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

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

 

Team building is one of the most important foundations for organizational success. It unites contributing members around shared goals, builds rapport for better working relationships, and aligns cross-functional teams. 

Distributed teams add a level of complexity that most leaders don’t always want to manage. However, for any and every organization that wants to be successful, remote team building activities are a must.

 

What Is Remote Team Building And Why Is It Important?

 

Team building means you are bringing people in your organization together to help facilitate the rapport and leadership building process. It brings teams closer together and helps them to communicate better and engage productively. 

The idea is that they will work together more efficiently, and with less drama, so they can achieve their work-related goals with more ease. Team building also impacts overall company culture, which increases productivity and significantly reduces turnover.

The latest results from Gallup and the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell us that as of 2019, 22% of Americans work from home, and almost half use telecommuting, remote, or virtual work environments for at least some responsibilities. 

A report published by Buffer in 2019 reported that 21% of remote workers often struggle with loneliness and isolation, making them less likely to enjoy their work or meet deadlines. Many are much more likely to quit their job.

 

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

 

When working with a dispersed team, it can be much more difficult, or impossible, to get everyone together. That means you’ll need a little creativity to give remote workers the chance to socialize and connect. 

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. 

Through socializing and trust-building activities, you’re able to mimic a co-located office environment. That means more opportunities for authentic working relationships.

Different types of strategies are out there. If your team is new or has a newer member, you might consider ice breakers that will limit emotional distance and create a vibrant team culture.

Try a variety of daily, weekly, or monthly activities to create a more interactive virtual work environment.

Or 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.

After all, a happy, productive team translates to a happy, more productive company.

 

Remote Team Building Tools, Trends And Best Practices

 

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that virtual teams are here to stay. The number of remote workers has increased year-to-year. Upwork’s “Future Workforce Report” predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

One of the most common reasons workers are more productive is that they can craft a workspace that allows for more concentration.

Team members who reported they had trouble concentrating jumped by 16% from 2008 to 2014. Leaving it to remote workers to manage distractions has allowed employers to focus on other priorities like bringing their dispersed teams together for collaborative goals.

Studies from Stanford are showing that businesses and brands with virtual teams are also able to focus on work-related tools and resources, rather than helping employees achieve job satisfaction, cope with burnout, and measure psychological stress.

Not all remote teams are the same, which means the tools you choose will be custom to your team’s needs. However, best practices are the same across the board. Every team needs something to rally around. They need interaction and a vehicle for clear, consistent communication. And they need to be able to trust and depend on each other.

Companies like Buffer and Upwork, for example, who have fully distributed remote teams, use online project collaboration platforms along with communication facilitation platforms. 

They don’t rely on email and Google chat to get by the way in-office teams can. Organizations with a blended model where some people choose to work remotely, but others work in an office, will choose different 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 preferred because they mimic face-to-face communication. 

Many companies elect to use Skype. When a team is larger and predominantly remote, companies are relying on Slack, 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 trending places for people to collaborate are on visual project boards like Monday, Trello, and Asana. Where email and instant chat were once an excellent way for inter-office collaborations, remote teams need the visual cues and queues provided by these larger online facilitators. 

Micro also offers a way to visualize answers and collaborate in real-time for various team-building activities.

Whatever tools, trends, and best practices you choose for your team make it something they can easily participate in from their location. The work can be challenging, but when building a cohesive team, the communication and participation should not be a barrier.

 

 

Virtual Team Building Activities, Games, And Icebreakers

 

 

Every team will have their favorite activities. And every team will have games they hate. Experimentation and hearing out feedback are essential. However, here are some of the best team building activities, games, and ice-breakers reported to encourage rapport, communication, and productivity.

 

 

 

Icebreakers

 

Icebreakers are typically short, easy ways to get a conversation going. They are most useful when the bulk of the meeting time needs to be spent on work, or when you have newbies on the team who may be a bit uncomfortable with more significant interactive assignments. 

Ice-breakers can also be a creative way to add a few exciting steps to any onboarding process.

 

Ten favorite things list 

 

Every new member is coming into a new group with no real way to catch-up on all the chatter and engagement exercises you’ve been doing. Ask everyone to create a list of 10 favorite things to share with your newbie as a way to welcome them.

 

Fun facts 

 

Recommended time: 10-15 minutes

Recommended platform: chat platform such as Slack, or video such as Skype

Ideal group size: any size

The beginning of a meeting can be the toughest time to get everyone comfortable and ready to dive in and contribute. Begin every meeting with a new question. If you don’t have a phone or video meeting, you can ask everyone to provide answers to questions regularly and publish the items to encourage conversation and comments.

Example conversation starters can be:

  • What are three of your favorite things?
  • What are 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 a place to live for one month, which would you choose? Deserted tropical island, library, museum, zoo, or an isolated mountain cabin.
  • If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?
  • What is your favorite quote or saying, and why?

 

Alien conversation

Recommended time: 30 minutes to an hour

Recommended platform: chat platform such as Slack, or video option such as Skype

Ideal group size: any size

Have everyone imagine 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 3-5 images that represent the company culture. Then discuss everyone’s pictures and why they were selected. Are there any common themes that develop?

 

Office pictures

Recommended time: 10 minutes

Recommended platform: chat platform such as Slack

Ideal group size: any size

When we all work in the same place, we have the benefit of seeing 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. If a picture of their desk or office seems too invasive, ask everyone to share a simple flat lay picture of everything that is typically on their desk at any given time.

