Stories behind workshop plans, post-its and markers.

33 remote team building activities to improve team development

Being remotely distributed doesn’t mean your team should be disconnected. Working online shouldn’t lead to feeling isolated, and it’s important for a facilitator or team leader to help virtual teams stay aligned and connected.

Creating and nurturing high performing teams in an online environment can be challenging. Not all team building activities are suitable for virtual meetings and creating engaging activities online requires extra consideration. Virtual team building is especially important during times of crisis or change. How can you ensure you’re using the right methods to develop, grow, and connect your remote team?

Whether you’re developing a remote team from the ground up, resolving interpersonal issues, or just want your distributed colleagues to have fun, we have you covered! We’ve collected our best team development activities that are remote-friendly and organized them into several categories so you can find the right one for your needs!

Designing online workshops?

Ice breakers for online team building

Online meetings can take time to get comfortable with, particularly for teams who are just transitioning to remote working. Communicating with colleagues in an online environment can be challenging because of the lack of physical cues, non-verbal communication and all the potential distractions one might have when working from home or in a remote office. And just like any skill, it needs practice.

Breaking the ice and getting people comfortable with interacting with each other is a vital part of any effective working session. This is particularly important if you have a new or freshly formed team to deal where people don’t yet know each other as much.

One of the first barriers many people face in online meetings is speaking up – by starting with an inclusive online icebreaker, you can get everyone over this hurdle right at the beginning. Furthermore, helping your team get to know one another and become comfortable working together virtually helps lay the foundation for deeper team development exercises. Let’s take a look at some of our favourites! 

Break the Ice with The Four Quadrants Activity

The Four Quadrants activity is a creative, visual exercise that is a great way to help your group get to know each other and encourage personal responses. You can use this  with four questions that will help a team align, get to know one another, or outline challenges or working opportunities. It’s super flexible and works with teams of any makeup. 

In an online environment, this exercise works well using an online whiteboard like Mural or Miro to collect responses and have people participate in real time. You can use digital drawing tools or invite participants to draw on paper and upload photos to the shared whiteboard. 

Break the Ice with The Four Quadrants Activity #ice breaker #teambuilding #team #remote-friendly 

The Four Quadrants is a tried and true team building activity to break the ice with a group or team.

It is EASY to prep for and set up. It can be MODIFIED to work with any group and/or topic (just change the questions). It is FUN, COLORFUL and VISUAL.

Happiness Exercise 

Sharing personal experiences and generating positivity can help groups bond and improve team relationships. The Happiness Exercise is a great, remote-friendly team building activity to build trust and help people share honestly and openly.

Start by asking members of the group to share an occasion when they were happy. Join in yourself to give your team the idea! Once everyone has spoken, ask everyone to give an example of a time they made someone else happy. Choosing just one can be a challenge, but you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn and share with these very simple prompts. If you’re using an online whiteboard or collecting notes in a shared document, it’s fun to collect these experiences for later reflection and sharing!  

Happiness exercise #teambuilding #ice breaker #warm up 

This exercise is a simple application of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry.

Icebreaker: The Group Map

Many great remote team building activities were born in live workshops with large numbers of people and big open spaces. Translating some of those activities into an online workshop can be tricky, though it’s no reason not to do them! With a little creativity and the right tools, many existing exercises can be reworked for remote environments successfully. 

The group map is a fun virtual icebreaker for Mural, Miro or any other online whiteboard. By creating a virtual space with either an imaginary or virtual map where participants can position themselves and add images, you can foster an environment of sharing and reflection that can be fun to interact in too! Encouraging participants to be creative can also lead to great shared resources and team boards to reflect on and share later! 

Icebreaker: The Group Map #get-to-know #ice breaker 

Ask people to place themselves on an imaginary map laid out in the room representing the country according to where they grew up. Ask them to share one internal value they got from that place, and why is that important for them. Encourage people to share a short story if they want

Three Wishes 

Simplicity is your friend when it comes to remote team building. Facilitating structured conversations around concepts people are familiar with can make the team building process a little easier.

Three Wishes is a flexible virtual icebreaker that can work well in a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Google Meet, or can be expanded to use images and GIFs in an online whiteboard tool. We recommend adjusting this activity based on the flow of your session: if your agenda is discussion heavy, encourage participants to share their three wishes in the forms of images, memes, songs, or GIFS. The opportunity to do a little solo-work before sharing can be a welcome change and as with any online icebreaker, the opportunity for humour helps too!

