10 fun (non-cheesy) virtual team building activities for remote teams

Teams that play together, stay together

Team building has always been important to the success of organisations because it has a direct impact on business outcomes. Such activities are all the more important now given that many employees across the world are working remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic and are unlikely to return to an office environment in the near future.

Enter virtual team building – the process by which organisations and team leaders bring remote teams and colleagues together.

Virtual team building is important because it can help:

  1. Build stronger partnerships between colleagues, which leads to stronger teams.
  2. Increase employee engagement, productivity (by 17%) and profitability (by 21%).
  3. Aid mental health and wellbeing at a difficult time for everyone.

Keeping this in mind, we have designed this playbook that lists 10 fun virtual team building activities for remote teams that organisations can use to help employees build relationships.

We have chosen these 10 activities from several because they require the least amount of preparation and resources but deliver the most fun.

We have gone with the assumption that most remote teams already collaborate using online video communication tools such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype or Whereby and they can use these tools for team building exercises too.

Most of these exercises can be held on the last day of the work week once a month. You can also give small prizes to the winners (since no one minds a small gift like candy or gift coupons).

These decisions, as always, are yours to make.

💃🏽1. It takes two to tango – two slides.

This activity is less of a game and more of an informal session that allows team members to get to know each other beyond their work interests, skills and skill sets. It’s sort of a pecha-kucha style presentation, but less intense. Team members get to present anything they would like to, be it a learning from a project, their favourite pet, or even a quiz and tutorial on how to pronounce their name. 

The aim is to keep the threshold of participation low by requiring people to have just two slides in order to be able to present. This ensures that the effort to organize yourself for such a session isn’t daunting or overwhelming. We understand people are busy and often have more important things to do.

This activity is best conducted in your workplace but can easily be adapted to become a fun virtual team-building activity.  

How do I organize this activity?

Step 1: Inform your team about the rules of the activity, that is, a minimum of two slides to be submitted five minutes before the event. Presenters can choose fidelity, quality, simplicity or format of those slides.

Step 2: Select a date and time.

Step 3: Call for presenters or identify four presenters per session. You don’t want to make it too long. Each person gets 10-15 mins to present their chosen topic.

Step 4: During the session: Introduce yourself, the presenters and the topics, and simply get started. 

Step 5: Ensure five minutes of Q&A between each presentation. For an onsite game, you can create a throwing soft question cube or buy a catch box in case the audience is shy.

Step 6: Summarize the event and thank the audience and presenters and inform them about the next session in 6 weeks.

Works for
Growing Teams
Preparation
Medium

🥞2. Pancakes vs waffles

This is a game of value-driven decisions that starts with relatively low stakes but escalates swiftly as the choices become more difficult. The discussions between team members on the pros and cons of each choice can be quite thought provoking.

How do I organize this activity?

In round one, the moderator or team leader tells the team that they are responsible for designing a new world and get to choose what to keep and what to get rid of. To start with, they must pick between pancakes or waffles. The choice they reject will cease to exist. There will be a discussion on the merits and demerits of pancakes and waffles. You then take a vote.

Let’s say, the team chooses pancakes. In round two, you pit pancakes against another choice, say, roller coasters. And so on. The choice can be between two objects, institutions or ideas.

Do remember, whatever the team eliminates, ceases to exist in the world. So the decision to eliminate has major consequences. If corn comes up as one of the choices down the line, and the team chooses to eliminate it, they will face a world without popcorn, tortillas, soft drink sweeteners and a major source of animal feed.

Here’s an example of how the pancakes vs waffles discussion can pan out.

Pancakes vs Waffles Team Game



Works for
Small & Medium Teams
Preparation
Low

🍻 3. Virtual pub trivia

Before the pandemic, teams met for lunch, a game or a drink to wrap up the week. Most of us cannot do that anymore because of Covid-19 restrictions in many countries, but we can still play pub trivia.

This game is good for larger teams. Ask everyone to come for the meeting with a drink of their choice – tea, coffee, kombucha, beer, wine, gin or whiskey – whatever.

How do I organize this activity?

The moderator is the only person who needs to prepare for this ahead of the game. They will need to need to draw up a list of trivia questions to ask teams. There are several online resources you can tap: see here, here and here.

Organise the team into smaller teams who must answer the questions you pose. Teams win points for each correct answer.

Works for
Large Teams
Preparation
Medium

4. Letter hunt

This is a fun game that remote participants can also rope in family members (such as kids) into.

