Learn how you can hold team-building events and activities for your remote staff to help them collaborate and bond regardless of distance.
They say teamwork makes the dream work.
It’s something both a sports coach and an HR manager can agree on. Like a sports team that plays better when everyone knows one another and can anticipate actions and needs, businesses can function at a higher level when team members work as a cohesive unit.
That’s why team-building activities are so important to the modern business world. An entire industry has risen around it, with companies forming with the sole responsibility of conducting team-building exercises at businesses worldwide.
Not only will your staff be more effective after team-building initiatives, but your company culture can improve. There’s less drama and better energy around every corner.
In an office environment, team building is straightforward and effective. But what about companies that don’t have physical office space?
Remote work has been on the rise for years, but it became especially prevalent during the pandemic. Now that the world has moved on, many companies and employees have discovered that they prefer a hybrid or even fully remote working environment over the in-person office experience.
If your company is one of the many that's adopted this model, you might find that your team members (some of whom are spread all over the globe) aren’t as connected, since they don’t share a physical space.
So, what’s a company to do? Should you just forego team-building activities as a necessary sacrifice for this remote working world?
In this article, we’re going to talk extensively about how remote team building works and then offer you several ideas on how you can implement virtual team building with your staff.
Many remote workers choose to work from a coffee shop, library, or even a small rented communal office space with other remote workers. But some prefer to work from the comfort of home, sitting in their pajamas with the family dog as their only co-worker.
While the freedom afforded to working professionals in this space is great, it does come with one major downside. All that isolation can become depressing. It’s easy to feel like you’re all alone when your co-workers are all on different sides of the planet. That isolation can lead to anxiety, depression, and a lower quality of work.
This is precisely why it’s your job as a responsible employer to ensure that your team has a shared virtual space to come together, get to know one another, and create a friendly and collaborative atmosphere.
This can include messenger services like Slack, regular virtual get-togethers, and themed activities designed to encourage cooperation and allow a group of people separated by mountains and oceans the opportunity to socialize and grow closer as a cohesive unit.
Virtual team-building is the perfect way to accomplish all of those goals.
The term virtual team-building can mean many things to many people. Simply put, it’s bringing people together in a virtual environment to forge a cohesive team of employees.
Because virtual team-building is such a versatile term, there are a great many activities that fall under its umbrella. This can include something as simple as meetings that have a social component.
For example, if you’re holding regular staff meetings on a Monday, open up with some casual conversation in which everyone talks about what they did over the weekend. Typically, this can create opportunities for discussion, and your team can learn more about one another.
It can also involve:
When you’re ready to bring the power and effectiveness of virtual team-building to your remote or hybrid staff, you’ll need some specific tools.
For starters, you’re going to need an internal messaging system. Slack is one of the best options for this. It should be a system that allows for group chats and direct one-on-one messages. If your messaging platform also features a video or audio call component, that’s great as well.
The wonderful thing about Slack is that it has a free option that allows you to do a lot. If you want to monitor your employee communications or save logs, you’ll have to pay. But you can effectively run business communications at no cost with Slack.
You’ll also need a video meeting app like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or one of the many other options out there. These platforms will be the backbone of your face-to-face communication.
Like Slack, many of these platforms have free options, but they also restrict you in a lot of ways. This includes limiting the length of your meetings and how many people can attend.
Since this is such a vital tool for your team-building efforts, it's best to put down the money to purchase a premium plan.
Of course, there are other platforms you could use. Some apps allow you to stream movies with friends remotely or play games. But at the bare minimum, you’ll at least need a messenger and a video conferencing system.
When people hear “ice breaker,” some immediately roll their eyes. We’ve all been to cringey icebreaker events where the questions and answers are incredibly mundane.
To avoid running a boring event that causes your team members to start impatiently staring at the clock, inject a little creativity into the process and make it more fun.
For example, don’t ask questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No.” Instead, ask open-ended, thought-provoking questions — the kind one needs to truly consider before answering.
Instead of tried and true queries like “Do you have any pets?” or “Where did you grow up?” try asking something outside the box. Here are a few examples of what we’re talking about.
You can also conduct icebreaker games to inform and entertain your team. Two truths and a lie (where someone says three things about themselves, one of which is a lie) can engage your team and force them to ask one another questions while really thinking about their co-workers.
Another great way to promote team building is by holding special contests. For example, challenge your team members to take the craziest selfie possible or share photos of their workspace.
Have them send the workspace photos to you directly without showing anyone else. Then, see if the rest of your team can correctly identify whose desk is whose. You could do the same thing with baby pictures.
You’ll find that your team members will have fun together engaging in interesting games like this. Moreover, it forces them to truly think about each individual they work with and apply their personalities to each guess.
