The ability for remote work has existed for years; however, once COVID-19 reached U.S. shores, this relatively rare employee “perk” offered by a few progressive, forward-thinking employers became a mainstay for the country’s workforce. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from approximately 9 million people to 27.6 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Recent workforce surveys reveal the majority of those employees working remotely would prefer to continue doing so. In fact, of more than 25,000 remote workers surveyed by IBM, 75 percent said they would like to continue working from home in at least a partial capacity. In contrast, 40 percent of respondents said they feel strongly that their employer should give employees a choice to opt in to remote work.
While the American workplace is undoubtedly ever-changing, the COVID-19 pandemic left employers rapidly scrambling to adapt to drastic changes, including effectively managing and engaging remote staff. As a result, remote team building activities can look a lot different.
Why Are Virtual Team Building Activities Important?
While many workers enjoy the flexibility of remote work and want to continue, there are downsides. For example, a recent poll found that more than 20 percent of remote workers report struggling with loneliness since switching to working remotely.
The home office can save workers time and money, but it leaves some longing for the camaraderie they once enjoyed with coworkers. Team building needs to be prioritized as it would be in a brick-and-mortar office.
So, the question for employers becomes, how can we effectively keep our remote workforce engaged and build strong teams in the virtual office? As the saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work.” Not only does it make the dream work, but it may also increase productivity, job satisfaction, and worker retention.
Managers must ensure they are not leaving their remote workers out of sight or mind by offering ways to integrate team building and socialization into the virtual workplace. Remote workers need to feel they are part of the team, and building and maintaining professional relationships is critical.
This article explores 16 fun (and practical) virtual team building activities perfect for getting the gang back together!
Virtual Team Building Activities to Motivate Any Team
1. Two Truths and a Lie
Before a virtual team get-together, have everyone send two truths and a lie about themselves to a moderator. For example, “I love bungee jumping, am a professional poker player, and have eight cats.”
During the team meeting, the moderator will choose a person and read all three statements. The goal is for the team to try to determine which are factual and which are fiction.
“Two Truths and a Lie” is one of many fun team building activities that allow coworkers to know more about each other and identify those who share common interests.
2. Book Club
Have the team collectively decide on a book to read over the next few months. Participants will share their thoughts on each chapter during regular team meetings (or special book club meetings).
Another idea is to let the group choose a book on a work-related topic, such as setting professional goals or organizational teamwork. The latter option may help your team self-identify their strengths and weaknesses, followed by a productive discussion on improving their workplace.
3. Scavenger Hunt
Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? For this activity, participants stay in their chairs until the moderator calls out a specific item, such as a glove.
The first person to bring that item back to the call wins a point. At the end of the game, the person with the most points wins.
Incentives are always fun! Consider offering the winner a small gift card or prize.
You should get a few laughs from this one, especially if you make the item selection unique.
4. Virtual Happy Hour or Coffee Klatch
Beer and good conversations can be the perfect wind-down to a stressful week. Or, perhaps a Monday coffee klatch to get the week started right would be appreciated. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re getting the gang together for some good, light conversations!
While this is a popular option, it is important to set ground rules. For example, you may want to make this a time where work talk is not permitted to encourage more pleasant conversation. For some, this may be challenging, but in time, people begin to learn more about one another, and the event will likely turn into a team highlight of the workweek.
For those groups just getting started, consider appointing a group leader or moderator that will come to the meeting with various conversation starters, such as:
- What is the most recent movie you watched and what did you think of it?
- If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
- What famous persons have you met?
- What are some of the items on your bucket list?
5. Success Stories
Most folks tend to focus on the negative, particularly at work. However, as we all know, a negative workplace is toxic and unpleasant.
For this team building activity, have participants share a professional success they have experienced since the last meeting. These do not have to be huge successes, like closing a million-dollar deal, but rather the little things. This could be something as simple as your printer not running out of ink this week.
Focusing on and talking about the positive rather than the negative will help to promote a positive atmosphere and improve overall morale.
6. Remote Island Survival Tool
Pretend that everyone in the group is heading out alone to a remote island for a month. They will arrive with the clothes on their backs and a water bottle equipped with a high-tech filtration system capable of turning any water, salt or fresh, into pure drinking water. They may only take with them ONE additional tool of their choosing.
Participants must choose a tool they believe is most critical to their survival. They will ponder the question and then reveal what they are bringing with them and why.
