If it hasn’t become clear already, COVID-19 has shaken up the corporate landscape –not only in operations and communication but what “professionalism” looks like, too. And, unlike the abrupt start to this new normal, the transition back to a 2019 working environment is going to be a slow uphill climb–if we even go back at all. Through all of this, technology has been our saving grace. Along with impacting how professionals perform their day-to-day responsibilities, technology also changed the social aspects of their jobs–and not always for the better.
Humans are social creatures; we value interpersonal relationships and feeling connected through shared experiences. In the context of the corporate world, teams with stronger interpersonal relationships have an elevated sense of trust, increased productivity, and higher job satisfaction.
We have adopted the term “Isolation Island” here at Bridge, but when team members are working remotely, connecting in meaningful ways and building relationships with other team members becomes more challenging.
To combat this, we put together a list of fun team building ideas you can use to help strengthen the bonds of your remote team:
It's human nature; employees want to feel connected to a community and valued for their contributions to the team.
Set Up A Virtual Meeting Space or Social Club
Build a virtual Break room
Set up a date and time for a 15-minute virtual meeting where the team just has coffee and catches up.
Virtual coffee breaks
Alternatively, if you have team members that like to log on a few minutes before their shift, encouraging them to start their day in this space can help supplement that early morning small talk around the breakroom’s coffee pot that remote work often misses.
A virtual Happy hour
Even though it’s always 5:00 somewhere, it’s best to set up virtual happy hours after clocking out for the day.
Virtual book club
Invite your team to start a book club where a different team member suggests a new book to read each month.
Plan a Virtual field trip
Many cultural and art institutions have begun to offer virtual tours of their facilities since the pandemic began. These are effectively free tickets to a museum! Figuring in the facts that you don’t have to wait in line, and you don’t have to deal with the hassle of traveling there, what’s not love?
I recently attended my first virtual baby shower. Admittedly, I had my reservations about the event logistics, but now that I am on the other side, I am a full believer that virtual parties can be successful. If you plan out an itinerary with different games and raffles (ex. Guess how many candies are in the jar) you will be golden.
This is a unique take on the virtual coffee break. What I love about it is the intent behind “pausing” also helps promote mental wellness and self-care amongst your employees. In this current climate, when leaders can communicate that they care about the personal wellness of their employees, it goes a long way.
Setting group goals or having your team members work together to complete a common task helps build trust while promoting personal accountability.
Virtual Team Games
If your business has taken to hosting Friday game day, any game that promotes collaboration has team building written all over it. This could be anything up to and including to the following:
- Scavenger hunt
- A virtual escape room, RPG strategy game, or virtual board game (you will typically need a server to do this)
Halloween *is* right around the corner. Need I say more?
Pay it forward/ pen pal
Surprise your team members with a handwritten note expressing your gratitude; encourage them to pay it forward to their colleagues. Gratitude is a stone thrown in the sea of positivity.
If your team is more athletic, trying some of these fitness-based options might be the way to go. Aside from being a great way to get your team moving in quarantine, the nice thing here is that you can position these team-building exercises as a healthy competition among colleagues OR make the goal cumulative –meaning your team will succeed or fall short together.
- A progressive 5k (or marathon)
- Using a fitness tracker app to track and set step goals.
- The key with these goals is to make the progress transparent, so updating where you keep that data should be done frequently.
- Virtual fundraiser Have your team members nominate a charity and donate money to the winning cause. Alternatively, you can host a fundraiser for the cause as well.
A healthy habit checklist
Set up a shared doc where your employees can log their healthy habits (hours of sleep, drinking water, working out, etc.) If your team hits their goal, reward them!
Getting to know your team a little better personally, can go a long way to promote team productivity!
