All teams need activities to create connections and that need is more apparent for remote teams. It can be a challenge to build a good rapport among team members when they are not in the same room or even geographical location. However, team building can be done virtually, which helps strengthen your team.
What Is Virtual Team Building?
When you are working with a remote team it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. However, it is important that team members work well together and are able to collaborate. This is where team building activities and games come in.
These activities and games help a team connect quickly so they can work together better. It is important to have a strategy around virtual team building activities. You can consider some ways to bring a more human connection to your remote team.
Taking some time to incorporate virtual team building games into your routine can have a number of advantages. Some of the benefits of team building activities are:
- better collaboration
- higher employee engagement
- employees feel connected with one another
- reduced turnover rate
- improved productivity
- better remote team communication
You can also achieve these benefits through a workplace mentoring program, including one that is designed for your remote employees. The idea is to create connections and bonds between your employees and your teams.
Let's dive into different ice breakers and virtual team building activities to inspire your next team event.
Ice Breaker Games For New Hires
Onboarding new employees is an exciting time but can also be stressful for the new hire. It can be even more confusing when onboarding remote team members. For that reason, ice breakers are a great way to introduce them to their new colleagues and have some fun. Let’s look at six fun ice breaker games for new team members.
Would you rather
Who says adults can’t act like children sometimes? The would-you-rather game is a silly but interesting game to play where someone compares two scenarios and asks participants to decide which one they’d rather be in.
The scenarios that team members come up with can be simple like “would you rather work in-office or remote” or really whacky. Let your imagination tap into your inner child and see how team members respond. It can be interesting to see how people decide between the two options.
Everybody loves a good personality quiz and learning more about themselves. Doing this with your team in a light-hearted setting can be an interesting way to explore the personalities of your team members and yourself.
Who is it?
Another great way to learn about those you work with is by guessing their unique quirks and hobbies. Before your meetings, ask everyone to share with you a unique, funny, or unexpected fact about themselves. Randomize the results and show them to your team when the meeting starts. Let everyone guess which fact corresponds to each person. It can be a fun icebreaker to learn interesting things about one another.
Share an embarrassing photo
Nothing opens up a conversation more than sharing embarrassing photos from our childhood. We may want to avoid the early teenage years that we all look back on and cringe, but cute baby photos are always a great way to generate an “awwww” from your co-workers and tell a good story behind the photo.
Ask team members to share with you a funny photo of them and then create a slide show using slide templates to go through during the meeting. It’s an effective way to kick-start a lively conversation.
You can learn a lot about a person by the types of emojis they use. In this fun ice breaker for new employees ask them an interesting question and ask them to respond with an emoji. It can be fun to explore why they chose the emoji they did.
Alternatively, you can ask all meeting attendees to share their most frequently used emoji. It can be funny to see what people share and start interesting conversations around why an emoji is their most used one.
“Ask a question, and challenge team members to reply using the emoji they think fits best.”
Share your most listened to work playlist
Our music tastes make up a large part of our identity. Have team members share their favourite playlists, or albums and explain why. It can uncover similarities between coworkers and be a great future ice breaker for coworkers.
Ice Breakers For Reoccurring Team Meetings
Daily stand-ups, weekly check-ins, monthly town halls - all of these meetings are important but can become monotonous as we get used to attending them. For that reason, starting these meetings with a team-building activity can shake things up and engage attendees. In a remote setting, there’s no shortage of virtual activities to test out. Let’s look at three.
Rose and thorn
Start each meeting by asking each other to share one positive experience from the week (the rose), and one challenge they faced (the thorn.) This is a good opportunity to show empathy and encourage employees who are facing a challenging situation. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the wins of everyone.
These small moments bring everyone into the conversation and remind them that every team member has a unique experience. It gets people thinking about how they can help one another as well as understand what gets them excited or stressed. It builds empathy and meaningful relationships between team members.
Ask out-of-the-box thinking questions
Get your team’s thinking before each meeting by asking “lateral questions” that lead your team to explore new ways of thinking and making connections between ideas. Doing this is a good way to engage team members, shake off cobwebs from previous meetings and bring a little spontaneity to the workday.
Adam Hempenstall, CEO at Better Proposals shares that they ask “ice breaker” questions at the beginning of every department meeting. At the beginning of each virtual meeting, one team member comes up with an ice breaker question and everyone take turns in responding to it.
"We ask something completely random that is bound to get some interesting answers, such as “What foods do you mix that rarely go together?” We like it because we’re always guaranteed to have a laugh. The questions and the answers are really random sometimes and it’s a lot of fun. Also, it’s a great way to learn more about your team."
