18 Easy Virtual Team Building Activities for Remote Teams

Is your team remote, and works without a brick-and-mortar office? Then that means you are off the hook when it comes to building relationships within your team, right? WRONG! Team building icebreakers are still extremely beneficial for your team.

For remote teams, having an activity during a meeting that allows the team to take a few minutes to bond and focus on something other than work can help facilitate relationships and trust with their coworkers that they do not otherwise have the opportunity to see each other face-to-face.

Instead of always using the phone, consider utilizing video chat platforms such as Skype or Google Hangouts to help make the icebreakers as close to being in person as possible. Maybe not every time, but it is helpful to put a face to the name and the voice! Plus, non-verbal communication is completely lost over the phone, which makes it even harder to bond with one another. Virtual and remote teams need TLC too!

Virtual teams can feel very lonely

Remote employees are typically focused on their own tasks and roles. They are also very siloed and individually driven. Employees rarely get the opportunity to causally interact with their coworkers and managers like they would in a “regular” office.

This lack of organic relationship formation can lead to remote meetings feeling very transactional and somewhat dry because they stick to the agenda. Before the agenda starts during that awkward “waiting until everyone gets on time” no one really knows what else to talk about other than work since they never get to casually chat near the coffee maker in the morning.

While virtual teams have so many positive effects on production and work-life balance, they make organizations lose that “water cooler chat” that is so crucial to employee satisfaction and retention.  Teams lose that opportunity to casually bump into each other at the water cooler and talk about things unrelated to work such as their home life, pop culture, interests, and perhaps a little politics.

Some may think these interactions mean nothing, they are just useless smalltalk, but they actually impact team performance a great deal! When teams feel closer together, morale goes up, happiness goes up, and in turn, production goes up. Employees are less likely to run out the door at 5pm when they are around folks they get along with and enjoy working alongside.

Team Building is Crucial for Remote and Virtual Teams

So as a team leader, you should put in a concerted effort to create activities that help increase those team bonding factors.

Team building is a crucial part of any successful business or organization. While businesses can’t always give up entire days for retreats or trainings, there are other ways to weave team building exercises into the day-to-day happenings. If you’re tasked with coming up with some team building icebreakers for your next meeting, it doesn’t have to be hard. The best icebreakers are simple, only require a few materials, and some enthusiasm!

There are also times when you need to build group rapport quickly, such as a team reorganization, or the start of a new project where teams may find themselves in new roles with new colleagues.

CityHUNT pulled together a list of team building icebreakers for meetings that are tolerable… and dare we say FUN!

Since these games are so easy to assemble, and do not take a lot of time out of the workday to perform, they are easily integrated into any workday or meeting. With a low amount of investment, teams will see and feel high rewards!

What is team building, anyway?

Team building is the process of turning a group of individuals or employees into a cohesive and high functioning team. A team is a group of people organized to work together interdependently and cooperatively to accomplish their agreed-upon purpose and goal(s).

Keep in mind though, team building doesn’t just mean getting the team together to hangout and talk. It is a well thought out process that is based off of psychology and a considered approach.

One of the most powerful reasons for team building is to get results. Through a series of planned team building events that are fun and motivational, teams build skills and relationships that they can transfer back into the workplace.

Benefits of Using Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings

The goal of this list of virtual team building activities and games is to help your organization:

  • Build trust among team members
  • Increase the rapport and cohesiveness of team members
  • Increase group productivity
  • Increase effective communication
  • Learn more about your team members on a personal and professional level

Team builders can help teams relax, prompt creativity and imagination, and allow team members to start building trust. They can also facilitate connections among team members who otherwise may not speak that often, or would not build a relationship without being prompted.

Think you already know each other well? These activities are also useful for teams who may already know one another but need a little energy boost.

Who are those virtual team building activities for?

All virtual and remote teams! Maybe even a long-distance family if you’re feeling like you need some bonding.

Keep in mind, this list of activities contains different types of activities, some may not be ideal for teams who already know each other very well. Be mindful when selecting which activities to use with your groups. Luckily, we categorized them for you to help you decide!