One of the best ways for teams of employees to come together is over a meal. Leading an excursion out of the office and venturing to a local pub or restaurant can be a great way to connect. Unfortunately, in remote business environments, that’s not possible.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t hold special team lunches. You just have to get a little creative.
With food delivery services like Uber Eats, Doordash, and Grubhub becoming a part of the modern dining experience, buying your employees a meal is easier than ever. Use the company card to purchase lunch for everyone and have each meal delivered to wherever your employees are working.
You could also choose themes for these meals, like buffalo wings or Thai food. Then, everyone can eat together on a Zoom call, where they’ll socialize and get to know one another better.
Group training is a necessity for a lot of businesses. In a traditional office setting, everyone would gather in one room to learn, ask questions, and participate in activities designed to solidify their knowledge of the topic.
For remote teams, this is also possible. You can hold a mini webinar, providing instruction to your team over a video conference. Most of these platforms even have the option to share the presenter’s screen, meaning you can show off slides on a PowerPoint presentation and reach everyone’s device.
So, where does team building come into play? Platforms like Zoom can break off into small groups called breakout rooms.
You can lay out an activity that pertains to the training topic and then split the team into small groups that collaborate to accomplish your goals. Then, set a timer on the rooms so that after five minutes (or however long you choose), the rooms disperse, and everyone returns to the main meeting.
We all need to unwind after a long work week, and many like to unwind with an adult beverage. In a typical office setting, you could take the whole staff to a local bar for happy hour. But there’s no reason you can’t create this experience in a virtual setting.
Simply have everyone join in on a Zoom meeting with the drink of their choice and use it as a chance to vent, chat, educate, and connect.
Of course, with a team spread worldwide, it’s possible that what’s happy hour for some might be the morning for someone else. In that case, it’s perfectly plausible for someone to have a cup of coffee instead of a glass of wine.
Consider holding your next happy hour adventure when these other staff members might be more willing to unwind with a drink. Changing up the times for these events is only fair and shows that you’re committed to improving the lives of the entire team, no matter where in the world they may be.
On a platform like Zoom, everyone could even superimpose the same background of a bar behind them to add some quirky fun to the experience.
Everyone loves a good meme war. Unless, of course, you have no idea what a meme war is. In that case, a meme war is when you compete with others to find the best meme for a specific topic.
For example, if you’re a marketing firm that just finished a long project for an auto repair company, consider asking everyone to find their funniest car-related memes and post them in the group chat. The group can then vote on who came up with the best find.
Additionally, you can encourage your staff members to make memes about the company or customers as a fun way to show that you have a sense of humor while also allowing team members to vent.
You can even hold a meme tournament, where the original memes made by your staff go up against one another. The winners then move on tournament style to face one another until there’s only one meme champion left.
You can throw in a prize like a Starbucks gift card for the winner to make things more interesting.
Gaming can be a really fun event that brings people together. It creates friendly competition and camaraderie. There are many kinds of games that a team can play together.
Of course, there are video games. The team could connect via audio calls while playing co-op in a multiplayer game like Call of Duty or Halo.
The problem with this approach is that not everyone has a gaming console. And those who do might have competing consoles that don’t allow cross-platform gaming. That’s why you should look into some more accessible games like those found on free mobile apps or websites.
Something like Wordle, Trivia Crack, or Words With Friends can be a great team activity.
While Wordle doesn’t have a head-to-head mode that lets players go against one another, you can still do the daily puzzle and share your results in the office group chat. You’ll then be able to compare everyone’s results and identify which team members finished the puzzle in the least amount of tries.
Music is something that can bring a team together. And the great thing about music is its subjective nature.
Learning about someone’s tastes in music, what they consider good or bad, can be an excellent way to bring teams together and help them learn more about one another.
You can create playlists and share them with friends using free platforms like Spotify.
Once a week, choose a new team member to create a playlist for their co-workers. You can have the team member talk about their selections in the weekly meeting and get everyone else’s opinions the following week.
While no one will be required to listen to these playlists, it can still be a fun way to see who your co-workers are.
Music is a window to the soul, and two employees with nothing else in common might bond over a shared love of a specific song, artist, album, or genre.
There’s a lot to love about remote and hybrid working environments. They afford employees enhanced freedom, comfort, and flexibility in their workdays.
But with all of that good comes some drawbacks. You can use virtual team-building initiatives, like those listed above, to help overcome the isolation, the distance one normally encounters when working alone.
You can use these eight team-building tips to connect with your team, regardless of how far apart they might be. By learning more about one another and working together toward common goals, you can create a sense of community around your business and forge a cohesive and effective team unit.
To review, when trying to hold team-building activities for your remote employees, consider:
You can use these activities and others to forge the best team possible, overcoming isolation and forming strong cooperative bonds throughout your virtual workplace.
I'm a blogger, podcaster and (recovering) side project addict that teaches 500,000 monthly readers how to start a blog and grow a profitable side business at ryrob.com.