7 Best Ideas for Virtual Team-Building Activities
It’s a major Future of Work trend: modern businesses that want to move forward today are transitioning to a virtual workplace, meaning their people are no longer tied to a physical office or geographical boundaries. Instead, they communicate with their co-workers, managers and clients via video calls, digital platforms, cloud computing, and smartphones. Other companies may not have gone entirely virtual but did embrace remote or hybrid work models.
Now there are many benefits that come with these new ways of working, but there’s one question that immediately comes to mind: how can you foster team spirit when there’s a lack of in-person contact? In this article, we’ll explore creative ways for remote teams to genuinely feel connected and engaged with each other while learning from their colleagues simultaneously. Plus: a list of 7 must-try remote team-building activities.
- Intro: Virtual Teams are Here to Stay
- What is Virtual Team-Building?
- The Many Benefits of Remote Team-Building
- 7 Inspiring Ideas for Virtual Team-Building
1. Intro: Virtual Teams are Here to Stay
Today, many teams are completely remote or work in a company that has embraced a hybrid culture, allowing people to split their time between working in the office and working from home. In fact, a primarily virtual workforce can operate from practically anywhere, whether it’s a co-working space, a tropical island, or in the privacy of their own home office. This transformation has had a massive impact on both employees and employers. Countless research has shown that flexible work arrangements boost productivity and motivation. Remote work models are also associated with higher organizational commitment, a positive sense of autonomy, and a better work-life balance.
Needless to say, a reduced need for office space and lower numbers of staff commuting back and forth has significant financial and environmental benefits for businesses. Even more so, it gives them access to a larger talent pool. As people nowadays can work from anywhere, companies can hire staff from all over the country – from all over the world really. In other words, our traditional view of the office being the sole workplace has become a thing of the past. Virtual teams are here to stay.
In the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexible working hours helped them achieve more productivity, and 30% of those surveyed said that less or no time commuting allowed them to be more productive.
While the benefits of virtual teams justify their implementation in business organizations, there’s also a downfall. Without personal interaction and shared experiences, employees may feel isolated, excluded, and disconnected. To build team spirit, it’s crucial for companies to invest time and effort in virtual team-building activities. It allows people that might not have met in person to collaborate, bond, and engage in a profound way. It also teaches employees to give and receive constructive feedback, and learn from each other.
2. What is Virtual Team-Building?
Virtual or remote team-building revolves around the process of creating meaningful connections between co-workers who mostly operate in the digital space and don’t meet in real life – at least, not often. This is done through virtual events, online group games, and workshops that take place on platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. There are also hundreds of dedicated team-building apps and software tools out there, like Huddle and Kahoot!.
We all need somebody to lean on
The purpose of online team-building is to boost remote employee morale and cultivate an inclusive, virtual team environment. It allows people to bond, even without those spontaneous chats at the proverbial water cooler or during live company events. These close bonds between employees matter: people will always need a buddy at work, and human beings will always crave social contact. According to the Harvard Business Review, “close work friendships boost employee well-being by 50%.” The same article also states that “people with a friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work”.
You might also like: Advantages Of A Buddy System, And How You Can Implement it Successfully
3. The Many Benefits of Remote Team-Building
You can put a bunch of people together in a room and set a mutual goal, but that doesn’t make them a team yet. First, they need to learn how to work together effectively. They need to understand how to communicate with each other, and they also have to make sure that every single person in the group feels valued and respected. Once there’s a common spirit and everybody feels comfortable together, you can consider it a team. The French have a wonderful expression for this: they call it ‘esprit de corps.’ It’s roughly translated as a sense of unity and enthusiasm for a shared goal, interest, or responsibility. More importantly, it implies a strong regard for the group’s honor.
Only a thriving workforce can sustain a thriving business
Groups that have a feeling of shared ownership can achieve amazing results, so it’s clear that team building is an important strategy to drive company goals and sustain a thriving business. Generally speaking, team-building activities help raise motivation and build trust among teammates, leading to higher productivity, better communication, and creative ways to solve problems. Of course, this applies to both in-person and online team-building sessions, but let’s take a look at the specific advantages of team-building remotely, as this is becoming increasingly essential in an era of digital transformation.
- It fosters empathy and understanding: teamwork tends to be more successful when co-workers have an emotional connection with their peers and understand their (cultural) differences. Formerly, these connections were made in a face-to-face environment: for instance during office lunch or company outings. With online team-building sessions, remote employees can still build strong relationships. They can talk about non-work-related topics, share their thoughts and find common ground with each other, and get to know the person behind the screen.
- It combats feelings of isolation: connecting and unwinding together, albeit in the virtual space, helps remote workers feel included and seen.
- It brings unity to hybrid teams: to create a sense of unity between remote and in-office employees, they need to have a shared group or company identity. During online team-building games, cross-functional and cross-cultural teams work together towards mutual goals or end results. Sharing wins and challenging each other is a great way to drive the ‘we’re all in this together vibe.
- It’s cost-efficient: from a business point of view, organizing virtual team-building events has substantial financial benefits over ‘real-life’ events. With more and more companies operating across borders and time zones, the need for bringing teams from all over the world together efficiently has never been greater. Besides, there are many free virtual team-building activities that are perfect for remote teams.
