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Virtual Team Building

Team Building. For some, these words inspire excitement. For others, an eye roll and a sense of dread. This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of leading a successful team building experience for your remote staff and detail 12 virtual activities they’ll love.

What Is Virtual Team Building?

It’s no secret that workplaces are evolving. With numerous companies moving to fully remote work, engaging and creating a sense of belonging within your team is now more important than ever. While there are many ways to cultivate a sense of belonging in your remote workforce, one of the most effective is virtual team building.

Virtual team building is a set of activities that helps develop, unify and build trust among team members. These activities help foster that human connection which makes strong teams so successful. When done correctly, virtual team building has the ability to make remote teams feel just as close-knit as those working in office.

Why Building a Strong Virtual Team Is So Important

Studies show that virtual team building has many benefits. Some notable outcomes of these activities include:

  • Stronger Relationships. Virtual team building has been proven to forge better working relationships between colleagues and lead to higher levels of happiness.
  • Improved Productivity. Virtual team building encourages employees to collaborate and often improves workplace communication. You know what they say: teamwork makes the dream work!
  • Reduced Loneliness. Let’s face it: remote work can get lonely. Virtual team building helps create a sense of togetherness among teammates and has been shown to improve the mental wellbeing of employees.

What You Need for a Successful Team Building Experience

To ensure your team building works, you’ll want to choose activities that are engaging, insightful and fun. (Otherwise, you may end up with a Zoom meeting full of people aimlessly scrolling through TikTok.) Here’s what you’ll need to have a successful team building session:

1. Equipment

How will you facilitate the exercise? Through Zoom? Skype? You’ll want to ensure all team members have the tools needed to participate. The majority of virtual team buildings utilize web cameras, microphones and speakers, so make sure every participant has these — whether it be a set of individual devices, or an all-in-one combo.

2. Availability

It’s important to consider your team’s schedules when planning these exercises. Remember to be mindful of their time and take note of any important deadlines and projects when scheduling the session. Think about employee time zones and outside obligations, such as picking up children from school or pre-scheduled time off.

3. A Game Plan

Take time and establish your game plan. What do you hope to accomplish by facilitating this exercise? If you’re unsure what to accomplish, you can always request individual feedback from your staff beforehand. Team building is most impactful when it doesn’t feel like a chore to employees, so plan accordingly. You can also have a team building session just for fun!

4. Feedback

Collecting feedback after a team building session is critical to evaluating how impactful it was and whether or not you achieved the objective you intended. Some ways to collect feedback include a post-meeting survey, a set of short questions for participants to answer throughout or perhaps a “raised hands” poll at the end of the event.

When To Do Team Building

To maximize impact, you’ll want to plan the frequency of your team building sessions strategically. Here are four of the best ways to implement virtual team building into your company schedule:

Add-Ons to Team Meetings

To start your weekly team meetings on the right foot, or to spice up Friday’s daily call, try opening with an activity that addresses a challenge in your team (such as communication) or something fun to celebrate the end of the week.

Recurring Team Building Meetings

One good way to ensure you have time designated for team building is to schedule a recurring meeting dedicated solely to this. These meetings can last around an hour and should consist of no more than one to three activities. Sessions like these are most effective when implemented bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly.

Recurring Team Building Days

Consider holding a bi-annual or annual “Team Building Day.” You can try assessing your team’s challenges and facilitate some exercises to address them — squeezed between an icebreaker and one or two activities that are just for fun.

When New Hires Join the Team

Icebreaker and just for fun activities are great for making new team members comfortable and can go a long way in helping start them off on the right foot. Try to schedule these within a new employee’s first three days.

12 Team Building Activities Your Remote Team will Love

To help you get started, I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite virtual team building activities. This list is not inclusive, but provides several exercises that any team will enjoy!

Icebreakers

Have a new team member or want to start a meeting off right? These activities are great for “breaking the ice” and fostering community among your team. Icebreaker activities are also great for use in new hire orientations.

1. 3 Facts and a Fib

Time: 5-10 minutes per person

Price: Free!

How To: Each team member thinks of three true facts about themselves and one equally believable fib. Then the “It” person shares theirs with the group, whose job it is to guess which of the four statements is the fib. After all participants guess, the person who is “It” reveals which one was the fib. The game concludes when all participants have shared.

2. Pancakes vs Waffles

Time: 20+ minutes

Price: Free!

How To: Pancakes vs Waffles is a game where you make decisions collectively as a team. For round one, your team decides on whether the world is going to keep pancakes or waffles, and the other is to be removed from existence. Everyone advocates for their favorite choice and ultimately a vote of majority makes the decision. After one option is eliminated, you add a new competitor. (For example, the game may become Waffles vs Pumpkins, and then Waffles vs Puppies, and then Puppies vs Kittens, and then Kittens vs Cell Phones, etc.) The game ends when the facilitator wraps up.

3. Play-Doh Animals

Time: 15 minutes to create, 5-10 minutes for each person to share, 5-20 minutes for wrap up

Price: $0.50 – $10 per team member (depending on shipping)

How To: Each team member purchases one container of Play-Doh. (Alternatively, you can purchase and ship a container to each team member’s home address.) Each team member creates an animal (real or imaginary) that they believe represents them. Then, once everyone is done, each takes turns showing what they created to the group and describes why they chose that animal. At the end, the facilitator highlights the similarities and differences in the team, taking mental note of individual strengths and weaknesses. The facilitator should create an animal as well so their team can get an understanding of why they chose that animal.

Communication and Collaboration

These activities are best used for improving communication and collaboration among teammates.

