Remote work is here to stay, with 50 percent of remote-capable workers serving in hybrid roles and 30 percent serving in entirely remote roles. At the same time, employees working from home have found themselves increasingly isolated. Over two-thirds of workers aged 18-34 have struggled to make friends and maintain professional relationships while working remotely.
To combat loneliness among remote workers, companies have turned to virtual team building activities as a way to connect employees working from home. Here are 52 virtual team building activities to bring your team together, no matter where your members are located.
Virtual Team Building Activities for Small Groups
Whether you have a handful of remote workers or a completely virtual team, it’s important for every company to encourage cross-team collaboration and relationship building. However, if individuals aren’t working directly with one another, it can be difficult to find time to make an introduction let alone continue to build working relationships. Here are a few ideas to virtually connect employees in small groups.
1. Set Up Fika Tea and Coffee for Your Virtual Team
Fika, a Swedish coffee break, is an opportunity for people to get to know each other over coffee or tea. Creating a Fika program encourages individuals from different departments to connect and get to know each other outside of regular meetings. A program like this can easily be implemented for remote team members, and there’s even programs out there to automate coordination, like the Donut app.
2. Propose Storytelling Topics for Virtual Meetings
There’s no better way to get to know virtual team members than by hearing their stories. Whether they know it or not, everyone has a wide variety of stories to share — it may just take a little prompting. To get ideas rolling and everyone on the same page, create a list of ideas, or select a few from this New York Times prompt list. For work, you want to keep the topics light and fun, so people are comfortable sharing their stories with colleagues. You can assign a weekly or monthly prompt and schedule video meetings with small groups of people across departments to share their stories.
3. Reflect With Your Virtual Team During 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.
4. Have a Gift Exchange With Virtual Team Members
Just because you’re all online does not mean you cannot participate in a gift exchange. With a booming e-commerce industry, you can buy practically anything online. Plus, there are apps like Elfster that can coordinate gift exchanges anonymously, and people can create wish lists to make the process easier than ever.
5. Organize Time for Live Coworking
If your virtual team is deep into a project and doesn’t really have time to break for bonding, you don’t have to have a designated theme or activity planned. Coworking, whether in-person or online, is a great way for people to work together at the same time and have casual conversations on the fly rather than scheduled meetings. Host an open video call where people can log on to work at their leisure.
For teams working together, this is a great way to get quick, candid answers, and for individuals across teams, online coworking most closely simulates colleagues working together in an office. Conversations will happen naturally and relationships will form organically.
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Virtual Team Building Activities to Get People Talking
While remote work comes with a lot of perks, it also comes with its own unique challenges. On top of that, it’s fairly rare for virtual teams that don’t regularly collaborate to find time to get to know each other. Most individuals have a select number of people they work with regularly that they’ve gotten to know through project meetings or 1:1s.
It’s important to embrace the nuances that come with remote work, while also trying to spark conversation among people across teams. Here are tips and ideas to do just that.
6. Share Virtual Team Building Icebreaker Prompts
There’s no doubt it can be a bit awkward getting to know a number of new people all at once. To get the conversation rolling, it can be a bit cheesy but worthwhile to come up with some icebreaker questions for everyone to answer such as:
- Two truths and a lie
- Would you rather…
- This or that
7. Guess Personal Fun Facts for Virtual Team Members
No matter how well you know your colleagues, there’s always going to be a few fun facts they keep in their back pocket. Have your virtual team members submit their random skills, interests or experiences to someone on your HR team. Then challenge your team to guess which individual matches each fact. You can even make a competition out of it to see who can guess the most correct, or you can turn them into storytelling so employees can expand on their facts.
8. Family/Friend/Roommate AMA
Since you’re not in the office, you don’t get to see your colleagues’ desk pictures or meet the people closest to them as you might with in-office colleagues. If your team members and their loved ones are willing, ask to have an AMA (ask me anything) or Q&A, where you get to ask their family members, friends or roommates questions about themselves and their relationship to your colleague.
