50 new virtual team building activities and ideas
In the fast-paced, dynamic world of business, team building stands as a significant factor that fosters a healthy work culture. It’s a practice designed to strengthen relationships, boost morale, and improve productivity within a team.
Traditionally, team building took the form of company retreats, ice-breaking exercises, group projects, and in-person social events. However, the sudden shift to remote work, accelerated by global circumstances, has led to a reevaluation of these strategies.
In today’s article, we’ll be exploring 50 effective team building activities and ideas that you can conduct with your team virtually. But first, we want to talk about why team building is so important. If you just want the ideas, you can skip the next section and jump straight to the good bits!
The importance of team building in the world of remote work
Team building is not simply about creating a positive environment; it’s a strategic tool integral to the success of an organization. Through effective team-building exercises, employees can foster improved communication skills, break down barriers, resolve conflicts, and learn to collaborate more effectively. These activities also boost employee morale and engagement.
According to research conducted by Gallup, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, and teams that score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism. In a world where the majority of communication takes place behind screens, such exercises take on an even greater significance.
In the context of remote work, team building helps bridge the gap created by physical distance. It becomes crucial to create a shared sense of identity and purpose, build trust, and ensure effective communication among team members who might be spread out across different time zones.
Regular team building exercises in a remote environment can help prevent feelings of isolation, promote understanding, and maintain a sense of camaraderie that can sometimes get lost behind emails and chat messages.
So, as remote work becomes more prevalent, and as the landscape of team building evolves, we thought we’d deliver 50 of our best activities and ideas for achieving those big team building benefits – no matter where in the world your team is scattered.
Virtual escape rooms are the online counterpart of the popular real-life game. In this game, participants work together to solve puzzles and riddles, which eventually leads them to “escaping the room.” This activity strengthens problem-solving skills and promotes cooperation, as everyone has to work together to win. Platforms such as BreakoutIQ offer a variety of themed escape rooms, which could help you keep your teams engaged, and foster a fun, collaborative environment.
A digital scavenger hunt involves participants finding certain items within their home in a set amount of time. This could be an object of a specific color, something with sentimental value, or an unusual item. The game promotes a sense of competition and camaraderie and also offers a window into your team’s personal lives, making everyone feel more connected.
Quizzes can be a fun and interactive way of team building. Online platforms like Kahoot! allow you to create quizzes on a variety of topics, be it about team members, company trivia, or general knowledge. The competitive nature of the quiz adds an element of excitement, while the shared experience of learning something new brings the team together. Tech companies like Atlassian and Amazon have used online quizzes as part of their remote team building strategies.
Virtual home tours offer a chance for team members to give a guided tour of their workspace or home. This helps team members to understand and appreciate their colleagues’ work environments, adding a personal touch to the professional relationship. Such activity not only breaks the monotony of work but also helps team members to feel more connected.
Online cooking classes can be a great way to bring the team together. A professional chef guides the team in preparing a dish, which they can all follow along with in real-time, and then share their results virtually. The shared experience of learning and creating something together is a powerful team building tool. In addition, it allows team members to learn about different cultures through cuisine. Companies like GitLab have introduced cooking classes into their regular team building activities – why not give it a go yourself?
Creating a shared playlist is a fun and simple way to bring a team closer. Each member contributes their favorite songs to a collaborative playlist. This exercise helps team members to learn about each other’s tastes and possibly discover new music genres. A shared playlist can also serve as a great background for work or during breaks. Spotify has utilized this method internally, and even created a platform feature that allows users to collaborate on playlists.
Language learning clubs provide an opportunity for team members to learn a new language together, such as via an online platform like Duolingo. This shared learning experience can enhance team cohesion and also promote cross-cultural understanding, especially in diverse teams. This activity is especially helpful within organizations where the workforce is spread across multiple countries where multiple languages are spoken – you may end up building connections between teams where language barriers were previously in place.
A virtual movie night involves the team watching and discussing a movie together. This can be easily organized using streaming platforms that offer group watching features, such as Teleparty. It allows for a casual and relaxing team bonding experience and can also provoke meaningful discussions if the movie has relevant themes.
Book clubs are an effective way to engage your team. The team selects a book, reads it over a specified period, and then comes together to discuss. This encourages intellectual stimulation and can lead to enlightening conversations. It also teaches patience and active listening as everyone shares their interpretations. Many organizations have long-established book clubs, with many people reporting positive feedback about the ways these clubs help them come together as teams, even from a distance.
