For many companies, these past few months have been a test drive of work-from-home arrangements. The work-from-home setup presents unique internal challenges that many managers must face for the first time. Whether your dispersed team setup is a temporary or permanent measure, it’s important to design creative virtual team building activities. These will allow your remote employees to feel connected and productive even though they can’t meet face-to-face.
Team building is important, especially during the pandemic
Phone calls, e-mails, and Whatsapp messages aren’t the only way for your team to connect. Nowadays, there are a plethora of tech-based communication tools and channels with countless features, each designed to help teams feel cozier with one another.
Through thoughtful, well-designed, and well-implemented virtual team building sessions, you can keep morale high and increase trust among teammates, which in turn increases productivity. Otherwise, virtual team building for work is just another excuse to chat and have meaningful conversations.
Here are a few virtual team building ideas to make remote work in the time of COVID-19 less isolating.
Funny icebreaker question sessions
Team building is all about getting to know each other, and what better way to do that than through fun games and icebreakers? All you need to do is prepare a few thoughtful questions and take turns answering.
It’s better if the questions are personalized. Like if you know a team member practices magic in his free time, you can ask him what his favourite trick is—and then get him to show it to you! If you guys are still getting to know each other, here are some virtual team icebreakers that will help you spark conversation.
The deserted island scenario
You can also spice things up by making members play a simple game. The deserted island scenario is an easy example of a fun thinking exercise for small to medium-sized groups.
Imagine your team is on a deserted island with seven objects of your choice, but each person can only choose three. After you’ve given them some time to think, ask each one to share their answers. You’d be surprised with the strategies they come up with!
Collaborative brainstorming sessions
Some video conferencing tools and team communication platforms have team-building features you can use right out of the box. Toasty, for example, makes it possible for you to host a question-and-answer or ice-breaker session within the app itself.
The feature Group Response can be used for brainstorming ideas as it prompts small group discussions throughout the session.
You can present a problem or objective for the brainstorming session, like coming up with fun team building ideas, and divide the team into smaller groups to discuss. Toasty’s Group Response feature will provide different prompts to help teams ideate. Once the discussions are done, teams can share their ideas and vote on the best one.
Collaborative sessions don’t have to be limited to work purposes—they’ve given rise to collective poems, short stories, and other works of art.
We recommend having a dedicated channel for personal team updates on a communication platform of your choice. Slack, for example, is popular with teams.
Share photos of your day and a one-sentence update about how you’re feeling or what you’ll be working on. This exercise is good for understanding your team’s state of mind at the moment, promoting openness, and coming up with solutions
You can send images of anything, but choosing a theme can make the answers more synchronized and facilitate deeper discussion. Here are some ideas:
- Interesting things you encounter during the week
- A meal you’re enjoying at home
- Messy desk inspiration
- A show you’re watching during the quarantine
You can even prompt games through the thread by asking people to spell out their favourite books or movies by only using emojis.
Collaborate on a team playlist
Music is a great way to connect with others.
Create a team playlist on Spotify or Youtube that everyone can contribute to—or simply ask one person (with a premium account, of course) to jot down each person’s song and add them to the list. If you have an exceptionally large team, then consider sorting everyone into smaller groups so that they can each make their own playlists.
Everyone can listen together while they work to simulate working in the same office—it could help promote a feeling of solidarity and help with feelings of isolation. You could even set a theme from the beginning (for example: songs that make you feel happy) and then ask employees to share why they chose their song.
Finding out a teammate’s favourite 90’s grunge anthem is yours as well gives you two something to talk about.
Virtual games or online video game sessions
So you can’t play laser tag, how about Mobile Legends, Super Smash Brothers, or PUBG instead? Chances are that several members of your team enjoy mobile games in their spare time, and team games could be a great way for employees to connect outside of a work setting.
You can even host a tournament and provide an award, because who doesn’t love a little friendly competition? Video games can provide hours of classic team bonding and virtual fun.
If virtual gaming isn’t an option, you can try some simpler games that don’t require so much investment. For example, you can round people up in a conference call and play a rousing game of Two Truths And A Lie. Or, you could get the blood flowing again by getting people to get up off their chairs and do a round of virtual charades. The possibilities for online gaming are endless.
Memes of the week
Memes are enjoyable for the young and the young-at-heart.
Using the same idea of having a communication channel as a virtual watercooler, you can create another thread for employees to share relatable images and funny memes they encounter around the internet.
At the end of the week, you can all vote for the best meme or the one that made you laugh the loudest, and give the person who shared it a small award. This builds positive feelings among team members and provides an avenue for everyone—no matter the rank or division— to be comfortable with each other.
Who knows, maybe your boss ends up sending the funniest one?
Fill out bingo templates over video
There are tons of bingo templates floating around on the internet, ranging from “How you’re dealing during the quarantine” to “Which foods have you tried before” to “Zodiac sign bingo”. Fill out bingo templates together—they take less than five minutes—and share among the team to learn more about one another.
This is a good way to passively bond with each other, and it’s always fun to see everyone’s answers.
What’s outside your window?
Since everyone’s calling in from a different spot, it would be a great type of show-and-tell to ask everyone to share their view from a nearby window.
This gives other team members a literal peek into that person’s life. Maybe it’s nighttime in that part of the world. Or maybe it’s snow season over there. All these little facts are enlightening and give members a topic for conversation.
Ask me anything
Without seeing each other every day, your team may not have the chance to ask questions frequently. This is a good activity to help everyone get comfortable with you. After all, you’re building a team here! You need your team to be comfortable with you to get them to trust you.