9. Host Company Cribs
You know the classic TV show MTV Cribs? Your virtual team members could have a lot of fun hosting a mini version of this show by providing tours of their apartments and homes. Perhaps you can even have an emcee to narrate the tour. Give your team several days notice so they have time to tidy up and prepare for their debut.
Virtual Team Building Activities via Messaging
Remote team building activities don’t just have to happen over video conferencing. Lots of work from home teams use messaging platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Chat to keep up with coworkers and coordinate daily business. Here are some ideas to encourage virtual team members to engage with one another via messaging.
10. Share Pictures With Virtual Teams
Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and there’s a number of different directions you can go with photo sharing. You can encourage people to share pictures of their favorite memories, travels, closest friends, loved ones, pets or remote office setup.
11. Create a Digital Map of Your Virtual Team Members’ Locations
There are a number of digital map apps out there that you can use to drop pins on different locations. If you have a largely remote team, you can create a map of where everyone lives. If most of your team stems from the same city, create a map of birthplaces, favorite places to visit or places people want to travel. This can be a great way to have a visual representation of your virtual team’s global spread.
12. Moderate a Team Chat
Sure, you know the sales team sells your products and services, but what’s the difference between an account manager and an account executive? Your development team’s been hyping about a new project they’re about to roll out, but who works on what? When you’re in the weeds on your own work, it can be challenging to know how everyone else contributes to the success of your company. Host a chat where a specific team shares exactly what they do and how each individual’s job varies.
13. Create Niche Chat Groups
Encourage teams to have non-work-related conversations. Employees will naturally gravitate toward people of shared interests, so a group chat is a great way for remote employees to bond over their personal passions. Whether it be a shared love of family pets, music, celebrities or travel, having these conversations helps keep virtual teams engaged and connected.
Virtual Team Building Activities Centered Around Food and Drinks
People often come together in the real world over food and drink, so why not use that tactic in the virtual realm as well? Whether it’s by arranging opportunities to share culinary experiences or setting up time for colleagues to have a chat over coffee and beer, inviting people to the virtual table can create positive, unifying experiences. Below are a few options for virtual team building activities that involve eating and drinking.
14. 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.
15. Host a Digital Breakfast Club
A great way to start the workday is to host a breakfast club, where people come together with their favorite breakfasts to make light conversation and get to know one another. This is especially fun for remote teams because there are always a few individuals who go all out on their breakfasts. Limit these group video meetings to ten or fewer people across departments to ensure everyone has a chance to talk.
16. Become a Coffee Snob With a Virtual Team 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.)
17. Get Fancy With a Virtual Wine Tasting
Like the above, but with alcohol, this activity allows virtual 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.
18. Share a Virtual Team Meal
With everyone working from home, many are likely to take breaks throughout the day to make meals. Encourage teams to cook together or share recipes to keep meal prep interesting.
Add an element of competition by encouraging employees to incorporate specific ingredients into their dishes as in Chopped. Whoever uses the ingredients most creatively wins. Additionally, if one member is a master chef, perhaps they could host a cooking show over lunch to teach a group of people how to cook something new.
Virtual Team Building Activities Focused on Learning
Remote team building activities can also provide an opportunity for individuals to bond over learning a new topic, even if it’s not work-related. And employee development opportunities are highly sought after by job seekers and could distinguish your company as an employer of choice. Here are a few examples of ways remote teams can build their skill sets together online.
19. Take Online Classes as a Team
There are a number of education resources available that virtual teams can sign up for, such as storytelling, writing, coding and more. The courses could be work-related or not, but it provides a chance for people to learn together and share their new skill sets with the team. If your company offers an education stipend, it can be an incentive to take the class without worrying about costs.