Three wishes #get-to-know #ice breaker #remote-friendly 

The activity serves as a brief energiser during a workshop, and helps to get creativity flowing. At the end of this method, each team member will be a little more familiar with each other.

Magic Box

Magic Box is a great live workshop activity but with a collection of images and some creativity, it can be an ideal icebreaker for Mural or team workshops using an online whiteboard.

In the live version of Magic Box, the facilitator brings a collection of items to the workshop and invites participants to choose an object. In turn, each member of the team then gets to explain who they are, why they’ve chosen the object, and also talk about the connection between the topic of the workshop and the object. 

In an online setting, you get to go one step further and include items, concepts or even people that you could not possibly fit in a real box. You might ask participants to choose someone to join the team from a group of world leaders or fictional characters. You might include pictures of objects that are directly related to the workshop or your company. Whatever you choose, ensure you include a mix that allows for varying personal tastes and gives people the chance to express themselves.  

Magic Box #team #ice breaker #get-to-know #teambuilding 

Ice breaking at the beginning of the workshop/meeting

Snapshot of my life

We all know that one aspect of effective team building is giving your group the opportunity to get to know each other as individuals and form personal connections. Trust, team awareness and good working practices are almost always better with people we really know.

Snapshot of my life asks participants to bring an image to the workshop that says something about their life and upload it into an online whiteboard or shared workspace. It might be a great memory, something that is important to them or a dream they have. Sharing these kinds of personal experiences with your online team can help sow the seeds for your online team- building session and can help people feel seen and heard throughby sharing what they find most appropriate.

You can also do this exercise asynchronously and invite participants or team members to continue adding to the board after the meeting!

A snapshot of my life #remote-friendly #energiser #teambuilding 

This exercise is great for building empathy amongst team members, and giving each participant a deeper understanding of their colleagues’ backgrounds (particularly great for international or remote teams). It’ll also set a casual atmosphere for the workshop ahead.

Openers to align virtual teams 

One of the challenges of building an effective team is alignment: if your group is not pulling together in the same direction or if they have fundamentally different ideas of what they are trying to accomplish, this can lead to ineffective conversations and frustration. This is even more important in remote work environments where virtuals teams don’t have the same communication channels as in an office. Aligning an online team should be one of your first priorities and creating dedicated space in your agenda for team alignment is well worth the time and effort.

The following exercises are designed to help distributed teams get aligned right at the start of your virtual meeting and to help set the tone for the session ahead. Let’s take a look!

Check-in Check-out

Effective team building requires the presence and engagement of everyone in the room, whether that’s in a video conference room or real life. Failing to get everyone onboard early or have an opportunity to share how they’re feeling can make the rest of an online workshop difficult. 

Encouraging team members to reflect and mentally process what they’ve done during your session with a check-out is also useful to encourage change and self awareness. Check-in Check-out is a great way to bookend your virtual workshops and encourage everyone to share and bring themselves to the session in full.

We’ve found that through adding this exercise consistently, our online sessions begin to develop a rhythm and by setting the expectation for this, you cultivate great working practices!

Check-in / Check-out #team #opening #closing #hyperisland #remote-friendly 

Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

Rollercoaster Check-In

Visual tools and metaphors can be especially effective in helping teams explore how they are feeling. For new teams, it can sometimes be tricky to encourage people to share candidly and openly. Rollercoaster Check-In is a fun, visual way of checking in with your team and allowing them to share their feelings without some of the pressure of more formal methods. 

Begin by drawing a rollercoaster in an online whiteboard, complete with twists, loops, peaks and troughs. Then invite your participants to draw themselves on the rollercoaster to show how they are feeling before they share their feelings with the group. If you want to be creative without using drawings, ask your participants to add a GIF to their location on the rollercoaster. The important thing is that people feel empowered to share their feelings in a safe, supportive environment.  

Rollercoaster Check-In #team #opening #hyperisland #remote-friendly 

This playful method creates a powerful shared picture of the feelings in the group. Checking-in is a simple way for a team to start a meeting, workshop, or activity. By using the metaphor of a rollercoaster this alternative version supports participants to think differently about how they are feeling. People place themselves at different points on the rollercoaster, explaining their dominant feeling right now.