Scheduled remote coffee breaks offer a time for informal conversations that aren’t about work. Just like a coffee break in the office, team members get together on a video call to chat, share, and connect on a personal level. Such breaks help foster stronger bonds between team members, contributing to a more cohesive team. They can also help to maintain team camaraderie. However, you should be careful not to turn these into formal affairs where people are obligated to make a show – this can have the opposite effect, as people find themselves wishing they didn’t need to tune in for what they consider mandatory small talk.
Remote fitness challenges involve encouraging team members to achieve health and fitness goals together. For example, setting a collective goal of walking a certain number of steps in a month, or hosting a weekly yoga class on Zoom. This promotes a healthy lifestyle while also providing a shared goal to motivate each other. Fitness challenges have been shown to increase engagement and camaraderie. For example, companies like Adidas and Under Armour have incorporated wellness challenges into their remote work culture.
There are plenty of classic board games available online, from Settlers of Catan to Scrabble. Playing these games together can replicate the casual fun and friendly competition of a game night in person. From a team building perspective, board games can help to develop strategic thinking and cooperation, and provide a break from work-related stress. And companies like Board Game Arena offer many of the best-selling titles for free, online – or, if you’re willing to pay or premium membership, you can take advantage of in-game video or audio chat rooms to help your people really experience the constructive interactions that board games can easily provide.
This involves the team watching a relevant industry webinar together and then discussing its contents. This not only provides an opportunity for professional development but also encourages open communication and idea sharing. Discussions post-webinar can lead to innovative ideas and a shared understanding of industry trends.
Using video conferencing platforms, team members can practice and critique each other’s public speaking skills. This could involve giving a presentation on a chosen topic, or sharing a personal story. This activity not only helps to develop a useful professional skill but also promotes feedback and active listening. Toastmasters, a renowned international organization, has long used this method to develop its members’ public speaking and leadership skills – in fact, it’s practically what their entire business model is built around.
In a virtual painting class, an artist guides the team in creating a piece of art. This shared, creative experience can lead to a tangible result that team members can feel proud of. It also provides an opportunity to express creativity and relieve stress. Many companies have incorporated art-based activities into their team-building strategies to foster creativity and innovation. And according to research published by Michigan State University, art therapy can have profound benefits for our mental health and wellbeing, too.
Select a game that’s easy to learn and hold a friendly competition. This could be anything from a racing game to a cooperative puzzle game. A video game tournament promotes friendly competition, teamwork, and communication, and provides a break from work-related activities. Companies like Facebook and Twitch have leveraged video game tournaments for team-building exercises. But just remember, that once that friendly competition is bubbling, it can be helpful to get your team to direct their competitive streak towards out-performing a competitor, instead of out-performing each other.
Ice breaker questions involve starting meetings with a random, non-work-related question to get everyone talking. This could be anything from “What’s your favorite movie?” to “What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?” This activity helps to develop interpersonal relationships and creates a friendly atmosphere.
Group meditation sessions involve a shared time where team members participate in a guided meditation. This can promote mindfulness, stress relief, and overall well-being. Regular meditation has been shown to increase focus and empathy, both valuable in a team setting. Employees from companies like Apple and Nike report how their employers have incorporated mindfulness and wellness activities into their team-building strategies. In fact, Nike have written about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation on their blog.
Read more: 100 employee stress and relaxation busters for HR
Remote workshops can be conducted to learn and develop skills. These could range from technical skills related to the job, to soft skills like communication or leadership. Workshops not only promote learning and development, but also teamwork and collaboration. Many companies, like Deloitte and IBM, use workshops for team building and professional development. And while these are often seen as in-person activities, there’s a growing wave of online workshops available now for remote teams who want to develop their skills together.
OK, hear us out on this one… alright, fine, maybe it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Especially not if you sing anything like most of us hear at the Workstars team! However, for the right group of people, online karaoke can be a fun and lighthearted way to foster team spirit, and break down barriers. This can be set up using various online platforms that offer karaoke services. Not only is this a fun break from work, but it also allows team members to share a part of their personality that might not usually be seen.
In Virtual Innovation Labs, teams brainstorm and develop innovative ideas over an online platform. This activity can stimulate creative thinking, encourage collaboration, and potentially lead to impactful business ideas. Virtual Innovation Labs have been successfully used by many companies, including the Virginia Department of Transportation – to great effect.
