Virtual Team Building Activities: Trends and Tips
If you have come across this blog post, you surely are looking for some virtual team building activities to bring your employees together. Whether you are the boss, a manager, or an enthusiastic team member taking the initiative to uplift your virtual work environment, this article is for you!
Who would have thought virtual work was going to dominate most of our routines at such an unexpected and unanticipated rate? Certainly, it’s hard to ignore how the job market changed radically and permanently when the pandemic began back in March 2020.
The emergence of the novel COVID-19 virus and the consequent social quarantine accentuated the trend towards virtual work, leading us to seriously face the importance of virtual team-building. It’s not that team building unanticipatedly became more relevant now, it’s the fact that virtual work has become more widespread sooner and faster than we initially imagined.
While some processes have grown as sophisticated in a virtual environment as they have in a physical one, the practice of team-building with remote employees is still in its growing stages. But the good thing is we are constantly improving our virtual bonding strategies, and here we offer you the top trends and tips in virtual team building activities, stay tuned!
What is a Virtual Team?
A virtual team is a group of people who do not work in the same location, but instead, collaborate and interact through technology. This type of collaboration is becoming increasingly important as companies have been recently adopting distributed or geographically dispersed workforces.
In addition to the lack of physical proximity, virtual teams must also be able to overcome other technological and geographical barriers in order to cooperate effectively.
Failure can result when team members do not share the same goals, expectations, communication styles, or corporate culture. Team building activities are an excellent way to strengthen relationships that develop between team members when they meet face-to-face. As more businesses encourage their employees to work remotely, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to bond with one another, even though they work for the same organization.
When teams are geographically dispersed, the tasks are completed with limited face to face interaction due to this separation, unlike traditional teams that meet daily at an office location. As a result, using effective activities for virtual teams can be extremely helpful when building relationships, enhancing communication skills, creative thinking, all while establishing trust among team members.
Importance of Virtual Activities for Remote Teams
Virtual team building activities are becoming very popular! We know that while working in any type of work environment, it’s easy to get stuck in the daily grind and forget how much we enjoy certain activities that build strong bonds between every team member.
The great aspect about virtual teams integration is that anyone anywhere can participate – even if they are thousands of miles away from home or headquarters. It also builds the team’s cohesion and cross-training in order to provide better service to their customers. Let’s review some bullets on the importance of team bonding virtual activities.
Foster Trust Within Teams and Team Leaders
Trust is vital for successful virtual team bonding and ownership of your company culture. When teams communicate regularly they establish rapport which helps establish this bond of trust; however, there are associated with online communication (i.e. email, chat, etc.) which creates additional barriers for building rapport and trust.
Activities for virtual teams can help build trust among virtual teams. When people work together on a common goal, they develop relationships that lead to the development of trust and organizational cohesion.
For example, virtual team training is a great way to quickly create a relationship with your remote workers and lay the foundation for fostering trust within a virtual team which will have an impact on their interpersonal communication and their interactions in future team-building exercises.
Breaking the Ice
Virtual activities are often used to help break the ice between virtual employees, new members and get them familiar with each other, setting a precedent for future collaboration. A good icebreaker exercise should also serve as an opportunity for participants to gain insight into their own work styles.
Additionally, you can have one team member or two that are not comfortable working in a virtual environment. Team building activities are one way to help members feel at ease with each other. These activities also allow parallel teams to share experiences that might be helpful to improve virtual collaboration skills.
These benefits are often key for organizations that invest their resources in remote integration strategies. You can even hire consultants for this task and rely on the experience they have in group dynamics and leadership issues.
A remote team integration strategy consists of a fun game for your team to get together outside of their normal emailing, texting, or phone calls. They offer an opportunity for sharing ideas, getting creative, and working out real-world problems using real-world solutions that have immediate results!
They also give everyone on your virtual teams an opportunity to learn about other team members’ skills and talents while having fun at the same time – something that is vital when building a successful project which requires a cohesive unit with positive people skills. As most business owners know, virtual team building activities are also great ways to reward your teams for the hard work they do.
Participating in these activities is a rewarding experience that opens up new experiences, enhances problem solving skills, encourages creativity, and builds morale that boosts productivity.