Code of conduct 

Aligning remotely distributed teams isn’t just about getting on the same page about projects and tasks: it also means helping your team cultivate a set of shared values and standards for working together. Creating a shared code of conduct collaboratively is a great team building exercise as not only does your group get to define how they should work together, but they can take shared ownership of the process too!

Start this exercise by writing down the words ‘meaningful’ and ‘pleasant’ in a shared space and ask your participants to come up with ideas on how to make the team building session or workshop meaningful and pleasant.

Once you have a collection of suggestions, you then work towards a consensus by ensuring that everyone agrees on the idea before discussing how you might achieve that goal. All the ideas that are agreed on by the team are then collected as a code of conduct for the group to refer to in the future.

Activities to improve team collaboration

Great teams make it a habit to reflect on projects, group processes and how they work together as a team. Unstructured discussions on subjects like working processes or team dynamics can escalate in the wrong direction if not properly framed and facilitated. 

Using exercises or activities to facilitate the team reflection process can help ensure your team moves forward productively and spends time effectively. In an online environment, taking the opportunity to reflect as a group is imperative toin building bonds and improveing the awareness of each member of the team. 

Strength Building Exercise

The members of a team will invariably get to know one another as a by-product of working together, but is this enough to build the kinds of bonds and relationships that can make a successful remote team? Dedicated time to encourage participants to share, reflect and celebrate success should be a part of your online team building workshop.

With the Strength Building Exercise, you’ll encourage positivity, mutual appreciation and respect among your team and help build a productive team culture. This method is great for boosting positive energy and creating space for your virtual team to celebrate one another and build a confident, self aware group. Many of the best remote team building activities have benefits that extend beyond the workshop and this exercise is up there with the best of them!

Strength Building exercise #team #appreciation #self esteem 

People develop in confidence and self esteem as they discover their achievements and skills are valuable – This is an exercise for team building and for increasing self esteem and mutual trust

9 Dimensions

Even the best groups and online teams will face challenges. Discussing and resolving those challenges and reflecting on how the group is performing can take many forms though it’s important to create spaces where all opinions are heard, and dominant voices are tempered with those of less vocal group members. 

The 9 Dimensions Team Building Activity is a great, remote-friendly approach to structuring a team discussion. Begin by distributing or having your team create a 3 x 3 grid with nine areas for discussion. Invite each team member to fill in the grid with a colour based on their feelings about that area. They might feel that an area needs improvement and add a red dot, or use a green dot to show they think the team is nailing that area. 

The facilitator then asks the team to share some of their results before focusing on what areas of improvement the team is aligned on and where perspectives differ. This approach allows people to contribute as they feel able and keeps the process running smoothly.

9 Dimensions Team Building Activity #ice breaker #teambuilding #team #remote-friendly 

9 Dimensions is a powerful activity designed to build relationships and trust among team members.

There are 2 variations of this icebreaker. The first version is for teams who want to get to know each other better. The second version is for teams who want to explore how they are working together as a team.

Trust Battery

Trust is one of the foundations of a healthy, effective team. Creating a team culture where everyone feels seen, heard and valued while also able to reflect on their interpersonal relationships should be a priority. 

With Trust Battery, you invite your team to reflect on their relationships with one another, be open and grow together. In an online environment where face time is limited, checking in and encouraging honest, constructive reflection is essential for healthy teams. While it can be useful to think of your team as a single organism, it’s important to remember that any group is composed of individuals, all of whom have complex and differing interpersonal relationships. 

Using an exercise like Trust Battery can help bring areas to improve to the fore and allow you to work on them as a team in a structured, thoughtful manner; creating a stronger, more open team as a result. Bonus!

Trust Battery #leadership #teamwork #team #remote-friendly 

This self-assessment activity allows you and your team members to reflect on the ‘trust battery’ they individually have towards each person on the team, and encourages focus on actions that can charge the depleted trust batteries.

Leadership Coat of Arms

Ask two members of your team what makes a good team and you’ll likely get two answers that are as different as they are the same. Using a remote-friendly exercise like Leadership Coat of Arms is a great way to encourage a creative exploration of the subject that also creates room for different ideas. Why can’t we do the same thing for teamwork?  

