How we can help you

– 28.02.2019.

Free or Low-Cost Remote Team-Building Activities Your Team Will Love

Team building is a foundation for organizational success: it unites members around shared goals, develops better working relationships, and aligns cross-functional teams. Distributed teams add a level of complexity that leaders don’t always want to deal with. However, remote team-building activities are a must for any organization that wants to be successful. What Is Remote…

Laura Holton

USA

remote team-building activities

Team building is a foundation for organizational success: it unites members around shared goals, develops better working relationships, and aligns cross-functional teams. Distributed teams add a level of complexity that leaders don’t always want to deal with. However, remote team-building activities are a must for any organization that wants to be successful.

What Is Remote Team Building and Why Is It Important?

Team building means bringing people in your organization together to build rapport. It develops bonds between team members and helps them to communicate better. The idea is that when team members feel connected, they will work more efficiently, and with less drama, to achieve their goals. Team building also impacts overall company culture, which increases productivity and significantly reduces turnover.

In 2019, 22 percent of Americans were working from home, almost half using telecommuting or virtual work environments for at least some responsibilities. Plus, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that virtual teams are here to stay. The number of remote workers has been increasing year over year and predictions state that 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

The good news is remote workers are more productive. One reason is because they can create a workspace that allows them to concentrate better. However, 21 percent of remote workers often struggle with loneliness and isolation, meaning they’re less likely to enjoy their work and meet deadlines. Many are much more likely to quit their job.

Pro tip: if you are introducing team building, poll everyone to get buy-in from the start. Ask them to reply with their time zone, ideas, and favorite collaboration platforms.

Socializing As a Remote Team

It can be difficult, or even impossible, to bring everyone in a remote team together in the same physical location. This means you’ll need to use a little creativity to give remote workers the chance to socialize and connect.

Although remote workers don’t have the built-in social structure that comes with water cooler chat and dropping by each other’s desks for a few minutes each day, socializing and trust-building activities can mimic an office environment. That means more opportunities for authentic working relationships.

There are many different strategies you could use. For instance, if your team is new or has a new member, you might consider icebreakers that limit emotional distance and create a vibrant team culture. Try a variety of daily, weekly, or monthly activities to create a more interactive work environment.

Alternatively, you could build a closer-knit, more cohesive team that will be more effective and less competitive by infusing games and comic relief into the virtual workplace. A happy, productive team translates to a happy, more productive company.

Remote Team Building Tools, Trends, and Best Practices

As you’ve already seen, not all remote teams are the same. This means the tools you choose must meet your team’s needs. Nonetheless, best practices are the same across the board, since every team needs something to rally around. Teams need interaction and clear, consistent communication. And team members need to be able to trust and depend on each other.

Companies like Buffer and Upwork, for example, use online project collaboration platforms along with communication facilitation; they don’t rely on email. Organizations with a blended model (where just some team members work remotely but others work in an office) choose project platforms to accommodate virtual workers while allowing in-office communication to develop organically.

In all cases, best practices include a mandatory digital communication platform where all employees can come together. Video options are preferable because they mimic face-to-face communication. In addition, when a team is large and predominantly remote, Slack is an easy way to organize public and private conversations in one place.

Pro tip: create a dedicated Slack channel for company chatter to encourage conversations where people can feel free to get to know each other without interrupting workflow.

A few top places where team members can collaborate include Monday, Trello, and Asana. Whereas email and instant chat were once an excellent way for inter-office collaborations, remote teams need the visual cues these larger online facilitators provide.

Whatever tools you choose for your team, make sure it’s easy for team members to participate from their location.

Virtual Team Building Activities, Games, and Icebreakers

The following are some of the best team building activities, games, and icebreakers to encourage rapport, communication, and productivity. Bear in mind that there are some activities on this list your team will love — and others they may hate. For this reason, experimentation and feedback are essential.Image

Icebreakers

Icebreakers are typically short, easy ways to get a conversation going. They are most useful when you need to spend the bulk of the meeting on work or when you have newbies on your team who may be uncomfortable with more intensive activities. Icebreakers can also be a creative way to add some excitement to the onboarding process.

Ten favorite things list 

Recommended time: 10 to 15 minutes

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack

Ideal group size: Any size

It’s difficult for a new team member to join your group when everyone else already knows each other. Ask everyone to create a list of their 10 favorite things to share with your newbie as a welcome.

Fun facts

Recommended time: 10 to 15 minutes

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack or video conferencing like Zoom

Ideal group size: Any size

The start of a meeting is the time when you need to ensure everyone is comfortable and ready to contribute. To achieve this, begin every meeting with a new fun question.

