If you’re an employee or employer within a predominantly remote team, you’ve no doubt experienced both the blessings and curses synonymous with the virtual workplace.
For employers, the need to facilitate team bonding has never been more necessary, and the statistics support this. One study from Gallup found that “Fully remote workers are only 30% engaged in their work.”
Fortunately, the virtual team building marketplace has sky-rocketed. Many companies now compete against each other in a bid to provide online teams with the best virtual team building activities.
Therefore, Surf Office has compiled some of the most effective team building activities for strengthening employee relationships and driving engagement.
Mini-games: Short games to break the ice
Jumping into a virtual room with tens or even hundreds of colleagues can be intimidating at first. These short mini-games are a great start for any company new to virtual team building.
1. Two truths, one lie (5 minutes / person)
This game is perfect for groups that don’t yet know each other very well.
Each person will take a turn at having their colleagues guess which of the three statements is the lie. The more believable the lie, the harder it is for the guessing team!
Not only will the team get to know one another better, but there will certainly be some big laughs and surprising moments along the way.
2. Guess the emoji board (5 minutes / person)
This little game is best suited to teams with a pre-existing connection, as some prior knowledge of one another is required for a calculated guess.
Before starting the game, each member will need to take a screenshot of their ‘recently used’ emoji board from their phone and send it to a host. The host will then display each emoji board one-by-one whilst the rest of the team try to guess who it belongs to.
You’ll be AMAZED at what can be deciphered from something as simple as an emoji!
The surfing man, shaka hand, laughing smiley, and a wave? Yep, that’s me…
3. The ‘Ruined paradise’ game (10 minutes)
If you want to kick off your virtual team building event with some light-hearted fun, try this!
After splitting the group into two teams, each team will be assigned a role. A member of team 1 will start by describing ‘paradise’ in one sentence, using only positive descriptions. Then, a member of team 2 will attempt to ‘ruin paradise’ with a negative sentence.
Play continues like this until everybody has added a sentence. A judge then determines which team has won by deciding whether ‘paradise’ has been ‘ruined’ or not.
4. Tree or Bob Ross? (5 minutes / person)
This game is a little random, but great fun. Each player will have a go at thinking of a specific ‘thing’.
The other plays must then figure out what that ‘thing’ is by formatting questions like, “Is it more like… or…?” Traditionally, the first question is always, “Is it more like a tree, or Bob Ross?” Play continues until the guessing team has successfully guessed the ‘thing’.
5. Chubby bunny (10 minutes / game)
A classic, if you ask me. This game can get a little embarrassing, so it's a nice icebreaker!
Two players go head-to-head, adding, placing and holding marshmallows in their mouth one by one. After each marshmallow has been added, each player tries and say the phrase “chubby bunny,” as clearly as possible.
Players keep adding a marshmallow until the judge declares a players “chubby bunny,” to be unintelligible.
6. Spelling bee (20 minutes)
The spelling bee is a great opportunity for the more introverted members of your workforce to display some raw talent.
A host will need to make a list of words, with increasing difficulty. Try adding in ‘bonus’ rounds where spellers will need to spell the word backwards.
7. Lightning Scavenger hunts (10 minutes)
With the majority of remote teams spending hours behind their computer screen, it’s a great idea to incorporate activities that get employees away from their screens as much as possible.
Scavenger hunts are super fun and get the energy high nice and early.
8. ‘My perfect vacation Is…‘ (10 minutes / Group)
This short game encourages everybody to listen and pay close attention to their partner.
Split your team up into pairs and ask them to go away and explain their perfect vacation, imaging that time and money were no object. Then, each person needs to have a go at explaining their partner's dream holiday to the rest of the team.
9. Show and tell (5 minutes / person)
This one probably doesn’t need too much introduction, you’ll probably remember it from school.
Show and Tell is a fun way to start the team building session. Before the meeting starts, ask each person to bring a mascot with them. At the beginning of the meeting, each team member will have a turn at introducing their mascot and explaining why they brought that item with them.