In this creative online activity, participants are asked to draw their own coat of arms symbolising the most important elements of their teamwork philosophy. The coat of arms drawings are then debriefed and discussed together with the group. What items are consistent for the whole team and what stands out? Being asked to condense complex ideas into a simple visual format can be refreshing and also creates a gallery that can be shared and ideated upon in the future!

Your Leadership Coat of Arms #leadership #leadership development #skills #remote-friendly 

In this leadership development activity, participants are asked to draw their own coat of arms symbolising the most important elements of their leadership philosophy. The coat of arms drawings are then debriefed and discussed together with the group.

After the exercise you may prepare a coat of arms gallery, exhibiting the leadership approach and philosophy of group members

Group processes to improve team development

Solving problems or engaging in a complex process as a group can be a great way to strengthen your team, resolve issues and improve team dynamics. Goals which involve the whole group can encourage cohesion as participants work towards a common target, and encouraging more in-depth team work is a good idea too!

It can be especially effective to include these kinds of exercises alongside some of the lighter team building activities. Moving from getting to know one another better to spending dedicated time on team development can be a surefire way of developing your team and having concrete takeaways at the end. Let’s take a look. 

Team Canvas Session

Looking for a team alignment framework that helps a team go from zero to a hundred as well as outline how they wish to grow and work together in the future? The Team Canvas Session is a group process that is designed to align teams, increase cohesion and performance and to create productive team culture, fast.

This session can be run as a standalone team building workshop or be part of a larger team culture and definition session and it adapts extremely well to online environments using an online whiteboard. If you’re trying to help a team align and come together around shared goals and values and do not have an existing playbook, Team Canvas Session is an effective way to kickstart that process and cover all bases. 

Team Canvas Session #team alignment #teamwork #conflict resolution #feedback #teambuilding #team #issue resolution #remote-friendly 

The Team Canvas is Business Model Canvas for teamwork. It is an effective technique to facilitate getting teams aligned about their goals, values and purposes, and help team members find their role on the team.

Team Self-Assessment 

All teams develop a default way of working together over time. Most of these working practices are dictated by necessity (online meetings for remote teams, for example) or organically as people work together on projects. While this approach can work in the short term, a deliberate and considered assessment of team working methods can help your team be more effective and happy.

The Team self assessment method from Hyper Island is a team building activity which asks your group to think of their team as a system with interlocking parts, much like the model of a computer’s Operating System. By thinking of your team in this new way and assessing it thoroughly, new things can come to light and your team can then make the necessary changes. This method also encourages your team to take ownership over creating this change – which is a great way of helping team members feel connected, valued and a part of the process. 

Team Self-Assessment #team #hyperisland 

This is a structured process designed for teams to explore the way they work together. The tight structure supports team members to be open and honest in their assessment. After reflecting as individuals, the team builds a collective map which can serve as the basis for further discussions and actions. The assessment is based around 6 dimensions. Each one encouraging the team to reflect and analyse a different and crucial element of their behaviour.

Team Purpose & Culture

All teams and organizations have a purpose and a mission statement, even if it hasn’t yet been defined. Remote teams with a clear purpose that everyone supports are often more effective than groups where the purpose is muddy, or something which not everyone in the team agrees with. Taking the opportunity to define the shared purpose of the team as a whole with this process is a great way of getting your team aligned and energised.

Remote-friendly team building workshops can especially benefit from a combination of solo and group work, and this process is no different. We particularly love the use of examples from existing organisations and teams to help orient your team and to help them think about what kind of team values are important to them. Learn from others and help your group create a living document they can revisit in the future!

Team Purpose & Culture #team #hyperisland #culture #remote-friendly 

This is an essential process designed to help teams define their purpose (why they exist) and their culture (how they work together to achieve that purpose). Defining these two things will help any team to be more focused and aligned. With support of tangible examples from other companies, the team members work as individuals and a group to codify the way they work together. The goal is a visual manifestation of both the purpose and culture that can be put up in the team’s work space.

History Map

Reflecting on what your team has achieved and the challenges they’ve faced is an important part of effectively growing a organization; celebrating successes, identifying areas for improvement and ensuring no perspective is lost is vital in keeping a team moving forward productively. One danger with established teams is that there are dominant narratives and approaches to reflection that can mean some voices or perspectives are missing. 

