The workplace as we once knew it has all but disappeared. As more organizations transition to a remote or hybrid workforce, virtual team building is becoming an essential part of keeping employees engaged.
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the modern workplace, asking us to rethink age-old employee engagement strategies.
Virtual team building activities offer a new way of connecting employees across remote and hybrid teams. But they also present a brand new set of challenges.
Employers are often left wondering how to build trust in a virtual team and create meaningful interactions with little more than a microphone and camera.
In this post, we’ll share the virtual team building activities and games that have worked for our team as well as new and creative ideas to consider trying out.
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What is Virtual Team Building
Virtual team building is the process of cultivating relationships between hybrid or remote employees.
Back in the office, we often built bonds with colleagues without even realizing. It was the deskside chats, sympathetic side-glances in tedious boardroom meetings, and impromptu bump-ins in the kitchen.
But things are trickier when working remotely.
With virtual team building, collaboration and trust are facilitated entirely through digital events.
The objective of these events is to foster a strong company culture, improve team communication, and boost employee engagement. All without ever meeting face-to-face.
This can be a tall order. But with the right employee engagement software and a little creativity, the task becomes feasible—whether it’s drafting return to work communications or incorporating fun virtual event ideas.
Pro Tip: Engage remote employees with targeted messages. Generate customized communications with ContactMonkey’s OpenAI integration.
How to do Virtual Team Building Activities
All things considered, planning virtual team building activities isn’t much different than organizing in-person work events.
In both cases, you’ll need to think of engaging games, ice-breakers, and inclusive activities that all employees can enjoy.
However, the bar is set higher for virtual events as it’s much easier for employees to turn off their camera and disengage during a virtual activity.
The first step to a successful virtual event is effective planning. Choose a reliable platform to host your virtual event and explore options beyond Zoom if you want to spice things up. Possible Zoom alternatives include:
Make sure to send your invites well in advance so employees can save the date and send reminders leading to the event.
With ContactMonkey’s event management software, you can create, send, and track event registration all from your internal email.
Simply embed your invitation into your employee newsletter template, import your template into Outlook or Gmail, and send your email from your usual inbox. You can then track all RSVPs, questions, and comments from a single spot—your analytics dashboard.
You can also organize and segment employee sending lists to target the right employees with the right information using ContactMonkey’s list management tool.
20+ Virtual Team Building Activities and Games
Before you can start sending out your event invites, you’ll need to choose engaging virtual team building activities for your remote workforce.
Below, we’ve broken down some creative employee engagement ideas to get you started as well as a few spins on the classic favourites.
1.Virtual town hall
When you think of company town halls, you may be picturing a humdrum lineup of department managers reading out a laundry list of updates. But a virtual town hall can actually be a hub for virtual team building.
Your entire office is already united under one (virtual) roof. The key is to introduce games and events between the usual slew of graphs and KPIs. A team shoutout break for colleagues to send appreciation messages to the team, recognize standout employees, spin-the-wheel prizes, and trivia are just a few things to try.
2. Guess the desk
Whether you’re gathering employees at a virtual town hall or simply need an ice-breaker to start off your weekly meeting, Guess the Desk is a fast and easy virtual team building exercise.
Here’s how it’s done: each participant sends in a photo of their work desk ahead of the virtual meetup. This could be an image of their office, the kitchen counter, and just about anywhere else they get to work remotely.
Once the photos are in, create a slideshow of the desks and have people vote on whose it is using a poll plugin or your Zoom chat. Put up a collage of all the photos in the end with the names of the staff they belong to.
3. Multiplayer gaming using a plugin
Whatever your stance on video games may be, one thing’s for sure: multiplayer gaming builds bonds between players and encourages collaboration. When immersed in the game, players think creatively and plan strategically, which are equally handy skills for the office.
Popular multiplayer video games and digitized board games that can be played through video conference via plugin include Catan and Dominion. You can also get gaming bundles through platforms like Jackbox Games and Tabletopia.
4. Kahoot team trivia
Kahoot lets you build a customized team trivia experience or choose from preset games. You can even build out longlasting challenges, create teams, and grow leaderboards.
Through long-term missions, you can keep employees engaged over longer periods of time. Colleagues are also motivated to collaborate with one another on a continuous basis.
Platforms like Zoom have an easy-to-install Zoom plugin for Kahoot, so it’s simple to incorporate into any virtual team meeting.
5. Friday virtual happy hour with UberEats
Back in the office, your teams may have regularly gotten together on a Friday to grab drinks, a bite to eat, and just unwind. This tradition doesn’t have to be canceled just because things went virtual.