What you need for the virtual team building activities

Virtual team building activities are very low cost and typically don’t require a lot of materials. You will need the following before conducting the virtual team building activities:

  • Time set aside for the team building activity is crucial. Virtual teams often want to meet quickly, talk about what they have to do, and then get back to work. Silos are very common in virtual teams. You need to dedicate specific time either at the beginning or end of a virtual team meeting, or set up a completely separate meeting focused on the activity itself, and be clear that this is mandatory and just as important as a regular meeting.
  • A conferencing or video chatting program for folks to talk and listen in on. This can be a regular phone teleconference or web-based conference program. Try to use a program that allows everyone to see one another. Seeing each other makes the team building component even more strong. Warn your team prior to the meeting that they will be on-screen so they can properly prepare, and not be on the conference in their footy pajamas! Unless they want to be, of course.
  • A screen-sharing/collaboration program. Be sure that you can share your screen, everyone can see what you are presenting on (if that is part of the activity). If the activity does not require screen sharing, this is not necessary. Many video chatting programs now have this capability, so that is one less tool to track down! Tools like Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx and GoToMeeting all work great for screen sharing and teleconferencing.
  • A main facilitator/ leader who will help moderate the activity. Ideally, this would be the virtual team manager or project manager of the team. Unfortunately the team leader won’t be able to directly participate in some of the games because they will know the answers, but it is still a great way to laugh and bond together.

Opening Chit Chat

Duration: 5 minutes

Tools Needed: Nothing!

Number of Participants:  3+

Purpose: Icebreaker

Rules/Description: This one kind of goes without saying, but you may not realize how valuable it is! Simply allow time at the beginning of your conference calls or virtual meetings for some natural chit-chat to give team members the chance to get to know each other better. Try to use video conferencing, if possible, for an even more personal experience. This isn’t a structured activity, and shouldn’t be the only icebreaker that you do (we promise that WILL NOT GIVE YOU GOOD RESULTS), but it does give the team some time to relax, get more comfortable with each other, and ask how everyone’s lives are going.

This little bit of time can reveal who has kids, who does what interests on the weekends, who loves to cook, and more! If you are really slick, you can even plant some questions in there to spark conversation, without anyone knowing what you are doing such as: “What did you all do this weekend?”, “I had the best pasta for lunch, anyone else have anything homemade today?” Simply chit chatting is a great way to naturally bond!

Reply All

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Nothing, but send a quick email prior to the meeting using the provided sample questions

Number of Participants:  4+; break into smaller groups if the group is large

Purpose: Icebreaker

Rules/Description:

Before the start of your meeting, ask a question, or a series of questions, to the group via email, asking them to “reply all”, so that everyone can see the answers. See below for suggested questions to ask your team.

As the meeting starts, either you can give attendees the opportunity to explain their choices, OR you can give the answers. Have the team guess who responded with what answer, and then have the author explain their answer(s) once they have been revealed. If you choose the latter route, do not have the team “reply all” when giving their responses to keep them anonymous.

A few suggested questions:

  • If you could visit anywhere in the world, regardless of budget or time it took to get there, where would you go?
  • Who would you have dinner with, either living or dead?
  • What is the best place you have ever travelled?
  • If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?

Name That Throwback

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: A video chatting platform, a playlist, a speaker, and if in person some sort of “buzzing in” mechanism

Number of Participants:  3+, works best with teams of at least 2 participants

Purpose: Icebreaker or team building

Rules/Description: Before the start of your meeting, make a playlist of songs that were popular ten or more years ago. There are plenty of throwback playlists online if you do not have the time to make one on your own.

Play the songs through your video chatting platform and have people “buzz in” through the text chat. They can simply type in an “x” and send it or something of that nature to show who buzzed in first. Points can be awarded if you want to make it competitive!

This one will have your team tapping their feet to the beat, laughing, and chatting about the nostalgic songs while creating a little healthy competition.

Word association

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Tools Needed: List of prompts, chatting platform (video preferred but not necessary)

Number of Participants:  3+

Purpose: Icebreaker or team building

Rules/Description: Pick a prompt that’s relevant to your meeting and ask people to either write down or verbally share one word they associate with that prompt. For example: if you are leading a meeting about your company’s culture, ask the group to share one word that they feel best describes the organizational culture.

