Your Complete Guide to Remote Work Team Building (25+ Activities & Tips)

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Ninety-five percent of employees believe that having good relationships with co-workers is important to create a happy and productive work environment. However, remote work can sometimes make building co-worker friendships a bit tricky.

The responsibility of team building often falls to managers. And ensuring your team gets along and collaborates together requires more creativity when remote teams are in various time zones, and different customs are in the picture. Remote teams can still bond and build team spirit through team-building activities that provide opportunities to collaborate and have fun together.

In this guide, we'll go over:

  • Why remote team building is important

  • Remote work team-building activities 

  • Remote events that employees enjoy

  • The most common challenges for remote team building

  • Some fun tips for remote team building

Why Is Remote Team Building Important?

Sparks Communication Between Team

Ninety-four percent of employees say team-building activities help facilitate workplace communication.

Team-building exercises help teams bond and feel connected with one another.  And when employee relations are strengthened, so does their ability to communicate and collaborate together.

That’s why it’s important to optimize remote communication for employees in order to work seamlessly and efficiently.

Encourages Collaboration—Remote Workers Aren't Robots

Ninety-six percent of employees believe team building has made a positive difference in their relationships with their co-workers.

For optimized team collaboration, co-workers need to trust each other's opinions and skills. That's where team building steps in --- it allows employees to work together in low-risk environments, build trust, and learn to collaborate as a team.

As the saying goes, "two heads are better than one." Team building helps teams work together, find alternative solutions, and brainstorm with one another.

Gives Company Culture a Boost

Team building helps employees build a shared company identity. The common vision and goal provide a sense of community and support that is reinforced through conversations and interactions between employees.

In remote settings, company culture needs to be worked upon to ensure that everyone feels included and a part of something bigger than their responsibilities. 

25+ Remote Work Team Building Activities That Everybody Can Enjoy

Remote team building requires consistent work and commitment. You should aim to continuously strengthen your team with regular team activities and fortify it with special quarterly events.

We've broken down the following activities by the desired outcome. Whatever you want your team building to achieve, you'll find something appropriate here.

  • Get to know your activities

  • Weekly team-building activities

  • Quarterly team-building activities

  • Activities to connect two different departments

  • Fun and special activities

Get To Know Your Remote Team Activities

The following activities help employees get to know one another in a casual and friendly environment. Cycle these activities at the start of weekly meetings for best results.

1. Two Truths & One Lie

Improve remote team building with a quick game of "two truths and a lie." This game helps uncover funny stories and facts about co-workers.

Teams can build connections with one another by introducing new stories and past week's discoveries with each other.

Time: One--Two minutes per person
Materials or platform required: Video conference 
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. One by one, team members give three statements about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is a lie. 
  2. Other team members need to guess which of the three is the lie.

Example:
I've skydived twice. (Lie) 
My favorite color is blue. (Truth)
I own two dogs. (Truth)

2. Rose, Thorn, and Bud Icebreaker  

The rose, thorn, and bud activity is a great icebreaker for employees to celebrate wins together. In particular, this activity requires employees to reflect on and share either positive or negative news.

The news can either be work or non-work related; it depends on your goal.

If you'd like your team to bond over work challenges and accomplishments, keep things centered around company updates. On the other hand, if you want employees to build empathy for each other, you can ask employees to share non-work-related updates.

This team-building activity builds empathy and understanding between employees, keeps everyone in the loop of news, and helps build team spirit by giving employees a place to celebrate wins together.

Time: 1--2 minutes per person 
Materials or platform required: Video conference
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Each employee takes a turn to talk for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Each employee shares a "rose": a positive outcome, experience, or news. 
  3. Next comes the "thorn": a negative or challenging outcome, experience, or news. 
  4. Lastly, employees share the "bud": a new idea or experience.

Rose, Thorn, and Bud examples:
Rose: I adopted a puppy / I got a new client.
Thorn: I lost my car keys / I lost a client.
Bud: I want to enroll in pottery classes / I'd like to take a leadership course.

3. Uncover & Discuss Personality Tests

Discuss personality tests with team members to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.

By doing so, employees can learn about themselves and the personalities behind the computer screen. This, in turn, will help team members bond over shared personalities or learn to communicate with one another based on personality traits.

Time: 3 minutes per person 
Materials or platform required: Video conference and a personality test
Cost: Free personality tests or paid personality tests

Game Instructions:

  1. Give each team member a personality test assignment a week beforehand.
  2. At the start of the meeting, share the different results.
  3. Share and discuss what stands out.