10. Typing speed race (5 minutes / person)
You would be surprised how competitive colleagues become over a typing speed race. This game is a great way to kick off the fun. The best way to play the game is for the competitors to take turns completing a typing test and sharing their screen as they do so. This way, spectators can cheer them on as they type.
Once they’ve completed the test, their scores are entered into a league table. Fancy upping the stakes? Encourage the team to ‘place bets’ on who they think will be the fastest before starting the competition.
11. Forensic artists (20 minutes)
Everybody likes to draw! This game is a fun opportunity for colleagues to relax and have some fun. The game is very simple, and it goes like this…
Step 1: Split the group into teams, you can have as many teams as you like, with a minimum of two per group.
Step 2: Explain that a crime has been committed, but fortunately one person from each team spotted the suspect.
Step 3: Using a random face generator, create a face for the witnesses to describe.
Step 4: The witnesses must try their best to describe the face they are seeing to their team members.
Step 5: The other members of the teams must try to draw the face as accurately as possible based upon the descriptions.
Step 6: The team with the most accurate sketch wins!
12. The desert island game (10 minutes / team)
You’ll probably recognise this game from ice-breaker games school - it’s a classic.
To play this game two teams will need to select three items from a list of eight that they would like to take with them to the desert island. The items might be things like a spade, a bag of seeds, tinned food, a knife, cable ties, etc.
Once the teams have decided which items they are going to take, they need to explain their reasons to the other team. This game is great for encouraging debate and teamwork.
13. The rhyming game (10 - 20 minutes)
This game is designed to get your team’s creative juices flowing and encourage them to think on the spot.
The idea is really simple. Each person takes it in turns to make a sentence. Each sentence needs to rhyme with the previous one. For example, “John woke up and went to work” … “It was his last day so he gave a smirk...” And so on.
Set a rough time limit for each person to say their sentence (we recommend three seconds). If they are too slow they lose the game and are out for the next round. Then a new story begins. If a rhyme is said twice then that person is also out of the game.
The game continues until two people are left for the ‘final showdown’.
14. The GIF game (10 minutes)
Jumping on the back of the current GIF trend, this game is great fun, if not a little silly. A host will present the group with a statement such as “On a typical Friday night, you’ll probably find me…”
Everybody then has 1 minute to find the best GIF that answers this question. The group decides amongst themselves who’s GIF is the best/funniest. The winner then thinks of a new statement.
15. The Wiki-relay race (5 - 10 minutes / race)
Perhaps you got some practice at this game whilst procrastinating in school. The team will be divided into two teams. The two teams will be racing each other to land on the ‘destination topic’ fastest.
For example, a member from each team both need to load the same Wikipedia page, let’s take “The Grand Canyon” for example. When the starter pistol fires, the two competitors need to race each other to land on the page ‘Manicure’ by clicking through links on Wikipedia. The first person to reach the ‘destination page’ is the winner.
16. Read my lips (5-10 minutes / game)
This is a really fun game and it's easy to play online. To play this game, you’ll need two teams - the smaller the teams are the easier the game will be. Each team needs to pass the statement on until it reaches the last team member. This person then says what they think the statement was. Let’s go look at an example.
Step 1: Player 1 receives a statement from the host, such as “I love my job, it’s great fun and my colleagues are great.”
Step 2: They must then turn their microphone off and say the statement to player 2 who tries to understand what is being said.
Step 3: This goes on until the statement reaches the last player of that team.
Step 4: The last player then tells the group what they thought the beginning statement was.
Step 5: If they get it correct (or something very similar) the team wins a point.
Facilitate regular engagement: Recurring events, Online games and leagues
A good way to sustain the morale of your team is by setting up online games or leagues that continue over an extended period.
This routine interaction mimics that of a typical workplace, where regular contact with colleagues is more frequent.