A possible prompt could simply be: “Pick one word that best describes our company’s culture”. Some possible answers may be: “fun”, “supportive”, “wacky”, “interesting”. Another prompt could be: “Describe how you feel about this week’s project using only one word”.

Then when you feel you have enough answers for that prompt, discuss the results.

Consider recording the responses live on a shared document or communal board as a visual aid. This icebreaker helps the group explore their thoughts on a common issue or goal before diving into the meeting agenda.

Take a Picture

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Tools Needed: Email, and a smartphone or camera

Number of Participants:  3+

Purpose: Icebreaker or team building

Rules/Description:

This one works best for remote groups and not in-person teams. Ask participants to take a picture of an object, or objects, in their work area. The photos my be fidget toys, family photos, desk organizers, or even some cool art. The responses you’ll get will be all kinds of interesting items! Have the team email you the images with a little description so that you can screen share them during the meeting, or just have them hit “reply all” to your initial message so everyone can see!

This can spark interesting conversation and provide insight into what each co-worker is like. Do they have kids? Are they super organized? Do they work on their couch?  Alternatively, you could ask team members to take a picture of the view out their window, or the workspace as a whole. As a result, you’ll gain new insight into the wide variety of locations and settings of the group. The cool part about remote teams is that they are from all over the country, or globe, and work in very different settings!

Who Is It?  

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Email prior to the meeting to collect the facts

Number of Participants:  4+

Purpose: Icebreaker or team builder

Rules/Description:

This activity is great for both new and old teams! Prior to the meeting, ask each player to send you a fact about themselves that others do not know about them yet. During the meeting, read them aloud to the group so the responses are kept anonymous.

Have the team guess which fact belongs to which team member! They can either cast votes and discover if they got them right at the end, or vote as you go along. Whichever you think is best for your team!

Baby photos

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Email, baby photos, a list of each team member

Number of Participants:  5+

Purpose: Icebreaker

Rules/Description:

Remember in high school when the best part of the yearbook was guessing whose baby pictures where who? This icebreaker is inspired by that age-old tradition. While it does require a bit of preparation, it is all worth it!

Before the meeting, send out a request for baby photos from each individual on your team. Make sure they do not hit “reply-all”, or else this guessing game will be spoiled! Once you’ve compiled the photos place them all up onto your screen sharing program, numbering each one. A great way to do this is to put each photo into a slideshow or a document of some sort.

Once this is set up, the game is simple. Participants must guess which photo belongs to which employee by writing a name beside the corresponding number, filling out the answers on a sheet of paper and later holding it to the video camera, sending in their response via email or chat, or however you feel it is best to submit.

Photography competition

Duration: 5 -10 minutes during the meeting, varies for each participant when taking their photos

Tools Needed: A device with a camera (i.e. smartphone) or a camera

Number of Participants:  3+ (this is great for both large and small groups)

Purpose: Icebreaker or team builder

Rules/Description:

This activity doesn’t require any fancy equipment, photo editing programs, or cameras – anybody with a smartphone can participate! Photo competitions are a great way of uniting people around a popular shared hobby…everyone is a photographer these days thanks to Instagram. They also allow people to share insight into their own lives, and show their teams what their lives and hometowns are like.

This activity is simple, and gives people the chance to express themselves in a way that can’t happen over a conference call. If you choose to, there can also be a theme around the photography competition such as: family, hobbies, nature, architecture, and so much more!

A great idea for the winner of the competition is to get them a framed professional print of their photo! You may learn something unexpected and interesting about your team. You will get a view of their lifestyle, interests, and personality!

Company bake-off

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Notecards and writing utensils

Number of Participants:  5+

Purpose: Icebreaker

Rules/Description:

This one may sound like it is for in-person teams, but virtual teams can bake for one another too! Have everyone bake something representing their culture, the country they live in, something they love to make, something their mom used to make them when they were little, really anything that represents their story.

Have them mail their baked goods to each other! Maybe they are assigned one person to swap with, or send each person one depending on the group size.

You don’t have to turn it into a competition – sampling yummy things from around the world is pay-off in itself!

Movie Night

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: A shared movie platform

Number of Participants:  5+

Purpose: Icebreaker

Rules/Description:

Agree to watch the same movie or TV episode during the week, then challenge members to share and compare something about what they saw.  It could be suggested alternate endings, favorite character, an early plot twist that would negate the whole point of the show, or anything else your imagination suggests. Share reviews and get requests for the next movie night selection!