If you don’t hold meetings with your remote team, you could post a new question every week and ask everyone to provide answers to encourage conversation and comments.

Some examples of fun conversation starters include:

  • What are your three pet peeves?
  • If your home was on fire, what is one thing you would grab (assuming pets and family are safe)?
  • If you had to choose one of these places to live for one month, which would you choose: a deserted tropical island, a library, a museum, a zoo, or an isolated mountain cabin?
  • What is your favorite quote or saying, and why?
  • If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?

Alien conversation

Recommended time: 30 to 60 minutes

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack or video conferencing like Zoom

Ideal group size: Any size

Tell everyone that aliens have landed and they want to know about your business. The aliens can’t speak and don’t have ears, but they have eyes. Divide everyone into groups or pairs and ask them to come up with three to five images that represent your company culture. Then ask team members why they chose a particular picture. Are there any common themes?

Office pictures

Recommended time: 10 minutes

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack

Ideal group size: Any size

When we all work in the same place, we see each other’s desks — complete with family photos, a favorite coffee mug, and other trinkets. Have everyone submit a picture of their desk as a fun way to get to know each other. This icebreaker is a surprisingly fun way to mimic a shared workspace. Alternatively, you could ask everyone to share a flat lay picture of everything that’s typically on their desk. (A flat lay is a picture from directly above, looking down.)

Games

Games are a great way to develop a team’s critical skills. For example, some games build leadership skills, whereas others are fun ways to give your team collaborative, relationship-building assignments that aren’t all work based. The point of games is to be inclusive, inviting, and playful.

Team scavenger hunt

Recommended time: One day to one week

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack

Ideal group size: Any size

Instead of looking for random objects around town, send everyone on a search for to find out information about each other. Provide a few prompts and specific things for your team to hunt for. You could give your team a week to connect with everyone or make it a flash assignment with 24 hours on the clock.

Examples of information to find out could include:

  • Which team member has the most siblings?
  • Which team member has the most pets?
  • Find a team member who loves fun runs.
  • Find a team member whose favorite drink is coffee.
  • How many co-workers are cat people? How many are dog people?
  • What is everyone’s favorite movie, book, or TV show?

In addition, team members should find two things they have in common with each person. For very small groups, it will be easy to have everyone report back to the entire group on a video call. For larger groups, it can be fun to have employees report their findings to your virtual assistant, who can create a visual representation showing all the team members grouped by various interests and commonalities.

Pro tip: modify this game to include new questions each time and add the answers to the chart you’ve created. It will be an excellent tool for new members to get to know their team and serve as a fun reminder of all the ways the team is connected.

New org charts or profile pics

Recommended time: Less than 10 minutes

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack

Ideal group size: Any size

Choose a theme and then ask everyone to submit an image. Recreate the team org chart with the new pictures. This can be a fun way to learn about each other without dedicating structured time for get-to-know-you chatter. If this ends up being fun and encourages conversation, consider making it a weekly or monthly game.

Examples of themes include:

  • Favorite or oldest pet
  • Baby photo
  • Flag of the country or state where you want to go on vacation
  • Favorite sports team
  • Favorite food
  • Best picture of a sunset, landscape, or flower you’ve taken

If you use a platform like Slack, you could ask team members change their profile pictures each week or month according to the new theme.

Map the team

Recommended time: Less than 10 minutes

Recommended platform: A chat platform like Slack

Ideal group size: Any size

Create a map with pin drops and profile pictures of each person on your team. If you want to go a step further, ask each person to create a simple tourist guide of their area. Keep it simple: they could add their favorite coffee shop, a restaurant, a tourist sight-seeing must, and one other point of interest. To maximize engagement, ask everyone to comment if they’ve been to any of the places and whether they have additional recommendations. This is even better if everyone can share pictures of some of their favorite places.

Create a weekly game zone

Recommended time: 30 to 60 minutes

Recommended platform: An online group game site or video chat like Zoom

Ideal group size: Any size

Giving everyone a weekly, work-free hour to relax and play a few games is a great way to help your team relax, engage in friendly competition, and blow off a little steam. Examples include Gartic, a team platform for two to eight people where you can play Pictionary, and Zombs, a team game for up to four players that involves organizing and defending a tower. You can also play games like charades or taboo on Zoom.

Activities

Every team needs a way to take breaks together. Activities for breaks can be short or progress over time. They can be thought provoking or simply infuse light-hearted fun into everyday tasks. Whatever you choose, make the activity something your team can rally behind and enjoy.

