This page includes our list of virtual team building ideas for remote teams, plus general information about team building online.
Specifically, we’ve included:
- What is Virtual Team Building?
- The Benefits of Virtual Team Building
- Online Team Building Games
- Virtual Team Building Challenges
- Virtual Icebreaker Questions
- Team Building Ideas Activities for Conference Calls
- Virtual Coffee Break Ideas
- Work From Home Activities
- How To Boost Employee Engagement in Remote Teams
- Virtual Management
- Frequently Asked Questions: Virtual Team Building Edition
Below, we take a deep dive into the most important aspects of virtual team building. We talk about the science behind online team building and why employee engagement for remote teams is especially important. We cover the best virtual team activities, online team building games and virtual icebreaker questions. We also discuss virtual management and virtual management training. Finally, we talk a little about the different pros and cons of working from home, including the advantages, disadvantages and challenges.
Let’s get started!
What is Virtual Team Building?
Virtual team building is the process of developing relationships in remote teams. This process can include intentionally scheduled remote team building activities, as well as elements like icebreaker questions and breakout rooms. The goal of these efforts is to help improve remote work dynamics, engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.
The Benefits of Virtual Team Building
When you think of team building, trust falls, ice breaker questions and rope courses likely come to mind. In recent years, there shift in the team building industry toward more unexpected, innovative corporate team building activities. Today’s team building includes sassy museum tours, guacamole making competitions, catapult contests, and holiday-themed festivities. This trend toward unique shared experiences extends to online team building as well.
But before we talk about the types of team bonding you can do with remote teams, we first want to talk about why you should do team building with remote teams at all If you are already 100% sold on the value, then feel free to skip ahead to the next session where we give examples of the best remote team building activities available.
Here are some of the most eye-opening statistics on employee engagement in the United States:
- According to a report from Great Place to Work, only 42% of workers look forward to heading to work each day.
- While KPMG found that 85% of HR decision makers value employee engagement as a critical metric, less than a quarter of HR departments are concerned with what kind of workplace experience each worker has.
- Almost half of all employees surveyed would leave their current positions for a simple 10% pay bump. Why? Poor company culture is the leading reason these folks would make the switch.
- The majority of the workforce doesn’t believe companies have employee engagement strategies in place. 63% of HR departments said they have such a mission in their workplace; and only 43% of employees agreed. If your employees can’t see your strategy, then does it really exist?
- HubSpot found that a whopping 69% of employees said they’d work harder if they felt more appreciation from management.
There are dozens of statistics and studies out there that show similar numbers; the bottom line is the same: employees aren’t feeling the love from their companies.
Why is this important? Here are the top five reasons why employee engagement matters:
- Companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable than competitors! What would you do with more profit?
- Dissatisfied employees are estimated to cost the U.S. economy $500+ billion annually.
- Each time your business loses an employee that you eventually replace, it’s thought to cost the average company $5,000 in turnover per person!. Engaged employees are dramatically less likely to bolt for the next mildly decent opportunity.
- Gallup found that engaged employees were 41% less likely to have an absenteeism issue.
- Engaged employees are both more productive and more efficient, so these workers offer a better ROI on their pay.
By now, it’s pretty clear that having engaged employees is critical to your business achieving its maximum potential and success. Figuring out how, exactly, to engage your employees, however, is another matter entirely. Let’s talk about it.
Online Team Building Games
In addition to professionally facilitated virtual team building activities, there are also a variety of online team building games you and your remote team can play to stay connected and engaged. Our ideal recipe for successful online team building includes a healthy mix of virtual games sprinkled into regularly scheduled virtual meetings and intentional investments in activities.
1. Remote Workplace Bingo
One of our favorite online team building games is Remote Work Bingo. You can download the bingo cards here and send them to your coworkers. The first person to get a bingo wins a prize, with bonus points for adding fun options into this mix like “first to get normal bingo,” “first to get a diagonal”, “first to get an X on the board,” and “first to complete the full bingo board.”
Here is a free template you can use.