Geographic Fun Facts  

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Nothing!

Number of Participants:  3+

Purpose: Icebreaker or team builder

Rules/Description:

Before the meeting, ask members to be ready to share three unusual fun-facts about the city/state/country they live in that aren’t commonly known.  This can be a good way to learn something new, while improving understanding of the location and cultural environment where your teammates work.

If you want to take this to the next level, have the participants create and share a one page slide that includes a map of their favorite places in town, or a little slide of facts and pictures.

Post a goal

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Nothing

Number of Participants:  3+

Purpose: Icebreaker or team builder

Rules/Description:

Teams should be there to help each other achieve their goals! Encourage each person to share a non-work related goal that they want to achieve, why it’s important to them, and the date they want to accomplish it by (think SMART Goals).  

Post it to the team’s shared calendar.  As the date approaches, ask for updates and encourage them.  This can be a good way to help build in some accountability as they strive to reach their goals.

See What I Mean?

Duration: 10-30 minutes

Tools Needed: Participants to have a paper and pen or a computer drawing program

Number of Participants:  4+ (even numbers work best, but not required)

Purpose: Icebreaker or team builder

Rules/Description:

You don’t need to be a master artist to have fun with this game! In this challenging team building activity one participant draws a picture using only basic shapes. A selected team member then describes the picture that was drawn to everyone else.

Without seeing the picture, each person must attempt to reproduce the picture based only on what the selected team member is saying to them! The ultimate goal is that everyone is able to create the same picture as the original.

This can be done through video chatting software and chat rooms. It’s like the classic telephone game,  but with art!

Try as you might, it is unlikely that anyone in the group will reproduce a carbon copy – although some pictures will be more similar than others. See What I Mean emphasizes how important verbal communication is while working with others, and also how communication can be interpreted differently by different people. You should do a few rounds at this game to really drive the point home, and also give more participants to try different roles. This exhibits how some people interpret directions and communication differently from other people, and how certain methods are more easily understood than other methods.

Let’s see what you’ve got, Picasso!

Shark Teams

Duration: 25-30 minutes

Tools Needed: Participants to have a paper and pen or a computer drawing program

Number of Participants:  4+ (need enough for a few teams)

Purpose: Icebreaker or team builder

Rules/Description:

This unique team building program is based off of the popular television show Shark Tank. This event can take three different shapes: (1) Participants come up with ideas for use in their own company (2) Participants can work with a local charity and make a donation at the end (3) Unrestricted where teams are unlimited in their ideas.

Teams will put their fins…erhm heads… together to create a new product or feature for your company (or charity) that would actually sell in the real world.

Each team will engage in product development, process improvement, and marketing. Teams must put as much thought into their presentation as their invention because they have to wow the sharks!

Have your team present their ideas over your video chatting platform, and consider having some VIP’s from your company (if possible) to help “judge” the competition!

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®)

Duration: 20-30 minutes (can be much longer, or over the course of a few smaller sessions)

Tools Needed: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) assessment

Number of Participants:  4+

Purpose: Team builder

Rules/Description:

This program will help your team understand themselves so that they can better understand one another to improve team dynamics. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and the MBTI program will give everyone the tools and common language needed to harness individual potential!

Not only is this program an opportunity to take an assessment and for participants to understand themselves, it is also a practical workshop where everyone leaves with a plan in place to utilize their newly learned skills.

Navigating conflict, communicating effectively, contributing to a team, solving problems, and capitalizing on strengths are all skills that will be honed during this program. There are no extra points on the assessment for laughing, but is sure is encouraged!

DiSC™ Training

Duration: 20-30 minutes (can be much longer, or over the course of a few smaller sessions)

Tools Needed: The DiSC™ assessment

Number of Participants:  4+

Purpose: Team builder

Rules/Description:

This is not your traditional personality test – the DiSC™ Assessment Training is an experiential and immersive program. Each participant will complete the assessment which generates their primary personality style(s), and then the epic fun begins!

Participants are grouped by the four profile dimensions, and complete an exercise which will illuminate individual strengths, challenges, and motivations.