During Global Cuisine Nights, team members prepare and share dishes from different cuisines over a video call. This activity not only allows team members to explore different cultures but also provides an opportunity to bond over a shared love of food. It can be difficult to share the taste and the smell of the different meals, however – but a fun way to mix this up and increase the interactivity and learning side of things, is to get each team member to submit a recipe for their own special dish, and then distribute these recipes at random to other members of the team. They can then describe how well this went during the video call, and everybody can see each other enjoying (or surviving) their various new creations.
For this activity, the team watches and discusses insightful TED talks together. This can provide an opportunity to share different perspectives and inspire innovative thinking. If you’re not familiar with TED talks, they are engaging, thought-provoking presentations delivered by experts or passionate individuals aiming to share innovative ideas, research, or experiences across various fields. There’s generally something that will interest anybody no matter what their interests or area of expertise. You can grab a quick list of all published TED talks right here.
A Remote Desk Makeover Competition involves team members personalizing their workspaces and then sharing them on a video call. The best one, as voted by the team, could win a small prize. This can be a fun way to express creativity and learn more about each other’s personal tastes. It was a popular activity among many remote teams during the pandemic, but has also continued in many organizations as they settled into a hybrid-style workplace structure.
If the team has access to VR technology, virtual reality team-building exercises can provide immersive activities such as virtual tours, games, or simulations. This can foster a sense of shared experience and excitement, even when team members are physically apart. Forward-thinking tech companies like Meta have experimented with VR for team-building exercises, which makes sense as they have also invested heavily in VR-based technologies such as the Meta Quest.
In an Online Charity Run, team members participate in a virtual run for a shared cause. Everyone can track their progress and encourage each other. This promotes health, teamwork, and a sense of shared purpose. Charitable organizations have seen a rise in virtual runs, with companies like Salesforce often encouraging their teams to participate. You don’t have to participate in a big in-person event like a marathon to get this done though – you can all dial in from treadmills, or simply share your Fitbit data and then meet online to discuss.
In Collaborative Storytelling, each team member adds a sentence or paragraph to a shared story. This activity can promote creativity, active listening, and collaboration. Several writers’ workshops use this method, and it can be easily adapted to a team-building context.
In a Cross-Cultural Exchange, team members share and learn about each other’s cultures. This might involve sharing traditions, history, or even teaching a few words in their native language. This activity promotes understanding and inclusivity in diverse teams. Companies with global teams often incorporate such exchanges into their team-building strategies.
A Remote Gardening Club involves team members sharing progress and tips on their home gardening projects. This can be a peaceful, relaxing activity that fosters a sense of shared interest and camaraderie. Plus, it encourages eco-friendliness. And if you have a select few green-fingered experts in your organization, you could even run a virtual panel type of event, with experts answering questions from other eager participants – think of BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time as a good example for a format.
In an Online DIY Craft Workshop, team members create art together following a video tutorial or guided by a professional. This activity allows team members to express their creativity and provides a tangible result to be proud of.
A Virtual Pet Show involves team members introducing their pets over a video call. This activity provides a fun, casual environment for team members to bond over their shared love for animals. Pet-friendly companies, like Chewy, often encourage employees to bring their pets to work – so why not ask people to share their furry friends during remote meetings?
In Mystery Picture, a team member describes a picture or a scene, and the others try to recreate it based on the description. This can be a fun, interactive activity that promotes active listening and communication. It’s a popular activity in many improv workshops and can be easily adapted for remote teams.
During an Online Comedy Night, team members share and enjoy stand-up routines or funny videos. This activity provides a shared laughter experience, which can boost morale and foster stronger bonds. Humor-based activities have been used by companies like Southwest Airlines to promote a positive work culture. You could even hire a professional comedian to make a cameo appearance, if your budget permits!
In a Video Recipe Exchange, team members share and demonstrate their favorite recipes. This activity not only provides an opportunity to learn about different cuisines but also encourages sharing and connection. You could take turns, and give each team member their own slot for sharing a recipe – or, get creative with a different format.
Show and tell existed in school for a reason – and that’s because it helped us get to know our classmates, and understand each other better. The same can apply in the workplace. In a Remote Show and Tell, team members share personal hobbies or interesting items over a video call. This gives everyone a chance to learn something new about their colleagues and promotes open communication and bonding. Many remote-first companies have utilized show-and-tell style activities as part of their team-building efforts, and you can too.
In a Motivational Speaker Session, you invite a speaker to deliver an inspiring online talk. This activity can be particularly impactful for boosting team morale and sparking motivation. Many companies, such as Deloitte and Accenture, regularly invite motivational speakers for their teams, which can be done virtually as well.
