What is remote team building?
Remote team building mimics the efforts of physical team building, and aims to establish stronger bonds between remote employees. Done well, these activities will help team members get to know each other better outside of a work context, boost morale, and ultimately improve productivity and engagement.
Why is it important?
In an office environment, especially as a new joiner, you can walk around the room and make new friends. In fact, it would be expected of you! Grabbing lunch with a buddy, or going for drinks on a Friday night is how you’d traditionally get to know your colleagues better.
These informal gatherings and conversations can help you understand your colleagues’ strengths, their triggers, and improve communication. And for the company itself, these casual “water cooler” conversations between colleagues can also lead to serendipitous ideas and innovations.
Team building activities is one tool that companies can use to encourage fun and casual encounters between colleagues.
However, in a company with distributed teams, such informal encounters have to be planned and are a lot more intentional. They are also necessary – if you only know your colleagues on a superficial work level, remote work can feel isolating.
12 team building activities for remote teams
1. Virtual fitness challenges
Are your colleagues gym goers or health nuts? Do they love going on runs or cycling trips? If so, a virtual fitness challenge app might be perfect for your company.
How could it work for your remote team? Strava allows organizations to start group challenges, such as a walking challenge or a “standing up for 15 minutes after every hour” challenge. This is a great way to allow employees to connect with each other and keep track of each other’s progress. A little competitive spirit does not hurt!
On top of that, it also encourages employees to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Co-workers can give words of motivation to each other to complete challenges and move each other towards that finish line.
2. Virtual escape rooms
If you have a group of intellectual employees who enjoy sleuthing and detective novels, a virtual escape room could be a good way for them to bond.
A virtual escape room brings everyone together to figure out how to escape the various obstacles presented to them, even if your team members are spread across the world!
One interesting feature of escape room games is that it allows team members to quickly suss out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Co-workers often find that even if they’ve worked with someone for years, they will discover something new (and hopefully fun!) about their colleagues once they’ve collaborated with them on a challenging quest.
Another benefit is that if your team is not used to casually chatting or sharing ideas, a virtual escape room may lower the barriers and help them improve their communication skills. Because no matter how unusual or silly the solution in the virtual escape rooms is, it is entertaining because that’s often the right solution!
3. Virtual races
A great activity that has been developed by many running apps is virtual races. If you find it hard to visualize, in simple terms, it is the ability to be in a relay race where you pass the baton to someone in London when you’ve just finished running a lap in Singapore.
As a team-building activity, there are multiple benefits. First, it allows you to connect with team members from across the globe that you’ve never interacted with before. This is great for remote-first or larger organizations with multiple distributed offices.
Apart from that, running a relay or a race requires teamwork and increases a sense of belonging within a team. Each member of the team would have to carry their own weight so as not to pull the team down. This lends a friendly competitive spirit and is a great way to spark drive between team members.
To top it off, this is a great method to encourage employees to lead a healthier lifestyle. Running in the outdoors and getting some fresh air is something that should always be encouraged, no matter where your employees are.
4. Virtual game shows
Are your team members well-read and knowledgeable? If so they may enjoy a game show or trivia, and could be experts at answering questions such as which is the largest continent in the world, or what is the height of the tallest building in Asia.
Consider bonding over a virtual game show so their knowledge can come on full display.
Game shows have always been in hit at parties, events, and ice breakers. Bring it online and not only will be just as exciting, but it could also have an increased level of intensity due to added competition from colleagues around the world.
Best of all, these games can be played online using software that you already have such as Zoom, Teams or Google Hangouts. All it requires is a bit of planning on your end.
An example of an extremely popular show would be online Jeopardy. While the game structure may be the same, having it virtually would entail some differences. To aid discussions within teams, simply add each team to breakout rooms. Zoom helpfully has a template of the game board which you can display by using the share screen function.
Another popular game that could be played virtually would be a fun trivia quiz. Pick a few topics that are of interest to the majority of your employees and come up with trivia questions for them. Topics can run the gamut from books to movies to travel and world history. Trivia encourages team members to think on their feet, and helps them gain knowledge outside of the work sphere.
Other examples of great virtual game shows that is a great team building activity for remote teams would be The Price is Rights, Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune.
5. Virtual cooking classes
If there’s one thing almost all nationalities have in common, it would be their love for food.
Cooking classes are a great way to bond as it would allow employees to share their national cuisine and open up over discussions of their likes and dislikes. It also allows employees to give restaurant recommendations to their colleagues, and may even lead them to make lunch appointments to try them outside of work!
Many cooking workshops have moved to online platforms due to the pandemic. This has the advantage of allowing for a wider audience and participation. The good cooks among your employees will be able to show off their cooking skills, and for those that aren’t so good, well, they’ll be able to learn new culinary skills.
6. Virtual talent shows
Celebrate the diverse talents of your team members with a virtual talent show! From singing, dancing, and magic tricks, to storytelling – a talent show provides a platform for employees to showcase their hidden talents outside of the work realm. Not only does this promote team bonding, but it also creates an atmosphere of appreciation and admiration for colleagues.
Platforms like Zoom or Google Meet can be used to host the show, and colleagues can vote for their favorite acts. You could also get creative and invite judges from within the team to provide fun commentary!
7. Virtual book club
A book club is an excellent way for colleagues to bond over shared interests in literature. Choose a book every month (or quarter, depending on reading pace), and set a date for everyone to virtually meet and discuss their thoughts, perspectives, and takeaways from the book.
To make it even more interactive, consider having different team members take on the role of the moderator for each session. A book club not only encourages continuous learning but also provides an avenue for meaningful discussions outside of work tasks.
8. DIY craft workshops
Arts and crafts have a therapeutic quality that can be a welcome break from work. Organize a DIY craft workshop where team members receive a package of materials in advance, and everyone creates something together during a virtual meet-up.
This could be anything from painting, making handmade greeting cards, creating jewelry, or even sculpting. The collective experience of creating something unique allows team members to bond over shared creativity.
9. Virtual movie nights
Bring the cinema experience to the comfort of your home with virtual movie nights. Use platforms like Teleparty (previously known as Netflix Party) that allow team members to watch a movie or series simultaneously.
Themes for movie nights could include “Murder Mysteries”, “Superheros”, “Romance”, or “Comedies”.
To make it more interactive, you can have pre-movie predictions or post-movie discussions. Popcorn and comfy pajamas are optional but recommended!
10. Virtual travel tours
While physical travel might be limited, virtual travel can be just as exciting! There are platforms and companies that offer virtual tours of famous cities, historical landmarks, museums, and even wildlife safaris.
The team can explore new places together, and this can be followed by a discussion session to share experiences, and learnings, and to plan potential future trips!
11. Themed virtual coffee breaks
Set aside time for casual, themed virtual coffee breaks with video calls where team members can chat about non-work topics.
Themes could include “Travel Memories”, “Favorite Books”, “Childhood Stories”, or “Dream Destinations”. This relaxed setting allows team members to get to know each other on a more personal level.
12. Virtual DIY beauty & wellness workshops
Wellness is becoming increasingly important, especially with the challenges of remote work. Organize DIY beauty and wellness workshops where team members can learn to make their own skincare products, or even learn relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises.
This not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also gives team members shared experiences to bond over.
Plan virtual team building activities for remote teams!
Team building is an important aspect in any company, even more so for distributed teams. Use remote team building as an opportunity to help your employees get to know their teammates better, and to have fun at the same time!