Think about how projects that involve a number of departments might have several different stories to reflect on. What might have been a smooth process for your marketing department may have been difficult for your support team or development staff. History Map is a shared, visual based process that encourages the creation of a shared story that captures everyone’s individual reflections too. It works great online and allows remote team members to get creative too! 

History Map #hyperisland #team #review 

The main purpose of this activity is to remind and reflect on what group members or participants have been through and to create a collective experience and shared story. Every individual will gain a shared idea of what the group has been through together. Use this exercise at the end of a project or program as a way to reinforce learnings, celebrate highlights and create closure.

Activities for improving team communication

Anyone working in a team knows how important communication is: when it’s good, your team works like clockwork and you feel like you can achieve anything; when it’s bad, tasks take twice as long, things get missed and people get frustrated. 

Virtual teams whose primary method of communication might be Slack or email especially need to consider how they communicate and work together. Some things which may come across easily with verbal communication might not be clear in text, and when working together online, good standards of communication are important to keep things moving effectively.

Proper and transparent documentation, kick-off meetings and retrospectives are only one part of the puzzle. Combine these with experiential learning and remote-friendly communication exercises, and the result is a great way of getting virtual team members to think about how they might communicate better in a very practical way. Let’s dig in!

Blind Drawing

Whatever the organisation, teams invariably have members with different skill sets and knowledge bases. One of the challenges of team communication comes when one team member tries to explain an unfamiliar concept to another team member. If teams aren’t great at communicating, this process can be frustrating for both parties.

In Blind drawing, one person has to describe an object while another has to accurately draw it from this description alone. The rule is that the person describing the object cannot say anything which clearly gives away what the object is or is closely related. For example, if describing a tree, you might say, “It’s a tall cylinder with lightning coming out of each end, one set of lightning spreading out into the air, the other going into the ground. It has rough, weathered skin, and at the ends of each fork of lightning there are hundreds of children that grow until they’re ready to fall.”

It’s a fun exercise to see how people interpret abstract instructions, but it also shows how what might be obvious to one person is not obvious to another, and underlines the need for clear, effective communication. 

Blind Drawing #teambuilding #communication #creative thinking #remote-friendly 

Test your communication and interpretation skills with Blind Drawing!

Campfire

Humans are storytellers by nature. Sharing stories of where we’ve come from, what’s happened to us and how we feel about the world is part of being alive, and by tapping into this instinct, you can enable perspectives to come to the surface and encourage meaningful exchanges that can help your team grow together. 

Begin by creating a word cluster in a shared online space as triggers for the session. These might include company specific words, or more general terms like: partnership, venture, first day, work travel, fun project, opportunity, and so forth. 

Invite your participants to look over the collected notes and have a volunteer take one of those words and move it to the campfire space and share a connected work story. This works most effectively in an online whiteboard where you can clearly delineate the working areas. 

Continue to share stories connected to words from the wall or the previous participant’s story until everyone has shared a work-related story. Sharing experiences in this way can help teams feel connected, communicate their perspectives and practice sharing work related thoughts in a positive, considered manner.

Campfire #gamestorming #team 

Campfire leverages our natural storytelling tendencies by giving players a format and a space in which to share work stories—of trial and error, failure and success, competition, diplomacy, and teamwork. Campfire is useful not only because it acts as an informal training game, but also because it reveals commonalities in employee perception and experience.

Team of Two 

Regardless of the size of an organisation, most business communication actually takes place as an exchange between two people: a manager asks for something from an individual, or a customer support agent liaises with a customer, for example. While teams might be composed of many people, it’s vital to remember that each of those people is an individual and those individuals all have different working relationships with one another. 

Team of Two is a focused team communication activity designed to help two individuals work better together and ensure they each are contributing to the process. This one works great in Zoom breakout rooms or private sessions though it’s worth noting that this activity might also benefit from a moderator. 

While this technique is highly effective, it’s not suitable for all situations, particularly if communication has broken down completely. Attentive team managers will want to deploy this exercise when challenges arise and to help teams move past communication issues.

Team of Two #communication #active listening #issue analysis #conflict resolution #issue resolution #remote-friendly 

Much of the business of an organisation takes place between pairs of people. These interactions can be positive and developing or frustrating and destructive. You can improve them using simple methods, providing people are willing to listen to each other.

