your calendar or app to check in and moderate the channel. Conversations can happen at any time, but the important thing is that no one’s remarks or comments go unnoticed or are disrespectful.
6.4 How do you make a team call fun?
You can make team calls fun with icebreakers. You can even have everyone wear the same color when on call, or a party hat or feather boa. The more ridiculous it is the better. It gives everyone something to smile at.
7. To Wrap Things Up..
The key to pulling off successful remote team building activities, is to be consistent about it. Owing to work priorities, time crunches and looming deadlines, employee engagement takes second place. This proves detrimental in the wrong run, because you end up with employees who feel disconnected, stressed and ready to crash under the pressure.
Remote team building activities like the ones suggested in this post will help your employees strengthen the rapport they currently share. Start out with icebreakers that set the mood before sending them on scavenger hunts, karaoke bars. And as always, remember not to repeat the same activities. Variety keeps things interesting. After all, anticipation is half the fun!