Remote work has been on the rise for years, but ever since COVID-19 entered the scene, it’s become a cornerstone of the “new normal.” While forgoing long commutes, wearing loungewear all day, and working from the couch has its perks, many remote employees have also struggled with feelings of isolation, loneliness, and cabin fever.
If you manage a remote team, you face the unique challenge of bringing them together in spirit while simultaneously maintaining a physical distance. As a result, you need to get creative in your approach to team building.
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some unique virtual team building activities that are sure to bolster your team cohesion, camaraderie, and engagement during the workweek.
What is Virtual Team Building?
The purpose of virtual team building is to cultivate a cohesive company culture using digital means. You can host your team building sessions using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Skype.
However, successful virtual team building requires more than simply scheduling a video conference. To ensure your audience truly comes together, you will need to organize online team building activities that foster:
- Enthusiasm – Working from home can get a little mundane and lonely after a while. Without any change of scenery, coffee breaks with co-workers, or workplace activities, it’s easy to lose enthusiasm for the job. On top of that, many people are dealing with depression, uncertainty, and anxiety during this time. To uplift your distributed team, make sure you choose fun, exciting, and engaging activities.
- Support – Many of your remote employees may enjoy their newfound sense of autonomy. However, your team still needs guidance. During team building sessions, help boost employee morale by letting them know that you’re there to support them and offer encouragement.
- Connection – While we all work to make a living, the workplace is also crucial for forging meaningful social connections. Promoting positive work relationships can improve your team members’ overall life satisfaction and morale. In these isolating times, team building activities may be one of the few consistent sources of connection that your team gets to look forward to.
The Challenges of Keeping Virtual Audiences Engaged
As you craft a plan to promote enthusiasm, support, and connection amongst your team, you will have to factor in your audience’s environment—their home.
During team building sessions, you must compete with all of the distractions your team faces, from their kids to their family pet to the Amazon delivery guy.
By choosing a remote team building activity that your virtual audience will love, you’ll have more success cutting through the noise and offering them an enjoyable escape from their home life.
4 Types of Unique Virtual Team Building Activities
Without further ado, let’s jump into some unique virtual team building ideas:
1. Virtual Ice Breakers
If you add any new members to the team, you’ll want to provide them with the same welcoming experience they’d receive at the office. Virtual icebreakers can help you do just that.
Icebreakers are also a fun way to kickstart your virtual meetings, which tend to be stiff and awkward during the first few minutes.
Here are some fun icebreakers that will get your team’s social cohesion flowing:
- Rose and Thorn – With this icebreaker, each participant shares their rose (something positive about the week, whether it’s work-related or personal) and their thorn (the biggest challenge they’re currently facing). This virtual team building exercise allows your team to celebrate their successes and request support for their challenges. As a result, it can bolster their sense of connection and friendship among a distributed team.
- “About Me” Questions – Another fun ice breaker is to open the meeting with a fun get-to-know-you question. Some examples include:
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
- What is one food you could not live without?
- What is your all-time favorite movie?
- If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be?
While light-hearted and straightforward, these types of questions can get your team talking and help them develop stronger social bonds with one another.
- New News Perspectives – Within your industry, there may be some interesting news stories or notable innovations that you could bring to your team’s attention. Send an article out to them before a meeting and ask them to prepare a response. During the meeting, ask each person to share their thoughts. Not only will this virtual activity hone your team’s industry expertise, but it will also offer them an opportunity to have their voice heard by the group.
2. Weekly Activities
Since the start of the pandemic, many people have watched their long-held routines get dismantled by lockdowns, social distancing, and an unexpected shift to remote work. You can help your team reclaim a sense of routine by adding some fun activities to their weekly schedule.
Here are some ideas:
- “Show and Tell” Monday – To kick off the week, ask your team to bring something for “show and tell.” Many people have taken up interesting personal projects during 2020 due to their copious amount of time at home. Maybe one of your team members learned how to bake sourdough bread or started a new herb garden in the backyard. Or maybe someone found funny high school yearbook photos while cleaning out their garage. By starting the work week with a fun team meeting, members will have enthusiasm, rather than the Monday blues.
- Tasty Food Tuesday – Many people are cooking at home more than ever before. By hosting a team lunch one day of the week, you can give your team a chance to share their culinary creations.
- Wellness Wednesday – In 2020 alone, depression has tripled among American adults. You never know how your team is dealing with the struggles of this year. To promote your team’s well-being, consider designating one day each week to focus on health, fitness, gratitude, and personal growth.
