Team building activities for employees bring them together and help them stay motivated, facilitating collaboration. But how can you bring together employees when they work remotely and sometimes even in different time zones?
The advent of technology and numerous digital communication tools have enabled companies across the globe to shift to more remote work. With increasing work from home and remote working culture, while the workplace flexibility has increased, facilitating remote team building activities for employees has become a bigger challenge.
Employees are increasingly feeling isolated, and it comes as no surprise when a Gallup article states that feelings of employee isolation reduce productivity by up to 21%. Businesses today are dealing with problems never faced before and need teams that can collaborate and solve big challenges together. It is a well-known fact that people tend to have more creativity when they are around people they are comfortable with.
Good team building activities are the best investment for a connected workforce and building employee engagement.
In the list below, you can find interesting team-building activities, many of them suited for virtual teams too so that your remote teams continue to perform at their best. We have mentioned the primary purpose with each activity which helps you choose an activity based on your purpose of team building games for employees –including but not limited to introducing new team members, developing better communication in a diverse workforce in terms of age, gender, culture, etc., fostering trust or increasing productivity.
1. Guess the fact
This game doesn’t cost anything, can be played both remotely and in-office, and offers a great way to learn about various team members’ areas of interest outside work. It is best suited for small teams of 6 to 10. It is a half an hour to one hour activity and will lead to laughter and camaraderie amongst the team at the end of the game.
In this game, one team member plays the role of a coordinator who asks all the other team members, including the manager(s) to share two personal lesser-known facts about them.
The responses are collected over a simple online form. These facts are put on a presentation, and next to each fact an empty column is put, where each employee guesses the team member that the fact belongs to. While playing in the office, the answers by employees are collected beforehand, and the answer key is displayed when everyone gets together in the conference room.
In remote teams, teammates get on a video call. The facilitator opens a sheet on a digital whiteboard on their computer and shares their screen while employees guess the answers via live voting. The facilitator follows along when each answer is guessed and enters answers in the empty column.
This activity allows team members to learn more about each other on a personal level. This game especially helps in introducing new members to the teams and connecting teammates who have a greater age difference.
You can play this game across geographies, across genders, and with participants of any age group.
2. We were all kids
Another zero-cost team-building game for employees that needs a little homework but will surely leave the teammates bursting with laughter. This team activity is suited for an all-hands meet or a monthly team meeting either done virtually or in-office. The facilitator can contact family members of all heads of various teams to share a childhood/ adolescent picture of the respective heads without their knowledge.
Towards the end of the meeting, after the work discussions for the day are done, one by one, pictures of various department heads appear on the screen. Team members guess, and the heads are asked to share their memory behind the photos. When people share a part of their personal lives with members from the workplace, it makes the work environment healthy, open to more discussions and improves communication. This activity also gives a chance for the leadership team to be seen as colleagues rather than as bosses and adds to employee morale.
This is an activity that can be carried out across geographies, with senior management and the rest of the company, and across genders.
3. Taste a tea
This game offers an exotic tea tasting experience with real beverages. You need to incur the cost of session booking with tea-tasting companies. When done remotely, one week before the session, they mail each of your team members a package that includes four unique specialty teas/infusions and a snack with a message “do not open”.
You can send an email to your team members to log on to a virtual cafe where the barista guides the preparation for everyone to follow alongside at home to brew a perfect cup for them. The barista also leads a tasting session filled with stories and fun facts. This activity allows for people to learn something new while virtually sharing cups of tea.
Team members can share their tea moments from the past with friends and family while sipping on delectable teas. This activity offers a great end of the week/start of the week’s virtual engagement. It is well suited for both small to large teams and is well suited for teams in different time zones. After all, a cup of tea can be enjoyed anytime-- even as a team-building activity for work.
This is an activity that can be carried out across geographies, across genders, and for participants of all ages.
4. The minefield
This is an outdoor pairing game. It requires an open space like a park, blindfold, and few objects which can act as hurdles like bottles, balls, cones, tents, chairs, toys, a small table, etc., and a few charts of paper.