It’s a great incentive to get your employees to gather on camera outside of work. Not to mention, coworkers can chat in a more relaxed setting where it’s easier to actually start getting to know each other.
6. Team quiz time
Team quizzes let your teams indulge in some friendly competition and see where each others’ interests lie outside of work.
When you gather people in big groups it’s easy for some employees to feel sidelined. Quizzes let everyone join in and you can even divide players into teams for an added element of competition.
This encourages virtual team building, as colleagues on the same team need to work together to win.
7. Jam sessions
Music has been bringing people together pretty much since the dawn of time. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that it’s also a great virtual team building strategy.
There’s bound to be a few music aficionados or instrument players among your staff. If you’re not sure, conduct a pulse survey quiz to learn where the musical talent lies.
With ContactMonkey’s employee pulse survey tool, you simply embed your employee engagement survey questions into your weekly newsletter. Employees can respond quickly and easily using star ratings, emoji reactions, or thumbs up/down.
Once you’ve gauged interest, invite the music buffs among your staff to perform a favourite piece over Zoom. This allows employees to share their interests and talents outside of work, even get a little vulnerable while equally showing support for their colleagues.
8. A virtual cookie decorating class
A sure way to get any and all employees engaged is to introduce food into the mix. This virtual team building activity is both fun and delicious.
All you need is a few basic ingredients: a plain sugar cookie, a couple of icing tubes, any toppings your employees love, and a little creativity.
You can ask participating employees to get these ingredients in advance and reimburse them, or send your staff a custom cookie decorating kit, available on Etsy and at many bakery chains.
9. A virtual escape room
Virtual escape rooms are a crowd favourite. They also encourage employees to get collaborative and work together in order to win, which is the zenith of virtual team building.
10. Scavenger hunt activities
Scavenger hunts are a fast-paced and highly participatory team-building activity. They’re also super simple to organize. First, pick a theme such as Music, Space, the 80s, or if you’re trying to boost engagement around the holidays, you can incorporate Halloween or Christmas into the mix.
Prepare a list of clues and items, then start firing them off when all your employees have joined the event. When participants find an item on your list around their house they have to put it up to the camera or send in a photo to win points.
Once all clues are exhausted, the facilitators count the points or a poll is used to vote on winners.
11. Pancakes vs waffles
Pancakes vs Waffles is a fun, easy game that’s sure to get a bit silly and get even the most serious senior exec to crack a laugh
Friendly debate is at the core of the game as employees are asked to think creatively (and comedically) while facing off against each other.
Here are the rules: first, a facilitator announces a topic for debate. As the name of the game suggests, a common starting point is to dispute pancakes vs. waffles. One of the items has to disappear from existence.
The facilitator or MC leads employees to take turns delivering well thought-out arguments for the goofiest topics, leading to hilarious outcomes.
When the first debate is decided, the winners can nominate a new topic. For instance, if pancake supporters won, the winners can introduce a debate on Love vs. Netflix or Coffee vs. Music.
12. Two truths and one lie
We loved it in high school and we still love it now. This simple, age-old game is one of the best virtual team building activities.
It lets employees learn the most unique and wackiest things about one another, or even find out they share things in common which they would’ve never known about otherwise.
The rules are self-explanatory, employees take turns dishing out two truths and one lie, such as:
- I have three dogs.
- I grew up on a farm.
- When I was a student, I hacked into my principal’s computer.
Participants have to guess which statement is true and which one is false. Beyond a decent Wifi signal there’s not much you need for this game, which also makes it one of the easiest remote team communications tools.
13. Guided meditation
Five minutes of peace and quiet during a hectic work day can feel invigorating. At the same time, a virtual guided meditation also gets colleagues to share a unique moment of peace and silence in each other’s company. After the usual rowdiness of day-to-day interactions at work, this can be a binding experience.
You’d be surprised to learn that someone on your team may already have experience with guided meditation and can lead the session. Alternatively, you can find an online coach or turn on a guided meditation on YouTube.
Also consider sending employees a care package with any swag or scented oils that can help make the experience more customized.
14. Virtual Bingo
You can pick a theme or build a customized bingo game rife with inside-jokes for your office. Use an online virtual Bingo platform or make one from scratch using a Bingo template builder.
Make sure to award prizes to the winners to see a big boost the next time you’re measuring employee engagement!