Current events debrief
At the beginning of each meeting, it can be helpful to acknowledge the current state of the world. Sometimes there are world events that affect some individuals more than others. To acknowledge difficult events and create a space for people to talk about them if even for a couple of minutes, can show employees that they have a community that will listen to them.
Likewise, if there’s a holiday or celebration unique to a particular culture it’s important to recognize it and celebrate it with those who observe it. This is critical for building diverse company cultures.
Activities to Build Meaningful Connections Between Co-workers
Ice breakers are great to shake off the nerves of starting a conversation or meeting new people, but building meaningful relationships between team members is the goal. At our organizations, we want strong company cultures that support one another and enjoy working together.
This is even more important for remote or hybrid workplaces where social connections can be more difficult to encourage organically.
For that reason, here are nine virtual team building activities that move beyond the more silly activities and seek to start meaningful conversations.
Group mentoring circles
Group mentoring is a great way to build strong ties between employees and create opportunities for knowledge sharing. More often than not employees go to one another to solve problems and group mentoring creates a space for that to take place.
There are a number of ways to go about organizing virtual group mentoring.
The first way is by having the administrator open the floor for discussion around a business problem they’re all experiencing. They can ask the question “how do we solve X” and give the opportunity for team members to share their thoughts.
Another way to organize group mentoring is by having employees, who are comfortable sharing, outline a problem they’re facing and ask for advice from their peers. This is a great way to encourage peer-to-peer learning as well.
Start a workplace wellness program
A workplace wellness program is an initiative that supports the wellbeing of the employee from a mental, physical, financial and emotional perspective. These initiatives are proven to reduce sick days and absenteeism and increase performance and productivity.
Encouraging employee recognition is important to remote work environments. Sometimes remote team members won’t see how they help their team members because they don’t sit across from them in person. We have to adjust to showing recognition and praise on places like Slack or Microsoft teams.
Have employees do a public shoutout on Slack or Teams to recognize another team member who helped them. These small moments can go a long way in increasing employee wellbeing and commitment to their team. And who wouldn’t want that?
Do you really know me?
A great way to see how well team members know one another and encourage them to share new things is by asking them what they know about each other. Have team members share unexpected facts about one another. Before your next meeting, ask all your teammates to answer three “about me” questions. For example…
- If you could eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
- What’s your favourite vacation spot?
- If you were an animal, what would you be?
- What’s your favourite movie?
When the meeting starts, share the answers and have your teammates try to pair the answers with the right person. It can be a fun way to reaffirm the strong relationships between team members that know each other well as well as help other employees learn about each other.
Recognize the strengths of your teammates
Encourage employees to recognize each other’s strengths and how they’re valuable to the team. During a meeting encourage employees to volunteer to share a bit about how their coworkers helped them in the past, or a strength they’ve seen.
These seemingly small observations can go a long way in encouraging employees and recognize their exemplary character. Doing this will build up the relationship between employees and raise the standard of conduct from the team.
Acknowledge the individual challenges of working from home or remotely
Open up the meeting for employees to recognize the challenges of working remotely or being on a remote team. Doing so will help build empathy between employees and provide valuable feedback to leaders.
Code of Conduct
Before a meeting or event starts it’s a great idea to get an idea of what everyone is hoping for or values. Have team members list what matters to them on a virtual whiteboard. This is great for the beginning of an event or workshop. It sets the tone and reaffirms what people want to get out of it.
Share photos of their workspace or daily walk
Have employees share photos of things they see every day that has meaning to them. They might share a park they walk through every morning with their dog or an office plant that brightens their workspace. Encourage team members to share the things they see every day that bring them joy.
Live working sessions
Just as we had to adapt to working from home and find ways to remain productive so did students. As school shut their doors and zoom classes became the new normal students had to learn how to study effectively online. This led to the rise of virtual study rooms.
“The psychology of mimicry or mirroring makes it easier for us to do something if we are watching someone else do that thing. In other words, watching others study, as you would you see in a library, makes it easier for you to work harder!”
To help our coworkers build a sense of connection with others and remain productive encourage them to start live working session virtual conference calls. This will help hold team members accountable and show that they are part of a team working towards a common goal.
Have all employees share a book they’re currently reading or one of their favourites. They can explain why and what they learned from it. This is a great opportunity to uncover interests that employees have beyond their work and open up new topics for conversation. Discussing literature can lead to a whole host of things.
Likewise, ask what’s on their wish list for books and consider gifting it to them at their birthday or after a successful project. Remembering small things like this can go a long way. Don’t neglect to ask your teams about what’s on their reading list!
Bucket list sharing
Everyone has something they still want to achieve in their lives. Ask your remote employees to name one thing that is still on their bucket list. This activity can help break the ice for teams that are just starting to work together. It helps employees get to know one another and may even lead to friendships, particularly if employees have the same goals.
