Remote team building activities used to be sidelined to the occasional remote team or group of consultants on a project.
But now that we’re officially one year into a global pandemic, most of us are getting used to our new normal of working from home these days. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to feel like we’re working alone.
The solution? New and improved remote employee engagement activities that appeal to everyone in your organization, can be customized, and can be played over and over. (Ideally, some of the games will be so popular you can transfer them to an in-person format post-COVID 19!).
That being said, let’s explore some options for when you want to rally the troops together, increase productivity levels, and inspire company engagement - all at the same time.
1. Online Bingo
HubSpot has a great example of a remote bingo template which yourself and your team can use as a place-holder until you customize your own.
The reason we love this option is because Bingo is something that everyone likes. Despite its reputation as a pastime for senior citizens, bingo is a game that 1) requires minimal upfront time to learn (unlike some complicated TV show-inspired board games!), and 2) is easy to stop and start, with relatively short play times.
To make it extra collaborative and fun, have everyone submit ideas for items to tick off as they play. For instance, “trouble logging onto Zoom,” “wearing pajama bottoms during meetings” and “forgot my mask so had to walk back to the car” are all relatable, newly-discovered work from home experiences that everyone can relate to.
2. Book Club
Less of an employee engagement game, and more of a virtual team building exercise, this one is particularly well suited to the bookworms and introverts on your team. Keep in mind that not everyone enjoys reading or has the time, so either: 1) try to offer audiobooks as an alternative to traditional paperback books, or 2) begin with short stories, smaller novels, or poetry books instead to help build momentum and keep people engaged! Then create a schedule for meeting, such as in your Friday lunch break, checking that it works with all those who would like to be involved.
And don’t forget that before you officially set up your first meeting, it will help to create an outline of what books will be read, on what timeline, and by what point you will discuss. Make sure everyone who wants to join the club has a say in suggesting titles and authors, and feel free to put it in a poll in Slack.
Once you’ve decided your reads, the next step is to put your agenda in an easy-to-consume format, such as a google doc (or if anyone on your team is more artistically inclined, create a ‘flyer’ in Canva with interesting colors and graphics). This will add a sense of occasion and structure to your impending book club!
One thing to note here: try to be generous in estimating the timeline for each read - a good rule of thumb is not to assign 200 pages or more over a 10 day period - so keep this in mind as you create and distribute your schedule. And if you all end up loving your choices and reading faster, you can always adjust as you go!
3. “Getting To Know You” Lunch
Did you know that when you eat with someone, you automatically feel closer and more bonded with them? And going one step further, when you’re both eating the same food, you subconsciously note this and you in turn feel more at ease with them?
Scientists aren’t exactly sure on the why, but they think it has to do with implied trust levels when two people both let their guard down and break bread together. Either way, the result is the same when it comes to thinking about your virtual team bonding activities: set up times for employees to chat over lunch. Preferably, if you can have some of the same food delivered to each worker - for instance, an office-favorite donut shop you all used to go to, or a wonderful local Thai restaurant that delivers - then use food as both an incentive and as a mechanism to get employees to bond.
This kind of activity for remote teams works even better if you can create structure around the occasion. By creating an agenda, in Google docs for instance, that employees can turn to during lulls in conversation to keep the momentum going, it encourages your employees to learn a little more about each other, without the added burden of coming up with their own questions straight off the bat.
A note on this particular digital team building activity: it works best in groups of 6 or less. (When a group becomes too big, it can become difficult to direct conversation).
Also, keep in mind that this activity is particularly well suited to 1-on-1 “getting to know you” lunches as well! Consider matching employees who don’t have much overlap at work, so they can get to know each other better. And finally, aim to have everyone on your team scheduled for at least 2 getting to know you lunches (one in a group setting, another on a 1-on-1 basis) by the end of the quarter. That way, it’s not a massive time commitment, but it provides plenty of opportunity for coworkers to connect.
This is a really fun virtual team building activity that also doubles as an opportunity to learn something new (hence the name). It’s pretty simple: say you have a team of 6 salespeople. Double them up each week in pairs and have them present on a topic - any topic - the only condition is they have to be interested in it, and it can’t be directly related to any company project they’re working on.
