Team building is one of the most effective investments that organizations can make in their people practices. For one, it definitely augments engagement in the workplace which has a direct impact on productivity and performance. Statistically speaking, 75% employers rate teamwork and collaboration as very important, which is a direct outcome of team building. At the same time, 86% employees believe that a lack of collaboration is what leads to workplace failures.
While there is no doubt that team building is vital for organizational success, the transition to remote work is definitely adding challenges in the way. Thus, most organizations today are augmenting their capabilities to spearhead and run virtual team building activities in an attempt to ensure seamless collaboration and engagement, albeit remotely.
What are remote team building activities?
Virtual team building or remote team building activities are a set of efforts and initiatives that an organization undertakes to bring remote teams together. It is natural for team members to feel isolated and disconnected with one another in a remote setting. This negatively impacts productivity, engagement, morale as well as motivation. Therefore, remote team building activities aim to bridge the gap by leveraging the digital media to facilitate deeper relationships in the workplace.
Why do you need virtual team building?
Why an organization needs to focus on virtual team building is an oft repeated question. The need for virtual team building arises from the fact that as individuals we have an inherent need for belongingness and interaction, which takes a back seat in a remote setting. More often than not, the physical distance of working remotely turns into emotional distance where employees start feeling isolated. This leads to a drop in a sense of belongingness and engagement at work.
The objective of digital team building activities is to foster seamless collaboration between coworkers and create an empowering environment of support and positive relationships. Invariably, virtual team building activities are not only aimed at augmenting workplace productivity, but they also facilitate employee wellbeing, in a situation of complete isolation.
How to start virtual team building activities?
Initially, the shift to a remote workforce was considered to be a temporary measure and organizations did not brainstorm on virtual team building activities. However, now it seems to be the new normal and increasingly organizations are realizing that normal video calls may not be the most effective tool to drive team building. More often than not, normal calls end up as a buffer time for employees to finish other chores on mute and video off, putting in almost negligible effort towards virtual team building. In the same light, there are a few efforts that organizations can explore to make virtual team building a possibility. While we will discuss specific activities in detail in a later section, this will give organizations a macro view of the initiatives that can be planned:
The morning chit chats on reaching office before one gets down to the business of the day were one of most effective means to boost team building. It gave the employees a chance to learn about their coworkers beyond what they do at work. As a part of virtual team building, many organizations are setting up these simple everyday rituals which include an early morning interaction before work. It includes discussing ‘what they cooked last night, or which series or show they are binge watching or which is their latest read’. The idea is to have regular touchpoints beyond work which prompt bonding.
Icebreakers have been a fun tool for organizations to encourage employees to get to know one another before working together. With the rise of a remote workforce, virtual icebreakers are gaining weight. These are important to facilitate virtual team building and prompt strong workplace relationships. Virtual icebreakers can include activities like two truths and a lie where employees share three statements about themselves, two are true and one is not. Others have to make the right guess. At the same time, there can be rapid fire questions or other activities like clicking a picture of your work desk, among others. Such icebreakers would help employees overcome the awkwardness of engaging with one another and encourage them to explore mutual interests.
Another effective tool for virtual team building is hosting gaming tournaments. Organizations can invest time and effort to create virtual teams and have gaming sessions of Ludo, PUBG or any others that employees fancy. This would promote teamwork and collaboration in an unconventional manner. At the same time, hosting virtual scavenger hunts can be fun. Employees will have to work in teams and navigate their way to the final treasure. It would be a good idea to add greater incentive for participation by showcasing winner rewards.
While most organizations are investing in conducting virtual training and knowledge webinars, hosting fun sessions can also boost virtual team building. These activities could range from Zumba and dance to origami. At the same time, hosting stand up comedy or live music concerts can boost team engagement. It would actually be a good idea to leverage inputs from icebreakers to identify the interests of your employees and plan sessions that would generate curiosity. Not only will this add to the entertainment quotient, but will also strike conversations and relationship building among employees who have an affinity towards the sessions conducted.
Top 17 team building activities for conference calls
As we now understand the macro level activities and initiatives that can be explored, let’s move into specific team building activities for conference calls and online games for virtual teams.
