Like Jasmine and Aladdin declared in that Disney movie years ago, it’s “a whole new world.” If they only knew what was to come as far as our new virtual reality and video conferencing capabilities, wouldn’t they be wowed?
Then again, they had magic carpets and a genie that granted wishes, so perhaps not. But for those of us less-animated, actually-living human beings, the world has changed a lot over the last few years – and the last year in particular. With remote work being the norm and some team members only becoming acquainted over video chat and online meetings, things have definitely shifted, and are moving in a whole new direction.
Even though a lot of people are working from home and can’t always interact in the office face to face like the good old days (you know, like those early 2020s and before), it’s still important to make sure a remote team finds ways to connect. Virtual team building activities and tools are essential when you primarily interface with people who work from home. Any time you have remote teams, virtual team building is a good way to get everyone on the same page and continue building trust between one another.
There are tons of ideas for team building activities and a lot of these games and activities work just as well with remote teams online. There are even some team building games that wouldn’t actually work so well in the office.
Here are 10 ways to get your remote team building better working relationships:
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#1 Co-workers in Cars Getting Coffee
There are a few versions of team building activities that are, at the core, simply a way to get to know your fellow team members. This one plays off of Jerry Seinfeld’s popular show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. This entertaining virtual team building activity is a pretty straightforward question: If you could choose any person in the world to spend a day with, who would it be?
Who would be the person you’d want to drive around with, get a cup of coffee, and just chit chat with for a few hours? The moderator can decide whether or not to give each team member a time limit or just see how it goes. They can also rephrase it as, “who is your favorite person, and why?” or any other variation.
The idea is that it will give teams a chance to get more familiar with each other, and maybe even know what to expect when working together. For example, if someone chooses Jane Goodall, you’ll get a good sense that they’re an animal lover and appreciate the patience, kindness, and curiosity that a person like that has.
If a team member talks about how they’d love to spend the day with Kim Jong Un, you may want to dive a little deeper into their motivation and make sure these online games aren’t going in a really weird and dark direction. You can remind your remote employees to keep it PG, but there may be that one person who loves to push boundaries.
#2 Freeze Dance
Not that you really need to improve upon a dance party, but if you want to upgrade a dance party into more of an online game, you can add the element of surprise – and prizes! The first step is to make sure that your team members all have their sound and video working during a video conference call. Then you’ll need a DJ and a judge.
This can be the same person, and if that individual can also do a Nigel Lythgoe accent or a spot-on Paula Abdul impression, well then, that’s just a bonus. Of course, that could also be a liability if you want to keep things more team building and less critical.
Luckily the judge isn’t critiquing dance moves, but just assessing who stops when the music stops, and who can’t quit moving on time. One by one, team members will be “tapped on the shoulder,” and told they’re out of the game. The last one standing in this fun virtual team building activity is the winner.
You can involve more team members when preparing the game by having remote workers send their song suggestions or proposed playlists to the one who is doing the virtual team building exercise, AKA the virtual DJ or emcee in residence.
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#3 Let the (remote team building) Games Begin…with Murder Mystery Mayhem!
Gaming isn’t just for kids, silly rabbit! Since playing video games in the office together may be out of the question for the time being, but a virtual game can be just as fun. For some remote workers who never meet in the office, it’s obviously a great way (and the only way) to go.
A popular game among remote workers is Among Us, a murder mystery game in outer space where your team members will turn into Crewmates or Impostors. It may be the only time you’re encouraged to ruthlessly take a team member out, so take advantage! Imposters sneak around and kill Crewmates, and everyone is trying to stay alive long enough to solve this whodunnit in space (except for those pesky Imposters – you know who you are, you murderous villains, you).
To play this fun, remote team building game, everyone will need to get the app on their phone. Then, before team members begin to play, they can log onto Zoom (or other video conferencing software) so they can trash talk or mislead their fellow remote workers as they play. Hopefully, with team members taking themselves less seriously, it’s an opportunity for team bonding and a chance for everyone to release a little tension.
#4 Drawful – a Fun, Virtual Drawing Game for Virtual Team Building
In-person board games are not an option with remote teams working from home. As with many other things over the last year, everyone must learn to adapt. Having virtual teams compete in online games and activities is a great way for remote workers to get to know each other and have a good time, too.
Drawful is a game from Jackbox Games which is a treasure trove of virtual team building activities. They can provide hours of online fun for remote employees and others who work from home, with titles like Quipplash, Fibbage, and that early online game many people might remember – You Don’t Know Jack.
Drawful is a game similar to Pictionary, which enables remote workers to guess what their fellow team member is drawing. In the game’s settings you can choose family friendly, opt for censoring, adjust audience mode options, and make other choices you think are appropriate for a remote work situation.
Have some fun while you build relationships and connections among remote teams – it’s really the best way to go about it. Even though you’re working with virtual teams, that doesn’t mean they’re virtual humans. People are still people, and people need to have a little fun from time to time.