15. Colleague recognition
At ContactMonkey, we finish each virtual town hall by asking each person to call out one colleague they’re especially grateful for. This gives everyone a chance to speak up and show gratitude where they may have otherwise forgotten to in the rhythm of a busy workday.
In your next virtual standup or town hall, simply ask employees to raise their hand and say who they’re thankful for as well as a few details about how they helped.
It’s simple, it’s thoughtful, and it’s a great way to help colleagues bond through mutual employee recognition.
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16. Celebrate personal milestones as a team
Slack will likely remind you about the birthdays or milestones of some of your employees. But if you want to go beyond the “Congrats” message, try organizing surprise virtual celebrations for your employees.
Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary with the company, or just a personal milestone such as finishing a 10K race, it pays off to show how proud the rest of the team feels.
Organize a secret slack group and ask employees to prepare a song, video, or even simply jump up and yell congrats at the same time in your next team meeting
17. Virtual Pictionary
Drawing is a great icebreaker that not only brings out your staff’s creativity but also showcases everyone’s goofy side.
Schedule a virtual get-to-know-you meetup and use an online platform like Drawsize or Scribbl to play drawing games. You could also easily make your own drawing game by nominating an MC and asking employees questions to which they have to draw the answers. For example, to answer the question “If you were a mythical creature, what would your powers be?” your staff would have to draw themselves as mythical beasts with distinct powers.
18. “Who’s that baby?”
A quick and adorable virtual team building activity, “Who’s that baby?” is another tried and tested favourite.
All you have to do is ask employees to send in one of their baby pics to the organizer of the game.
Then, roll out the pics in a slideshow and use a virtual poll tool—usually available with your video conferencing software—to vote on who each baby pic belongs to.
Reveal the answers at the end of your virtual event for added anticipation.
There’s a reason why charades has been popular for centuries: it lets us step outside our day-to-day selves while indulging in friendly competition.
In the remote workplace, it can let your employees see a totally different side of each other while strengthening bonds.
You can play virtual charades in a remote team by using Zoom’s spotlight feature. All you have to do is split participants into teams, and get help from a charades idea generator to pick the topic or phrase to act out. Give each team one or two minutes to guess the answer.
This game is best combined with another virtual event, like virtual birthday parties or happy hour.
20. Virtual Coffee Breaks
Virtual coffee breaks can be in the form of one-on-ones or small group sessions. It’s a great occasion for virtual team bonding between senior and more junior level staff.
These meetups can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes—up to your preference. Discussion topics can include career development and professional growth opportunities, or challenges and victories in one’s career.
You can make these sessions resemble the real deal by sending participants a gift card to a local coffee chain so colleagues can truly feel like they’re grabbing coffee together.
21. Virtual Birthday Parties
Virtual birthday parties give employees an occasion to relax, let go, and celebrate something together. It also shows staff that they’re valued beyond their professional role, and helps boost team morale and employee engagement.
Add a surprise component by getting someone from your staff to ask the birthday person to jump on an ‘urgent call’ in 5 minutes. Make sure to send invites to other employees in secret ahead of time and have them all join in on the surprise.
To take out the work of planning multiple virtual birthday parties, unite the employees with birthdays in the same month and create monthly parties.
22. Virtual lunch & learn
Learning something new together draws employees closer together. Not to mention lunch & learns are incredibly simple to organize, making them a must-have part of your company’s virtual team building strategy.
Do some research and pick a webinar or conference recording relevant to your company or industry. These are widely available online so it won’t take too much searching.
Not sure which topic will capture your employees’ interest? With ContactMonkey’s embedded pulse surveys, you can ask your employees their preferences right from your internal email.
You can also ask employees what time, and day of the week they prefer. This way you can pick a day that suits the maximum number of participants and optimize employee engagement.
Once you’ve narrowed down a topic, date, and time, boost engagement with the event by sending an UberEats gift card to participants or reimbursing them for lunch during the event.
How to use ContactMonkey for Virtual Team Building
Great virtual events are about employee engagement. And that’s easier said than done when you’re up against muted mics and darkened screens—all-too-common during virtual activities.
While virtual team events will always come with their challenges, preparing fun remote team building activities can mitigate a lot of employee engagement issues. Once you develop a track record for having awesome virtual events, more employees will start joining in and you’ll be able to continue to build on your success.
ContactMonkey brings email and events together, to give you a hand in creating and managing virtual team building. With ContactMonkey, you can schedule events, send email invites, and track RSVPs all from one place. You can also gather in-depth employee feedback to continuously improve your virtual events.