1. Virtual Murder Mystery
Virtual murder mystery or any other online mystery game is a great way for remote team building. Here team members are divided into small groups and are given access to a platform. There are a number of platforms online which provide these games for a small cost. Different teams receive the same clues which they have to solve with their respective team members to unravel the murderer or the mystery. While it is deeply engaging and engrossing, it also encourages people to collaborate with one another and acknowledge the strengths of different team members.
2. Virtual Offsite
In conventional times, offsites were the prime time when employees got to know each other better and unwind from work. While a physical offsite looks difficult in the near future, organizations can explore the idea of virtual tours together. There are multiple platforms out there that are offering guided trips to exquisite locations across the world at nominal charges. Your team can together visit the streets of Paris, Rome and London, while sitting in their rooms in their pajamas. This will give them a chance to take a break from work and learn about different places that they aspire to visit.
3. Virtual Escape Room
Much like the virtual murder mystery, organizations can explore other online team building games, including virtual escape room. Like its physical version and like the name suggests, employees will be grouped into small teams and will find themselves locked in a room. They will have to explore different things in the room to find clues and solve them to actually find a way out. Not only is this a fun way to engage employees, it will also sharpen their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
4. Aliens Have Landed
One of the final virtual team building activities that will not only promote engagement between employees but also a greater interest and affinity towards the organization is Aliens Have Landed. On a simple level, it is a group activity where a few employees come together and pretend that aliens have landed on Earth. They have to explain the organization to these aliens and have exactly 5 minutes. This will spark conversations among team members, for greater collaboration. At the same time, this would prompt delegation of responsibilities as some would focus on creating the pitch, others would focus on the design and pictures, and some others would deliver the pitch. On the one hand, it will boost collaboration. On the other, it will help you understand how well your employees understand the organizations, its values and goals.
5. Guess Who With a Twist
We have all played ‘Guess Who’ during our childhood days where we pick a card and describe the person without taking the name while others guess who the person is. With a similar idea, organizations are reinventing the game to match their employees. Here each team member will try to describe another one in 5-6 sentences and the others have to make a guess. Not only will this create a lot of buzz and excitement, but will also help all team members understand how much others know about them and what impression they carry.
6. Share your Bucket List
Everyone has a bucket list, a list of items they want to tick off in their lives or before they reach a certain age. Sharing a bucket list with one’s coworkers in a remote setting is something team members rarely engage in. Most of these discussions happened over coffee breaks, which do not exist in a remote setting. Therefore, it would be interesting to schedule a conference call to encourage team members to share the top 5 things on their bucket list. While this will help employees to get to know each other on a personal level, it will also facilitate bonding amongst those who share bucket lists.
7. Hobby Groups
Clubs and interest groups are a norm in a conventional workplace, where employees get together based on shared interests. However, transition to a remote workforce, has left behind these acts of togetherness and bonding. Organizations should focus on building virtual hobby groups where those who have similar interests can connect and collaborate. These groups can be over whatsapp or any collaboration platform like Slack, that employees are comfortable with. An upside of having such hobby groups is that gradually, they can also come up with interesting remote team building activities and conduct the same.
8. Two Truths and a Lie
Another fun activity to encourage team members to know more about one another and to facilitate bonding is two truths and a lie. The rules are simple, employees put down three points about themselves, out of which two are true and one is a lie. The person themselves or someone else from the team will read aloud those statements and others have to guess which one is a lie. In the end, the person reveals which one is actually a lie and those who guessed it right, score a point.
9. Virtual happy Hour
While outings, team lunches and dinners were a norm during the old days, they have come to a standstill in the new normal. However, we may not be able to go out, but employees can still have happy hours together. Organizations can simply order some nice food items and drinks to be delivered to the homes of their team members, and everyone can enjoy a meal together over a video call, with random conversations and chitchats.
10. Virtual Treasure Hunt
This virtual team building activity also takes everyone down the memory lane. Treasure hunts were almost a daily affair for everyone. So, why not take a stab at conducting the same virtually? The rules are simple. Those organizing the event can create a list of items that are generally available at every household and share a few items every few minutes while those participating have to search for those items and send a picture within the designated time. The one with the most pictures in the least time wins. There can be another twist to the game by encrypting the clues in riddles which employees have to solve and then find the item, click a picture and share.
There are multiple platforms out there which organizations can explore to conduct this virtual team building activity at absolutely no cost. The process is simple, everyone logs onto the pre-decided platform and the platform automatically selects a team member and random and assigns a word. The selected participant has to use the virtual paintbrush to draw the word in the best way possible and others have to guess the same. The one who draws the best and guesses the most wins.