Benefits and Facts Behind Remote Work and Remote Teams Bonding
Back in the old books stayed the notion that remote workers slept until noon, don’t work full-time, or just wear pajamas all day. According to research, employees who work from home are more productive than those who work in an office, and already by 2012, a two-year Stanford research was proving this statement.
Over the last decade, data on remote work has been reaffirming this finding, also showing how companies and businesses are most likely to hire remote workers. The “Future Workforce Report 2021: How Remote Work is Changing Businesses Forever” by Upwork shows that hiring management teams expect to hire more remote freelancers in the next six months, and even more in the next two years.
Source: “Future Workforce Report 2021: How Remote Work is Changing Businesses Forever” by Upwork.
But, what’s the reason behind this data? Remote work is good for business! According to a FlexJobs study of more than 2,100 workers who worked remotely during the epidemic, 51% said they were more productive working from home, and 95% stated their output was higher or the same.
While there are various reasons why performance has improved, the following are some of the most common reasons given for the enhanced productivity:
Source: FlexJobs, 2021
No wonder, worldwide, 2500% more organizations are investing in virtual team building in response to COVID-19! With this data we can safely affirm:
- Virtual team building is more than just playing video games together
It’s the process of working toward common goals with online teammates through alternate means such as instant messaging, e-mail, chat rooms, and even voice communication software.
- Virtual team building activities simulate real-world interactions
Encouraging people to work together toward common goals in an environment that they may be less familiar with. It’s important for people to understand what is expected of them when working virtually because it can seem like a virtual employee has more freedom than his or her physical counterparts.
Virtual team members are often required to communicate well, share ideas, make decisions quickly, think creatively, solve problems independently, and even make friends.
- The success of virtual teams depends on how well members communicate
And how well they work together toward accomplishing common goals, so virtual team building exercises are an excellent way to help employees across varying locations understand one another better and be more efficient when working toward a mutual goal.
- Virtual teams can be just as productive and effective as in-person teams
By incorporating creative and engaging activities into your company’s existing online environment, you’ll increase productivity while also encouraging teamwork and deeper relationships among employees from different backgrounds.
Virtual Team Building Activities Tips
Before starting to implement these team building games within your workforce, here are several tips for running successful virtual team building activities:
- Make sure you have everyone’s contact information beforehand so that they can communicate with each other before, during, and after the virtual meetings.
- Establish everyone’s location in advance, different cities, different countries, so there are no misunderstandings about who is where.
- If you have any time differences or scheduling issues between members, communicate these ahead so that there are no surprises.
- Organize your activities in smaller groups when possible, to ensure face-to-face interaction amongst teammates throughout the day. This also provides an opportunity for different group members to play multiple roles within their teams.
- Be sure that all participants can access the necessary technology before starting the activities (e.g., phone lines, internet connection, presentation software).
- Make sure to communicate meeting dates and places in advance, so there are no scheduling conflicts.
- Be prepared to lead the activities from a remote location with a webcam if necessary, or be able to quickly find someone on your virtual team who can do this for you if needed.
Top 15 Virtual Team Building Activities
From the traditional Jenga, Bingo, and the classic, Scavenger Hunt to Virtual Bonfires, here is a list featuring top activities to strengthen virtual teamwork!
The use of a virtual bingo game during a team-building session can be an effective and engaging way to facilitate the creation of relationships and trust among a geographically dispersed team.
The Virtual Bingo activity should be conducted in a webinar format, where each person has his/her own laptop or mobile device for online participation. Participants are provided with copies of the standard Bingo cards, but each square contains an avatar depicting one member of the team instead of words or numbers.
Participants can place markers over these avatars as they identify common characteristics with their fellow teammates. Each participant will need to move quickly to mark off all of their squares until there is a clear winner who fills out their card first.
This game serves as an effective ice-breaker and facilitates the development of connections among teammates.
A virtual Scavenger Hunt is a challenging, yet fun activity for virtual teams to build unity and increase trust among group members. In this activity, one person from each team is assigned as Team Captain, which makes them responsible for passing out cell phones or other mobile devices that will be used by all participants in order to participate in this hunt.
The Team Captains must then navigate their respective teams through a set of questions designed to encourage teamwork and cooperation. Each question should require an action done by every member on the team before they can move on to the next question. At the end of the team building activity, there should be some sort of reward offered to the winning team.
