Let’s face it: working from home can be a lonely, disconnected experience.
In Buffer’s recent “State of Remote Work 2020″ report, loneliness was the biggest struggle for 20% of remote employees.
No fear! We’ve compiled this list of awesome remote team builders to help create strong virtual teams 🙂
(Full transparency: we’ve designed amazing virtual team builders that I’ll talk about below, including the Virtual Vacation, Drag Queen Diversity Training, and the Graffiti Workshop!)
Take heed: remote team building brings its own challenges, and it requires special work to engage everyone. After all, you don’t want half the team tuning out, and need to ensure everyone feels like they’re a part of it.
That’s why virtual team building is so unique. But if you spend time creating a thoughtfully designed program, remote team building activities can still be super successful! Our ideas below don’t require a ton of time or money, but can still serve the purpose of bringing teams together, with staff bonding and fun, plus useful tools for working remotely.
We at Wild SF are passionate about great team building ideas, and compiled 14 of our favorite creative virtual team building activities for remote teams. They’re easy to run, easy on the budget, and can make for a happier, more productive team!
PS: We’re always updating this list with new ideas — Press “Command + D” to bookmark it!
Virtual team building can be, well, anything that brings remote teams together, just like if you were working together in an office!
When done well, fun virtual team building can help build trust and meaningful connection through team bonding, and can help ensure your whole team feels valued and seen.
Virtual team building ideas include several strategies, games and activities designed to bring more human interaction to virtual workers.
We’ve outlined all sorts of ideas, including simple ice-breaker questions, games and video activities. We promise these will help create closer-knit teams and better collaboration!
Remote team building is especially important for workers not used to working virtually (like those affected by COVID-19).
It can be hard to self-motivate, and workers often feel disconnected and unsupported.
Instead of equating this with your quarterly team builder, think of virtual team building as a replacement for the “watercooler.” It’s an intentional space where remote co-workers get to catch up, socialize, and connect in a way they might not otherwise.
Done well, virtual team building can help stand in for the connections and collaboration you’d experience with in-person working, and ensure employees feel cared for, connected, and inspired to be productive!
Intentional team building can even facilitate new skills, like a collaboration mindset, communication building and teamwork.
When online meetings begin, it’s easy to jump straight into business. But consider adding in a few minutes for fun check-ins and small talk. This is extra important for remote employee bonding, as virtual team members don’t have a chance to chat with their neighbors throughout the workday.
All the games below are templates that you can easily switch up and change to fit your team. Have fun, don’t take it seriously, and see what happens!
Ironically, 65% of remote employees say they’ve had no type of virtual team building sessions. These are the employees who need them the most!
If you’re overwhelmed by the task of building rapport and trust through remote teambuilding, hire an expert to make it happen! Check out Wild SF Tours for qualified leaders who can turn a conference video call into a meaningful session. Feel free to call us at 415-745-5457 or email booking (at) wildsftours.com to chat more!
Here we go! These are some of our favorite ideas for authentic virtual team building (that aren’t boring!). But use your imagination too–just like with improv games, there’s endless possibilities to invent and switch up these team building games and activities.
What sounds better than kicking back on a tropical beach, sipping a piña colada?
Hawaiian shirts are encouraged on the Virtual Vacation, transporting you to an imaginary island. But there’s a catch: your team must now work together to navigate across waters to San Francisco.
Led by Wild SF, energetic, quirky guides will serenade you with ukulele songs, get everyone laughing and connecting, and working together through fun challenges.
Like using quick-thinking problem solving when your ship gets hijacked by pirate sea lions, or solving riddles to hilariously defeat a troll blocking our path (it makes sense in context, we swear!).
Once you make it to our port, they’ll share an epic story of San Francisco, with an inspiring message about creativity and teamwork in the face of unexpected challenges.
DEI, or diversity training, doesn’t need to be stale and awkward!
Instead, join beloved San Francisco drag queen Mary Vice for the most entertaining diversity seminar you’ve ever seen.
In this exhilarating look at queer history and culture, you’ll get a crash course on LGBT rights and Pride via a “virtual tour” of San Francisco’s most important queer landmarks.
Then, enjoy a live drag performance and Q&A with Mary Vice, one of the most successful drag performers on Twitch today.
This dynamic experience is quickly becoming a favorite: it’s a graffiti history class (with lots of vibrant photos), a Mission District tour, and a hands-on graffiti masterclass with renowned street artist EON 75!
First, you’ll learn the history of graffiti’s hip hop roots in New York, and how crews brought the art form out to San Francisco.
Then head down back alleys of the Mission District to visit the “outdoor galleries” of mural- and graffiti-filled alleys, finding hidden art from local legends and international artists.
You’ll see spray can vs. brush art, and understand how politics and legality comes into play with piecing, bombing, tagging and creating stunning murals.