4. Guess Whose Bucket List

Guess Whose Bucket List is a game that allows teams to show their dreams and goals. Team members can bond and share common interests and aspirations. This will help the team connect and encourage each other to achieve their goals.

Time: 10--15 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Have each of your employees write their top three things on their bucket list before the meeting.
  2. In the meeting, share the bucket list items anonymously.
  3. Start a poll and have participants take a turn to guess whose bucket list it is. 
  4. The team can share and ask questions about their bucket lists.

Weekly Team Building Activities

Start or end your week with fun activities that bring teams together. The aim is to have fun with employees outside of work responsibilities.

By keeping everyone up to date, employees can understand any personal challenges their team faces to empathize and support one another. 

1. Snap a Pic 

Get creative and share a new picture each week with your team to share stories.

Ask your team to snap a picture of something that makes them happy, makes them laugh, inspires them, or is a random sight. Then compliment one another and ask questions to discover more.

Time: 10 minutes
Materials or platform required: Camera or phone, Miro or slideshow presentation (or similar)
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. The team is asked to take a photo of something that made them laugh, happy, or inspired.
  2. Ask them to share the picture with you.
  3. Prepare a photo collage to share with the team in your weekly meeting. 
  4. Each team member shares their photo and can ask one another about the picture.

Additional activity idea: Give each week a different theme. For example, ask employees to share a photo of their favorite meal, their favorite book cover, or a new restaurant they've discovered.

2. Watercooler Trivia

A fun and asynchronous way to spark conversation each week is with trivia. The idea is to spark conversation using topics that are new each week.

Time: 10--15 minutes
Materials or platform required: Water Cooler Trivia is a platform that gives managers new quiz questions each week. The quizzes can be customized to your team and time commitment. 
Cost: Starts at $1/user

Game Instructions:

  1. Enroll your team in Water Cooler Trivia.
  2. The platform sends new trivia questions each week.
  3. Each week employees will answer trivia questions.
  4. Spark conversation with employees about what they know or don't know.

3. Pictionary

Pictionary is a classic game that can break the ice at the start of any meeting.

The beauty of this game is that it doesn't rely on a host or benefit the most extroverted employees. Instead, everyone gets a chance to talk, laugh and participate.

Time: 10 minutes
Materials or platform required: Skribbl or Drawasaurus
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. In your meeting, share the room link of either Skribbl or Drawasaurus.
  2. Each team member gets a turn to draw an object.
  3. Team members guess the object.
  4. The winner is the person with the most amount of correct guesses.

4. Name a Song Challenge

Have fun with your team and bond over music with "name a song." Challenge your team to hold the title of the best music connoisseur each week with a musical team-building activity.

Time: 10 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference and randomwordgenerator.com
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Split everyone into teams.
  2. Use a random word generator.
  3. Each team has 10 seconds to name a song that contains the word in the title or lyrics.
  4. The team with the most points wins the game.

For example: Imagine the word generated is "rainbow." The team could sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Strengthen Connections Between Departments

Communication between departments offers room to improve business operations and ideas from one team to another.

The company benefits from shared knowledge and ideas. However, taking the time to meet people from other departments doesn't come naturally for remote workers.

With the following team-building activities, different departments can spend time together and build remote relationships. 

1. Virtual Department Company Trivia

Time: 15--30 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference, and create your own trivia questions and use TriviaMaker as your platform
Cost: Free for fewer than two teams

Game Instructions:

  1. Challenge another department to a trivia battle.
  2. Create a list of questions about the company.
  3. Start the trivia with a timer.
  4. The team with the highest score wins and gets crowned the challenge winner.

Question examples:

  • When was the company founded?
  • What are the company values?
  • What is the company's quarterly goal?

2. Shared Channels for Random and Funny Content

Public and open Slack or Teams channels open the conversation between departments to share fun news and stories.

This is worth considering since it's an asynchronous form of team building where employees can participate in conversations when they have time. And it allows employees to show their personality in a channel where off-topic discussion is encouraged.

Consider using and sharing the top stories at the end of the monthly meetings to show appreciation and encourage repeat behavior from employees.

Time: None
Materials or platform required: Slack or Teams (or similar)
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Create open channels on Slack or Teams.
  2. Share photos and stories on each respective channel.

Optional:

  1. Share the top stories in your monthly meeting huddle.

Examples of fun channels to start:

  • Monday Motivation
  • Pets 
  • Funny news

3. Word Association Battle

Form teams with other departments and challenge one another to a word association battle.

