“As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially true in the context of distributed teams,” says Meaghan Williams, HubSpot’s Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager.
Essentially, this is why team building is important. Team building gives your team a greater sense of togetherness.
Most likely, you can envision team building games in your head: exciting team outings, fun outdoor activities, or after-work happy hour chats.
But what does team building online look like?
When members of your team work remotely, it can be a slight hurdle to foster team building without face-to-face contact. Williams notes, “It can be hard to build that same sense of belonging and commitment to the team when you’re remote. That’s where remote team building comes into play.”
Although it can be tough to figure out how to build team morale virtually, the task isn’t impossible.
Remote team building games improve the morale of your team and their sense of belonging, which is essential for your team’s overall productivity and employee satisfaction
We’ve put together a list of exciting team building exercises and games for your remote team to try out. Let’s go over them in the next section.
Online Team Building Games
When coming up with ways to bond with your team online, Williams suggests assuming that anything is an option. This mindset combats restrictive thinking with games and opens up new realms of possibilities.
“This mentality has led to everything from remote yoga to remote holiday parties, and we’ve had so much fun along the way,” she says.
So with that in mind, let’s go over exciting options for building up your team.
1. Remote MTV “Cribs”
Similar to the workings of the hit MTV show “Cribs,” you and your team could spend some time showing off your remote work spaces. This is an inspiring and fun way to get a look into the workspaces of your teammates.
To give it a “challenging” aspect, have team members vote on their favorite workspace at the end, and the winner can enjoy the bragging rights of having the most impressive remote work setup.
2. Remote Work Bingo
Using a bingo template, create a bingo card and schedule a quick game as a “brain break” for you and your team. You can make it personalized to fit your company and team like the one below:
Have your teammates submit ideas for Bingo spaces to make it a collaborative process. You can even offer a prize for the winner, such as an online gift card. Another plus — Bingo is easy enough to be built into a routine meeting.
To make Bingo work remotely, pick one person to be the moderator. They would call out a random phrase and wait a few seconds for players to search their card for that phrase. If the player has that phrase on their card, they’d use a tool, such as paint, to mark that space.
Once a player has marked enough spaces in a row, they’d announce “Bingo!” in the video call and wait for the moderator to check their answers. If the row is vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, and matches the spaces, that colleague wins.
Mafia is known by a couple of different names, and is often played by large groups. Essentially, the game is a “whodunnit” mystery-solving challenge. One of the players is a silent “killer,” and it’s up to everyone else to figure out the culprit.
There’s a couple of roles to assign in Mafia to keep organizational structure, like “Doctor,” “Townspeople,” and “Detective.” The best part about the game? It can all be played over a video call. Click here for a full run-down of how to play Mafia.
4. NATO Alphabet
If you’re unaware, the NATO alphabet describes the process of connecting letters to common words so others can better understand how to spell something. Typically, this is done for phone calls and commonly starts with “A as in apple,” or “B as in boy.”
Develop a new NATO alphabet with your team. Participants each add on a new letter until the alphabet is formed. The catch?
Before adding on, the team member must recite the alphabet thus far. Good luck in advance to the team member who lands on “Z”!
5. Origami Crafts
Do you remember making origami crafts when you were younger? Origami is the process of folding and cutting paper to resemble real-life objects. You might consider hosting an origami session with your team and deciding who has the best paper-folding skills.
You can find simple origami crafts to make here. As an end result, your desk will have a new decoration.
6. Show and Tell
For show and tell, consider picking a theme — like favorite pastimes, favorite snack, or household pets — and have your team show them off in a video call. Show and tell allows participants to share items that are important to them.
Will you bring your favorite video game and share how it’s the perfect time-waster? Or will you show off your favorite afternoon snack, the one you always have to have on hand?
7. Emoji Stories
Using less than six emojis, begin to write a story in an instant message thread or the chat section of a video call. Then, one by one, your coworkers will add to that story using five more. You can keep going until every teammate has had a turn, or until you run out of ideas.
To get the ball rolling, here’s a potential story starter: 🏘⛈💡🚫 … what happens next to the neighborhood with no power during a storm?
8. DIY Cooking Show
Are the members of your team obsessed with shows like MasterChef or Chopped? Alternatively, are they big into YouTube cooking shows, like Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes? If so, it could be fun to challenge your colleagues to create their own version of a popular cooking show or a tutorial of their favorite comfort food recipes!
This can be done in a variety of ways, but to give it a “challenging” aspect, pick one dish that’s simple to make, like a patty melt or mac and cheese. Give your team one week to film their own versions of the recipe, upload it to a Google Drive, and choose the winner based on creativity of the dish.
Cooking is an awesome way to express creativity, and as the saying goes, food often brings people together. Plus, leftovers mean there’s no extra thinking to do when it’s lunchtime!
9. Call of the Champions
To liven up meetings and make them more interactive, consider a “Call of the Champions”-style meeting. This game incorporates roles into meetings and helps inspire engagement during video calls.