17. Mister rogers calls (20-30 minutes)
This game is simple, yet so effective for online teams. This activity encourages employees to put time aside for getting to know one another.
Using a randomiser, pair two employees together every week. The new pair must schedule a 20-30 minute call that week to try and get to know one another as well as possible.
At the end of the month, a host can test their knowledge by asking questions like, ‘Do they have any pets?” One point for each correct answer! The colleague with the most points wins a prize!
18. Five minute book talks (5 minutes / person)
Got a team that likes to read?
Five Minute Book Talks is not only a great excuse to get the team together once a month, but it also develops their public speaking and presentation skills.
Every week or month, choose a member of your team to give a small presentation on a book they recently read, including a brief synopsis, positive and negative points.
19. Scheduled virtual coffee breaks (15 minutes)
The freedom of working from home has seen the popularity of remote work grow. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Everybody must pay the price of this newfound freedom. The price is usually increased loneliness and reduced job satisfaction.
Simple acts like leaving the office for a 15-minute coffee break have been lost. Recreating this mini social interaction in the virtual world can help to boost morale and reduce loneliness.
Try scheduling regular 15-minute work breaks where employees can come together in a shared online space to gossip and sip on a coffee.
20. Virtual debate club (20 - 30 minutes)
Some people are made for the Debate Club, they love to share their opinion!
The Debate Club is a great way of encouraging the shyer members of your team to share their opinions about silly topics.
Every month, a host will pick a silly topic to debate with the rest of the group such as, “Should pizza have pineapple on it?”
A team member will then attempt to lead a sophisticated debate on the topic.
21. Among us (30 minutes - 1 hour)
If you're a younger team with an appetite for video games, this might be worth a try!
Among Us is an online game where an ‘imposter’ attempts to eliminate members of the ‘crew’ without being discovered.
The game can only be played by a maximum of ten players, so you might want to consider putting together a league if you have a larger workforce.
22. Treasure mountain (1 hour)
Treasure Mountain can be played with teams of 4-6 people, a team captain is chosen to enter the game and share his/her screen with the rest of their team. The teams then race against the clock, completing challenges and solving riddles in the pursuit of gold.
23. Online chess club
You might be surprised how many workforces enjoy a game of chess!
Creating an online chess club is easy and free. Schedule regular games throughout the year and reward the winner with a small prize like a voucher or cash bonus - monetary rewards are a great incentive for driving online social interaction.
24. The ‘Healthy together‘ challenge
For remote teams, staying fit and healthy can be a challenge. No longer do we need to walk or cycle to work, we just roll out of bed and place ourselves at our desks.
Sometimes, a little healthy competition is enough to give people the incentive they need. To play this game, think of a challenge like ‘run 1 kilometre every day.’ Everybody needs to prove that they completed the challenge each day (by showing a GPS route, for example). Every time the challenge is completed/failed it gets marked on a calendar. At the end of the month, the team member with the most completed days wins a prize!
25. Weekly updates (20 - 30 minutes)
A simple yet effective way to encourage team bonding is by facilitating weekly ‘get-togethers’ online. These meetings can be really short and shouldn’t involve work-related topics.
You can start by encouraging each employee to talk about two good things and one bad thing that happened that week.
26. Remote FM
Remote FM is a nice recurring theme for the remote office. Employees take it in turns to host the company radio. This can be done by creating a playlist in Spotify and sharing the link in the team chat.
Educate and engage: Online experiences and group activities
Employees are more likely to engage with team building events if you have something special planned. There’s nothing worse than a half-hearted attempt at employee bonding.
That’s why we suggest arranging fun and unique experiences for your team to enjoy.
27. A virtual cocktail workshop (1 - 2 hours)
After all, what’s a team-building event with alcohol? Not only is a cocktail workshop fun, but it’s also educational (kinda)! Here’s a great example of a popular workshop we found on Airbnb Experiences.