4. PI Personality Test

Time: 5-10 minutes for test, 15-20 for each share

Price: Free!

How To: In advance of the meeting, each participant takes the free Predictive Index behavioral assessment (https://go1.predictiveindex.com/free). Then, they take note of which personality type they received. The facilitator creates a free account after completing their test and once everyone has finished, the facilitator collects the results and discusses everyone’s personality type with all attendees. This allows attendees to gauge a better understanding of their co-worker’s preferences and working personality.

Note: The Predictive Index offers a paid program, however the behavioral assessment linked to above is currently available to anyone free of charge. There are many tests out there with a similar purpose, however this one is two questions and free, so it is great for low-budget team building.

5. You’re On Mute

Time: 2-5 minutes per player

Price: Free!

How To: One person (Player 1) mutes their microphone so no one can hear them but they leave their video on so everyone can see them. Then, Player 1 says a sentence while on mute and the attendees have to guess what they have said within the timeframe (recommended 2-5 minutes). Player 1 cannot correct them, but can re-mouth the words if needed. After the phrase is guessed correctly or time runs out, someone else goes until all attendees have participated.

6. User Manual

Time: Varies

Price: Free!

How To: Each team member creates a “User Manual” that describes their working preferences. The facilitator should provide a template to the team that everyone can fill out. Once complete, the manuals can be stored in a shared drive for everyone on the team to reference. This manual can answer questions such as “How I like to communicate,” “How I like to receive feedback,” etc.

Note: This is also a great activity when onboarding new team members. Try having new hires add to the existing index of user manuals.

Asynchronous

These activities are unique and can be done at each team member’s convenience — no meeting required! A great way to implement these activities is through software like Slack, Microsoft Teams or another group chat app.

7. How are You Feeling?

Price: Free!

How To: Create a separate group chat or post for team members using your company’s chat app software. Each day or week, ask team members how they are feeling. Team members respond using only emojis or gifs. This is a great way to do a temperature check on your team and instill some humor into everyone’s day.

8. Gif War

Price: Free!

How To: Similar to the “How are You Feeling?” activity, create a separate group chat or post for team members to respond to a scenario. The facilitator posts a scenario (i.e. “When you forgot to save a document before closing Word”) and each team member must respond to the scenario with a gif. The funniest gif wins and the person who wins decides the next scenario. Great for comic relief!

9. Check Your Knowledge

Price: Free!

How To: Create a separate group chat or post for team members using your company’s chat app software. Each week, ask the team a question meant to test their knowledge. This should be a question or scenario related to their daily work (i.e. you might ask an HR team: “Someone comes to you with a complaint against their manager. How would you conduct an internal investigation?”). This is a great way for team members to brainstorm and learn from each other. To mix it up, you can have other team members ask questions or provide additional information to make the question more interesting.

Just for Fun

These activities are purely for entertainment. They help team members bond, encourage a laugh and are a great way to break up workplace monotony.

10. PowerPoint Improv

Time: 10-15 minutes per player

Price: Free!

How To: All participants prepare a five to eight slide PowerPoint beforehand and send them to the facilitator. The slides should contain no words, except for a generic title on the first slide. All other slides should contain photos (such as photos of funny looking birds or people dancing). The stranger the title and the more it contrasts with the pictures the better. (For example: a PowerPoint titled How to raise your children” with photos of various exotic birds throughout.) Next, the facilitator sends one PowerPoint to a random participant right before the meeting. This participant must give a presentation based on the slide’s title and the pictures contained within.

Note: Have fun with this one! This one is sure to be full of laughs.

11. Remote Pictionary

Time: 2-5 minutes per player

Price: Free!

How To: Instruct each participant to open their computer’s Paint app (or equivalent) at the start of the meeting. Select a team member at random to be “It” and send them an object, concept or subject they must draw via private message. The “It” participant must draw this object in their Paint app using screen share and cannot reveal what they are drawing. They must also use the mouse to draw and cannot use their hand or pen on a touchscreen device. Other attendees must try and guess what the “It” person is drawing. The round is over once the object is guessed. The person who correctly guesses what the “It” person is drawing becomes the next person to be “It.”

12. Tiny Campfire

Time: 90 minutes

Price: Varies

How To: Brought to you by tiny campfire, this activity consists of a virtual campfire that includes historic ghost stories, icebreaker games, little competitions and real s’more making. It’s all the fun of a real camp night, with no mosquito repellent required. Before your event, Tiny Campfire sends you and your team a tiny campfire kit. On camp day, they send each team member a link to a video conference room and run the experience. The facilitators help create high spirits, engagement and shared memories for your team.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Virtual Team Building

How often should we do virtual team building activities?
It depends. You can do it weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually or even daily. Every workplace is different, so it’s important to consider the needs and challenges facing your team. One important thing to remember: building a strong team takes more than games and activities. To be effective, you will need to motivate and engage your remote workforce in other ways too.
How long should our activities last?
There isn’t a specific amount of time team building itself should last, as activities will vary in the amount of time they require. For meetings dedicated to team building, the average time will be one to three hours. For impromptu sessions or meeting add-ons, I recommend keeping these between 15 and 30 minutes.
Preston Sharpston

Preston Sharpston

Preston is a dual-certified Human Resources Partner with nearly 6 years of experience in the people and culture space. While seasoned in many aspects of HR, Preston’s expertise lies in team building, leadership development, and crafting world-class employee experiences. Preston currently serves as a Human Resources Manager for WestCare, (a nationwide nonprofit), where he leads HR operations for 5 states.

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