Some of the roles you can include in this meeting are as follows:
- Cheerleader — The meeting cheerleader will encourage new ideas and suggestions, and inspire the other meeting attendees to follow suit.
- Mover and Shaker — If your team gets off topic during the meeting, it’s this person’s job to reign everyone back in and continue with accomplishing the goal of the meeting.
- Photographer — Are your video meetings photogenic? It might be fun to assign someone the role of photographer — this person will scope out photo-ready opportunities, ask for the team’s consent to be pictured, and snap a screenshot to share on social channels.
- Scribe — This role is a writer’s dream: All they have to do is record the highlights of the meeting. It could be helpful to have a Scribe if your meeting is mandatory, but some team members aren’t able to make it.
10. Pop Culture Trivia
What song did Britney Spears perform at the 2001 VMAs? What fictional town does sitcom Parks and Recreation take place in? Unwind with your coworkers in a friendly game of pop culture trivia — 2000’s style.
You can come up with questions with your team, or look up fun prompts online. Assign a moderator, split your team up into groups, and let the games begin!
11. Museum or Farm Field Trip
Did you know that some museums offer virtual gallery tours? From The American Museum of Natural History’s Facebook Live tours, The Frick Collection, the Smithsonian, and more, you can set up a day with your team to explore.
You can either set up a scavenger hunt for teams, (i.e. “Find something related to prehistoric times,”) let members choose a museum to present to the group, or tour the same museum as a group. Field trips are a great bonding experience for groups and museums are making that experience more accessible for remote teams.
Alternatively, you might chat with a local farm to see if they’d be willing to set up a remote farm tour for your team. We’ve done this at HubSpot, and it’s a great way to bond with colleagues as you virtually fuss over the adorable pigs or goats you see on-screen.
12. Scavenger Hunt
When was the last time you went on a deep dive of your company website? If your answer is, “Never,” here’s your chance to challenge your colleagues. Choose pages or tabs from your company’s website for yourself and team members, and come up with a group scavenger hunt.
Break off into teams, or make it a solo venture. After 20 minutes, whoever gets the most points, wins! An idea to get the scavenger hunt ball rolling: “Find the testimonial from X customer.”
13. Lunch and Learn
RSVP time with your team to join a webinar and learn a new skill. Alternatively, have your colleagues take turns to host mini Lunch & Learn sessions for tips about how to perform job functions in a simpler way. For instance, if I were to host a session, it might be “How to Create Awesome Meta Descriptions in Less Than 15 Minutes.”
If your team members have very specific roles that differ, this could be a cool opportunity to learn a little more about what your colleagues do. For instance, your social media manager might host one session about his role regarding social accounts, while your web designer hosts another about her experience designing for UX.
These sessions would give the other insight into how to perform a job function and build a new appreciation for the day-to-day of colleagues.
14. Never Have I Ever
“Never Have I Ever: Remote Work Edition” is another quick stress reliever that helps you learn more about your colleagues. Here are the rules: a team member says something they’ve never done before, but if those playing have done it, they lower one of their fingers. The person with the most fingers left wins the game.
If I were to host a version of the game, my first entry might be, “Never have I ever bought noise-cancelling headphones.”
15. Virtual Dance Party
If you’re like me, you’re known for your pretty amazing work playlists. What better way to wind down after a long workday than with a no-judgement dance party with your colleagues? You can even pull up a song from the Just Dance video game series and learn together (you just need a smartphone!):
There’s no pressure to explode into a fully-choreographed sequence a la Mamma Mia! — all dance styles are encouraged. Blow off steam and enjoy a friendly competition with your team.
16. Happy Hour
One of the most fun remote team building events I’ve done with my team has been Remote Happy Hour. It’s a time for your colleagues to get together and bond outside of work.
Participants can bring any beverage they choose (tea, seltzer, or other non-alcoholic beverages should be encouraged as well), talk about what they’ve brought, and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere. Happy Hours are great because they can take place after the workday is done and offer a fabulous, relaxing opportunity to catch up with your team.
17. Book Club
It’s easy to get video call fatigue after signing off for the day or during a lunch break. To give my eyes a screen break, I’ve turned to the books I’ve had gathering dust on my shelf. To turn reading into a group bonding experience, you might consider polling your coworkers about books they’d be interested in reading, and host a virtual book club.
This can be a recurring event or a one-time session, but the purpose is to discuss ideas outside of team projects. It can be a nice break from your day to discuss a good book — whether it’s every month or a couple of times a year.
“Not every idea is going to be a winner, but what’s important is that you’re willing to be vulnerable with each other and give new ideas a try,” Williams says.
Additionally, she adds, “If you’re just embarking on this journey for the first time, be honest with your team about this and ask them to provide feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. Even better, ask them to contribute their own ideas and lead the way on initiatives that they’re excited about.”
Team building is all about strengthening the bond of your team through different and fun activities. You can host a Pictionary session through a video call or encourage different areas of discussion during meetings. For more ideas on team building games, Williams suggests giving these options a whirl:
Most importantly, remember to just have fun with your team and enjoy the time you have together!