You can place objects randomly in the marked open space and pair the team members. This game is best suited for teams of sizes 4-12. Try to pair members from different teams who daily have lesser interaction with each other. Ask one person from each team to put on a blindfold.
The other person leads their teammate from the starting point to the endpoint taking any route through placed objects with only verbal instructions, the blindfolded person can’t speak, can’t step on pieces of chart papers(mines), and has to pick up the objects.
A foul in any of the instructions disqualifies the team. You can change the starting and ending points when a different pair comes to play.
To add difficulty, you can define the route beforehand, or can get multiple teams started from different start and endpoints in the same space. In this case, if two blindfolded members from different teams collide, both disqualify. Follow the activity by a sumptuous team lunch. It is a highly engaging activity and does wonders in building trust, communication, and effective listening.
You’ll have to be present to participate in this game physically. Great for the younger members of the team (25 - 35), and mid-management (35 - 45) to play to get to know each other better. Participants can also be across any gender.
5. Virtual escape room
A virtual Escape room is the remote version of the escape rooms where participants are locked in a themed room with challenges and puzzles and have to figure their way out. These are paid group activities, and games offered by online adventure companies and offer an experience no less than being in an actual escape room.
You can group your employees in teams of 3-4 and make them compete against each other as teams. This game can be played organization-wide with any team size, and we suggest you announce the winning team via an email to all. All that your employees need to do is get on a video call with the assigned teammates and communicate with a host. The host is already in the escape room with a live feed.
The teams communicate with each other and the host, find clues and solve the puzzle to escape in the next 60 minutes. You will get to see first-hand that learning to work great together takes time, but surprisingly, when there is winning on the table, teams bond quickly. It offers a great avenue to strengthen team communication. A pro tip: Pair the teams as diverse as possible, i.e. a mix of different age groups & geographies and see the diversity helping the teams win.
6. Five finger show
Last but not least, this game is amongst the top team bonding activities, especially for remote teams, and can be played with any number of players. All that you need is a host with a list of quirky things everyone does while working from home.
Some examples are: wearing pajamas/shorts in a video call, speaking while still on mute, sending an emoji to a colleague in the last 5 hours, had a pet walk in, and crash a meeting, a half-dressed kid in the background, etc. The host mentions the items from a list, while all participants have held one hand with five fingers extended. With each yes, participants put each finger down.
The one whose five fingers go down first does some fun activity for the team. Through this game, people relate to each other more. This game is especially good for teammates who live with family or pets since they can laugh off at their funny moments which occur during team meets.
Besides, this game also helps foster a better understanding of situations amongst all members. It allows for employees, especially bosses, to empathize with their employees and their situations at home.
This activity can be carried out across geographies, genders, and team members of all ages. This is a very easy team-building activity for remote employees.
A Buffer report states if they could, 99% of people would choose to work remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers.So why wait for teams to go on a day-long offsite to have a sense of togetherness when we can weave team-building into the fabric of their daily work. Here are our few tips to up the game of your virtual team-building exercises:
1. Including introverts – While avoiding participation is difficult in physical office presence, remote working may enable introverts to avoid being a big part of online events. Include them with ice-breaking questions and pair them with an enthusiastic team member in activities.
2. Follow the 2.5X rule – Since virtually connected teams cannot have small discussions around water-coolers or say hi to each other in elevators, it is important to do as many as 2.5x virtual team building activities for work as you would do in a typical office setting. You may dial down the duration and budget but always increase engagement.
3. Make virtual team-building exercise a weekly ritual - Subscription to quick online games with leaderboards for your teams or getting together and carrying out some of the activities listed above should be done weekly or once in two weeks to keep the teams motivated and connected.
4. Send packages via mail- It makes for absolute delight to send some office goodies like cups, tees, badges, thank you letters to spouses, etc. which can be displayed in team meetings to employees.
We recommend that at the end of any team activity, take a group photo of team members. For virtual meetings, take a screenshot! This keeps the memory alive and serves as motivation for other teammates who missed the event, to be a part of it in the future.
So next time you feel that you need to boost your employee morale or improve your employee productivity and collaboration, do try out some of these activities. Let us know how it went in the comments below!