20. Host a Remote Lunch and Learn for Virtual Team Members
Everyone on your virtual team has a unique set of skills, so see where you can tap into such knowledge and if anyone is willing to share their skills with teammates. It can be anything from using a design program to how to cook a meal. Anything that can be taught through an online lecture or through screen sharing is fair game.
21. Designate a Virtual Tour Guide
If your team stems across a number of cities or even neighborhoods, ask if individuals are willing to act as a virtual tour guide to show off the cool local spots near them. This can be a fun way for teams to get to know the day-to-day life of their remote colleagues and see a new place through the lens of a local. If you have any avid travelers, this virtual team building activity will be especially popular.
22. 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.
Virtual Team Building Activities for Shared Hobbies and Interests
No matter how small or large your virtual team is, there’s bound to be common interests across teams and departments. Take a poll to see where people’s passions lie and encourage individuals to connect. Here are a few examples of remote team building activities to support your employees’ unique interests.
23. Watch 30-Minute Shows
Before on-demand streaming platforms, colleagues could recap their favorite shows after it showed on TV. Nowadays, teams can watch practically anything from anywhere at any time. There are even apps that allow people from across the globe to watch their favorite shows at the same time and chat over the platform throughout the show. Take a lunch break to watch your favorite show with teammates, so everyone’s in the loop on the latest episode.
24. Write a Bucket List With Your Virtual Team
Have your virtual team write a collective or individual bucket list of things you want to do and encourage people to tick items off. This can be a great way for teams to hold each other a bit more accountable in their personal goals. Not only that but teams will be much more flexible and accommodating to a team member who needs a flexible schedule to accomplish some of their bucket list items.
25. Set Up a Collaborative Virtual Team Playlist
No matter your job, you are likely to listen to music at some point during your day. Even your favorite tunes can get old over time, so ask your team to come together and create a collaborative playlist. Your teams will be eager to both share their favorite music and explore some new artists. You can have a weekly theme with a new playlist or create a running list of your company’s favorite jams.
26. Make an Impact With Remote Employee Resource Groups
If you don’t already have them, consider investing in employee resource groups (or ERGs). In short, ERGs are typically led by individuals who are interested in providing specific support or resources to your team. Examples of common ERGs include ones for people with disabilities, parents and women. Take a poll to see if any of your remote employees have an interest in creating or joining an ERG, and provide them with the support they need to be a successful resource.
27. Connect With Virtual Team Members Over Global Travels
While teams may know when a remote employee embarks on an adventure, it can be difficult for members across the company to know when a remote employee is gone. Encourage virtual team members to share their adventures in your internal email, set up a chat related to travel or create a shared document for individuals to post their travel tips and memories for the team to read at their leisure. Doing so will encourage others to take vacation and seek out new places to visit with some tips from trusted sources.
Virtual Team Building Activities Involving Music, Art and Other Forms of Entertainment
Sometimes people just want to sit back, relax and enjoy the virtual show. Here are a few remote team building activities to engage employees through music, art and other forms of virtual entertainment.
28. 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 at venues like London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York City’s Lincoln Center.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. 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 include the San Diego Zoo’s live cameras and the Toucan Rescue Ranch.
32. Try Tiny Desk Virtual Team Building Activities
Since you only have a screen width to do virtual team building activities, sometimes it calls for a little creativity. Think up some team bonding activities that you can scale down to fit a screen, like a tiny desk campfire, where you roast marshmallows over a fire and tell stories. Brainstorm with your team, and you’ll likely come up with a number of creative ideas on how to shrink team activities to fit the remote screen.
33. 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.
34. 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 can follow along on their laptops as an instructor guides them through various breathing, stretching and strengthening exercises.
Game-Based Virtual Team Building Activities
Everyone’s got some level of competitiveness in them, especially if your team is largely sales-driven. Bring out your remote team’s drive to win with some of these fun ideas for friendly competition.
35. Host a Virtual Team Scavenger Hunt
There are a number of different ways you can create remote team scavenger hunts. You can create a list of common household items and ask small groups of people to work together to find as many items on the list as they can in a certain amount of time.