12. Virtual Dance Off
Many employees miss dancing at office gatherings and events. Why not take dancing to their homes. Organizations can either conduct dance or zumba sessions for their employees by collaborating with some expert. At the same time, they can simply get a video from the internet and play it live for all team members, who must copy the steps. Not only will this be a great way to stay fit, but watching others and oneself performing steps in a goofy way will bring on a lot of laughter to the team.
13. Guided Meditation
The uncertainty and ambiguity that has accompanied the last year has been stressful for almost everyone. Meditation has been one way that has helped individuals maintain their mental wellbeing. Taking cue from that, organizations can conduct guided meditation sessions to encourage their employees to learn about different aspects of meditation and focus on their wellbeing.
14. Virtual Celebrations
Celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, etc. have been an integral part of team building for most organizations. It is often said that a team that celebrates together, stays together. Organizations must continue celebrating important milestones, albeit virtually. Simply sending a cake or a goodie basket along with a collective celebration over a conference call can make a lot of impact when it comes to boost employee morale and motivation. This will also enable team members to get to know each other more than just work and create long lasting bonds.
15. What’s the Answer
Quizzes have always been a great tool to bring people together and facilitate interaction. Organizations can conduct virtual quizzes on different topics which can either be specific to their industry to ensure that team members are updated on the latest trends, or just for fun with random questions. One of the team members can be the quiz master, while others can participate. Some goodies or prizes for the winners will definitely boost participation for this virtual team building activity.
16. GIF War
GIFs are the new thing in town and leveraging them as one of the tools for online team building games is definitely worth a try. Conducting a GIF is actually a piece of cake. The process is quite simple. All participants can connect over any collaboration or messaging platform and the one conducting the activity can share a random phrase or sentence, like ‘The cutest elephant’. Others have to send different GIFs which they feel describe the phrase shared the best. While this is no competition, it is sure to bring about many laughs on the table.
17. Blind Origami
We are all aware of the Japanese paper folding art, Origami. However, in a virtual set up, organizations can add a twist to the ancient art form. The rules are easy to follow. Simply divide all employees in teams of two. Send a list of origami instructions to one of the team members and instruct the other one to collect the required material. Now the one with the instructions has to verbally explain the folding process to the other, to create the end product. On the one hand, it will be really fun to relive the childhood days. On the other hand, it will help gauge the communication level of team members, i.e. how well they are able to express their thoughts and how well the other one listens, comprehends and performs.
Top 10 icebreakers for online team building activities
The above 17 virtual team building activities have been adopted by many organizations and have proven to deliver great results. However, many organizations also struggle with breaking the ice when team members join the calls. The result is awkward silence and a direct jump to the activity at hand. Fortunately, there are some amazing icebreaker questions that organizations can experiment with before conducting the online team building activities.
- What is the one superpower you wish you had?
- What has been your rose (positive) and thorn (negative) moment for today?
- Which is the best vacation you ever had?
- What was the last song you listened to?
- What was your last Google search?
- Would you rather have no internet or would you rather lose your phone?
- What did you want to become when you grew up (as a child)?
- Which historical figure would you like to meet?
- What is the one thing on your bucket list you want to check before the end of the year?
- What is your favorite food and drink?
Best tools for virtual team building activities during quarantine
The secret to conducting virtual team building activities during quarantine in a way that ensures success lies in using the right platforms and tools. Simply using the same conference call platform to conduct all activities may not be the best way out. Here is a list of tools organizations can leverage:
For video conferencing
- Google Meet
- Google Docs
For project management
For gauging employee pulse
Taking the first step towards virtual team building activities
Mentioned above is a comprehensive list that organizations can leverage to refine their team building efforts and customize them for a remote workforce. However, before embarking on any of these activities, organizations must make an effort to gauge the employee pulse to understand the gaps that these activities need to bridge. Here, platforms like SuperBeings with their pulse surveys can help organizations gauge the level of engagement and areas of disconnect for employees. Based on these insights, the platform shares data-backed action steps for managers, aligned with industry standards and benchmarks for sustainable impact. As the scope and nature of work has changed in the remote setting, so have employee expectations about team building and engagement. Organizations need to stay on top of the new trends to attract, develop and retain the top talent.