Virtual activities to get your team laughing
Set up a virtual whiteboard where team members leave notes about shared memories with co-workers. They can relive experiences of #epicfails or funny jokes that had the team roaring with laughter. Recalling these memories helps remind teams why they love working together and encourages them to make more memories to share.
Virtual Meeting Bingo
Courtesy of Pigeonhole live, “The next time before you dial in to a conference call, try distributing bingo cards to your team and seeing who completes a row or diagonal first.”
Darryl Higgins, founder of Athlete Desk, shares his thoughts on using virtual bingo with his team:
"I love this activity because it is absolutely versatile while being interactive. It serves as a fun to-do list for office tasks, and you can mix and match it with other fun activities not work-related. Like it’s namesake, you can also have multiple combinations of winning patterns, which add to the variety aside from the infinite combination of activities."
Mad Libs is a phrasal template word game that consists of one player prompting others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story before reading aloud.
The Tipsy Creative
Jess Munday, the Co-founder of Custom Neon, shares how they got their team out of their comfort zone by participating in a virtual activity by Helen at The Tipsy Creative. Their event was Pinot and Picasso (An online paint and sip tutorial to get the creative juices flowing!)
Here's they did it:
- We created customized hampers for the team.
- All relevant materials were sent prior to the event.
- We contacted Helen at The tipsy creative she gave us some available slots and possible pictures to paint
- We took a vote with the team on what image we'd paint and what date worked best and then we booked it in!
- The event was a huge success and has led us to adopt further creative team building activities
"All employees were sent a kit that included everything they needed to participate in the painting activity. We also included a few goodies, light refreshments and an alcoholic beverage. I liked this activity as it was so far removed from what we usually do. We opted for an abstract picture, so nobody could really go wrong! Even the most introverted of team members got involved and it was awesome to laugh through an activity that didn't require any hierarchy, we were all on an even keel, meaning departmental and locational barriers were brought down."
“I feel like ___”
Give employees a list of random words to describe how they’re feeling and let other employees try and decipher what that means.
“This meme describes ___”
Everybody loves a good meme. Have team members share their most used meme or gif.
My most used emoji
Emojis can tell reveal about a person. Have everyone share their most used emoji and then let others try and explain why they use it the most.
Split your team in half to form two separate teams that will be competing against each other. Decide on a theme (e.g., animals, films, etc). Get everyone to join a video call. Each team member gets a chance to act out a certain object, scene, or movement from them. The first person to get it correct wins a point for their team.
A simple favourite of Mohamed Sehwail, CEO of FullSession.io, Pictionary is guaranteed to get some laughs. All you need is a list of words and a randomizer, a link for a zoom meeting, a stopwatch, and basic drawing skills (although not mandatory).
"Most of us had to draw using our mouse or laptop touchpad. Needless to say, all of the drawings were hilarious and we barely guessed a few words. However, it turned out to be one of the most entertaining, simplest virtual team building activities for us."
Virtual Team Building Activities That Get You Thinking
Virtual escape room
Virtual escape rooms can be just as fun as in-person escape rooms. They can also be just as challenging. The goal is for teams to solve riddles and complete puzzles within a time limit and “escaping the room.” To do so requires collaboration, teamwork and problem solving. It’s a great way to build a team that works well together. Check out this blog for various virtual escape rooms.
What would you do if…?
Share a situation starting with “what would you do if…” and see what your coworkers come up with. This is a good opportunity to see how co-workers would react in difficult situations.
Trivia is always a fun game for remote teams. There are a number of ways to carry this out. If you prefer to do things the old fashioned way, you can create a list of questions and ask them yourself at your own pace. Or, if you'd like to introduce some tech into your trivia, you can use a platform like Kahoot to ask these questions, set the pace, and issue points automatically.
Paul Sherman, CMO of Olive shares why he loves virtual trivia:
"The reason that I favour this event is because it can be held remotely, in-person, or even both - meaning that employees can work together and tackle trivia as a team in spite of physical distance. It's a great way to instil a sense of community and use friendly competition to bring your team together."
Here's how to play:
1. Write up a list of questions - anywhere from 10 to 20 works best.
2. Invite your employees to get into small teams so they can compete amongst each other.
3. Ask the questions manually, or use a trivia platform to ask them for you.
4. Motivate your team to put in the effort by offering a reward to the winners.
Virtual home tour
Similar to the photo-sharing activity, have your employees create a video tour of their homes that they can share with other team members. This type of activity offers teammates the opportunity to see inside the lives and spaces of each other.
