From her laptop, Abbey Kane watched fellow colleagues speed paint, perform stand-up comedy and sing Broadway show tunes. She even saw the CEO kitesurf.
The talent show was just one of many virtual team-building activities the healthtech company Cedar, where Kane works as a people experience specialist, hosted since closing its office after the pandemic started. It also held a virtual escape room, a virtual trivia tournament and a virtual lunchtime visit to the Staten Island Zoo.
Virtual Team-Building Activities You Can Do for Free
- Give each other home tours.
- Guess each others’ streaming lists.
- Compete in a scavenger hunt.
- Put on a talent show.
- Hold a costume contest.
- Throw a happy hour.
- Reflect with a mindfulness exercise.
People management teams like Cedar’s have had to find ways for employees to get to know each other and have fun together, but that fit within the limitations of webcams and Wi-Fi connections — and that accommodate a wide range of preferences.
“We had to get really creative and find things that worked for everyone,” Kane, who helps plan these events, said.
She and her team listen closely to employee feedback to inform their virtual activity programming, but it all starts with trying out ideas.
For remote and hybrid companies looking for team-building ideas to try out, the 20 virtual activities below are worth considering. They range from participatory to passive, silly to serious — but all are designed to bring coworkers closer together, no matter the distance.
Virtual Activities You Can DIY
Show Off Your ‘Crib’ With A Virtual Home Tour
The legacy of the MTV series lives on in this activity, which calls for an employee to guide others through a virtual show-and-tell of their home. It gives people a chance to showcase their decorations, furniture, art and instruments, and it provides others a fun peek into where coworkers spend their time. Plus, everyone gets to experience the delight of discovering which of their coworkers has a massive bobblehead collection.
Learn Each Others’ Streaming Habits With a Virtual Guessing Game
It seems like everyone is watching more — and more nostalgic — movies and TV shows lately. That’s helpful for the “Who Streamed What?” guessing game. To play, participants submit a list of five shows or movies they’ve watched recently (a survey tool like Google Forms works). The lists are then distributed anonymously and everyone has to try to correctly match what list belongs to what coworker.
See Who’s the Fastest With a Virtual Scavenger Hunt
This friendly competition pits two or more coworkers against each other in a mad dash to be the first to retrieve everything on a list of common household items. It’s a straightforward game, but the real fun is in watching participants justify their hurried choices: “I know the list called for an ice cube, but this glass of water once had ice in it. Can I get half credit?” There’s even an app to help make it easier.
Flex Your Creativity With a Virtual Costume Contest
One way to keep employees entertained around Halloween is to hold a virtual costume contest. It works by grouping everyone who wants to participate into teams and tasking each team with wearing costumes that follow some unified theme of their choosing (superheroes, breakfast foods, hometown sports teams, etc.). Each team submits group photos of everyone dressed up and the whole company votes on the most creative one. The winning team gets a prize.
Spotlight Special Skills With a Virtual Talent Show
Employees of every company aren’t just good at their jobs; some can juggle, others can unicycle, and there’s always at least one person who, though you’d never expect it, is absolutely amazing at breakdancing. A virtual talent show is a chance for people to showcase hidden skills that would otherwise never come out. For best results, appoint someone as an emcee and shoot for a mix of live and pre-recorded performances.
Raise Your Glasses With a Virtual Happy Hour
As much as employees may enjoy working from home, plenty of them miss grabbing after-work drinks with colleagues before heading out for the evening commute. And it’s especially helpful for remote employees who want to join their in-office counterparts for casual conversation. Just make sure there’s an opportunity for employees who don’t drink alcohol to feel included.
Reflect Together With a Virtual ‘Rose, Thorn, Bud’ Exercise
This exercise requires two or more participants who are willing to reflect a little more deeply than is typical for icebreakers. People take turns sharing a “rose” (something positive or encouraging they recently experienced), a “thorn” (something challenging or discouraging) and a “bud” (something new, surprising or promising). It encourages people to open up about what’s on their minds at work or in their personal lives.