Check out Online Team Building Bingo for more free templates.
2. Typing Competitions
Another fun and friendly competition that falls into the free online team building games category is TypingTest.com. With a typing race, your coworkers can compete to see who is the fastest typist in the virtual office. Have everyone log on together and spend 60 seconds battling it out. You can also host the race in a Zoom Room or via another video call platform like Webex to fan the flames of friendly competition!
Here’s the thing about virtual team building: you can compete in just about anything and turn those competitions into fun, free online team building games! Solicit suggestions for various competitions from other members of your group and set up a recurring monthly battle complete with prizes to keep your remote employees engaged.
3. Pixel Art Challenge
Looking for something a bit more engaging when it comes to online team building games? Try the Pixel Art Challenge! Here’s how it works: find a fun image online, then determine what colors you need to recreate it. Then, set up a Google Sheet where you assign each color to a number. When you type that number into a cell, the cell turns into the corresponding color. While this activity requires a bit of time to set up, it’s worth it. Your group will have a great time with the big reveal!
Head to Zoom, Webex, or another virtual conference platform to divide your group into teams, and then send each team into a breakout room to see who can best recreate the image via the pixels on a Google Sheet. For an added bonus and to promote more conversation, have each group come up with a fun backstory about the item in your image. For example, a unicorn, llama, sloth or whatever you choose!
Worried this remote activity is too much work to set up? Here’s a free template you can use with your group for the Pixel Art Challenge.
4. Team Movie Night
Organizing a team movie night is a great way to do team building while working from home.
Here are the steps:
- Poll your team on the group’s favorite movies.
- Send your team members cute popcorn care packages that include popcorn, neck pillows and other items.
- Organize a virtual movie night and stream the movie via Zoom.
- After the movie, prompt your team with discussion points related to the movie.
And here are some movies you could watch:
- Quick Change
- Mighty Ducks
- Ant Man
- Wizard of Oz
One recommendation for this activity is to consider your team’s make-up; if most of your coworkers have families who would like to participate, then think about opening up the experience to everyone to spread more joy. Pass the candy!
5. Virtual Team Spirit Week
Everyone except my colleague, Michael, remembers spirit week back in school; where each day of a specific week had a fun theme for folks to participate in! You can re-create spirit week as a series of virtual team building activities for your remote workers. The online team building ideas are endless, so we’ve put together a sample itinerary for your virtual team below. Pep up the competition a little more and offer a daily prize for the most spirited entry of each day!
|Monday||📸 Share the funniest picture in your phone to a dedicated Slack channel|
|Tuesday||📝 Write a white board or paper note to a coworker and post to a dedicated Slack channel|
|Wednesday||👩🍳 Share a recipe you love, or want to try, with your coworkers.|
|Thursday||📚 Share a book with your coworkers; this can be a book you’re reading now, a book on your to-read list, or a book you’ve read and loved|
|Friday||😴 Wear your PJs to work day (we promise we won’t tell if you actually do this every day)|
You can develop your own awesome schedule too!
6. Online Office Games
Our section on online team building games would be incomplete without mention of TeamBuilding.com’s Online Office Games, an awesome facilitated virtual team experience!
The Online Office Games are designed to be fun, engaging, and interactive. Your group will enjoy specially-curated remote games and activities that boost relationships, workplace satisfaction, and will leave your remote team feeling great. Reviews for the Online Office Games are overwhelmingly positive and this activity is well worth it!
7. Emoji Storytelling 🔥
One of our favorite unique remote team engagement ideas is Emoji Storytelling! There are hundreds of emojis out there just waiting to tell a story.
- Gather your team in a video conference room, then divide your group into smaller teams.
- Task each team with the job of creating a story told entirely via emojis. Set a goal for coming up with a complete story in less than 10 minutes with about 100 emojis.
- Then, bring the group back to the meeting and give each group another group’s emoji story. The groups get another 10 minutes to try to decipher the emoji story of another group into words.
- When you meet as a large group again, one representative from each small team reads the group’s translated version of the emoji story.