This is a low-investment game that encourages teams to cheer for one another and build team spirit. With word association, employees can be creative and have fun associating with funny words.

Time: 10 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Invite teams to a meeting.
  2. Split the departments into different teams.
  3. Choose a player order.
  4. Introduce a word.
  5. Each player has less than three seconds to associate a word with the previous. If a player takes more than three seconds, they are eliminated.
  6. A new word is introduced each time a person is eliminated.
  7. The last team to lose all its players wins.

An example of a sequence of words:

  • Cloud, Sky, Airplane, Car, Bicycle, Helmet

4. Charades

Bring team departments together with a game of charades, a classic game where teamwork and cooperation are required for success.

Time: 15 minutes 
Materials or platform required: Video and a word generator
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Mix departments together and separate everyone into teams.
  2. The first team nominates a player to start the charades.
  3. The second team chooses a word (you can choose a category).
  4. The second team privately messages the word to the nominated person from the first team.
  5. Set a timer for 30 seconds. 
  6. The first team needs to guess what the player is acting out. 
  7. The team with the most guesses wins.

5. Scavenger Hunt

Create a virtual scavenger hunt to give your team some healthy competition and fun.

Employees are able to complete challenges around their own neighborhood and use leaderboards and photo galleries to engage with each other's findings.

Scavify offers analytics and employee engagement measurements for managers to keep an eye on teamwork and the improvement of this game as a team-building exercise.

Time: 1--3 hours 
Materials or platform required: Video conference and Scavify 
Cost: Starts at $445

[Source: Scavify]

Special Activities Just For Fun 

The following ideas are special remote building activities that require more planning, budget, and time commitment from teams and managers.

The benefit of these activities is that they are made for teams to dedicate time to work together and collaborate on solving or accomplishing a certain activity. 

1. Tiny Campfire

This experience with Tiny Campfire is particularly special because it has a designated "camp counselor" that encourages team collaboration. This is helpful for team leads and managers, as they can leave the delegation to a third party and take a step back to bond with their team.

Time: 90 minutes
Materials or platform required: Tinycampfire
Cost: Price starts at $700 for 10 people

[Source: Tinycampfire.com pricing page ]

2. Virtual Escape Rooms

Escape rooms are a popular in-person activity that has been recreated virtually. Teams need to cooperate and work together to uncover clues and challenges.

Escape rooms are great team-building activities because teams learn to communicate and solve problems together. These skills and shared bonding moments transfer into their day-to-day tasks.

Time: 90 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference and a virtual escape room platform like Wildly Different
Cost: Around $1,000; price varies on team size and escape room

Helpful planning tips:

  1. Research different escape rooms and create a poll to figure out which escape theme your team prefers. 
  2. Organize a time for your virtual team-building activity.
  3. Set up a virtual escape room. In most cases, the escape room can be guided by a host or self-guided exercise.
  4. Defeat the challenges to escape the "virtual room."

3. Take a Virtual Cooking Class

Boost team building with virtual cooking classes. Employees can chat casually while they learn to make a new dish. This activity helps teams relax and enjoy each other's company outside the boundaries of any work-related stress.

Time: 60--90 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference and virtual cooking classes through Kitchen on Fire
Cost: Starts at $750; price varies depending on team size and cooking activity

Game Instructions:

The aim of this activity is to successfully learn to cook a class. 

  1. Create a poll to figure out which cooking class your team prefers. 
  2. Organize a time for your virtual cooking class. 
  3. Send out the required ingredients.
  4. Organize a meeting and participate in the cooking class instructions.

4. Murder Mystery

Murder mystery is a fun team activity that gets everyone to think outside the box and work in groups to solve a case.

Time: 90 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference and a virtual murder mystery theme from teambuilding.com
Cost: Price depends on the mystery theme and group size. Teambuilding.com prices start at $30 per person.

Game Instructions:

  1. Choose your murder mystery.
  2. As a team, uncover clues to the mystery.
  3. Discover the mystery before the time runs out.

5. Patent Competition 

Build a team and introduce friendly competition with a business competition similar to "Shark Tank." Encourage employees to pair up in teams and develop a business idea that either improves the company or starts a hobby project.

Time: 90 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Place employees into pairs.
  2. Set a 30-minute timer for teams to develop a project or business idea.
  3. Once the timer is up, each team takes a turn to present their final project.
  4. Once all presentations have been completed. The whole team votes on which project wins the patent competition.

6. Virtual "Jeopardy!" 

Virtual "Jeopardy!" is a fun twist on the famous American TV game show. Adding a layer of competition also allows employees to work together and collaborate in order to win against their opponents.

