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Due to the pandemic, 66% of US employees have been working from home at least part time, and many companies work remotely year-round. However, just because your company might be distributed or unable to gather together doesn't mean you can't still build rapport with your team.
Building relationships within your company results in more effective teamwork and helps to combat loneliness. That's why we've put together seven virtual team building activities that can help boost morale and help remote co-workers still get to know each other.
Before we get started, it’s important to have a quick look at the benefits of doing team-building exercises in general.
Not only does it help people get to know each other a little better, but it helps improve communication. It also means that people will be better adapted to working on any team projects.
There are many different struggles that can come with working from home, and according to Buffer's State of Remote Work survey, one of those is loneliness.
People will also be more engaged and motivated to get work done for people that they know a little better. If people feel less lonely, they will feel more content. They will feel the motivation to hit more team goals and will see more of a purpose to the work they do.
Admittedly, at first, some people may find the activities a little bit awkward. Yet, when done well, they can be fun, social, and motivating.
As a manager, team leader, or CEO of a firm, you know your team the best. So, it’s up to you as to how often you want to do some team building.
You may decide to optimize the video tool you use and have a quick team building activity every meeting. If that’s a bit much, then you may just decide to do a one-off session as you feel the mood dropping.
When doing these activities, think about how people talk and mirror the natural way of chatting.
Try to get creative and use visuals to keep people engaged. Most importantly, try to involve everyone. This means using activities that everyone can take part in.
Some people are naturally shy and may need a little more encouragement. It’s not to say that just because they are quiet they don’t have lots to say or you need to patronize them. They just need to know they are part of a team, too.
So, let’s get on with those suggestions.
Why not start at the beginning? Birth. This isn’t a chance to regale a room full of workers with stories of your life so far. It’s more of a visual aid to help people get to know each other a little better.
This virtual team building activity works by creating a collaborative virtual world map through Google. Then ask everyone to drop a pin where they were born and then to write something about that place. It could be a fun fact or a reason why they love (or hate) it there.
This works as a team collaboration exercise as it encourages others to join in, too. It may turn out some employees went to the same school. Or others have family in the same place.
If you don’t fancy going all the way back to the start, why not create one showing where they’re all working now? This is especially interesting if you have a global business or lots of employees in different cities.
Who knows, you might even find out two of your team live in the same town and didn’t know! It all gets people communicating.
And in the end, you can even put your results together with a map maker like Visme by highlighting all of the areas that your team lives in.
You may be a copywriter working remotely with a retail firm. Or a freelancer employed with a few SaaS marketing agencies. Heck, you may even get paid to watch TV online.
Whatever your remote job, everybody likes a distraction. And what better way to take your mind out of a stressful working day than with an online game?
Take "Two Truths and a Lie" for example.
There is, in fact, one thing that’s better than that. And that’s being encouraged and paid by your boss to play one.
At the start of the week, contact all your employees and give them a choice of games to choose from. People can then vote on these games to see which one they would like to play at the end of the week.
Of course, in the spirit of things, make sure they are team games that people can play together.
You may decide to do a timed drawing game or an online board game. Whatever it is, it will give people something to look forward to at the end of the week. And will encourage people to show one another their playful side.
Similar to playing games, this is a chance to bring people together and have some fun. Using video tech, you can gather your remote teams once a week to play a quiz together.
It doesn’t matter how far away people are from each other, this method of team collaboration guarantees laughs.
There are plenty of great apps out there that provide pre-made quizzes for video calls. However, if you do want to make your own, make sure to add universal questions in there.
Otherwise, spending an hour trying to answer questions that need a post-grad in astrophysics soon becomes boring.
There are plenty of online tools that allow you to make interesting visuals, so you don’t need to rely on text-based questions either.
A fun “guess the celebrity from their eyes” style question always goes down well in pub quizzes, and can easily be translated into online ones.
You can even use a tool like Visme to put these virtual quizzes together. Here's a great example of what this could look like.