This activity should open up a lively debate as participants ponder the usefulness of their selections!
Another idea to make things more interesting and force some collaboration is to ask participants to imagine they’re traveling to the island as a group. They must unanimously agree on only one suggested tool to bring with them.
7. Guess Who?
Before a meeting, have everyone send one person a baby picture. Then, during the meeting, share the photo and have everyone guess who it is. People change over the years, so this one may be tougher than it seems.
8. Where in The World?
For this activity, participants choose a place they have lived, traveled to, or would like to travel to. Then, they list five clues about the place they chose.
Let everyone take turns sharing their clues with the group, and the first person to guess the correct location will earn a point. The individual with the most points at the end wins bragging rights or a small prize.
Another idea to make this activity a little more interesting is to award points based on how many clues it took to guess the correct answer. For example, a correct guess after revealing one clue may equal five points, whereas a correct guess after revealing all five clues might be worth a single point.
9. Team Member Interviews
Before the meeting, have each person do a short interview with someone they do not work with often. Then, participants take turns sharing what they learned about their coworkers, allowing the entire group to learn more about each other.
As a young manager, I used this particular exercise often. It helped me learn a lot about my coworkers from other departments (several of whom later became peer mentors for me).
10. Pop Quiz
Before your team get-together, come up with a fun quiz of general trivia questions or company-related facts. In the end, the individual or team with the most correct answers wins!
You could also make it a tournament lasting several months; the first person with 100 correct answers wins.
Another idea is to turn this into the game, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” Find general knowledge questions appropriate for fifth graders online and go from there. Everyone will be shocked at the things they should remember from the fifth grade but don’t .
11. Brain Teasers
Everyone loves a good mental challenge from time to time. Working together to figure out a difficult brainteaser collectively is an excellent team building activity.
Ask everyone to submit a brainteaser or riddle and let the group members work together to come up with the answer.
12. Whose Office is it?
Before getting together, have everyone take pictures of their home office and send them to a moderator. During the activity, show the images one by one and let everyone guess which people the home offices belong to.
You can learn a lot about people by how they have their offices set up.
13. Would You Rather?
Search the internet for a few “Would You Rather?” questions to ask everyone during a meeting.
These should be provocative yet work-appropriate. Getting a little uncomfortable is part of the fun, but again, this needs to be appropriate and sensitive to the attitudes and values of a diverse group.
Everyone makes a selection and explains why they would prefer one of two options. Here are a few examples suitable for the work environment:
- Would you rather have more free time or more money?
- If you could, would you rather cure cancer or end world hunger?
- Would you rather give up social media for a year or eat the same dinner for a year?
- Would you rather never age mentally or never age physically?
14. Reverse Charades
Charades is a fun game that’s perfect for a virtual meeting.
One person will guess while the others provide silent clues. You can easily do this by having the guesser close the chat space while others see what word or phrase they are acting out.
15. Probing Questions
You start by asking questions like, “If you had a time machine but could only travel one way, would you go back in time or into the future, and why?” or “You have to sing karaoke in front of a room full of strangers. What song are you singing and why?”
The key to learning more about your coworkers is to keep asking, “why?” Peel the onion back one layer at a time. See how long you can keep the conversation going with even more probing questions!
16. Caption This
Team members submit photos (the wackier, the better!) and ask everyone to caption them. We have all seen this done on social media, and it will be fun and exciting to see the responses. Perhaps, you can offer a prize for the funniest caption!
Virtual Team Building Activities Engage All Members
Today’s workforce is changing; we now have employees needing more than just a paycheck and a company-sponsored health plan to stick around. Not only will regular, virtual team building activities boost performance, but they also help retain top performers.
The key to virtual team building activities is participation. The more your team engages in the fun, the quicker a highly functional work team can develop.
Not every supervisor, team leader, or manager is comfortable with interactive team building, but for those folks with a bit of apprehension, force yourself outside of your comfort zone. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!
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Kelly Doyle is an Operations Manager for QCS. Kelly has more than 29 years of experience leading cross-functional teams for inbound and outbound, high-volume call centers. She has held several roles throughout her career, such as Sales Manager, Human Resource Manager, Senior Manager, and Client Services Manager. She is Six Sigma Green Belt certified. Kelly is passionate about exceeding goals and is results-driven.