Time: 1--2 hours
Materials or platform required: Video conference and virtual "Jeopardy!" platform
Cost: Price depends on the number of participants

Game Instructions:

  1. Organize a time for the "Jeopardy!" event challenge.
  2. Divide the group into different teams.
  3. Participate in "Team Jeopardy!" The team that answers the most questions correctly wins.

[Source: teambonding.com]

7. Virtual Workout Class

Remote workers are more likely to spend extra hours at home on the computer, leading to lower step counts and workouts.

Virtual team workouts help keep each other accountable to health goals and have fun trying a new workout class.

There are many different types of activities to choose from, from HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes to yoga. Teams can discover new workouts together.

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Materials or platform required: Youtube and a video conference platform
Cost: Free with YouTube, or paid versions that include a teacher for interaction with Onsite.fun

Game Instructions:

  1. Poll your team to choose their favorite workout. 
  2. Schedule a time for everyone to meet.
  3. Have everyone follow the onscreen video of the chosen workout.
  4. Once the workout is finished, ask your team what they enjoyed vs. what they thought was challenging.

8. Award Show

A big part of growth for remote team building depends on supportive company culture. Award shows are a great way to build company culture and celebrate as a team.

The idea is to nominate team members for an award, recognizing something special about each team member. The award can be work-related or non-work related.

Time: 30 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference and a certificate maker
Cost: Free

Game Instructions:

  1. Let your team know that there will be an award show a month in advance.
  2. Ask your team to use three adjectives to describe each of their co-workers.
  3. Choose the most common adjective for each team member and create a certificate.
  4. In the meeting, announce the certificate and have team members guess who it is for.
  5. Then, present each team member with a certificate. 
  6. Celebrate together by sharing stories of moments that have stood out in the past few months.

Example:

  • Work-related: Always ready to help. 
  • Non-work-related: Always Positive.

9. Virtual Talent Show

Bring teams together with a talent show that showcases everyone's special gifts.

Time: 1 hour
Materials or platform required: Video conference
Cost: Free, or give everyone in your team a budget for their show

Game Instructions:

  1. Announce a talent show a month in advance.
  2. Give everyone a two-minute time limit to perform their special talent.
  3. Team members get to ask questions and encourage one another.

Here are some examples of talent shows:

  • The shortest comedy show on earth.
  • Sing a song.
  • Perform dance choreography with a pet.

Try Larger Events To Support Team Building

Events are a great way to bring together employees. It gives teams something to look forward to and then reflect upon together. 

1. Host a Storytelling Workshop

Storytelling webinars help employees to build relationships as they learn new skills together and share their most memorable moments.

A storytelling webinar builds remote teams to feel a connection with their peers by learning a new skill together.

As a webinar is hosted, managers can join in without having to facilitate the team-building experience.

Time: 2 hours
Materials or platform required: Video conference and a storytelling webinar
Cost: Price depends on the size of the team

Event Instructions:

  1. The webinar is hosted by a storytelling expert who starts with team icebreakers.
  2. Tips and tricks for storytelling.
  3. Storytelling creation. 
  4. Presentation of stories.
  5. Feedback and group discussion.

2. Virtual Magic Show

Build remote team connections through an interactive magic show performance. Your employees can bond over the magic show and share the event as something they all experienced together.

Time: 20--60 minutes
Materials or platform required: Video conference and Virtually Together magic show
Cost: Starts at £750

Event Instructions:

  1. The webinar is hosted by a magician who goes over the event rules.
  2. The magic show begins with interactive exercises.
  3. Discussion at the end.

3. Host a Themed Festive Event

In an office, you can decorate with holiday decor. However, remote teams lose out on the festivities and holiday cheer.

Introduce holiday-themed events for your team to celebrate together and share their customs and traditions.

Time: 1--2 hours
Materials or platform required: Video conference and an employee budget for decor or drinks 
Cost: Depends on the allocated budget

Game Instructions:

  1. Schedule an event for any chosen holiday.
  2. Ask employees to buy decor and prepare their favorite drinks.
  3. At the event, combine various ice breakers and game challenges that are in line with the theme of the night.

For example: A New Year's holiday event, Halloween, or the summer solstice.

How To Avoid Common Challenges in Virtual Team Building 

When you're working in an office, you can spot obvious gaps where the tools are missing for employees to build relationships.

However, in a remote environment, those gaps can become harder to pinpoint and lead to poor team collaboration and production. 