Water cooler breaks 

Recommended time: 10 to 30 minutes (longer for more people)

Recommended platform: Video chat like Zoom

Ideal group size: Less than 10

Water cooler chatter typically takes place in brick-and-mortar workplaces. It’s where coworkers casually catch up and share gossip. You can create the same with a digital place and time to meet for unstructured conversation. To get the conversation started, ask everyone to share a fun fact or answer a question. Then, let the rest of the conversation occur organically.

Best win/biggest challenges check-in 

Participation time: 10-30 minutes

Recommended platform: Private chat rooms where you can upload video and organize comments, such as Facebook groups, YouTube, Slack, or even Trello.

Ideal group size: Less than 20

Many organizations find a weekly check-in useful. Rather than just asking an open-ended question about how the week went, invite everyone to share their most significant win and their biggest challenge.

For teams where timezones are a problem, ask everyone to send a video answer lasting one minute or less. Then, ask everyone to watch each other’s videos and leave at least one comment to ensure engagement.

Lunch and learn presentations

Recommended time: 20 minutes

Recommended platform: Video chat like Zoom

Ideal group size: Any size

It can be fun to gain a deeper understanding of people and what they do at your company. Plus, team members may have insights or best practices that will be useful for the rest of the team. Ask team members to sign up to give presentations on different topics. Make sure to rotate to give everyone a turn.

To ensure this activity is successful, you should allow individuals to choose the topic of their presentation and limit presentations to 15 minutes. The presentations should focus on the different ways individuals work. Ideally, workers should share tips that will help other team members better understand the various roles at your company or gain ideas on how to live and work better.

Examples for presentations include:

  • How I prioritize and organize my workflow each week.
  • Some of the ways I boost my productivity to work more efficiently
  • Four business accounting tips that can help anyone with their personal budgeting
  • Three things I wish everyone would do (or not do) to ensure their online security
  • Five marketing strategies we use at this company that can also help people build their personal online presence
  • How to recognize burnout in family, friends, and coworkers

Chatroulette

Recommended time: 15-30 minutes

Recommended platform: A video app like Donut

Ideal group size: Any size

Randomly pair everyone up for a minimum of 15 minutes to chat about whatever they want. Donut, a Slack-compatible app, is helpful facilitating this process.

You can choose a starter question to get groups going, but this should be an activity that helps people organically get to know each other. If you recently formed the team, you could ask each person to write a three- to five-sentence bio about the person they just met. In the future, though, it won’t be necessary to ask everyone to report on their discussions.

Creating Authentic, Productive Dispersed Teams

There’s a difference between a group of people working together and a team unified by camaraderie and centralized goals. Getting to know each other, feeling comfortable talking and collaborating, and coming together over shared interests is crucial for creating highly-productive, unified teams.

Implementing just one of these team-building activities will improve your company culture, support engagement, and enhance productivity. Implement a few of them if you want to develop a lively team that pushes your company toward success.

Bear in mind, though, that team building is just the start. You’ll still need to cope with some unique challenges that only remote teams face. Check out this blog post for support overcoming such challenges.

Sign up for your free trial

Talk to one of our team members about the tasks consuming your time, and your goals. Going forward, your virtual assistant can work with minimum input from you.

Get a free trial

Share this article

SOP Checklist

What is an SOP Checklist?

If you’re in business, you’re probably well acquainted with SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures and SOP checklists. But you might…

how to avoid zoom fatigue

Zoom Fatigue is Real – Here’s How to Avoid It in Your Business

What is Zoom Fatigue? Anyone who has had several back-to-back Zoom calls in a day, understands the feeling of utter…

What You Need to Know Before You Pitch to Investors

What You Need to Know Before You Pitch to Investors

Is your business ready for expansion and investment? Are you looking for venture capital to fund your next big idea?…

BHAG: What it Means and Why You Need It

BHAG: What it Means and Why You Need It

You might have heard of a BHAG (pronounced ‘Bee-Hag”) at some point in your business journey. It’s not a new…

SOP Checklist

What is an SOP Checklist?

If you’re in business, you’re probably well acquainted with SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures and SOP checklists. But you might…

how to avoid zoom fatigue

Zoom Fatigue is Real – Here’s How to Avoid It in Your Business

What is Zoom Fatigue? Anyone who has had several back-to-back Zoom calls in a day, understands the feeling of utter…

What You Need to Know Before You Pitch to Investors

What You Need to Know Before You Pitch to Investors

Is your business ready for expansion and investment? Are you looking for venture capital to fund your next big idea?…

BHAG: What it Means and Why You Need It

BHAG: What it Means and Why You Need It

You might have heard of a BHAG (pronounced ‘Bee-Hag”) at some point in your business journey. It’s not a new…