“Team of two” will work between secretaries and managers, managers and directors, consultants and clients or engineers working on a job together. It will even work between life partners.

Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue

Giving regular, thoughtful feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building meaningful relationships and ensuring teams can communicate effectively. While team members might give feedback on an ongoing and ad-hoc basis, creating a space for a structured online feedback exercise can help a group give more thoughtful feedback in a constructive way. 

The Start, Stop, Continue exercise encourages groups to reflect on group dynamics from three angles and create actionable steps to improve communication in their remote team. By having these guiding principles, you can ensure the feedback given is constructive and that the session is productive: a must for any online team building workshop!

Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue #hyperisland #skills #feedback 

Regular, effective feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building constructive relationships and thriving teams. Openness creates trust and trust creates more openness. Feedback exercises aim to support groups to build trust and openness and for individuals to gain self-awareness and insight. Feedback exercises should always be conducted with thoughtfulness and high awareness of group dynamics. This is an exercise for groups or teams that have worked together for some time and are familiar with giving and receiving feedback. It uses the words “stop”, “start” and “continue” to guide the feedback messages.

Seven Words

When online team communication isn’t working or has broken down, it’s often because of miscommunication or differing interpretations of an email or message. Considering how we use words and how they can be interpreted can really help improve interpersonal communication and make us more efficient, considerate communicators.

In Seven Words, begin with a seven word sentence and ask your group to list some possible interpretations – it can be really interesting to see all the different ways even a simple sentence can be interpreted depending on the individual receiving it! Moving into pair work afterwards means that each participant gets to see how their sentences are interpreted in action. For distributed teams who might primarily communicate over email or on Slack, this kind of focused reflection on team communication can lead to meaningful improvements very quickly!

Seven Words #thiagi #communication #skills #remote-friendly 

Ever heard the cliché, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”? The Seven Words jolt dramatically demonstrates this principle. You demonstrate how the meaning of a sentence changes as you emphasize different words. Later, you invite pairs of participants to explore this concept.

Fun online team building activities

Most of the exercises and activities you’ll facilitate during an online session will have definitive goals and outcomes in mind when you run them, such as building particular skills or solving problems.

When designing workshops, remember that team building is a viable and worthwhile outcome. Having fun and connecting with your teammates is a vital part of being a productive team member, and it’s worth remembering that there is value in having some enjoyable exercises with your team to de-stress, connect and get to know each other a little better. 

Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Working towards shared goals and demonstrating team values in the course of an exercise is great practice for tackling complex business projects – if you can have fun while doing so, even better! The Virtual Scavenger Hunt is a great team building activity for Zoom and an online whiteboard – encouraging teams to be creative, gently competitive and work together to get the best possible result.

Start by creating a list of items to be found online. You can see an example in the method below. Then, split your team up into groups to go and find those items and collect them in the allotted time. Bonus points for encouraging the use of different tools, forms and media, and to allow teams to be creative in finding the items for the online scavenger hunt.

We’ve found that having a debrief section and also creating a list that is almost undoable in the allocated time frame helps keep the stakes high and ask that a team prioritizes and communicates effectively. It’s also fun to see what different groups came up with at the end! 

Virtual scavenger hunt #energiser #teambuilding #remote-friendly 

A fun team-building energiser that encourages groups to recreate the scavenger hunt experience in a fully remote environment! 

Story Around the Circle

Human beings are naturally born storytellers. With this online energizer, you’ll take some time to connect with one another through telling a shared story and be encouraged to have fun while improvising too!

The organiser starts with a line like “Once upon a time, in a land far away, 5 people got together to solve all the world’s problems. Everything seemed easy, until one day, one of the people saw on the horizon…” and invites the next person in the group to continue the story and add the next line. This keeps going until everyone’s contributed to the story.

When it comes to recording the story – do so either in Google Docs or in your online whiteboard tool. If someone wants to draw images to go with the story, that’s great too!

If you want to keep participants on their toes, add rules like the lines have to rhyme in couplets, or have a word that people can’t use or must use. You could even choose who creates the next line, rather than going around in order. We love this exercise as it’s simple, engaging and can be easily amended to your needs.