- It drives a culture of continuous learning: taking on challenges and doing virtual exercises together gives employees the possibility to explore a growth mindset, learn from each other, and develop new skills in an accessible and playful way.
4. 7 Inspiring Ideas for Virtual Team-Building
From 5-minute team-building games on Zoom to online events involving tiny campfires and murder mysteries: here’s a list of seven remote team-building ideas for work:
1. Online cooking classes
Food is deeply related to culture, and cooking together can be pretty fun. That’s why cooking classes have always been a popular team-building activity. However, cramming together in a kitchen wasn’t the best idea during the lockdowns. Enter the rise of online cooking classes, which are still popular today. The idea is simple: participants receive a list of ingredients, join from their own kitchen, and tune in to a live stream where a chef takes them through the steps of creating a beautiful meal together.
Tip: make it a bi-monthly event, and put a different cuisine in the spotlight as you go. It can be anything from Indian to Italian, and you can even set the goals high by arranging a Michelin-chef to share their culinary secrets and special techniques.
Best for: multicultural and global teams, as food is a great way to discover different cultures and cuisines.
2. Online tastings
After an important team meeting or online presentation, those attending usually have the need to relax and wind down. Instead of people switching off their screens, keep everyone on board and set up an online tasting when the official part is done. Depending on the theme, employees receive a goodie box filled with a curated selection of products, like chocolate, cheeses, or wine. A culinary expert tunes in to host the event and engage the team with an educational and entertaining explanation about the tastes.
Tip: keep in mind that not everybody drinks alcohol, some people don’t eat meat, and others have specific diets, so make sure to come up with alternatives that make everyone feel included (a tea tasting is a great option).
Best for: remote and hybrid teams that are looking for an original alternative for after-work drinks.
3. Online yoga classes and virtual exercises
Yoga might be primarily about individual poses, but it’s also excellent for enhancing team spirit. Even online, because a good yoga instructor will know exactly how to guide the process to get the group energy flowing. Besides, it reduces stress levels and helps to build a better work-life balance.
Tip: get in the zen-zone together with a weekly online yoga class, for instance to start the day or unwind at the end of the week. Also, consider adding a guided meditation or mindfulness session as an exercise.
Best for: teams that are under high pressure or going through a transitional phase.
4. Virtual campfire
What better way to create a sense of community than around a (virtual) campfire? Participants receive a campfire kit with candles and marshmallows in advance, and a dedicated camp leader will host the event over a video call – which can include campfire karaoke, ghost stories, or a murder mystery game.
Tip: include scented candles with woodsy scents in the kit, like bonfire or pine.
Best for: breaking the ice between new team members and creating camaraderie among remote teams.
5. Virtual events and holidays
Company milestones, anniversaries, and holidays can easily be celebrated online – it’s actually not that different from organizing a live event or party. Plan a date, make a guestlist, pick some fun activities to do – like Secret Santa or an online game show – and simply invite everyone to tune in to Zoom or another video conferencing platform. It’s a festive way to inject team spirit into the company culture.
Tip: company-wide events usually include a considerable number of employees, so a virtual event planner can help to run things smoothly.
Best for: big corporations and enterprises that operate on a global scale, as international teams can join the party online (without the jet lag and high travel expenses).
6. 5-minute team-building games on Zoom
There are plenty of free and super quick team-building activities that you can play together on Zoom. A great example is Two Truths & One Lie: in each round, someone shares three statements about themselves. Two are true, and one is a lie. Then, everyone on the team votes to find out which one is false. It helps people to get to know each other better and connect on a personal level. Another quick exercise, which also helps to practice presentation skills and powerful storytelling, is ‘Tell A Story In 60 Seconds’, where team members are encouraged to create and tell a short story inspired by theme cards or other topics.
Tip: virtual 5-minute games can be a bit silly – and that’s perfectly fine. The whole purpose is for teams to socialize and have some fun together.
Best for: getting the creative juices flowing at team meetings, and paving the way for an informal discussion afterward.
7. Virtual escape room
Virtual escape rooms are perfect for improving team collaboration and communication. It can give an interesting insight into a team’s problem-solving skills, and how they deal with stressful situations. With themes like solving an art heist, breaking out of a haunted house, or escaping from Antarctica, it’s an exciting online team challenge with a shared goal: to complete the mission and escape.
Tip: include a debrief session to discuss lessons learned and reflect on the teams’ performance.
Best for: larger companies that work with multiple teams.
Fun and engaging as virtual team-building might be, it’s also a valuable tool to improve communication and understanding between remote workers. It helps to give insights into a co-worker’s interests, beliefs, and talents which will stimulate a feeling of belonging between team members.
Moreover, it can play a vital role in a company’s L&D strategy, as teams share their expertise, bring their skills to the table, and learn from each other while facing challenges and sharing stories. Finally, online team-building helps to build a successful onboarding process as new hires join a virtual or remote team.
At Lepaya, we help organizations create a culture of continuous learning and build stronger teams by offering innovative learning experiences through our Power Skills training.
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