So host an “ask me anything” session, with no real program necessary—just a good chit-chat and an open-mic environment.
Personal facts guessing game
They say first impressions last, but there’s nothing like a personal facts game to put those initial judgments in their place.
Here’s how it works: get team members to send you a personal fact about themselves through chat (a direct message, of course). Once you have all the facts, read them out loud and have the team guess whom the fact belongs to.
Two truths and a lie
“Two truths and a lie” is another hilarious getting-to-know-you game. Each person shares three facts about themselves, where two are truths and one is a lie. Members can get really creative here and try to trick people into choosing the wrong lie just for kicks.
Nobody is like me…
This is a more straightforward sharing session. You can get each person to finish the sentence “Nobody is like me…” to hear about their special quirks. You might have a teammate who can down 5,000 calories in one day! You never know, so it’s a good thing to ask.
Finish the sentence
This is just like “Nobody is like me…” except you have the freedom to choose the statement. You can say any sentence that the team has to complete, such as “I can’t stop laughing when…” or “When it’s midnight I crave…” The more obscure the sentence, the more interesting answers you’ll get.
Adventurous Angy and Zippy Zack
Remembering names is a tricky thing. When introducing people, Adventurous Angy and Zippy Zack could be just the thing.
In the game, everyone has to state their name and add an adjective that starts with the same first letter (e.g. Adventurous Angy). The next person has to repeat the previous person’s name, and add his or hers. The third person has to recite both the first and second person’s name, add his or hers, and so on. The order can be decided by the time people logged into the room.
18 and under
Do you have an interesting childhood story you share at every cocktail party? Well, here’s your chance to share it front and center!
Simply take turns naming one thing you accomplished when you were a child (by definition, that’s 18 years old and younger). Some of their accomplishments might surprise you.
Peek into each other’s homes
Just like showing people what’s outside your window, you can have members share parts of their home with you—sort of like a virtual version of MTV’s Cribs.
It doesn’t need to be the whole home, just a segment is fine. It might help if you add a theme, like your current work scenario or your favourite hangout spot in the house.
Everyone loves movie night! Plus, the shared experience gives your members something to talk about the next time around.
You can purchase and download a movie, then stream it through a video conference call so everyone can watch it together. Make sure to keep the chatbox open so team members can comment and react in real time!
While getting together at an actual coffee shop is out of the question, virtual conversations are also enhanced with caffeine. Have everyone brew their favourite cup of joe, and get members to share their favourite beans and brewing method.
If your members aren’t into coffee, then they can share their favourite drink in the chat as well.
Mealtimes are meant to be shared, but this might not be possible since everyone’s in isolation. The solution: virtual lunch! Host an open-to-everyone virtual lunch every week or so, and get everyone to casually chit-chat over a meal.
Tired of giving tours of what’s in your home at the moment? Maybe you can mix things up a little and share some photos of a memorable experience instead.
Picture sharing is a really easy and fun way to tell stories and learn more about others. Allowing team members to talk about their personal lives gives everyone something to bond over.
Indoor scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are not just reserved for Easter eggs. You can use it as a fun community-building activity as well!
All you need to do is create a list of tasks that members can finish indoors—strike a fun yoga pose in an unlikely space, for example—and have members take pictures of themselves doing it. Once everyone’s done, host a con-call and get everyone to share their experience.
Name that throwback
Local pubs are putting trivia nights on hold, but that doesn’t mean you can’t host your own version. You can get your members together and play a game called Name That Throwback!
All you have to do is make a playlist of old school songs—the theme and decade is all up to you—and have members name the song. Members can “buzz” by typing an “x” on the chat. Whoever typed it first, gets to answer.
Tell us your life story…in six words. That’s what this activity is all about. Inspired by Hemmingway’s famous (and sad) six-word story, For sale: baby shoes, never worn. The six-word memoir game is a fun way to get members to creatively and succinctly express their own stories.
Jimmy Fallon made virtual reality Pictionary a thing on his late night show, and it’s certainly hilarious to watch. You probably don’t have any AR/VR technology on you at the moment, but you can definitely recreate this game through simple video conferencing.
Create visual prompts, split your members into teams (you can create separate chat groups too, if you’d like), and have them choose the “artist.” The artist should have some sort of canvas they can show on-screen (it can be digital screen sharing too, if that’s possible) and as he/she draws, members will guess what it is. Just like a regular Pictionary!
The mechanics for visual charades are exactly the same as Pictionary, but instead of guessing a drawing, members need to guess a person’s charade. Not only will this give participants an excuse to come out of their shell and act silly, it will also get members to interact with each other in a fun and engaging way. Arguably, it’s easier than virtual Pictionary as there are fewer props involved.
Tips for a successful virtual team building
Before you start planning your next virtual team building, here are a few tips to make sure that everything goes without a hitch.
First, within your team, you should assign roles:
- Timekeeper: to ensure the program goes according to schedule
- Tech support: to handle any technical issues
- Conversation assistant: for live streams, to keep track of the chatbox for messages
Second, you should make the most out of online tools. There is a whole range of free tools available online, and some useful paid tools as well. Virtual team building for work is going to be the status quo for a while, so you might want to consider making a small investment.
A paid subscription to a video conferencing tool, for example, will allow you to host video conferences for any number of people for an unlimited amount of time. A poll tool can also help you get feedback from team members. And a live interaction platform can help you engage members through these icebreakers and team-building activities.
Toasty is our new tool for online interaction, and it can help groups converse with each other throughout virtual team-building. How? By providing ready-made team-building activities, so you can set a session up in less than 3 minutes.