“As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially true in the context of distributed teams,” says Meaghan Williams, HubSpot’s Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager.
Team building gives your team a greater sense of togetherness.
Most likely, you can envision team building games in your head: exciting team outings, fun outdoor activities, or after-work happy hour chats.
But what does team building online look like?
When members of your team work remotely, it can be a slight hurdle to foster team building without face-to-face contact. Williams notes, “It can be hard to build that same sense of belonging and commitment to the team when you’re remote. That’s where remote team building comes into play.”
Although it can be tough to figure out how to build team morale virtually, the task isn’t impossible.
Remote team building games improve the morale of your team and their sense of belonging, which is essential for your team’s overall productivity and employee satisfaction
We’ve put together a list of exciting team building exercises and games for your remote team to try out. Let’s go over them in the next section.
Online Team Building Games
When coming up with ways to bond with your team online, Williams suggests assuming that anything is an option. This mindset combats restrictive thinking with games and opens up new realms of possibilities.
“This mentality has led to everything from remote yoga to remote holiday parties, and we’ve had so much fun along the way,” she says.
So with that in mind, let’s go over exciting options for building up your team.
1. Remote MTV “Cribs”
Similar to the workings of the hit MTV show “Cribs,” you and your team could spend some time showing off your remote work spaces. This game, inspired by the team at Help Scout, is a fun way to get a look into the workspaces of your teammates.
To give it a “challenging” aspect, have team members vote on their favorite workspace at the end, and the winner can enjoy the bragging rights of having the most impressive remote work setup.
2. Remote Work Bingo
Using a bingo template, create a bingo card and schedule a quick game as a “brain break” for you and your team. You can make it personalized to fit your company and team like the one below:
Have your teammates submit ideas for Bingo spaces to make it a collaborative process. You can even offer a prize for the winner, such as an online gift card. Another plus — Bingo is easy enough to build into a routine meeting.
To make Bingo work remotely, pick one person to be the moderator. They would call out a random phrase and wait a few seconds for players to search their card for that phrase. If the player has that phrase on their card, they’d use a tool, such as paint, to mark that space.
Once a player has marked enough spaces in a row, they’d announce “Bingo!” in the video call and wait for the moderator to check their answers. If the row is vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, and matches the spaces, that colleague wins.
Mafia is known by a couple of different names, and is often played by large groups. Essentially, the game is a “whodunnit” mystery-solving challenge. One of the players is a silent “killer,” and it’s up to everyone else to figure out the culprit.
There’s a couple of roles to assign in Mafia to keep organizational structure, like “Doctor,” “Townspeople,” and “Detective.” The best part about the game? It can all be played over a video call. Click here for a full run-down of how to play Mafia.
At HubSpot, we re-created Mafia to fit in a Zoom call. We used a combination of the chat box, Slack, and turning off cameras to re-imagine the campfire classic in a virtual setting.
4. Happy Hour
One of the most fun remote team building events I’ve done with my team has been remote happy hour. It’s an opportunity for your colleagues to get together and bond outside of work, remotely.
At HubSpot, we use happy hours to foster a deeper relationship with team members. At one point, we even held a virtual wine tasting, where participants brought a glass of German wine and listened to a colleague explain how to taste for specific qualities, and pointed out things about wine that aren’t common knowledge, like how to create air in a wine glass.
Participants can bring any beverage they choose (tea, seltzer, or other non-alcoholic beverages should be encouraged as well), talk about what they’ve brought, and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere.
5. Emoji Stories
Using less than six emojis, begin to write a story in an instant message thread or the chat section of a video call. Then, one by one, your coworkers will add to that story using five more. You can keep going until every teammate has had a turn, or until you run out of ideas.
To get the ball rolling, here’s a potential story starter: 🏘⛈💡🚫 … what happens next to the neighborhood with no power during a storm?
6. DIY Pantry Challenges
Are the members of your team obsessed with shows like MasterChef or Chopped? Alternatively, are they big into YouTube cooking shows, like Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes? If so, it could be fun to challenge your colleagues to create their own version of a popular cooking show or a tutorial of their favorite comfort food recipes!