You can watch this video below to see an overview of Drawful. You’ll learn how to set up this virtual team-building game and get your employees to share their fun and creative side.
#5 Fun Fact or Party Trick
Any time you come together virtually with your remote teams, it’s an opportunity to get to know each other better. If you want a company to be productive, you have to remember that employees are people too, and need to feel that sense of purpose and connection. Mind-numbing work is not the best way to achieve success.
As a team leader, or even as a video conference call moderator, you have the chance to impact the company culture. You can make it a place where team members feel safe to share some personal information and make the work setting (even if it’s virtual) more engaging and fun.
As far as virtual team building activities go, this one is a pretty basic no-brainer, but it does the trick. As the moderator, all you need to do is ask a person to share a fact about themselves with the group, and then have them call on another team member when they’re done.
If your team members are a little tapped out on this fun fact ice-breaker activity, then you can opt to have them share a party trick. For example, is there a person that can juggle, or do a magic trick? Bringing in that levity can lighten everyone up and start the day off right.
Again, if you have any employees you think will cross the line, just remind them they’re at work, this is all on camera, and they should keep it PG (or maybe tell them G-rated) and no one will get fired.
#6 Fun Fact with a twist
As mentioned above, whenever you convene with your virtual team, it’s a chance to share and do some team bonding. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it with the forced familiarity, so you’ll have to insert your virtual team building activities strategically and mix things up a little.
So in the spirit of stirring it up, let’s take that common team building activity above and add a twist. Instead of everyone just offering up a fun fact about themselves, have team members send their fun fact via email or via the slack channel to the team leader or meeting moderator. Then, as the leader reads out each fun fact, team members can raise their hand or just shout out whose fun fact they think it is and why.
#7 Have Team members Share a Picture or Item
Team building can take different forms depending on the size and nature of the group. You might not want to do this activity before any random meeting or a company-wide quarterly review, but it’s a great idea for a small group that will be working closely with one another.
For this remote team building activity, everyone in the group will bring a picture or item from their home and get a chance to tell team members about it. For example, someone could share a photo from high school where they’re crossing the finish line, and what that race meant to them in the moment, or they could just talk about how much hairspray was required to keep those bangs from budging. Some team members might take this time to share something personal, which is one way to help build relationships in a remote work team.
Let employees know prior to the activity that they’ll have five minutes to share why this photo or item is special to them. This team building activity is one of the best ways to build trust and get team members to open up.
#8 Happy Hour Trivia for Virtual Team Building
If you have a lot of people on your virtual team, there’s bound to be someone really into trivia. See if you can recruit them to organize an evening game for all your team members to enjoy. They can come up with the questions on their own or rely on some online options.
From the company that brought you Drawful, and the other virtual team building activities mentioned in #4 above, Jackbox is a great place to get the tools to start your trivia night. Houseparty is another company that can help you get your game night on. This video-chat app has several virtual team building options from which to choose.
For example, there are a few variations on the original Heads Up game. That’s the one where a player can’t see what their card says, and their team member tries to help them guess it. In the “Animals Gone Wild” version on Houseparty, the person who’s giving clues can only use noises and act like the animal on the card.
Employees are bound to have a little fun if you can get the boss to bark like a dog or make whatever sound a hippo does. There’s also the “finish the song lyric” card deck which will help your virtual team get to know one another and their vocal range. It might be as close to a real time karaoke party as you can get with a virtual team.
#9 Movie Night – Remote Team Building with Buttered Popcorn
When the work day ends that doesn’t mean the opportunity for team building activities is done. Of course, you may want to make a group activity in the evening optional in order to preserve a healthy company culture and respect everyone’s time.
Still, this is a great way for everyone to share non-work activity time together. It’s taking team building to the movies!
You can hold a remote watch party by putting on any work-appropriate movie and setting up a real time video chat (or group chat). As everyone enjoys a movie together, people in the group chat can comment, make jokes, or offer up their cinematic insights.
It’s a little like Mystery Science Theater 3000, but with your remote team in the roles of the goofy characters commenting on the video. Simply set up the group chat on a slack channel or whatever platform your company prefers, for the online chat. Then use one of the viewing tools that sync up your viewing experience. There are online options like Teleparty, Watch Party, or Binge Together, so choose the one that works best for you.
#10 Don’t Hesitate to Delegate
So you just don’t have it in you right now to arrange and implement any of the aforementioned team building activities? No problem. We hear you. We get it. We were there all throughout 2020, too.
The good news is, you can hire a professional to come up with virtual team building activities for you!
Whether it’s a clean comedian who’s entertained countless crowds at corporate events or a magician who has wowed audiences of all sizes, professional performers can bring their skills to the virtual space and take team building to another level.
Reach out to us anytime at Clean Comedians if you’d like to explore options and see how we can help!
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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of CleanComedians.com. He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular virtual comedian, magician, and virtual speaker.