Next, you’ll meet renowned graffiti artist EON 75, who will share his backstory in the “graf” scene, and lead a workshop showing everyone how to create their own tags.
Your team will leave inspired, having learned about art and showcasing their own creativity as a team.
Here’s an easy one: kick off with virtual meeting ice breaker questions!
This is one of most easy virtual team building ideas out there. Asking a fun and easy icebreaker question is a tried-and-true way of getting people talking and bonding in no time!
We suggest building in enough time to do a few rounds of questions. Kick it off with something super easy and “surface-level” to get your team talking.
Here are some easy opening ice breaker questions:
Then, if you’re feeling there’s a trust and comfort with your team, try one of these deeper questions. These get more to the core of what people care about in life, and can make for meaningful team bonding for your virtual team.
As someone starts demonstrating vulnerability, this can encourage others to open up about their own goals, dreams and needs too.
Some deeper ice breaker questions for teams:
Here’s a fun one: Have your team submit one (unknown!) fact about themselves to the leader. The zanier and the better–everyone has a few of these experiences that wouldn’t have come up in conversation naturally.
How it works:
During the meeting, read each fact aloud to the group, and have the team guess which fact belongs to which team member!
If it’s a small team (5 or less), it works well to read all the facts at once, then have everyone try to match them up.
If you’re 6+, it works well to do multiple rounds, so that everyone can remember the facts that you read.
At the end of each round, the team can cast votes and discover if they got them right.
Learning fun facts about one another is especially important for remote teams, which can feel very isolated. Knowing that you and your coworker share a love of an obscure 80’s band, or both studied abroad in Ireland, can make for meaningful connection that wouldn’t exist otherwise. It’s a simple way to spark friendship-forming discussions.
Caution: it’s about to get real cute up in here.
How it works:
Before the meeting, have everyone send you their most adorable baby photo.
Then organize those so they’re all visible at once (like on a Google Doc, or using a photo editing program), with a number next to each one.
Then, everyone guesses which photo belongs to which employee! To make it competitive, everyone can write their answers (with corresponding number) on a sheet of paper, then hold it up to the camera at once!
Here’s a Jeopardy-style quiz show game for team building. It’s basically a quiz show, and you can keep points to make it competitive!
How it works:
To compete, each player should “buzz in” through the chat (comment an X, for example). The first to buzz gets to answer, and if they get it correct, one point!
Since we’re all spending more time at home, it’s a great time to learn about one another’s hobbies we’ve been making some time to share what we’re up to outside of work.
While working from home, these channels can be a fun way to bond and learn of similar interests, hobbies, and to brag about cute pets, kids and home cooking.
Sometimes the best team building ideas are the easiest to run. Once you set this up, there’s no maintenance needed, but infinite bonding possibilities.
How it works:
Set up some fun Slack channels for your team and invite them!
Fun Slack channel ideas:
Constant video meetings that are all business can feel like, well, all business. Here’s a way to break that up, and show that jumping onto a video call can be fun and conversational.
How it works:
Set up a 15-30 minute “coffee break” call that has no agenda, and is truly just a way for remote employees to bond while having a coffee together. Let the conversation flow organically (sometimes it’s best if the manager isn’t on the call), and allow them this space to chat about whatever they want to!
Conversation often spins into the latest Netflix series, personal lives and current events. For those who work remotely, these can feel like a really valuable time to interact with coworkers in a fun and easy way.
You can even consider giving a “no work talk!” guideline to ensure it’s all fun talk and getting to know one another, or you can let them use that time to talk through projects and collaborations, too.
Since we’re all cooking at home, why not make that into its own fun competition?
How it works:
Choose a day to host your competition, and decide on a “theme” for the food competition in advance, so everyone has time to grocery shop.
Ideas for themes for chef competition:
On the day of the food contest, have everyone post a picture of what they made for lunch on Slack, and then vote on whose meal is the best. There can be a fun prize for the winner!
Team bonding at the local bar is a tried-and-true way to let loose and catch up at the end of a long day. Hosting an online happy hour might sound strange, but it works!
This is a chance for co-workers to interact and learn more about each other, even if they’ve never gotten a chance to meet and work together in person.
How it works:
Let your team members know in advance about virtual happy hour, so they can stock up on their beverage of choice. When the video call happens, get everyone to “cheers” with whatever they’re drinking!
Conversation will flow organically here, and this shouldn’t feel too structured. But you can definitely have a few great icebreaker game ideas on hand too (like those on this list above!).
It sounds silly, but there’s something psychologically encouraging if you can feel like you’re in an office, even when you’re home.
One easy idea is to create a live remote office space in a video chat.
How it works:
At the start of the day, anyone can start the “virtual office” by dropping a link to a video meeting. As others start work, they can open the “office” and keep the video chat on throughout their workday.