Virtual Team-Building Activities You Can Purchase
Survive Together With a Virtual Escape Room
Escape rooms had a really big moment a couple years ago and their virtual counterparts have become popular options for remote teams wanting to collaborate on complex problems with imaginary stakes. These interactive, race-against-the-clock puzzles typically come equipped with a host to help guide participants along and drop clues when they get stumped (but I wouldn’t know anything about that).
Get in Character With a Virtual Murder Mystery
The virtual knives come out in this narrator-led game, where each participant assumes a pre-written identity and has to figure out who the murderer is as the Clue-like Zoomdunnit unfolds. Full of finger-pointing and double-crosses, murder mysteries work best when everyone really leans into their characters, hamming it up with costumes and over-the-top accents.
Test Your Knowledge With a Virtual Trivia Challenge
The fierceness of pub-style trivia is translated into the remote-work era. Here a professional host guides teams — which use Zoom breakout rooms to discuss their answers privately — through several rounds of questions and awards prizes at the end. This one offers general knowledge trivia, too, as well as several themes, ranging from a winter holiday to a celebration of Black history.
Become a Coffee Snob With a Virtual Coffee Tasting
Most daily coffee drinkers don’t know the origin of their beans or the differences between various brewing methods. Luckily, there are services that help people develop greater appreciation — and more discerning palates — for their morning brews. They also ship individual coffee kits to each participant and provide a coffee expert to lead the tasting process over a group video call. (Alternatively, you could do tea tastings and chocolate tastings.)
Get Fancy With a Virtual Wine Tasting
Like the above, but with alcohol, this activity allows teams to sip their way through a flight of wines together on a group video chat, learning to pick out tasting and aroma notes in the process. Typically, they are led by an instructor who explains each wine’s unique flavor profile and include wine kits mailed to each participant.
Broaden Your Horizons With a Virtual Street Art Tour
Teams that want an insider’s view of the famed street art scenes of Lisbon or Buenos Aires can take advantage of these interactive tours, where local guides have plenty to say about the culture and history of the colorful murals that adorn the two cities.
Feel the Rhythm With a Live Musical Performance
Live-music lovers can grab virtual front-row seats and hear from professional musicians who perform just for them — like an Icelandic folk singer-songwriter, or jazz musicians who have played venues like London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York City’s Lincoln Center.
Explore the Past With a Virtual History Tour
Teams that want to travel back in time may consider a virtual history tour. Like one where an archaeologist in Italy takes participants through the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by volcanic eruptions nearly 2,000 years ago. Or the one where a guide dresses up as a plague doctor and walks through the streets of Prague, commenting on various landmarks relevant to the 17th- and 18th-century plagues.
Observe Wildlife With a Virtual Zoo Visit
Teams that take a virtual visit to the zoo get to meet exotic animals up-close and talk about them with a wildlife expert. It’s like a field trip, but for adults. Popular virtual options are offered by the San Diego Zoo and the Toucan Rescue Ranch, among others. (For a DIY version, drop a link to a live animal cam in your team’s Slack channel.)
Have a Ball With Virtual Drag Bingo
Drag bingo is a new spin on a classic game, designed to get teams laughing together as much as they are competing with one another. This one is hosted virtually by an emcee with three decades of experience and who was the subject of a profile by the New York Times.
Stretch Your Muscles With Virtual Yoga Lessons
Taking a virtual yoga lesson is an option for teams that want a wellness-oriented activity (and that gets people up and moving after sitting at their desks all day). Groups as large as 20 people can follow along on their laptops as an instructor guides them through various breathing, stretching and strengthening exercises.
Blow Your Minds With a Virtual Magic Show
Magic shows — like this one, led by a professional magician and mind reader — allow employees to sit back, shoulder to virtual shoulder, and together behold a series of tricks and illusions designed to keep them entertained and engaged.
Create a Masterpiece With a Virtual Art Lesson
Teams trying to take a break from deep, heady work may opt for activities where people use their hands and tap into their artistic sides. These virtual lessons call for participants to follow along as instructors teach them how to, for instance, draw or paint or make clay pinch pots. Plus, when it’s over, each team member has a souvenir they can put on their desk — whether it’s at home or in the office.