Emoji storytelling is a blast, and laughs and good times are bound to roll with these fun virtual team building games!
8. Virtual Conference Tic-Tac-Toe
Tic-Tac-Toe is an easy to play game that most people are familiar with. You can adapt Tic-Tac-Toe to play with virtual teams by using a gallery view on a call and considering team members the playing pieces.
For example, if two people are facing off then you could say, “John, you are an ‘X'” and then John would cross his arms to make an ‘X’ shape. Then the next player could say, “Helen, you are an ‘O'” and then Helen would make an ‘O’ shape with her arms.
The winner is the first player to complete a row, really everyone wins because Virtual Tic-Tac-Toe is a blast of comic relief.
9. “I wonder…”
“I wonder…” is an online team building game that explored the intersection of creativity and business forecasting. To play, you start by saying “I wonder…” and then complete the phrase with something wild and unexpected like “what would happen to our business if humanity successfully settles Mars.” Your team then develops ideas and action plans around the scenario.
Here are some “I wonder…” ideas:
- What would happen if we time travelled back to the Jurassic Era?
- How we would adapt our product if ghosts were real?
- How we would compete if outer-space aliens came to join our market?
You can come up with your own ideas too.
Virtual Team Building Challenges
You can host a variety of different remote team challenges to promote friendly competition and great habits in the workplace. We can think of endless ideas for different virtual team building challenges you can host. Below we brainstormed and listed a number of our favorite ideas. If you have any suggestions, or try one at your workplace, then we’d love to hear about in the comments!
- Hydration Challenge
- Yoga Challenge
- Posture Challenge
- Words With Friends Challenge
- Go Fish Challenge
- War Card Game Challenge
- Exercise Challenge
- Meditation Challenge
- Journaling Challenge
- Typing Speed Challenge
- Reading Speed Challenge
The virtual team challenges listed above are pretty self explanatory. For the yoga challenge, for example, everyone might do yoga for a week or a month and record progress. The person or team that completes the most sessions wins bragging rights.
Virtual Icebreaker Questions
When you think about icebreaker questions, what comes to mind? Does the thought of icebreaker questions evoke images of trust falls and dull corporate team building activities of your grandparents’ time?
Fun plot twist: today’s icebreaker questions can be fun and engaging when well-executed! The key is picking great icebreaker questions, and that becomes even more important when you’re looking for virtual icebreaker questions.
We’ve scoured the web, looking for the best virtual icebreaker questions that will help your remote employees better connect and engage with each other. These icebreakers are thoughtfully designed to be engaging, interactive, and fun. You won’t have any awkward engagement lags on your next Zoom call or Webex meeting when you use these virtual icebreaker questions.
Our Top 5 Best Virtual Ice breaker Questions:
- What did you have for breakfast? 🍳? 🍌? 🍩? (Seriously, this question is telling.)
- Dogs or cats? (Opinions here might be strong. ⚠️ Proceed with caution.) 🐶
- Are you more productive in the morning or the evening? (You’ll get some unique insights into your coworkers’ most effective hours with this one.)
- What’s been on your personal to-do list the longest? Oil change? Fixing a banister? Re-shingling the roof? Let’s hear your worst procrastination story!
- Ketchup. Mayo. Mustard. What’s your favorite condiment? Which condiment do you absolutely refuse to eat? (Controversial) 🌭
Looking for more icebreaker questions? Check out our awesome list of team building icebreaker questions for work.
Team Building Ideas & Activities for Conference Calls
Zoom, Webex or Google Hangouts; it doesn’t matter which remote video conference call platforms you are using for virtual team building. What matters is that you are giving your remote team some levity and lightheartedness each time you get together. Every meeting within your organization is an opportunity for a little bonding, so we’ve put together a list of some fun ideas for team building activities for conference calls to help boost engagement, interaction, and overall employee engagement.
