How to Do Virtual Team Building

Team building exercises have always been a great way to strengthen bonds among your team members and have fun at the same time! Sadly, team building can seem daunting and challenging when your group is working remotely. While some team building activities aren’t possible over Zoom, there are many new ones that can be done virtually! 

What Is Virtual Team Building?

Virtual team building is a way to establish and build connections between coworkers and colleagues. Playing team building exercises strengthens existing bonds, and helps to foster new relationships and create harmony and synthesis within your team. It’s a way to untangle communication knots, and increases total productivity.

Team building should matter to any manager and project lead that wants the most out of their team, remote or otherwise. Building connections is immensely important in our personal and professional lives, and especially now while we are more scattered than ever.

Why Is Virtual Team Building Important?

Sometimes remote work can feel lonely and difficult—virtual work can meet unproductive ends without motivations or connections. Virtual team building comes in as the connective tissue of teams, fostering a  positivity among team members that keeps them more invested and structured. Virtual team building exists to build communication and creativity, and to give your team members a working competitive advantage by establishing camaraderie. Team building icebreakers are a fantastic way to engage everyone!

How Do You Do Team Building Virtually?

Human beings want to be seen, heard, and understood. They want their challenges and frustrations reduced, and they want to feel a part of something meaningful. Sadly, a lot of us feel as though our work and contributions are invisible, that we don’t have direct access to the people that matter, and that we struggle with our daily tasks. We all want to belong, and to form unbreakable bonds with the people closest to us.

Working from home can be lonely for some. While the office environment isn’t always a place that fosters nostalgia, it is a connective hub, a place where we could create social bonds with colleagues. These social bonds increase job performance, and these days it can be tougher for managers to figure out what exactly we need as individuals.

Team building virtually means using the technologies at our disposal to reduce these frustrations, and help people be seen, heard, and appreciated.

What Are the Benefits of Virtual Team Building?

There are several immediate benefits of virtual team building, such as:

  • Fostering team collaboration
  • Creating new internal communications
  • Promoting job satisfaction
  • Increasing positivity among employees
  • Curating overall team and work culture
  • Improving bonds
  • Streamlining work relationships
  • Prevent virtual fatigue

A Few “Must Know” Virtual Team Building Tips to Try

Here are a few key employee engagement ideas to keep everyone involved:

Include the Introverts

Introverts might occasionally participate within the office due to surrounding pressure or guidance. In a virtual setting, it’s easy to “check out” or not pay attention to the prompts, chats, or games. Help everyone participate by creating mechanics that foster teams, pairing up the introverts with the extroverts or taking turns on questions and games so that everyone is included.

Follow the 2.5x Rule

This essentially means doing two and a half times as many virtual team building activities as you would regular team building activities. So, dedicate more time, play more games, organize more meetings. You’re not trying to burn people out, remember, you’re trying to make them feel more included and celebrated.

Make Virtual Team Building Part of Every Meeting

You can’t go straight to business in virtual settings—you need ice breakers, chit chat, updates. With Zoom meetings, you should consider including some type of team building element to each gathering. You can make these small; it can be daily trivia, mini Show and Tell, whatever you want!

Send Packages in the Mail

It’s still fun to get surprise gifts in the mail! We’re so used to junk mail and bill statements, it can be nice to send your remote team some cute or uplifting packages and letters. Personalize these however you want, but consider snacks, handwritten letters, or new movies!

Virtual Meeting Software to Power-up Your Virtual Team Building

There are a number of virtual meetings software options out there beyond Zoom that might help you engage with your team and create synthesis among team members:

Microsoft Teams – Easy to use and set up with great security settings.

Google Meet – This one is particularly easy to access for older members.

Webex – This one has a suite of great features that we loved.

Jitsi – Free and open source.

Jami – Very secure with up to day peer-to-peer technology.

Lifesize – Some of the best video clarity around.

Skype – This one is familiar to many, who might already be using it.

Whereby –  You can access this straight from your browser.

11 Ideas for Virtual Team Games and Activities

1. Icebreaker Questions

There are always new icebreaker questions to ask, always new things to learn about your team members and coworkers. While icebreaker questions might seem like the most obvious virtual team building activity, don’t skip it! It’s a great way to begin meetings and get everybody comfortable. Consider asking:

  • What was the last album you listened to?
  • What did you do for the holiday?
  • What did you have for breakfast or lunch, and did you cook it yourself?
  • What are you looking forward to right now?