A flat lay is just a picture of a desk or table from directly above, looking down.

 

Games

 

Games are a great way to grow a team in critical areas. For example, some games are better suited to build leadership skills, while others are just fun ways to give your team collaborative, relationship-building assignments that aren’t all work-based. The point with games is to be inclusive, inviting, and playful.

 

Team scavenger hunt

 

Recommended time: 30 minutes to an hour

Recommended platform: chat platform such as Slack

Ideal group size: any size

Instead of looking for random objects around town, send everyone on a search for common interests.

Provide a few prompts and specific things for your team to hunt for while getting to know each other.

Give them a week or so to connect with everyone. Or make it a flash assignment with 24-hours on the clock.

Examples might be:

  • 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?
 

They’ll have to find two things they have in common with each person while also searching for people who have one or more items on the list provided. 

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 them report their findings to your virtual assistant, who can create a visual representation. 

Create a chart or an image that shows all 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 new team and 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: chat platform such as Slack

Ideal group size: any size

Choose a theme everyone can participate in and then ask everyone to submit an image for that theme. Recreate the team org chart with their new pictures. If it ends up being fun, successful, and encourages conversation, consider making it a weekly or monthly game.

 If you use a dedicated platform, like Slack, you might consider having the team change their company professional profile picture each week or month according to the new theme. 

It can be a fun way to learn about each other without dedicating structured time for friendly, get-to-know-you chatter.

Examples of themes for which you might ask your team to submit images:

  • Favorite or oldest pet
  • Baby photo
  • Flag of your favorite vacation-worthy country or state
  • Favorite sports team
  • Favorite food
  • Best picture of a sunset, landscape or flower that you’ve taken
 


Map the team

Recommended time: less than 10 minutes

Recommended platform: chat platform such as Slack

Ideal group size: any size

Create a map with pin drops and profile pictures of each person on the team. If you want to make it interesting, ask each person to create a simple tourist guide of their area. Keep it simple. They can add their favorite coffee shop, a favorite 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, whether they have additional recommendations, and when they have visited or lived in the same place as others on the team. If everyone can share pictures of some of their favorite places, all the better.

 

Create a weekly game zone

Recommended time: 30 minutes to an hour

Recommended platform: online group game sites or video chat like Skype or Zoom

Ideal group size: any size

Giving everyone a weekly, work-free hour to relax and casually play a few games is a great way to help them relax, engage in friendly competition, and blow off a little steam. Gartic is a team platform for 2-8 people where they can play Pictionary. Zombs is a team game for up to four players where they organize and defend a tower. You can also get on a group video chat on Skype or Zoom to play a game of Charades or Taboo.

 

Activities

 

Every group needs a way to take breaks together. They benefit from points of interest and creative ways to see the team and their roles together in new and different ways. Activities can be short or something they develop together over a period of time. They can be poignant or a simple way to infuse light-hearted fun into everyday tasks. Whatever you choose, make it something the team can rally behind and enjoy.

 

Water cooler breaks 

Recommended time: 10-30 minutes, longer for more people

Recommended platform: video chat like Skype or Zoom

Ideal group size: less than 10

Water cooler chatter typically takes place in sticks-and-bricks workplaces. It’s where gossip is shared, and co-workers casually catch-up. 

Create a common digital place and time to meet and have an unstructured conversation. If you need to get the conversation started, you can ask everyone to share a quick fact. Or you can ask everyone to answer a quick 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 each video can be loaded and comments can be organized. Try Facebook groups, YouTube, Slack, or even Trello.

Ideal group size: less than 20

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

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

 

Lunch and learn 

 

Recommended time: 20 minutes

Recommended platform: video chat like Skype or Zoom

Ideal group size: any size

It can be fun to get a deeper understanding of people and what they each do at the company. Everyone may have insights or best practices that will be interesting, perhaps even useful, to the rest of the team. 

Some vital keys to success include letting the person choose the topic of their presentation, keep the presentations limited to 15-minutes, and to make sure the group knows this is a safe place to present. 

The time should be used to remain positive and talk about the different ways each person works. Ideally, they might also share something that would help people on the team either understand their job or get ideas on how to live better. 

Have each person sign up for a presentation and list a topic they’ll be covering. Be sure to rotate so everyone gets a turn.

Examples of presentations might look like:

  • How I prioritize and organize my workflow each week.
  • Some of the ways I boost my productivity and work 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 if they want one.
  • How to recognize burnout in family, friends, and co-workers, and top resources that can help.

 

Chatroulette

 

Recommended time: 15-30 minutes

Recommended platform: facilitated video chat like Donut

Ideal group size: any size

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

You can choose a starter question to get them going, but this should be an activity that helps people organically get to know each other. If it’s early in the development of the team, have each person write a friendly or complimentary 3-5 sentence bio about the person they just got to know, so the group has something to reference.

 In the longer term, it’s easier just to let the conversation happen without making everyone report on their discussion.

 

Creating Authentic, Productive Dispersed Teams

 

There is a genuine 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 to highly productive, unified teams who can rally around a common purpose. 

Implementing just one of these team-building activities will ultimately improve company culture, support engagement, and significantly improve productivity. Implement a few of them, and you’re sure to find a lively team championing for idea generation and challenging each other to push the company toward success.

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

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