1. Virtual Culture Committee
Does your workplace have a culture committee? If not, then now is the time to start. A culture committee is a group of folks within your organization who put together fun events to help keep engagement and interaction strong among your team. A culture committee can be even more important in a remote workplace where it can be easy to go days without interacting with anyone on the team. Ideas for the culture committee include:
- Fun Slack channels, related to pets, kids, books, Netflix, sports, etc.
- Monthly challenges with prizes, like a hydration or posture challenge
- Virtual birthday celebrations
And more 🙂
Ask your culture committee to start all of your virtual meetings with fun games and activities to kick off the gathering with high energy and good vibes.
2. Virtual Book Club
Book clubs are a great way for people to connect over a shared interest. Starting a virtual book club can help change up your normal virtual meetings and infuse some new life into your coworkers’ relationships.
I recommend that you rotate through books on professional development and general interest (fiction, non-fiction, historical, etc.) to attract the widest variety of interest possible
To get started, find an employee who can lead the book club, then take nominations for books to read. Once you’ve got the choices narrowed down to a few choices for reading material, send out the final two or three options for a participant vote. Then, just schedule your virtual book club like you would an in-person one, with virtual meetings or conference calls to talk about the book as a group.
3. Invite Special Guests to Virtual Meetings
When looking for online team building activities for conference calls, it can be tough to come up with solutions that haven’t already been exhausted before. Why not try inviting special guests to your next video call? This guest can be anyone from an outside expert for a remote lunch-and-learn or it can be allowing your coworkers to let family members join to provide outside, unique perspective on the meeting topics. You never know where you’ll find new, interesting insights!
We are throwing it back to kindergarten with our list of ideas for virtual meetings. Do you host regular department meetings? Try spicing your next group video call up with a show-and-tell. Set a category or theme in advance and have each attendee bring a person item to show the group.
Theme ideas for your session include pets, favorite photos, favorite vacation memento, favorite room in the house, favorite T-shirt or hoodie. This activity is an awesome way to find unexpected commonalities between coworkers and learn more about each person outside of work.
5. Virtual Cook-Off
It’s time for a round of virtual Chopped!. Come up with four or five random ingredients, send these ingredients in a surprise box to your coworkers marked ‘do not open’ and then call your group to a virtual meeting to explain the challenge. We’d recommend letting everyone know a few days in advance to reserve a two hour time block on their calendars for this virtual meeting. Once on the meeting, explain the challenge: your team has an hour to come up with a signature dish using only the mystery ingredients sent in the box. No cheating! At the end of the hour, you all meet back together to present your dishes. Since this experience is virtual and you can’t do a taste test challenge, you can judge the presented dishes based on creativity, execution, and presentation! This game is a fun, competitive virtual team activity that helps promote creative thinking! For an added challenge, pair your coworkers up and require them to work together virtually to create a dish using just one person’s kitchen.
Virtual Coffee Break Ideas
One of the most common things remote employees say they miss about working in a physical office is chit-chat. While water cooler gossip may have a bad rep around the office, it’s actually an important part of team bonding time. Water cooler talk is a quick and easy way to take a second away from the desk, engage with coworkers, and form team bonds that can have a positive impact on company culture.
What happens when you are no longer in a physical office together, or never have been? It is key with virtual teams that you don’t lose out on this critical low-key team bonding time. Below are a few of our favorite virtual coffee break ideas and ways to hang around the virtual water cooler.
1. Donut Time!
The best part of water cooler talk is that you and your coworkers are rarely talking about a deadline or the next big project coming down the pipeline. Water cooler talk is fun because it is often non-work related and is low-pressure. If your business uses Slack then we highly recommend installing the Donut extension.
Donut will pair your team members up randomly; each pairing should carve out 15 to 30 minutes to connect via video call to talk about anything but work. Set a goal that each pair should come out of their virtual coffee break having found three new commonalities between them and encourage the pairs to share these fun facts in a dedicated Slack channel.
2. Share Your Mug
Another way to boost engagement is to get more literal with the idea of virtual coffee break ideas: host a “share your mug” competition! The execution on this remote team building idea is easy, making it a great choice for DIY online team building.
