Amid the coronavirus pandemic, more and more businesses are making the transition to working from home. However, it can be challenging to maintain a collaborative and engaging company culture when everyone located in different places, sometimes even in different time zones. When employees are working in the same location, it’s easier to form connections with their colleagues — they have water cooler conversations, ask questions, or go out to lunch together. But while remote workers may not get the same face-to-face interactions that in-office teams experience, that doesn’t mean they have to feel disconnected from one another. Fortunately, video conference tools that most remote teams use on a regular basis make it easy to connect virtually and bond with your team members.
Virtual team building activities have the power to make your remote team members feel more connected, engaged, appreciated, and happier at work. Because working from home is a new concept to many people, it’s important to encourage team bonding and make it a priority. Remote socializing can be anything from a team group chat where people can post funny stories or photos of what’s going on in their day to a company-wide music playlist so everyone can share what they’re listening to. To make your remote work experience as successful as possible, we’ve collected a list of virtual team icebreakers and team building activities for work you can do with your employees to strengthen relationships while working from home.
Virtual Team Icebreakers
One of the easiest ways for team members to form tighter bonds is with icebreaker games that are designed to loosen people up in social settings. Office icebreaker games are typically short and simple activities that help employees get to know each other on a more personal level. When working remotely, you can turn to these fun virtual team building icebreakers to warm up any meeting and encourage team camaraderie.
Rose, Thorn, and Bud
Start your virtual meeting by having every team member share one or two roses — any positives in your life right now, things that are going well, what’s making you happy or what you’re grateful for. Next, ask them to share a thorn. Thorns are challenges or issues you are facing. Each person can finish with a bud. A bud is something you have to look forward to. Roses, thorns, and buds can be work or non-work related. These discussions can be a positive experience that creates a lot of optimism and energy among the team.
Personal Facts Guessing Game
Get to know your employees better with this fun icebreaker guessing game. First, the manager or team leader will ask each team member to share personal or fun facts about themselves. These facts will be compiled into a document that is shared with each individual on the team. Next to each fact will be an empty column where each employee will have to guess which team member the fact belongs to. This fun activity can also take place live in a group video conference. The facilitator will have the sheet shared on their screen while employees try to guess the answers.
Once all the guesses have been submitted, the facts will be revealed so that team members can see how well they guessed. Not only is this icebreaker game fun, but it’s a great way to develop successful team cohesion and camaraderie.
Two Truths and a Lie
Like the personal facts icebreaker game, two truths and a lie helps remote workers get to know their team members better. In this virtual game, each person shares three statements about themselves: two truths and one that is false. The team can take turns to guess what’s true and what the lie is. After everyone has made their guesses, the speaker reveals their lie. Then, give team members the option to ask follow-up questions about any crazy statements!
Share a Snapshot
Sharing pictures is a great icebreaker to help your remote team bond. Set aside a designated time, perhaps at the beginning of a team meeting once a week, for your team members to share one personal photo that’s unrelated to work. This photo can include their pets, hobbies, home decor items, family members, outfits, etc. Then have the team member explain the picture and why they chose it. This virtual team icebreaker can be done in a video call, via email, a Slack channel, or your communication channel of choice. Remember that allowing team members to share pieces of their personal life makes teamwork more fun and is a great team bonding activity.
Before a virtual meeting, send each team member a link to complete personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This assessment will help each person figure out whether they’re introverted or extroverted, feelers or thinkers, judgers or perceivers, and whether they take in information through sensing or intuition. Getting to know your team members on a deeper level will help remote workers bond and learn how to communicate in the most effective way possible.
Upload Fun Virtual Backgrounds
Go into your video conference settings and see what background options are available. Choose one that showcases your personality, and encourage your team members to do the same. Although it is only a small change, it’s an easy way to spark conversation and a lot more fun than a plain backdrop or the view of your home office space behind you. Choose from our list of fun virtual backgrounds for video conferences to easily upgrade your home decor or make your friends laugh.
Virtual Team Building Activities
Team building activities are a fun and creative way to get your team connecting and working together. Whether you spend your time playing a formal game of trivia or having a casual chat over a virtual cup of coffee, it’s still possible to have meaningful interactions with your coworkers online. Use these virtual team building activities and games to strengthen relationships, build trust, and have fun with your remote workers.
Desert Island Scenario
In this remote team building activity, group members are given a scenario where they’re stranded on a deserted island with seven objects — but they can only choose three. Make these tools or objects as obscure or challenging as possible so that each individual is forced to think creatively and use critical thinking and planning skills. You can do this virtual game individually or in small groups so they can collaborate on which items they want to pick.