Improve Communication and Personal Connections

Communication through written messages is a challenge ---  while you can get the point across, it loses the non-verbal cues of a person's intended tone.

Weak communication increases miscommunication and can result in higher conflict and tension between employees.

Introduce asynchronous communication platforms like Slack or Teams, where employees can add emojis and GIFs to deliver information. The best communication features for remote teams include user profiles, integrations, file storage, and public or private channels.

Or improve casual conversation with Donut, a virtual assistant that sets up informal watercooler meetings between employees. 

Strengthen Your Company Culture 

The culture of a company is the glue that holds teams together and gives them a shared identity. A weak company culture dilutes the values and identity of a company and risks disconnecting employees from a common cause.

To strengthen your company culture, publicly appraise teamwork and recognize employees that represent company values.

To improve the remote employee experience and for remote teams to grow, introduce open and safe communication channels for employees to raise concerns or discuss important topics together.

Invest in the Proper Tools for Collaboration

When employees are not equipped with the right tools for collaboration, it makes teamwork harder to accomplish.

Lack of tools leads to decentralized materials, loss of information, and frustration if software and apps aren't able to integrate with one another.

For teams to work without roadblocks, grant free access to collaboration software that your team needs to encourage virtual collaboration.

Tools for Remote Building

Here are some popular tools needed for remote team building:

  • Zoom: Video conference and call recording

  • Google Drive: Store, share, and centralize content

  • Mural: Whiteboard and template tool for brainstorming and strategy planning 

  • Miro: Visual whiteboard for teams to collaborate together on ideas

  • Slack: Asynchronous communication tool

  • Trello: To-do list and Kanban board with assignments and responsibilities

  • Donut: Virtual watercooler organizer that connects different team members with one another for informal chats 

How Do I Have Fun With Co-Workers? Here Are Some Helpful Remote Team Building Tips

Remote team building is not accomplished with a one-off activity. It needs consistency and deliberate organization for employees to build lasting relationships. 

Break the Ice and Show Some Personality

Managers set the tone and show by example. Encourage your team to bond by joining in and beginning each meeting with icebreakers and public appraisals for team efforts.

This is particularly important for new hires who might be intimated to be too personal in new work environments.

Encourage teamwork by tagging peers to relevant Slack conversations, or send videos to share concepts and introduce polls to scout team feedback and improvement.

Make Use of Asynchronous and Synchronized Team-Building Tools

Fifty-two percent of employees prefer asynchronous communication for remote work. It offers flexibility and helps employees navigate time zones.

While asynchronous communication exercises are good for maintaining team relationships, synchronous communication is great for interactive activities that bring the team together for a common purpose.

Both forms of communication are complementary and needed for healthy and continuous team-building exercises.

For example, asynchronous communication can use a Slack channel to share "Motivational Monday" posts. In comparison, synchronized communication can look like a 10-minute icebreaker at the start of a weekly meeting. 

Commit to a Cadence & Dedicate Work Hours 

Give employees time to build relationships during work hours because this avoids compromising time with their loved ones and personal hours.

A team-building activity cadence helps create a habit and an environment for employees to feel comfortable and build bonds.

As a team, commit to a routine so that each team member can come prepared beforehand with any additional materials they might need (photographs, stories, etc.).

Ready, Set, Camera, Action 

Video conferences and meetings can be intimidating, particularly when you're talking to a computer screen filled with attendees and no faces because everyone's camera is off.

Non-verbal cues communicate engagement, confusion, and encouragement.

However, offer a policy where employees are reassured they don't need to have their camera on unless an activity requires it. Participation should always feel flexible to accommodate different people.

Organization & Timing Is Key 

Choose the right time for a team-building event so that employees can dedicate the right time and attention to the activity without being distracted by a growing list of tasks.

Understand what time works for the team. Consider if it's an event at the start or end of the day, which weekday, and what week of the month.

Involve your team by creating polls to figure out which activity they'd prefer. That increases excitement and your team's personal involvement in the activity.

The Key to All Remote Work Team Building Is ...

A clear and transparent communication culture.

Remote work struggles when communication policies and platforms aren't laid down for team members to communicate fluidly.

The miscommunication can quickly become isolating and increase disengagement between employees.

To avoid this, keep employees' communication lines open with public slack channels and encourage feedback and collaboration between employees. This can look like tagging team members into threads, sharing good news publicly, appraising team goals, and encouraging employees to openly communicate their needs and challenges.

Team-building activities are only as good as the communication environment that they are founded on. Therefore, ensure that each employee feels heard and appreciated for their collaboration.