For example, you could host a team-wide meditation session or workout class—yoga, HIIT, and bodyweight workouts are all viable at-home options. You can also challenge your team to test out a new healthy habit for one week, like gratitude journaling or taking an evening walk.
Attendance for these activities doesn’t have to be mandatory, but enthusiastic team members will appreciate your interest in their well-being.
- Thirsty Thursday – Happy Hours are a classic way to promote team bonding. Fortunately, this activity is easy to host virtually. Simply invite everyone to a zoom meeting after work hours and ask them to bring their drink of choice. If you have any team members with bartending skills, see if they’re willing to share their cocktail and mocktail recipes beforehand.
- Fun Fact Friday – Fun fact fridays are a great way to have a laugh with team members about crazy fun facts in the world. You can designate a theme each week, and a few team members can create slides in a presentation that have interesting images relating to the fun fact. It’s a fun and casual way to celebrate the end of a work week and kick off the weekend.
- Flannel Friday – Bonus Activity! Here at Vario, we encourage team members to wear flannels in the wintertime on Fridays. It’s a unique way to promote casual wear.
3. Book Club
With so many in-person activities on pause, many people have been staying entertained by reading books, listening to podcasts, and binging Netflix or other streaming services. You can leverage this common ground by establishing a virtual book club (which does not have to be limited to books).
All you have to do is:
- Make a shared Excel sheet where team members can add their suggestions
- Create a schedule for each book, podcast, TV show, or movie
- Encourage the team to watch, read, or listen by a certain date
- Host a virtual meeting to discuss it afterward
Not only will your team enjoy the social element of this club, but they’ll gain a curated list of entertainment recommendations too.
4. Virtual Game Night
Games are another activity that will bolster bonding. Ask your team members about their favorite online games and challenge them to a match. Consider offering a prize to the winner to promote team spirit and some friendly competition.
Some potential game ideas include:
- An online board game
- Office trivia
- Virtual hangman
- Two truths and a lie
- Never have I ever
- A virtual scavenger hunt
Tailor your choice of games to your team’s preferences and then let the games begin.
How to Keep Hybrid Team Building Activities Safe
While virtual teams are likely here to stay for a while, many teams have started transitioning to a hybrid structure. Hybrid team building events allow some team members to come together in-person, while others participate virtually from home, either by watching a livestream or attending via video conference.
You may be wondering how you can best keep your team safe and healthy at a hybrid event. The CDC offers considerations for enhancing the protection of the event attendees and event planners can determine the extent of the safety protocols depending on state or local guidelines. The considerations are meant to supplement local rules and regulations; event planners should continually monitor the current local conditions.
With the following protocols and precautions, you can host a safe, successful hybrid team meeting:
- Social Distancing – First and foremost, you need to choose an event space that is large enough to keep everyone at a safe distance, even if you have a small team. Seats will need to be positioned at least six feet apart. If the weather permits it, you could also host your event at an outdoor venue.
- PPE – Personal protection equipment (PPE) is also important for hybrid events. You should place plexiglass dividers wherever necessary and have an ample supply of masks on hand. Masks protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected. To keep everyone safe, require all staff members and encourage event attendees to wear a mask. As the team leader, you may also want to check each participant’s temperature with a thermal scanner before admitting them to the event.
- Cleaning and Sanitation – Frequent sanitation is crucial to keeping the spread of COVID-19 at bay. Make sure to clean the event space thoroughly before, during, and after the event. If any food or beverages are involved, make sure they’re packaged properly to prevent coronavirus contamination (this means swapping that family-style buffet for single-serve snacks and bottled drinks).
- Signs and Messages – Post signs with messages on how to stop the spread of germs by properly wearing a mask and washing hands frequently. The CDC offers free print and digital resources about COVID-19 on their communications resources page.
Bring Virtual and Hybrid Team Building to Your Company Event
By implementing some of these virtual team building activities, you can boost employee morale and help your team feel more connected than ever before. Ensure the safety of your employees and attendees by continually monitoring your local guidelines and national CDC guidelines for upcoming events.
With 20 years of experience, the Vario team has been innovating solutions for virtual and hybrid events well before the start of the pandemic. We can help your company transition from virtual-only to hybrid events with professional support and top-notch technology. In turn, you can navigate this new normal with confidence and ease as a team leader.
Reach out to a Vario team member today to learn more about boosting team spirit, even if it’s through a virtual platform.
- Tech Republic. How remote work rose by 400% in the past decade. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-remote-work-rose-by-400-in-the-past-decade/
- The Royal Society. The social context of well–being. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2004.1522
- Jama Network. Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770146