Examples of interesting presentations include, presentations on Personality Type (give your colleagues an abridged version of the Big Five Quiz, get them to predict their strengths, and then show them the results); Cryptocurrency 101 (lots of people know what Bitcoin is, but don’t know what it’s doing and what it means!); and Top 30 Netflix TV Shows (with personal reviews!).
Emphasize that this team building activity need not be in the form of a full-on Powerpoint presentation, but it should be well-informed and interesting for the rest of the group to hear.
And don’t forget to give your remote employees some guidelines, like how long the presentation should be, whether there should be an interactive component to it, and how often each team member should participate. This is an excellent opportunity for coworkers to work together on a non-company related project, have fun, and engage in some friendly competitiveness to create the best, most enjoyable presentations for the rest of the group.
5. Show And Tell
This is one of our favorite virtual games to play with coworkers! We love this picture game from Connect Team: basically, everyone on your team takes a photo of something that is significant to them or reveals something about them, and then spends a few minutes explaining the photo to their team.
An examples of good, conversation-sparking photo might be: the skyline of their favorite city, a picture of their newest puppy, the best place they’ve ever traveled to, a book that means a lot to them, a scene from a movie that they enjoy, a nicely decorated nook that they use to work in - anything that sparks joy and reveals a little bit about what they like and what matters to them works!
This one is by far of the easiest, most inexpensive virtual team building activities during quarantine, and we recommend you do it at least once in the next few months!
6. Words With Friends
If you’re looking for free virtual team building activities that’s sure to get everyone laughing and competing in equal measure, look no further than the mobile app “Words With Friends.”
This is essentially the online version of Scrabble, and the best part is: you can pick up and put down the game at any time, and it saves your progress. This way, you don’t have to set aside a certain amount of time at lunch or during the day to play - it’s much more casual, and your workers can turn to this particular work from home team game whenever they like.
7. Happy Hour
Who doesn’t love happy hour? In our books, this is one of the best online team building activities since it’s so close to pre-pandemic team building activities!
For this one, just make sure that you encourage everyone to bring alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike, from wine, to tea, to sparkling water. To make this one extra interactive and interesting, find out if anyone in your company considers themself an amateur wine connoisseur, or a tea snob, or anything along those lines - and make it an educational experience where people can attend with their beverages and discuss.
8. Bucket List
Among the best community building activities that you can do online, we’d say sharing your bucket list with your coworkers must rank pretty high. This is a great opportunity for not only your coworkers to get to know each other better, but you never know, they might end up inspiring each other in the process!
This one, unlike some of the others on this list, is also particularly well suited as a Zoom game for large groups and employees! Just remember, the larger the group, the more limited each person’s bucket list will have to be - potentially, depending on the number of people on your call, you may need to limit the number of items to 2 or 3. On that note, you could also use the size of the group as an opportunity to make this game harder - for instance, if one person has mentioned an item on your list, you can no longer allowed to mention that item. In this scenario, we could imagine some very creative answers coming to light!
If you decide not to go this route, you could also make it fun by having someone tally all the bucket list answers. This way, you can see if some wishes are more popular than others - and the results may surprise everyone!
This is a quick, 30 minute game that your employees can play at lunch or on break at work! It’s an especially economical choice as it relates to team building activities for remote teams as it just requires pen and paper, as well as maybe some picture editing skills (minimal).
Take common memes found on Instagram - think Michael Scott from the Office, the “Change My Mind” Guy, and the Grumpy Cat picture - and create a competition where everyone has to come up with meme ideas for the same picture. All answers are submitted “anonymously” through a member of your team who is not playing, but is acting as moderator, and everyone votes on the funniest ones.
10. Send Team Swag
Spread the love among your remote workers by having your team brainstorm and decide the contents of a thoughtful swag package to each member of a different department, or having managers on your current team put together curated swag bags for each member of your unsuspecting group!
And don’t forget, you can also use swag kits as incentives for prizes when you’re playing some of the fun activities for remote employees we outlined earlier in this post! We’re sure the competition at online scrabble would be extra fierce with a Patagonia Zip Jacket or a Coffee-Connoisseur kit was up for grabs!
And if you like the idea of spreading a little extra cheer among your remote teams, check out our Lookbook for some inspiration.