Trivia style games can take many different formats. The core function is matching the (correct) fact to the (correct) team member to help your team learn a little more about one another. Some more popular ideas are:
- Two truths and a lie
- Team building bingo
- Match "X" to the person
- Little known fact
- Baby picture
You can also have your team members take a personality test like a DISC (or DOPE) profiles or the Meyers-Briggs assessment, etc. and have others guess where everyone falls on the matrix.
Remember: there is no definitive personality assessment, so the results should be used for fun and not as a means to draw generalized conclusions about your employees.
Who does this playlist belong to?
I suspect there is a least one secret metalhead on the Bridge team….
This is a fun exercise that blends team building and team bonding. Group your team members in smaller groups of two or three. They will have 10 minutes to find as many commonalities as they can amongst the group. At the end of the 10 minutes, the team with the most similarities wins.
Social Media Sprint
Set some time on aside to endorse or promote your team members on professional social media sites like LinkedIn. This can be done via recommendations or endorsing them for a skill.
Problem Solving and Continuing Education
Posing questions to the like, “What would you do if…?” can be a great way to better understand your colleagues, but if you chose to ask hypotheticals about work situations, this can double as a great way to review workplace policies and best practices.
Lunch and learn
If your departments are strongly siloed, having an interdepartmental lunch and learn is a great way to help build horizontal workplace relationships. As a bonus, it also helps employees better understand how their job impacts other team members and the role their department plays within the company at large.
Six Degrees of Wikipedia
This is an idea that has been making its rounds on social media. Each person picks a Wikipedia (or social media page) and picks a partner. It is then their job to connect the two pages in 6 clicks or less. Kevin Bacon, your legacy lives on.
Game Theory Games
This is sometimes called the Prisoner Experiment. Now, hopefully, your team isn’t committing any crimes together, but the concept of weighing individual interests against that of the group can be a great way to reenergize stagnant video conference meetings.
I’ve seen it explained with sweatpants on video conference calls: Someone calls out “sweatpants” during a video call. If over half the people on the call are business on top, PJ’s on bottom, that person gets 5 points. If it is under half, they’ll have points taken away, and everyone else gets 3 points, and so on. But this can be done with other elements of video conference calls as well:
- Softphone or Cellphone?
- What room are you in?
- Who is drinking coffee?
You Have 5 Minutes to….
Adding a sense of urgency to a group activity is a great way to give your team’s creative muscles a workout.
Everyone has 5 minutes to find items around their home for each letter of the alphabet. Whoever can come up with the most, wins.
Pick a topic, profession, or celebrity. Your team has 5 minutes to make a costume with items around their home. At the end of 5 minutes, your team votes on a winner.
Home office scavenger hunt
Pick a topic (fruit), and then have your team take turns going down the list for words under that topic (apple, banana, cherry, etc.) How fast can your team make it through the alphabet?
Just for Fun!
Team building activities don’t have to have a purpose outside of having some fun. Providing a break from normal work routines can be a great way to bring team members together.
Chubby bunny challenge
If your team is super competitive, have some paper towels or napkins on standby.
Video Call “I Spy”
Take turns guessing an item you can see in one of your team’s web cam’s background. Other team members then guess whose screen you’re spying from.
These are super easy party games that translate well to the digital medium.
Make an Instagram or Tik Tok “pass the” video
Does your team’s video have the potential to go viral?
Team members share their favorite recipes. Everyone picks one or two recipes from the pool and makes them. The dish (or baked good) with the most upvotes wins bragging rights.
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The Benefits of Team Building
No one needs to make the case as to why team-building exercises are beneficial, but there is a case to be for how important a tool team building within the Leadership Toolbox. In today’s world, being able to feel connected to a community and that you’re a contributing/valued member of a group is so important. On top of the benefits to team cohesion, the added socialization can help members of your team combat feelings of isolation. Furthermore, regularly participating in virtual team-building exercises helps counteract the inherent shortcomings left by digital communication.
Hopefully, this list sparks some inspiration for your team remote team, and your team can reap the benefits of a stronger remote workforce because of it.