You could also create a much more traditional (and involved) scavenger hunt, where you leave tips with different employees. The tips could be specific to employees, like “Your next tip lies with a colleague who was born in X” or “Find the next tip with an employee who won X competition.”
36. Play Online Games
If you don’t have the time or resources to create your own unique challenges, there are plenty of low-lift resources out there to make an online competition. Find an online game like Words with Friends or CandyCrush that just require employees to own a smartphone or tablet and sign up.
37. Find a Virtual Game Show Host
Another option is to designate one person to be your gameshow host with all of your other remote team members joining in via a conference call. You can do traditional game shows, like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, which will take a bit more effort, or you can do something simple like Charades or Pictionary.
38. Create a Virtual Team Photo Competition
If your virtual team isn’t too keen on video challenges, perhaps a photo challenge is more their forte. See who can take the prettiest sunset photo, or ask employees to find the most unique object in their home. The ideas are endless even within the confines of a remote work setup.
39. Set Collective Goals for Your Virtual Team
Combat some of the challenges that come with remote work by setting collective remote team goals. These can be anything from working out one hour each day to having your entire team logged off by 5 p.m.
40. Host an Online Hackathon
Try hosting a virtual internal hackathon to bring teams together and drive innovation and creativity. This is a great way to break through challenging problems and bring teams together across departments to brainstorm new product ideas.
41. Enter Your Virtual Team in a Quiz Bowl
Test your virtual team’s knowledge on a certain subject by creating a quiz bowl or joining an online quiz bowl that’s already established. Your employees will enjoy showing off their deep knowledge of a topic and may even learn something new.
42. Host Virtual Team Trivia
Pick a topic and host a trivia event with questions on a team-favorite TV show or band. Ask the people who are self-proclaimed experts on the topic to create the trivia questions and host the event over an online chat.
43. Learn Each Others’ Streaming Habits With a Virtual Guessing Game
Virtual team members who watch a lot of movies and TV shows may find the “Who Streamed What?” guessing game to be more up their alley. 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.
44. Flex Your Creativity With a Virtual Team Costume Contest
One way to keep employees entertained around Halloween is to hold a virtual team costume contest. Group everyone who wants to participate into teams and task 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.
45. Spotlight Special Skills With a Virtual Team 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 team 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.
46. Survive Together With a Virtual Escape Room
Escape rooms are enjoying their moment, 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.
47. 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.
48. 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.
Virtual Team Building Activities Promoting Community Service
Another great way for virtual teams to connect and give back to their community is through service projects. If you have an employee resource group focused on volunteerism, partner with them and see if they already have ties to local organizations. Here are some ideas for work from home team building activities focused on philanthropy.
49. Volunteer on a Project
You don’t need to be physically together to volunteer for a project. Pick an organization in need of some help in an area your team is skilled at. Perhaps if you’re a tech company, offer some developer assistance to improve a non-profit’s website or provide marketing assistance to a group that’s hosting an upcoming event. A lot of your resources are just as helpful coming from remote employees.
50. Fundraise for a Local Non-Profit
There are a number of platforms out there to help virtual teams promote and reach fundraising goals. Pick an organization and encourage your team to donate what they can to help reach a collective goal. You can even drive incentives by offering a corporate matching program.
51. Donate Items to an Organization in Need
Organizations asking for donations often come out around the holidays, but it’s always a good time to bring your remote team together to donate food and goods to organizations both in their local communities and worldwide. Check with local food pantries, hospitals and non-profits to see if there are any material objects they need.
52. Write Letters to Community Members
No matter where your virtual team members are, you can get a group of people together to write and send letters to organizations who distribute content to people who need some kind words. For instance, there’s Letters to Strangers, Letters of Love and letters to military troops.
How to reduce turnover while increasing engagement and inclusion for remote employees.