28. Online escape rooms (2 - 3 hours)
Escape rooms have become a staple of every team building manifesto. Fortunately for remote teams, you can now experience escape rooms from the comfort of your living room sofa!
Escape rooms are great for inspiring and provoking problem-solving and leadership skills within your team. Here’s an example we found online.
29. Virtual meditation workshop (20 - 30 minutes)
A Study by Statista Research Department found that “51.4% of participants that worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic said that their telecommute was leaving them more stressed”
A group meditation workshop shows your team that you care about their mental health.
30. Teach your team a new skill
Browsing a list of online experiences like this one will give you some great ideas for your next virtual team building event.
Learning a new skill together can be great fun as well as a fantastic team-building experience.
31. Experience a virtual game show (1 - 2 hours)
Creating an entire game show yourself might be a little too excessive. Fortunately, third-party virtual event organisers like Nicebreak do all the work for you - you just need to show up!
32. Get in-shape with an online fitness class (1 hour)
Feel like making yourself unpopular? Hours spent behind our desks has left many of us feeling sluggish, a virtual fitness class might be just what the doctor ordered.
Exercise helps to release chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine, vital for good mental health. Here’s a nice example.
33. Develop a Culture plan
Planning activities that align with your company’s ethics is important for maintaining company culture. Companies like Thriver work with you to develop a long term strategy for your team building activities.
34. Browse Product Hunt for team building integrations
A simple search for ‘Team Building,’ in Product Hunt will throw up a bunch of great options for initiating social interaction with your online team.
There are lots of options to choose from and many of them can be fully integrated with your existing remote project management software like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
35. Virtual office space
Some teams might love the privacy of the work-from-home lifestyle. However, for those that are used to the hubbub of a real-life office, working from home can feel a little quiet.
One way to engage your team is to create an online ‘virtual office space’ for colleagues to log into. The idea is simple. The first person to clock in that day opens a virtual room for anybody to join. As other colleagues enter, the atmosphere of an office is gradually created.
Team members can even change their background to look more like a real-life office space!
36. ‘Welcome to my crib...‘ (10 minutes / person)
Who are we kidding? Everybody knows that working from home includes barking dogs, screaming children and make-shift offices. This activity is designed to discover the ‘working environment’ of your colleagues.
Colleagues will take it in turns to give a short tour of their house, showing where they work, where they go for lunch, etc. This builds more human connections between employees.
37. Team calendars
No doubt your team already has an online calendar for organising the daily company tasks. Why not create another calendar that features important life events for all members of your team?
The calendar might include events such as “Marissa’s son’s first day at university!”, or “Steve getting married!”
Allowing colleagues to add these types of events to a calendar builds connections and boosts team morale.
38. Try using Donut with Slack
Donut can be integrated with your existing Slack workspace. Donut’s ‘Watercooler’ feature is a fantastic catalyst for driving employee interaction online. The idea behind the app is to spark ‘random’ yet lively conversation between employees.
Conversation topics are fully customisable, or you can create your own conversation starter.
39. Personal ‘User manuals’ (5 minutes / person)
Probably best for smaller companies, this is such a good way for new employees to get a handle on how each member of the team likes to work.
The idea is simple: Have each member of the team record a short video of themselves, explaining a bit about themselves and how they like to work. Do they prefer a phone call in place of an email? Do they like to schedule meetings far in advance?
Knowing a bit more about how each team member likes to work can be fun but also useful. From day one, new employees can establish a better understanding of their new colleagues’ work-related preferences.
40. Plan a team-building retreat!
Ice breakers, mini-games, and competitions are all attempts at imitating real-life social interaction. Want to really boost your remote team dynamic? Organise a team-building retreat!
Team building retreats are a fantastic way of getting your team together. Tech company Stripe took their team to Lisbon for 5 days of hard work and fun team-building activities. Trips like this are great for showing your team that you value their hard work.