Here’s how it works:
- Designate one person as being in charge of the event for the entire company or team.
- Each participant sends a picture of their favorite coffee or tea mug over to the person in charge.
- Then, that person posts all the photos in a random Slack channel or email thread.
- All team members must guess which mug belongs to which team member!
- The person who guesses the most correctly wins!
This activity isn’t really about mugs. You could replace the mugs with books, pens, hats or similar to do mroe challenges.
3. Recipe Share Out Slack Channel
Food is a favorite pastime for many people, so why not create a Slack channel break room to talk about food? Encourage your team members to kick off the introduction of the channel by sharing one or two of each person’s favorite recipes. This activity has the potential to become a fun, relaxing space within your virtual workplace to take a break, talk about a hobby, and connect your coworkers on a level that goes beyond work talk.
Work From Home Activities
If you’re looking for some fun work from home activities, then we’ve got you covered! In the sections above, we covered the best remote team building activities and online team building games. Now, we want to bring remote workers some fun virtual activities that can be done from the comfort of home! These work from home activities are designed to bring joy, levity, and fun into a virtual work environment that might feel isolating at times. Do you have any other suggestions for fun work from hoem activities? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
1. Walk the dog
If you have the kind of work from home job where you have some freedom and flexibility in your working hours, then we recommend taking a break to walk the dog. This experience will help you and Fido keep your energy levels in check, get some fresh air, and ensure you are both getting much-needed exercise. It can be so easy when working from home to get caught up in your work and never move from your desk, but it’s key to keep the blood flowing and your body moving. A regular walk will help keep you and the pup in a routine that keeps you both happy and refreshed.
2. Chair Yoga
We love chair yoga as an option for work from home team building company-wide. However, even if your organization isn’t quite jumping on the at-home yoga trend, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself! Chair Yoga is super simple and great for people of all physical fitness levels. As you might have guessed from the title, Chair Yoga requires just one thing: a chair! Check out some fun YouTube videos for inspiration on the types of moves you can do to keep your body moving and stretched while working from home.
3. Stairs Challenge
Is your office on the second floor of your home? If so, then you’re in the perfect position to challenge yourself to get in some extra exercise by going up and down the flights of stairs a certain number of times per day. Stairs are a fun way to get in a little physical boost and get your heart rate going. A fun way to get in more steps? Don’t bring a giant glass of water upstairs; take a smaller cup so each time you need to head down to the kitchen, you get a bit more exercise in. If your house is anything like mine, then just be sure to ignore the piles of laundry when you do!
4. Walk during phone calls
If you are not on a video call, then why not get up and walk around the office or home while you’re on your next business call? Staying active can help make the tasks where you need to be sitting at your desk feel less burdensome and helps to reduce the amount of time you spend seated during the day. Walking might even help spur some fun new ideas for the call. Give this options a try next time you take a call and see how you feel!
How To Boost Employee Engagement in Remote Teams
Successful employee engagement is critical to workplace happiness and health. However, does an employee engagement strategy that works well for employees who see each other on a regular basis work as well in remote teams? Or do we need to rethink strategies when talking about virtual team engagement?
First, let’s define employee engagement. Employee engagement is made up of three different areas:
- Conditions for Engagement
- Engagement Opinions
- Employee Behaviors
Conditions for engagement includes factors like relationships with co-workers (77% importance given by employees), opportunities on the job to use skills and abilities (77%), and meaningfulness of their job (76%).
Engagement opinions includes confidence in meeting work goals (89%), determination to accomplish work goals (86%), and having a clear understanding of the company’s goal and mission (77%).
Finally, employee behaviors includes employees feeling encouraged to take action when they spot a problem (70%), quick adaptation to challenges (65%), and work teams never giving up in the face of tough times (64%).
The key takeaway is that employees want to be feel confident and valued in a strong company culture. Employees want strong relationships within the workplace, and want to know that each person on the team will be there through thick and thin. In a nutshell, your employees want to know you want them there, whether they all come into the office together every day or work from home as part of a remote team.