Jenga is a classic wooden block stacking game that can be modified for virtual teams as well. Each person should be assigned a letter that will correspond to the letters on each block. Once this modification is in place, play proceeds exactly as it would with traditional Jenga.
However, players must rely on verbal communication skills to explain how they are going about removing or placing blocks in order to ensure that their partner can successfully complete this task without making the tower collapse. Virtual Team Building provides diagrams of how this modified version of Jenga will work.
Remote Singing and Karaoke
In virtual team-building activities where participants are located across multiple offices, countries, etc., singing might not be an activity you typically think of doing together; however, there are several benefits associated with these types of collaborative exercises. To begin with, everyone has heard a song at some point in their life.
Therefore, participants will be able to relate to the lyrics of a song regardless of their culture or language-specific backgrounds. Furthermore, there are few things that people enjoy more than being given permission to let loose and have some fun singing with others!
A virtual karaoke session can lead to building camaraderie and trust among those who show up and give it a try!
Virtual Bonfires are a great way to foster team engagement across the country o the world. The concept is simple, yet effective. Designate several groups to correspond to their country time where your teams are located.
For example, you may have groups representing each time zone, and each group should then be given a specific question or task to complete together at their designated virtual bonfire session.
In order for this activity to work effectively, each group must have the necessary information and materials provided in advance so they can debrief prior to joining together online through a webinar format.
If this activity is conducted correctly it can facilitate relationships among members who do not typically interact on a regular basis due to their different time zones.
Virtual Dance Party
Just as virtual bonfires are a great way to engage teams across the globe, so too are virtual dance parties. To conduct this activity you will need two teams with members spread out across different time zones for your organization.
One team might consist of employees located in the Pacific Time while another group will be made up of those who work in the Eastern Time. Each group should be given specific instructions on what they can do during this dance party to engage with their respective teammates at the other end of the country.
Examples include things like practicing a traditional greeting from their home country, dancing to a favorite song from back home, and explaining where they currently live based on how many hours it is ahead or behind their home country.
Virtual Happy Hour
Similar to a virtual dance party, a virtual happy hour can be a great way to engage your remote teams. The concept is also very similar insofar as each group represents a different country and should be given specific instructions on what they can do during this activity in order to interact with their peers from other parts of the world.
For example, team members from Eastern Time might enjoy mimicking an Irish goodbye, Central Time could send funny videos from back home for others to watch, while the group representing the Pacific Time might plan on sharing goofy costumes from Halloween at their respective office.
Yes, working out can be torture for some! But what if you had a virtual partner who was going through this same experience with you? Or perhaps a group of team members throughout your organization who all participate in different sports activities which they could share with each other?
These are just some examples of the types of ideas that participants could include in a virtual workout. Another possibility would be to create small challenges for one another based on what part of their body they want to improve during this period.
The possibilities here are endless and truly depend on what type of activity or sport resonates most strongly with those involved.
Virtual Typing Speed Race
While this may sound silly, there are several ways in which a virtual typing speed race can be beneficial for your organization and virtual teams. Check this page to set up this game!
You could create virtual teams with your remote employees and have them plan out their best way to beat the clock when it comes to typing in order to engage in an activity together. Another idea would be to have one team try and type as fast as they can about their company while another group tries to type up the funniest bloopers from the past year that were captured on video.
There is no right or wrong here, just let your participants run with these ideas and see what happens!
Virtual Board Game
Similar to a dance party or happy hour, planning a virtual board game can be a great way to engage your remote teams!
For example, one group could try their hand at planning a board game with specific guidelines as to how it should play out while another team attempts to guess what the other has put together.
Perhaps you can choose a classic board game like Monopoly and have everyone work together from wherever they are located in order to make the best decisions possible for those playing the game.
Virtual Birthday Parties
Planning for a virtual birthday party can be beneficial in several ways. You might try and determine the most popular birthdays throughout your company and plan how they will celebrate their special day.
Another idea would be to plan what specific games they can play during the birthday celebration that will engage those who are celebrating as well as those who are not.
The possibilities here depend on what type of event resonates most with your participants and should align with the goals and objectives of your organization.
One idea for a virtual show-and-tell session would be to have each group plan out what they can do or create that will engage those participating as well as those who are not.