Virtual team building activities like this encourages remote employees to work together and can lead to healthy competition and excitement within the group. Once everyone has chosen their three items, resume the meeting and have everyone share which items they picked and explain why. After each speaker has shared their objects and answered any questions about their selections, give everyone an additional few minutes to decide if they want to change any of their items based on what they heard from their teammates. If anyone changed their list, ask them to explain why. By the end of this team bonding activity, everyone should find themselves more open to new ideas and perspectives.
A birth map is another fun virtual team activity that lets your remote team members learn something new about each other. To get started on this exercise, share an image of a world map in your group chat. You can use Google maps or an online whiteboard to make a collaborative map. Then, invite everyone to place a sticker on their place of birth. Encourage everyone to share what they love most about the place they were born. You can even ask employees to go into more detail, such as how long they lived there, why they moved, or if they’ve gone back to visit. This an excellent icebreaker activity that allows remote employees to get to know each other better.
Group Coffee Breaks
A virtual coffee break with small groups or the whole team is an easy way to catch up with the people you work with. Schedule 15 minutes every day or week for folks on the team to join a video conference call together. Use those few minutes to chit-chat, catch up, and enjoy a virtual cup of coffee or tea. Your conversations can be work-related or be purely for fun, just like they might be if you were having a face-to-face coffee break at the office.
10 Common Things
This virtual team building activity is a fun way to help your remote workers bond and create a positive company culture. Divide your team into small groups and ask them to spend a few minutes coming up with 10 things they have in common. The ten common things can be business oriented or more personal. The list can be as simple as “we all like pizza” to something more specific like, “we were all hired in 2018.” Save time for each group of remote team members to share their list with the broader team on an online whiteboard or video chat. This virtual team building exercise is a fun and unique way to start a brainstorming session and get your team excited to work together.
Gather a list of topics like music, sports, movies, or other types of trivia that may interest your time. Ask everyone to send a list of categories that they’re interested in ahead of time, so the game is fair. A host should organize everyone into smaller teams and reads out the questions. Participants must answer as a team, and each correct answer wins points. The team with the most number of correct answers wins. Don’t forget to tell everyone to bring their favorite drink or snack before the trivia game begins!
Treat your Zoom calls and online meetings like a school spirit week with fun theme days. Let everyone suggest themes — like college t-shirt day, decade day, or favorite movie day — and choose the most popular ones to plan with your team. Encourage them to get creative with their themed outfit and take a fun screenshot together each day. Afterward, turn your screenshots into personalized products like throw pillows, photo mugs, or wall art.
Online Scavenger Hunt
Boost morale when working from home with an online scavenger hunt. This online game’s goal is to bring the team together around a common goal and have fun. This team building activity uses a variety of skills, strategic thinking, and problem-solving methods to find the hidden items. A facilitator will come up with a list of objects each virtual team will need to find in their homes. Have your team members turn off their cameras while searching for the items. The first person to return with the item, turn on their camera, and visibly show the item gets 10 points. Everyone else that finds the items and shows it on camera receives 3 points. Decide as a group how many rounds you’re playing, and the team with the most points wins the scavenger hunt.
Virtual Happy Hour
Stay connected with your remote employees with virtual happy hours. You can use this time to play online games together or to catch up on non-work related topics. Let the conversation flow naturally or bring icebreaker questions to get the team engaged. No matter how you spend your virtual happy hour, remember that it’s an opportunity to connect with coworkers and create a strong team dynamic while working from home.
The Perfect Vacation
The Perfect Vacation virtual bonding game is a great way to develop your team’s listening skills. After assigning partners, each duo gets on a personal video conferencing call and describes to their partner their perfect vacation — if they had unlimited time and money. After everyone is done, all the online team members get together on a call and try to describe their partner’s dream vacation as accurately as possible. This forces each team member to really listen to each other and might even realize they share similar interests.
Weekly Virtual Game Session
At the beginning of each week, send out a message to the online team asking them to vote on their favorite group virtual game. There are plenty of free online games that are perfect for remote teams to play together. Get everyone’s input and block off time at some point during the week for everyone who’s interested to get together and play as a group.
Final Thoughts on Virtual Team Building Activities
There are many ways that you can help remote employees get to know each other and build stronger connections. Whether it’s spending time playing games together or catching up over a virtual happy hour, these activities will help your remote employees get more out of their jobs and feel more comfortable collaborating on upcoming projects. They’ll help team leaders and managers get to know their employees better and feel more comfortable leading them, too.
Use these virtual team building activities and games to set the stage before an important project, to create better relationships with the rest of the team, or just have some fun for the sake of it. The bottom line is to keep your team aligned during these uncertain times and help each other out, both at a personal and professional level.
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