Story Around the Circle #team #storytelling #teampedia #remote-friendly 

Creating a story together can be merely for fun, or it can help the team imagine its future or recall its past.

Guess the Desk

A challenge all online teams face is the feeling of disconnection and distance from your group. Finding ways to feel connected to one another and build team bonds when working remotely should be a priority for managers of virtual teams.

Guess the Desk is a fun online team building activity that can not only help teams get to know one another but share best practices for remote working too! In Guess the Desk, start by having each participant take a photo of their desk or remote working set-up and send it to the facilitator who then puts them into a shared whiteboard or Google Doc. Don’t tell anyone whose desk is whose!

During the first round select one member to be the Desk President: they cast the vote on whose desk is whose after a group discussion. After each round, the previous Desk President elects the next and the group moves on to guess the next desk. Here’s the fun part. If your desk is up it’s your job to convince everyone that it belongs to someone else: if the group votes incorrectly on your desk, you get a point! If you successfully guess the right desk while you are Desk President, you also get a point.

After all the desks have been guessed, debrief and point out any particularly good remote working set-ups and best practices you notice and want to share!

Guess the desk #remote-friendly #energiser #teambuilding 

An energiser game for remote teams where participants share images of their work set-up and attempt to guess opponents’ desks while bluffing their own!

GIF challenge

Team members often have fun and idiosyncratic ways of communicating with each other, and finding ways to share your personality is an important factor when connecting with others. In an online environment, having fun and creative outlets that help your group communicate and get to know one another really helps build effective, happy teams.  

For this remote team building activity, set-up an online whiteboard or shared Google Doc and post a phrase or statement that participants then have to search for a suitable GIF in response. It might be something as simple as, “That Monday morning feeling,” or “Good management looks like this.” You can have a couple of questions just for fun, then include some that invite people to creatively respond to organizational challenges and prepare them for the next exercises.

After each round, you can invite everyone to comment or vote on their favorites, and have additional rounds to crown a winner if you wish. One great way to use this exercise is by sprinkling several rounds of questions throughout the workshop to keep energy levels up and create some moments of fun and creativity as counterpoint to other exercises.

GIF challenge #energiser #fun #remote-friendly 

Create space in your agenda for a fun online energiser where participants are encouraged to find creative GIF-based responses to your questions.

Skillshare

Sharing knowledge, experience and skills is something good teams do by default. Finding time to let your team share what they’re passionate about outside of a work context is also valuable when it comes to building a cohesive, connected team.

With Skillshare, you can invite members of your group to share a hobby, passion or skill with the rest of the team and teach them something. This can take the form of a practical session – a keen artist might take the team through a drawing exercise – or a person with an interest in jazz might talk about why they love the genre. You can go as big or as small as you want, though the key is to let your team lead the way and share a passion or skill that is close to them. Building team bonds through this kind of experiential exercise can really help bring a team together over distance.

Remote-friendly skills that are easy to teach over video chat are a bonus, though, with some creativity, you can share all kinds of skills online in a fun way – whether those skills include cooking, sculpting, writing, yoga or anything else!

Team building activities for outside working hours

So far, we’ve looked at team development activities that can be used in online workshops, as part of a team building session, or in other work contexts. But how about if you want to find activities to do together as a team out of work hours, or just to have unstructured time to get to know one another and feel connected while working remotely? 

We’ve assembled a collection of team building activities that are less focused on developing skills or improving specific aspects of your team and are instead, online activities your team can use to connect and have fun together in a low-stakes manner. Let’s dig in!

Team Eurovision

Music is a universal language, and sharing music we love as a group can create some interesting conversations and facilitate team bonding – even the music we like is very different!

In Team Eurovision, invite everyone in your group to select a song made by an artist from the country where they were born and add the song to a shared Spotify playlist. Want to make it more interesting? Have a rule where everyone’s song had to come out in the year 2000, or from the year they were born. Play the songs in a dedicated after work session (alcohol, treats or snacks encouraged!) and invite each team member to introduce each song and tell the team why they should vote for it. Collect the votes at the end and crown a winner!

You can use the Team Eurovision method as a standalone virtual team building activity, or have the shared Spotify playlist playing in the background of a remote working session. Remember that the purpose of the exercise is to have fun and start conversations that can help your team get to know each other, so don’t worry if it falls apart! 

