The most important part of a virtual team is not that team members work remotely. It’s that they are a team. Building cohesion among virtual team members is an essential element for increased productivity. It facilitates collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. How do you build a cohesive remote team? What are effective virtual team building activities that promote bonding between remote co-workers? Can these teamwork activities also be fun?
Team building is important to business success, but it can also be a challenge. The challenge becomes bigger when your team is virtual. The shared space of the in-office work structure creates organic opportunities for social bonding and trust building between colleagues. Remote work structures lack these built-in opportunities that proximity provides. This lack can create a connection gap, eroding understanding between colleagues and hampering a team’s success. It is not without remedy though. Virtual team building activities can fill the gap.
Teamwork activities, work games, and fun virtual events can replace the convenience of proximity with intentional ways to enable team bonding. Virtual team building activities can create a bridge between remote colleagues and help overcome remote work drawbacks.
The Purpose of Virtual Team Building Activities
Virtual team building activities are designed to create human connections between virtual colleagues. They can address challenges by forging stronger bonds and promoting team harmony. Online team building activities can make it easier for teams to:
Tools for Online Team Building
Remote work tools are team bonding tools too. Work management tools can be used as virtual whiteboards for team bonding games. Communication platforms can serve remote team fun. Video conferencing tools can promote fun virtual events and team games for social bonding. These are tools that virtual teams already use to get work done. They can also be utilized for virtual team building activities that keep your remote staff cohesive.
Considerations with Virtual Team Building Activities
Not all remote team building activities are the same. Goals, structure, and execution matter. The individuals who make up the team do too. One online group challenge that worked well for one team may fall flat with another. Don’t push fun work games that do not have a focus and purpose. That last thing you want is for your virtual team to ask, “what’s the point?”
Virtual Team Building Icebreakers
Icebreakers are not only for new teams. Team members’ lives evolve and change. In a remote work structure, members can feel isolated, which can prevent bonding even if they have worked together for a long time. Icebreakers serve as a check in that can break through the isolation. They are quick connections that can be done at the beginning of video meetings or via group chat.
Icebreaker ideas for fun team check-ins include sharing:
Quick Icebreaker Games
A fun and easy game where each member shares two truths and one lie about themselves. The other members guess which one is the lie. It is surprising how much you can learn about your team members when they tell lies.
The team is split into two groups, and each group is assigned either pancakes or waffles. The group debates why their assigned breakfast food is superior. This can be done with other seemingly mundane topics too.
Best done with smaller groups within a larger team. The group has to identify three unique things they have in common. It may be all were cheerleaders in high school or have read Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It could be as simple as they all prefer to wear brown socks.
Elevating the Group Chat
Online team building does not have to be an event. There are plenty of free virtual team building activities that elevate the group chat to promote team bonding.
Simply sharing stories or pictures over a group chat can facilitate connection and bonding. Some suggestions for weekly questions are:
Creating social chat channels with a purpose can also serve work-related benefits. A few ideas for different channels include:
- Discussing anything but work. Like a water cooler chat, but remote.
- For team members without the manager. It creates a safe place to ask questions.
- For support. To find help when needed and feel supported.
Fun Virtual Team Building Ideas
Teammates make a point to connect on a personal level by sharing and expanding their knowledge. It can be done in teams or across the organization. Team members choose a work-related topic to learn more about and connect with colleagues who want to learn the same thing. They meet over video to discuss articles, books, or a presentation on the topic.
Share Your Passions
Some remote team fun can be ongoing to encourage teams to bond over the long haul and to find common ground outside of work. Through video discussions or group chats, teammates can bond through:
Try to mix it up beyond the pub trivia style. Incorporate video clips, unique themes, or short song clips with a “name that tune” format.
The best virtual game apps have a non-threatening format built in. For example, Drawful is fun because it is almost impossible to draw well. No one can say, “I can’t draw,” because no one can.
Other virtual teamwork activities that emphasize collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity include:
Fun Virtual Events
Some virtual team building activities are structured as virtual events shared by team members. These events often include kits that are sent to each team member’s home with all the ingredients and supplies needed to participate. The event is synchronous via video conference. The team shares in doing something together. It is often guided by an expert where something tangible is learned, a physical thing they need to prepare or do. It brings the physical world into the virtual.
Some event sessions include:
Don’t limit yourself to virtual events
As helpful as it is to keep your employees engaged with one another through virtual team building activities, nothing can fully replace actual human interaction. If virtual activities filled all of our needs, there would be no reason to see our friends and family in person. The fact is, tangible interaction is an incredibly important part of effective relationship building.
One-off events like bringing the team together for a party over the holidays or inviting their families to spend an afternoon at a theme park in the summer are great for building shared experiences. Still, the addition of a monthly group gathering fosters ongoing bond building.
Whether virtual or in-person, team building works best when we are intentional and consistent with it. Maybe your best option is biannual in person meetings, supported by regularly scheduled virtual events. Perhaps you can swing a more 50/50 mix of in-person and virtual. It doesn’t matter what schedule works for you and your team. The important thing is that you take the time to bond and develop relationships beyond avatars and written communication.
Taking the time for team members to get to know each other as individuals is an investment that pays off with increased performance. Virtual teams bond as people and colleagues, making it easier to balance skills and improve decision making. When remote teams stay connected and have fun, it can move the work forward in more innovative ways. When done right, virtual team building activities can keep remote teams cohesive and working together successfully.