How do boost employee engagement for remote workers?
Here’s some good news: you are already off to a good start with your virtual workplace! Studies increasingly show that employees value the flexibility that work-from-home life offers. Other key ways to boost virtual employee engagement include trusting your team members to manage their time, clearly communicating metrics for success, providing regular feedback, and a whole host of things you can achieve with virtual team building.
Virtual team building hits on a variety of different ways to boost employee engagement. Employees want collaboration, communication, problem solving, creative thinking, authentic connections, gratitude and appreciation, a strong company culture, and accountability. The best online team building activities include many of these elements and can help infuse your remote workforce with these values your employees find crucial.
Team building with virtual teams connects your team members in unexpected ways. Some of the top virtual events even include fun “real world” packages that boost the gratitude and appreciation factor; others include fun professional skill development that will let employees feel invested in and valued with creative thinking and problem solving skills.
The best way to reap the rewards of these efforts is to make a frequent investment in your employees. We recommend hosting remote team building activities at least 4x per year. You can mix up the different events, choosing a fun event one time and then focus on professional development the next. We also advise sprinkling in some fun online team building games and free DIY remote team building activities throughout the year to keep the good vibes and authentic connections strong.
Virtual management is a unique challenge. A manager who excels at keeping a team on task in a physical office may struggle with the adjustment to virtual management life. One of the key challenges for a manager in maintaining a productive remote team is keeping your remote workers on task, productive, and effective!
To combat the challenges that come with virtual management, we recommend investing in at least one of two different professional development seminars for virtual management. Both options work well for leaders with various degrees of virtual workforce experience, from 100% remote teams to new to working from home teams to managing global teams.
First, we love TeamBuilding.com’s seminar on how to manage a remote team called Working Without Pants. This online training program is designed for leaders of all levels who are new to working virtually or who want to refresh management skills and try a new approach to virtual management.
TeamBuilding.com’s seminar is led by professionals with years of work from home experience. Your leadership group will learn more about the best practices of virtual management. Areas in the seminar include goal setting to achieve maximum productivity, aligning on effective yet attainable remote work expectations, boosting retention, “trust and verify”, and how to manage successfully in a flexible environment. The seminar gives practical virtual team management tools. Choose to set up your virtual management training as a 90-minute workshop that covers the most important best practices in each area, or break the training into multiple sessions where your team will enjoy an in-depth exploration of each critical topic to better develop virtual management skills.
If you are looking for virtual management training that packs an even deeper punch, then consider virtual coaching. This coaching is meant to offer a deep dive into growing as a strong manager and works well for both in-person workplaces and 100% remote workplaces. Your leaders will learn empathetic and strong leadership skills. The program was built based on research and best practices from a variety of sources, including data science and analytics, organizational behavior, clinical psychology, and academia.
Your first coaching session kicks off with a Programmatic Leadership Evaluation, which is an assessment designed to learn more about current abilities, leadership skills, and the overall workplace health as a whole. From that, develop a personalized leadership development plan. Your managers will go through the leadership coaching with deadlines, assignments, and seminars, all designed to 10x virtual management skills.
Frequently Asked Questions: Virtual Team Building Edition
Do you have any lingering questions about the best ways to engage your remote team? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line with any questions and we are happy to respond.
What is the best virtual team building activity?
In our view, the best option is petri! petri allows your group to team build in a relaxed setting, with fun online team building games and activities. With petri, your coworkers can join pre-scheduled sessions as time permits and can participate in the events of most interest. petri is flexible, fun, and well-priced; we give it five stars!
Is virtual team building as effective as team building in person?
The short answer: yes! If you choose the right activities, then you’ll have just as much fun and see just as much of an impact on team bonding and relationships as you would with an in-person team building event.
What kind of tools do I need for virtual team building?
For all the virtual team building ideas on our list, the only items you’ll need are a strong Internet connection and, in the cases of virtual meetings and online team building games that require face-to-face interaction, access to a webcam. Otherwise, hosting activities should be quite simple without much required in the way of technology.