Office Trivia 

Every organization has a history filled with unique stories, in-jokes and memorable events. Creating a company quiz and inviting your team to see how well they know the organization can be a fun way of celebrating your history, what you’ve achieved and have some fun along the way!

A pub quiz format where one person asks questions that teams or individuals answer in a Google Doc, the text channel or in a Zoom session works great for energising and engaging your participants. Have a prize for the winning team and be creative with your questions to make your online office trivia sessions a release valve for your team and to create a relaxed, fun atmosphere.

When choosing the questions, it can be useful to get input from different heads of  department and have themed rounds. You can see an example of some questions in the method below. 

Virtual Cribs

Remember MTV Cribs? In that TV show, celebrities invited a film crew into their homes and gave them a guided tour. In Virtual Cribs, you invite a volunteer from your team to give us a guided tour of their home over Zoom and share part of their lives with the group. Invite the other members of the group to ask questions and comment on what they love. Seeing how other people live and work in their remote set-ups can help virtual teams get to know one another and feel more connected.

Want to spice things up? Have your team find a place they love on Google Street View or a virtual museum tour and give the rest of the team a guided tour as if it was their home. This can be a fun way to explore new places virtually, while also encouraging your group to be creative. Visiting the National Gallery of Australia and trying to explain why you put a statue of a crocodile in your front room can make for a fun team building activity! 

Bad Movie Night

Watching movies as a group is always a great way to spend time together. With online services like Netflix, it can be easy to get your remote team to collectively watch a film together and de-stress with company. Watching any film out of hours with a virtual team can be a nice way to spend time together outside of work and feel connected, but how can we make this even more fun and include a competitive element?

In Bad Movie Night, have each member of your group suggest a “so bad it’s good” film and vote on which you should watch together. Cult films, old horror movies or schlocky B-movies are a great place to start! Your team will likely have some suggestions but if you need a hand, Rotten Tomatoes and Buzzfeed have some good examples. If in doubt, try The Room!

After you’ve watched the terrible/great film together, have everyone write a one sentence review of the film and post it anonymously into a shared document or whiteboard. Encourage everyone to be as savage, critical and creative as possible, then vote on whose review is the funniest! 

Gift Chain

In an office environment, it’s easy for team members to do nice things for one another in order to show their appreciation: you might get your colleague a coffee or a cake they love, or help out with a tough piece of work. For remote teams, making these kinds of gestures is difficult and while it’s not a necessary part of having an effective team, taking the time to show your colleagues you appreciate them is a lovely way of saying thank you!

With Gift Chain, invite your online team to send a small, personal gift to a team member in appreciation. You can use a secret Santa like system to pull names out of a hat, or have each person choose someone they’d like to say thank you to once they received a gift to keep the chain going. Set a small price limit or alternatively, have each gift be a handwritten letter that is sent in the post. It can feel really special to receive a thoughtful gift or letter from a colleague and it’s a great way of bringing positivity and appreciation to remote teams during difficult periods. 

Team Gallery

Whether you’re an expert photographer, proud parent or amateur snapper, most of us regularly take photographs on our phones. In Team Gallery, set a weekly photograph prompt and invite your team to take a photograph and anonymously submit it into a shared online whiteboard. You might ask your team to take a photograph of some natural beauty or an image to go with a phrase like, “How I spent my summer vacation” or “This is me in a nutshell.”  Your prompts or questions can be fun, creative, or ridiculous but should encourage everyone to respond creatively!

As a facilitator, you can make it into a competition where everyone votes on their favorite image or caption, or have your gallery be a place to share and connect asynchronously. Whatever you go with, ensure the photographs stay up and are collected and shared. Think of all the great stories and images you’ll have after a few months of running this activity! It can be a lovely shared resource for new team members getting to know everyone and is a great way to connect and engage with one another outside of a work context. 

Wrap up

As the world changes and more teams turn to remote work and distributed workforces, the need for thoughtful approaches to virtual team building rises. It’s not enough to hope for the best – find time and space to develop your team and find better ways of working together in this new online environment. Not only will your team be happier and more productive, but you’ll find new ways of working and feeling connected.

We hope the above exercises give you plenty of food for thought and lots of ways to bring your remote team together for fun and productive team building activities online. Have an exercise that’s worked well with your team or want to see more? Get in touch in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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