2. Have An Online Lunch Together

Link up once or twice a month and have lunch together! You can even do this as a special treat and send everyone some money so that they can order from their takeout or delivery place of choice. Give everything a nice long lunch and casually chat about things not necessarily related to the office. This can be a great virtual team building activity and a recurring event!

3. Socialize Over Group Chat

One of the best ways to stay in touch is to host regular group chats, and you don’t need to keep it all business all the time! Dedicate a Slack channel just for socializing, so that your virtual team can talk about what they had for lunch, what they’re doing after work, how they’re going to spend their weekends, etc. This is a great way to get your team to bond, and if they’re taking breaks from work together then they are learning about one another.

4. Have A Messy-Desk Faceoff

Take a few minutes out of the day for everyone to show off their greatest shame: their messy desks! While we work from home, sometimes our desks turn into our main base of operations. It can be difficult to constantly keep things neat and orderly, and you can build bonds by having everyone show how they are dealing with the pandemic.

5. How Do You Make Online Meetings Fun? Presents

Everybody likes presents! You don’t need to use the holidays as an excuse to host a gift exchange. Everyone can buy small gifts for one another and open them on camera—or you can send out gifts to show how much you appreciate the team! You can add a bit of fun to this by sending cards ahead of the time that tease what the gift might be, or host a contest and send out gifts to those that answer the questions correctly.

6. Teach People How To Work With “My User Manual”

We are all exploring our personal and professional boundaries right now, and one of the best ways to do that is with a little exercise called “My User Manual.”

Have everyone create personal manuals for themselves that include their preferences and workstyles. Have them list if they prefer group chat, video chat, or email. Have them list their preferred time of day to work. Do they like or dislike group meetings or video calls? Do they listen to music while they work?

Once everyone is done creating their personal user manuals, you can create a template or Slack channel where everyone can share their manuals and learn more about one another!

7. Expand Your Professional Skills Together With “Learning Circles”

Sometimes when we get too focused on our daily work we forget to expand our horizons. While working from home, without office chatter or gossip, it can be tough to learn new things. Remote work can feel especially isolating if you don’t make an effort to connect with your other team members or check in with people.

Begin a monthly “Learning Circle” where your team can find projects they want to learn more about and connect with team members that are interested in them. You can even have people give short presentations over Zoom, where they make little talks about these projects or ideas. Think of this as a passionate, professional method of “show and tell” where everyone can be given the floor to speak on something they are passionate about, or tell the rest of the team that they want to learn more about something but don’t want to explore it alone.

8. Have GIF Battles

Have an office battle—safely, and virtually! Have your team members join in by using a Trello Board or Slack channel, and let loose! Divide the game into rounds, and have everyone arm themselves with the best and funniest GIFs for each round. At the end of each round, you can choose the best submission (the one that fits the theme the most or makes everyone laugh the loudest). You can make GIF battles a regular ice breaker, or open up a continuous channel for everyone to share their favorites!

9. Uncover Your Superpowers

This is a great virtual team building activity to go beyond our superficial connections. Utilizing an online “strengths finder” exercise (such as Clifton Strengths) each person can take a small personality quiz and discover their top three strengths.

You can share those strengths together, and each person can engage with what they think the test got right and what it got wrong. Give everyone time to have the floor, and have everyone talk to one another about what they feel their strengths bring to the team.

Remember, anytime people open themselves up like this it is intensely personal. With any virtual team building exercise that invites vulnerability, the group needs to remain tactful and respectful. This should be an affirming and bonding exercise and one that makes people feel heard and cared for.

10. “How you doin’?”

This is a game to appraise how everyone is feeling. Have everyone come to the team meeting with something written down that showcases how they’re feeling this week. If they’re struggling or feeling lethargic, talk about why. Open up the floor for how we can help each other, and talk about what the team can do to lift one another up.

11. Make Sweet Music Together

Everyone likes talking about music and sharing their tastes. So, create a team member playlist! Host a channel and pop in a shared Spotify playlist where everyone can drop in songs. Everyone will have the opportunity to listen to this playlist while working, and finding new music is a great way to learn more about one another. Curating an active playlist can show you things about your coworkers that you would never learn naturally, and you can even make multiple team playlists based on mood.

Virtual team building activities are a fantastic way to forge bonds and keep people together. There are many ways to discover more virtual team building activities, and every time you add another fun game to the pool you end up bringing your team closer together. Have everyone talk amongst themselves and figure out what games they like and what they don’t, and bring a little flair to your hum-drum week. Remember, keeping your team focused and together is what’s important!

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