One of the best parts of the working day is lunchtime. It’s a time when people can forget about work and relax a little. So, once a week, why not have a virtual lunch and catch up with life outside a traditional working environment.
This is perfect for those taking advantage of video conferencing for small businesses. That’s because it gives the whole company a chance to get involved.
A personal touch is to treat it like you would in the office. As in, make a strict ‘no work talk’ policy. Or keep things ‘off the record’. It’s just a nice chance for some people to get things off their chest when they might not have many people to talk to at home.
A bonus for a virtual lunch is that people can eat what they want. The vegan doesn’t have to worry they will get taken to a steakhouse. And anyone who has a peanut allergy doesn’t have to worry about any mistakes the chef might make. Everyone is happy.
If you’re feeling generous, you could even give employees money towards a takeout.
During your virtual lunch, try out one of these virtual team building activities.
Social media platforms have managed to create a whole industry from photo sharing. Some firms have even managed to show off their world class services through photos alone.
So, we know that pictures are a great way of connecting with others on shared interests.
A great team-building exercise is to have some sort of picture sharing time. There are several ways in which this can be done depending on how often you will be doing it.
One is to ask staff to choose a photo on a theme. One day, you could ask them to share a photo of what they did on the weekend.
The next, they could share a picture of what they have been watching on TV. Another day, perhaps they could show a picture of themselves as a child. Some places choose to do “messy desk pictures” where they send in a photo of their remote working space.
You get the picture (pun intended).
Add in some friendly competition with a “photo challenge.” This is where a photo master sets picture challenges for people over a video call. For example, they might give people two minutes to find the weirdest thing in their house. Or 30 seconds to take the best selfie.
With online video conferencing, there are a lot of ways to customize your backgrounds. Take sharing pictures one step further by challenging your team to find fun backgrounds for their call.
You’ll end up with staff pretending they’re sat in a classroom, emulating a beach holiday or creating a looping video of themselves – all great conversation starters.
Everyone’s got a different music taste. While this can sometimes cause arguments over the water cooler, it can also bring people together. Making a joint Spotify playlist can build your workforce’s spirit. It could even show some mutual interests within your team.
Collaboration in the workplace is vital to your company’s success. Using something non-work related to start with can filter through into other areas. You never know, a combined love of 80s synth hits can end up working wonders for your business.
When you create a collaborative playlist, anyone can contribute. And it can be themed or named (within reason) however you like.
Workplace karaoke trips might be on hold for now. But this can have a similar outcome. It creates a talking point, too. You could even hold joint listening sessions after hours or during breaks.
This may seem contradictory when talking about teamwork. But, sometimes, pitting people against each other - in a friendly way - can cement your workforce.
Through a group video call, you set different competitive challenges for them. It’s basically a friendly "who is the best at?" Or "who is the quickest at?" You can make it as silly or sensible as you like.
There are many creative ways in which you can do this. You could ask your team members to write the best poem in five minutes. Or make an origami swan as quickly as possible. How about seeing who can balance the most things on their head before it falls off?
Mix things up a bit and appeal to everybody’s different skills to make it fair. Don’t forget about your freelancers or contingent workers, either. They need to feel part of the team, too.
If you have a big team, you could even bring in a referee or "games master."
This friendly competition isn’t about “who can get the most sales in an hour”. It’s about giving people something to look forward to and letting staff laugh together. Remember, it is all in the name of fun and has nothing to do with the work itself.
You could even put together a fun design challenge similar to what the Visme team did by holding a GIF contest.
The guidelines were to create a GIF using Visme’s design tool and animated elements to showcase life during COVID and what it’s like working from home – but still trying to be a bit lighthearted about it.
Here’s an example of what one team member created:
There are plenty of options to keep team building activities fun and interesting in a remote environment. Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to one idea; you could chop and change to see what works for your team.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is all done in work hours. Otherwise, you may get half the team opting out and the point of the activities gets defeated.
During this tough time, it is important to bring your team together and have some fun. Taking part in group activities helps boost morale and brings people closer together. Whilst still being physically apart.
The result of that being happier and more productive workers who love what they do.