This works well for new employees. Having new team members create videos that introduce them to the team is good for establishing an understanding and a feeling of connection. For larger teams, it may be best to have one member show a video each week rather than try to watch all the videos at once.
Erin Zadoorian, CEO at Ministry of Hemp enjoys the virtual home tour activity because it builds empathy with his team:
"It helps us visualize the environment each one of us is in during our daily meetings - making it easier for us to collaborate because it feels as if we know each other on a deeper level. I believe that this really accomplishes the purpose of a team-building activity."
To help your virtual team get comfortable working with each other, consider team building activities that revolve around simulated dilemmas. Customize the challenge to fit your remote team. For example, you can ask your communications team how they would handle a situation that involved your organization being involved in a scandal. This activity can help your remote team exercise their creativity, innovation, and problem-solving muscles.
Remote scavenger hunt
This fun game can be played with your remote team. Simply split your team into different groups. Then, send out a list of items that your remote employees need to find. Groups can divide up the items among each other and use their mobile devices during the search to stay connected. The first group to send in a photo of the item gets the point.
Online game War of the Wizards
Grant Clelland from Infiniti Tracking shares that their remote team would play War of the Wizards. The game goes on for 90 minutes and includes activities like escape rooms, puzzle solving, storytelling and world building.
The whole team comes together to do all the activities and bring a war between wizards to rest. The best part about the game was inclusivity. Every individual was actively participating and highly involved in the game throughout the 90 minutes. The game allowed the team to coordinate and think together towards a common goal making it the perfect team building activity.
Additionally, Ryan Nieman CEO at Solitaire.dev stands by the effectiveness of War of the Wizards to engage teams.
"War of the Wizards is by far the most unique online game I've played with my team. It incorporates puzzles, escape rooms and missions for coworkers to complete and bond over. I loved the idea of the game going into detail with story building as it's one of the core emphasis of our business."
Paid Virtual Event Services
To support virtual team building activities there are a lot of great paid services. They’ll have dedicated event hosts to make sure the event is run well and is a great experience for everyone involved. Here are three services to consider and examples of their virtual team building. activities
“Boombox transforms interactions with your coworkers, friends, and family into shared experiences that bring you closer. Whether it’s a moment of awe in a virtual magic show with your team or an intimate Boombox yoga class with friends, experiences that uplift and inspire are what we’re all about.”
Examples of virtual group activities
- The Amazing Cyberspace Race. Using Google Maps, you'll explore famous cities as you compete in challenges, answer location-specific questions, and rack up points.
- Cyber Sleuths A Virtual Code Breaking Adventure. Every team member will be given a critical clue that will help unlock a series of code words. The fastest team to solve all the code words will be the reining champs of sluething.
- Pizza Dough Making Workshop. Never struggle with pizza dough ever again! We’ll take you through the process of combining simple ingredients to make the perfect dough that will give you incredible results from your home oven.
“We have designed digital team games for corporate clients for more than 10 years. Our Virtual Team Building offering is designed from the ground up to fit perfectly with your video conference systems like Zoom and Teams. All our games are designed to be fun, user friendly and very engaging. Our technology is web based so there is no need for downloads.”
Examples of virtual group activities
- Beat the Hacker. A hacker has locked your company files. Can you unlock them in 45 minutes? ‘Beat the Hacker’ is a fun, virtual Escape Room Game. It can be played online, anywhere. Perfect for remote teams!
- All-Star Challenge. A whirlwind of fun and exciting mini-games and challenges that takes your team spirit to a new level! This game brings about an All-Star feel as teams race to score as many points as possible.
- Icebreaker Game. A fun online energizer activity that makes your virtual meetings more engaging. Have a great time, get to know your colleagues better and boosts your energy levels with Icebreaker Game.
teambuilding™️ runs virtual team-building activities with household companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, NASA, and Netflix. Each event is between 30-60 minutes and is facilitated by one of their event hosts.
Examples of virtual group activities
- Online Office Games. Coworkers will form small teams then craft slogans, compete in world class trivia, play games like "Can You Hear Me Now?". Our trivia includes challenging multiple choice questions, number games, lightning scavenger hunts and more fun mechanics.
- Virtual Murder Mysteries. This online experience is designed from the ground up to combine the best elements of a traditional murder mystery, with escape the room game fundamentals, and the unique mechanics of virtual conference rooms.
- Superhero Academy A Game of Heroes & Villains. Your team will come to the virtual Superhero Academy with one mission in mind: save the world and defeat the supervillains standing in your way. Our team will lead your group through a series of puzzles and physical challenges designed to promote collaboration, communication, team work, and good old fashioned team bonding.
Regardless of where your remote employees are based or what their backgrounds are, team building activities and games are vital to creating a productive, collaborative, and engaged team.