This can be done in a variety of ways, but to give it a “challenging” aspect, pick one dish that’s simple to make, like a patty melt or mac and cheese. Give your team one week to film their own versions of the recipe, upload it to a Google Drive, and choose the winner based on creativity of the dish.
Cooking is an awesome way to express creativity, and as the saying goes, food often brings people together. Plus, leftovers mean there’s no extra thinking to do when it’s lunchtime!
7. Book Club
HubSpotters are no strangers to book clubs. A recent book club we’ve hosted centered around a theme of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. One of our colleagues chose a book to fit this theme, and participants had a discussion to talk about what the book meant to us and how we could transfer the ideas presented in the book to create change in the workplace.
This can be a recurring event or a one-time session, but the purpose is to discuss ideas outside of team projects. It can be a nice break from your day to discuss a good book — whether it’s every month or a couple of times a year.
8. Pop Culture Trivia
What song did Britney Spears perform at the 2001 VMAs? What fictional town does sitcom Parks and Recreation take place in? Unwind with your coworkers in a friendly game of pop culture trivia — 2000’s style.
You can come up with questions with your team, or look up fun prompts online. Assign a moderator, split your team up into groups, and let the games begin!
9. Farm Field Trip
Do you remember taking field trips with your classmates when you were younger? They were fun outings to learn and explore with peers. Nowadays, field trip experiences are moving to an online platform so those young and old are able to enjoy these gatherings virtually.
As an example, you might chat with a local farm to see if they’d be willing to set up a remote farm tour for your team. We’ve done this at HubSpot, and it’s a great way to bond with colleagues as you virtually fuss over the adorable pigs or goats you see on-screen.
10. Scavenger Hunt
When was the last time you went on a deep dive of your company website? If your answer is, “Never,” here’s your chance to challenge your colleagues. Choose pages or tabs from your company’s website for yourself and team members, and come up with a group scavenger hunt.
Break off into teams, or make it a solo venture. After 20 minutes, whoever gets the most points, wins! An idea to get the scavenger hunt ball rolling: “Find the testimonial from X customer.”
11. Lunch and Learn
Send an RSVP to your team to join a webinar and learn a new skill. Alternatively, have your colleagues take turns to host mini lunch and learn sessions for tips about how to perform job functions in a simpler way. For instance, if I were to host a session, it might be “How to Create Awesome Meta Descriptions in Less Than 15 Minutes.”
If your team members have very specific roles that differ, this could be a cool opportunity to learn a little more about what your colleagues do. For instance, your social media manager might host one session about his role regarding social accounts, while your web designer hosts another about her experience designing for UX.
These sessions would give the other insight into how to perform a job function and build a new appreciation for the day-to-day of colleagues.
12. Never Have I Ever
“Never Have I Ever: Remote Work Edition” is another quick stress reliever that helps you learn more about your colleagues. Here are the rules: a team member says something they’ve never done before, but if those playing have done it, they lower one of their fingers. The person with the most fingers left wins the game.
If I were to host a version of the game, my first entry might be, “Never have I ever bought noise-cancelling headphones.”
13. Virtual Dance Party
If you’re like me, you’re known for your pretty amazing work playlists. What better way to wind down after a long workday than with a no-judgement dance party with your colleagues? You can even pull up a song from the Just Dance video game series and learn together (you just need a smartphone!):
There’s no pressure to explode into a fully-choreographed sequence a la Mamma Mia! — all dance styles are encouraged. Blow off steam and enjoy a friendly competition with your team.
“Not every idea is going to be a winner, but what’s important is that you’re willing to be vulnerable with each other and give new ideas a try,” Williams says.
Additionally, she adds, “If you’re just embarking on this journey for the first time, be honest with your team about this and ask them to provide feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. Even better, ask them to contribute their own ideas and lead the way on initiatives that they’re excited about.”
Team building is all about strengthening the bond of your team through different and fun activities. You can host a Pictionary session through a video call or encourage different areas of discussion during meetings. For more ideas on team building games, Williams suggests giving these options a whirl:
Most importantly, remember to just have fun with your team and enjoy the time you have together!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May,2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.