For example, one team might try and come up with the best way to tell a joke while another team tries their hand at creating the funniest gif ever! Again, this is an activity where you want your participants to feel comfortable and inspired in order for them to go above and beyond here.
Perhaps you could even hold a contest for the winner of show-and-tell if there were multiple options…or maybe 100 points? This again depends on what resonates most with your organization.
Similar to watching movies together during a conference, this activity could be beneficial for those who are located in the same location as well as those who are not.
One group could plan what movie they want to watch; another group will try to guess what that movie might be, everyone in the virtual teams votes on which team was closest to guessing correctly, etc. This can be adapted to fit any type of virtual event you’re trying out and should aim at engaging both groups equally.
Instead of worrying about nearby hikes or tours during vacation time, why not bring these events together without worrying about seasons or the weather?
You might create small teams that plan on going hiking at separate locations throughout different regions and sharing pictures as well as feedback about the experience afterward.
Another idea would be to have each team venture to unique sites where they can meet up with others to share their photos, stories, and feedback.
Common Misconceptions of Virtual Team Building Activities
By now, you may be questioning yourself if investing time and money in these strategies are worth the effort and the answer is yes! There is a misconception that these kinds of activities that take place over technology cannot offer the same kind of engagement and development as those done during face to face interactions. Let’s break them!
- Fewer Distractions
The engagement and development obtained from virtual activities help reduce distractions and ultimately improve individuals’ output as it allows them to focus on specific tasks without interruption.
While working remotely, people tend to multi-task. However, with the right kinds of virtual games, you can avoid this problem! Instead of engaging in lengthy discussions or lectures during virtual sessions, you can easily engage your virtual teams and hold them accountable for their participation with activities that are quick, fun, and effective.
- Impersonal Interaction
At some point, we all thought virtual interaction was highly superficial and even banal but your games can focus on activities that help to address certain challenges that arise when members of a work team are physically separated, also is beneficial for people who may be introverted or feel uncomfortable speaking up in physical group settings.
After all, behind technology there are people!
- Client Always Comes First
While is very important to maintain a good standing relationship with your clients, your virtual team strategies must also target your employees! Workers who are separated geographically can connect through virtual activities that get them engaged in their work.
Team members benefit from the opportunity to build individual relationships with colleagues, share information and feedback, improve their own digital skills (e.g., learn how to use social media), and perform better at their jobs.
Common Challenges of Virtual Teams (Solutions Ahead!)
There are several key challenges facing virtual teams, including limited communication channels (e.g., phone calls); long distances, various time zones; team members not meeting face-to-face, different cultural backgrounds (i.e., different accents, slang words, etc.), lack of shared experience.
- Limited communication channels
TIP: Use technology to create a virtual whiteboard; this allows team leaders and members the opportunity to draw pictures, charts, etc. as alternative visual communication tools. Create a common virtual space where team members can share voice notes, videos, and live chat.
- No face-to-face contact
TIP: What about having an online meal? Get the whole group involved by creating a separate discussion thread for ordering food, sharing pictures.
- Different cultural backgrounds
TIP: Tell your workers to find fun resources to better explain their cultures, like short YouTube videos explaining local idioms or expressions.
- Various time zones
TIP: Create an exclusive Slack channel where you can post updates across all time zones and allow members to ask questions and give feedback in real-time without having to worry about “being at their desks” or even being in the same country as another member of the team.
- Language Barriers
TIP: If you’re planning on holding an event with people who speak English as their first language and others for whom it is not then you will need to consider using an online platform that offers translation services which should help improve communication quality across different native languages.
Virtual team building activities can be virtually anything you want them to be! They are designed with collaboration in mind which involves virtual members working together on projects that have real results.
- These activities aren’t just for fun – they also encourage your employees to explore new areas of interest while broadening their horizons.
Quite often, these activities will help a group redefine a problem, or look at it from a different point of view so they can solve it more efficiently. This type of approach is vital if you want your company to grow and improve, especially when working towards strategic goals.
- The key is making sure that these virtual team integration activities do not require too much preparation on the part of participants and facilitators.
Find the ones who fit your company culture and core values and make sure every person feels included and engaged with their teammates despite being located elsewhere across the country or world!
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