It’s encouraging to see your coworkers, and helps you to stay motivated while working remotely. Just like in a real office, it also allows for easily asking questions, making a bit of small talk, and feeling more connected!
We’re going back to the early 2000’s. Frosted tips are encouraged.
A fun way to start a remote meeting (or maybe a mid-meeting pick-me-up?) is to have your distributed team do their best celebrity impressions and show off their house, selfie-style.
It’s a unique way to bring remote teams together, and to show off any particularly great interior design skills!
How it works:
Choose one remote team member as the “celebrity” per meeting, and have them host their own selfie-style TV episode, showcasing from their doorway, then walking through the house. They can show off whatever they feel like along the way!
Tip: have the “celebrity” join the meeting on their phone (not computer), which will be easier for walking and narrating.
Marco Polo is our favorite video messaging app, where you can record and send short videos privately, or with a group. They call it a “video walkie talkie.” It’s simple, but really fun!
How it works:
Have the team download the app, then add everyone to a group.
Every morning, record a message with the day’s check-in/prompt, then invite everyone to respond with a short, fun video!
Possibilities are endless–every morning you can think of a new question, or have your remote team take turns coming up with that day’s check in question. This is a great way for distributed teams to have a bit of facetime and connect from afar!
Everybody loves presents (even if you’re not a Christmas person). Plus, getting a care package in the mail sounds extra sweet when you’re working remote!
So why not make a new gift-giving holiday? You can make up a new gifting tradition for July 25, say, and call it “Christmas in July.” This could also work as a quarterly tradition. However often you want to celebrate, presents are always a fun way for remote teams to feel connected and cared for.
How it works:
Try to run this “Secret Santa” style, where each remote employee is given another employee to prepare a care package for. You could have people fill out a survey of types of things they like (Dietary restrictions? Fave online stores? Fave wine/spirit?), or the team can have total creative control! Depends how well they all know each other.
Then, give a max budget (maybe $25 plus shipping), and tell them when their presents must arrive! The presents could even be opened together as a fun idea for video meetings too.
Present ideas for remote employees:
1-on-1 hangouts are a personal way to connect, and it happens automatically with Donut, the extension for Slack. Once a week, Donut pairs up your teammates, encouraging them to set a time for a remote meetup!
This is an easy way to have a fun chat with a coworker you might not chat or work with on a daily basis.
Donut describes itself as “grabbing a remote donut or coffee” — who doesn’t want to do that?
They introduced their simple idea after realizing that authentic relationships with virtual colleagues increases remote employee productivity, engagement, and even increases happiness as much as a $100,000 raise would!
No need to over-plan this, and you can really let your virtual team talk about whatever they want to during these calls.
For remote employees, lunch could be a great time to facilitate engagement and online team building. Bring in an “expert” to share a presentation or talk while folks are eating at home! It’s like a private TED Talk for your remote team!
How it works:
Get your remote team on a video call, and bring in an expert to lead a talk. This “expert” could be an outside speaker you hire (someone with insights into communication skills, how to stay motivated when working from home, health and wellness, or non-work topics too that might be interesting!).
Your “expert” could also be someone on the team, and it could feel like a skillshare where for each Lunch and Learn, one virtual employee shares something they’re knowledgeable and passionate about!
15-30 minutes is a good presentation length (if a team member is sharing the complete history of Lord of the Rings, 15 minutes will feel plenty long to most people). Organize this for during the lunch hour, and encourage your team to eat while they watch!
Ahem. Believe it or not, this college standby doesn’t need to turn NSFW to be fun. Play a PG-version with your team and get to learn about one another!
How it works:
Everyone starts with five fingers held up. Your remote employees each take turns saying something that they haven’t done. If you have done that, you put down one finger. The last person standing (with a finger raised) wins!
For example: if someone says “Never have I ever been roller skating”, then everyone that has been roller skating would put a finger down. You’ll learn a lot about your remote coworkers quickly, and it’s a game that’s already familiar to most.
You could also pre-write the topics ahead of time, in case you need a reserve of family-friendly topics and prompts 🙂
If you’ve got a silly team that likes to perform, kick off an otherwise boring video conference with a quick remote dance party!
How it works:
You could have a scheduled meeting that is literally just a dance party for 30 minutes, with one remote employee playing DJ and providing the jams, while all set up their cameras with cool backdrops and get to dancing!
…but if you don’t have time for that, just kick off your team call with a quick dance party!
Have the music playing as virtual team members login to the call, and get everyone dancing it out immediately! This could also be a way to encourage timeliness–don’t show up late or you’ll miss the best part 🙂
A dance break also works well to bring the energy back up mid-meeting, as a sort of pick-me-up.
Wild SF leads meaningful virtual team builders that get your team out of their shells, laughing, connecting, and learning more about one another.
Ready to bring your remote team closer together?