The four DiSC™ profile dimensions can also be thought of as the four P’s: Project (Dominance), People (Influence), Persistence (Steadiness), and Procedure (Conscientiousness).

  • Dominance – focuses on moving fast, taking action and solving problems
  • Influence – focuses on people, having fun and liking each other
  • Steadiness – focuses on patience, persistence, and calm listening
  • Conscientiousness– focuses on structure, rules, and procedures

This program will give participants a deeper understanding of their own selves as well as their peers. There are many online resources to help you come up with discussions to have with your team surrounding the DiSC™ profile assessment!

The lessons learned directly and positively impact employee and organizational culture. Participants will understand how to motivate and communicate more effectively with those who share and those who do not share their style.

Corporate Quiz Bowl

Duration: 20-30 minutes (can be much longer, or over the course of a few smaller sessions)

Tools Needed: Video chatting platform or screen sharing program with chat

Number of Participants:  4+ (can do teams if possible, but individuals are sometimes easier through virtual platforms)

Purpose: Team builder

Rules/Description:

Let’s get quizzical. This battle of wits and nerve is sure to stir up some competition and teamwork! This event is fast-paced and laugh-filled and will challenge teams to answer questions from all general areas of knowledge.

Some suggested subjects include: as history, science, literature, arts, sports, current events, and pop culture. Also, a great way to spice things up is to tailor some of the questions to focus on your company or organization.

Some suggested question types include: first letter, multiple choice, and numeric answers. To add to the fun, some special questions can include photos and audio displayed on a projector or TV.

Each team or individual should “buzz in” through the chat to keep the game even more exciting (and fair!). Teams or individuals will earn points for correct answers, and bonus points for being the first to ring in.

Who will have the brains and teamwork to win this game of wit?

Virtual coffee break

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Video chatting platform

Number of Participants:  4+

Purpose: Team builder

Rules/Description:

In a physical office, workers often interact in a coffee or break room. Host a morning or afternoon coffee (depending on different time zones) where the team has 15 minutes – 30 minutes on video chat to catch up over a cup of joe.

While these meetings are excellent opportunities for building rapport among coworkers, they can also serve as functional meetings for operations and projects. Encourage participation by all workers and try to frame these as open and fun discussions. Friendship and respect can be built virtually, but there needs to be opportunities like this for that to happen.

Enable a virtual water cooler

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Tools Needed: Video chatting platform

Number of Participants:  4+

Purpose: Team builder

Rules/Description:

Another break opportunity used by people who work together in an office environment is the water cooler. Water cooler talks are about anything other than work. Topics may be a popular streaming show, current events, family news, or other lighthearted discussions.

Many who work remotely note that they miss these moments of casual conversation.

Create a groupo chat on Google, Slack, Hangouts, or anything like that, and give the team a place to talk throughout the day.  Memes will be sent. Photos of their days will be seen. And relationships will blossom.

Let workers use the chat for unstructured discussions. Consider making a “business” chat and a “just for fun” chat to keep the two separated!

Team building icebreakers are great at bringing people together and expediting the socialization process. Naturally, there will always be some pushback to icebreakers and team builders, especially with a virtual team who is very siloed, so you might as well make yours easy and fun!

These easy icebreakers to use for virtual meetings will not only help participants see how they can apply their newly learned or honed skills to their work, but also how to use them in everyday life situations. Understanding one’s co-workers, how they think, why they think the way they do, and what makes them tick, can make communication and collaboration much easier. This leads to increased productivity, lower stress, and more connection with the work that sometimes feels a bit lonely.

Have us do the work for you!

If you are looking to get everyone together for an epic day of FUN team building in-person, you are in the right place. You have a strong team and want to make it even more awesome. Beyond a few ice breakers before meetings, a custom team building scavenger hunt of a city that you can all meet up in is just what you need, and we are here to help!

CityHUNT offers a wide array of team building activities and we pride ourselves on our flexibility to all group sizes and locations. We are here to fit your needs – we listen to our clients before we begin the process of creating an event.

If you are even a little curious about what we offer, or are ready to commit to changing your team for the better, call us at (1-877)-HUNT-FUN or fill out our risk-free contact form to simply start the conversation today! When you fill out a form, you are taking the first step to build a stronger and even better team!

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