How do I organize this activity?

Step 1: Everyone stands. The host calls out a random alphabet. 

Step 2: You need to bring an item whose name starts with this alphabet to the screen. Let’s say, the letter is “C”. You bring a cushion or a cup to the screen. 

The last person to bring something to the screen is eliminated and must sit down. This allows all participants to easily see who is still in the game. The game continues till there is one winner.

Works for
Large Teams
Preparation
Low

👶🏼 5. Baby picture

This is great for teams whose members don’t know each other very well.

How do I organize this activity?

Each participant sends a baby picture of themselves to the moderator ahead of the game. They should also think about an anecdote about themselves from the time the photograph was taken. You don’t have to be super accurate about the date. Any childhood anecdote will do.

When you start playing the game, the moderator shares the photo with the team and everyone takes turns guessing who it is. When someone correctly guesses whose photo it is, the person tells the whole team an anecdote from their childhood that somewhat relates to the photograph. And so on. Team bonding, here we come!

Slack - MuchSkills - Baby Faces Game


Works for
Small to Medium
Preparation
Low

📘 6. Personal facts guessing game

This is a great bonding exercise for teams that are spread across the world.

How do I organize this activity?

In the week ahead of the meeting, the designated moderator asks everyone in the team to share three unique personal facts about themselves. Say, X is the youngest member of the family, does origami in their free time and hates travelling by air.

Moderator reads/types out these facts (or lists them on a whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation that can be shared with the rest of the virtual team) and the team has to guess who this team member is. Each person gets only one chance to make a guess (to avoid chaos). The person with the most correct guesses is the winner.

Works for
Medium to Large
Preparation
Medium

🕵🏼 7. Never have I ever (SFW edition)

Ahem. This is the Safe For Work edition so don’t get your hopes up. There’s no scope for all the explicit statements that you may have come up with during university editions of this game. The game is a great icebreaker for young teams whose members don’t really know each other. Because it’s not exactly a competitive game, it is focused on getting people to know each other better.

 How do I organize this activity?

Step 1: Moderator needs to draw up a list of 10 workplace friendly statements. For instance:

  1. Never have I ever played hooky from work.
  2. Never have I ever broken an arm.
  3. Never have I ever eaten blue cheese.

Step 2: All players start with 10 points – and hold up both their hands with open palms to indicate this. 

Step 3: As the moderator slowly reads out each statement, people fold in one finger whenever any of the statements apply to them. So, if you’ve ever played hooky from work, you are one point down.

Step 4: The last person standing is the winner.

Works for
Medium to Large
Preparation
Low

🗺 8. The birth map

This is great for diverse teams and helps others understand where their team members come from.

How do I organize this activity?

In the run-up to the meeting, everyone tells the moderator where they were born. Moderator puts it on a map that is shared with all participants during the team building exercise.

One by one, team members share a story with everyone about their birthplace. It could be something they love or hate about it… or a fun fact about it. It can be anything – even the fact that you left your birthplace when you were two and never returned.

Works for
Medium to Large
Preparation
Medium

👽 9. Aliens have landed

We are in 2020 and this scenario is a distinct possibility given all that’s been thrown at us since the beginning of this year. Jokes apart, this is a game that will get the team’s creative juices flowing.

How do I organize this activity?

Step 1: Moderator announces that aliens have landed on earth and you need to tell them about what your company does. But since they do not speak your language, you will have to communicate using visuals such as symbols or images.👽🚀🏃🏻🏔

Step 2: Participants split into teams of 4-5 people each. Each group will have to design or find five symbols or images that they think best represents the company. 

Step 3: Break off the meeting at this point and give everyone 30 mins to meet their groups and come up with their symbols. 

Step 4: At the end of this break, each group presents the symbols they have come up with to the rest of the team and explain the thought process behind their choices.

Works for
Medium to Large
Preparation
Low

📸 10. Photography competition

Everyone has a smart phone with a camera now so this exercise is a great way to find hidden talent in the team. At the end of this exercise, everyone will also know more about each team member.

How do I organize this activity?

Step 1: Ahead of the team-building exercise, everyone submits a photograph they have taken themselves in the past year (preferably not selfies). 

Step 2: During the exercise, the moderator asks each team member to talk a little about that photo – when and why it was taken and why it is special.

Step 3: Everyone votes for their favourite photo. The photo that gets the most votes is the winner. The team leader/organisation can print and frame that photo and give it to the winner.

Works for
Medium to Large
Preparation
Medium

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