In a Virtual Yoga Class, a professional yoga instructor guides the team through a session. This not only promotes physical health but also introduces a shared calming and mindfulness experience that can help combat stress and foster team unity. Many wellness-focused companies had this type of initiative running long before they went remote – and many of them simply continued to run classes via Zoom calls, when the pandemic forced us all into lockdown. In fact, for many teams, virtual yoga classes increased participation because there was less self-consciousness from shy team members, who could turn their camera off and take part without the fear of being watched.
A Remote Magic Show involves hiring a magician to perform a virtual show. It’s a fun, unique experience that can spark joy and wonder, creating shared memories and conversations among the team. A number of companies have incorporated fun virtual shows into their remote team-building initiatives. In fact, some magicians specialize in providing online services – such as Chris Reads Minds.
Online Pictionary is a classic drawing and guessing game that can be easily adapted to a virtual setting. There are hundreds of free services online that let you play it, and it is good for your team – it encourages creativity, teamwork, and communication in a fun, relaxed environment. Game-based activities are often used in team building for their ability to engage and entertain while fostering collaboration, and Pictionary is a perennial favorite.
A Podcast Club operates similarly to a book club – team members listen to selected episodes of a podcast and then discuss them. This can stimulate intellectual conversations and allow team members to share their thoughts and ideas. Companies that encourage continuous learning, often use such clubs to enhance their learning culture.
In Music Learning Sessions, the team comes together to learn a musical instrument, or partake in a shared musical experience. This activity can stimulate creativity, concentration, and patience while also providing an outlet for stress. It’s a less common but highly rewarding team-building activity that’s been experimented with by some creative and open-minded companies.
Daily Gratitude Sharing involves team members sharing something they are grateful for each day. This activity encourages positivity, reflection, and connection among the team. The Mayo Clinic says that expressing gratitude can have a significant positive impact on the wellbeing of all involved – so get it down as one of your options.
Read more: 51 super employee wellbeing ideas
During Bucket List Sharing, team members share their personal dreams and goals. This activity can foster deep connections and understanding by allowing team members to see beyond their colleagues’ professional personas, and see the things that they dream big about. You may also find that an unintended side-effect of this activity, is that team members begin to form splinter groups where they go away and actually fulfil their bucket lists together – especially if they discover common items and themes as the group shares their dreams.
Themed Costume Days involve picking a theme and having everyone dress up for a video call. Some people may find this embarrassing… but hey, stepping outside of your comfort zone is half of what team building is about, right? A virtual dress up day can be a fun, lighthearted activity that allows team members to express their creativity and enjoy a laugh. Many companies have adopted similar activities during festive seasons or special occasions.
In Mind Map Sessions, teams collaboratively brainstorm and visualize ideas on a particular topic. This encourages creative thinking, collective problem-solving, and helps everyone understand different perspectives. You may find it helpful to set up a shared whiteboard, either via a service like Microsoft Teams or Vibe.
An Online Quiz Show involves hosting a game-show-like event with teams. It can be about general knowledge, trivia about the company, or personalized questions about team members. This activity promotes competition, collaboration, and engagement.
An Online Talent Show is a platform for team members to showcase their unique talents. This allows everyone to appreciate the diversity within the team and can reveal hidden talents and interests. It could range from singing, dancing, magic tricks, to even juggling.
In Celebrity Impersonations, team members have some fun imitating famous celebrities. This lighthearted activity can result in a lot of laughs and create shared memories. And hey, if you really want to wow your team at the end, with a grand finale? Consider hiring an actual celebrity to make a cameo appearance – people may cringe when they realize the person they were impersonating may have seen their impression, but it’s all part of the fun.
A Virtual Choir involves team members collaborating to perform a song. Each team member records their part, and the clips are combined to create the final performance. Not only does this require teamwork and coordination, but it also results in a memorable shared achievement. This idea is inspired by many viral virtual choirs that sprang up during the pandemic lockdowns.
Creating a Team Mural involves collaboratively designing a virtual mural that represents the team. This can be done on virtual whiteboards or collaborative drawing tools. It promotes creativity, collaboration, and results in a tangible symbol of the team’s collective identity. Companies like Catalyst Team Building have adapted this type of activity into a good hybrid or remote team building option – and the end result is something that you may cherish in your company’s hall of fame for many years to come.
We hope that this article has helped you to see that the move to working from home doesn’t mean we need to lose our team spirit. On the contrary, it’s time to level up our team building game!
From virtual cooking classes to remote gardening clubs, there’s a smorgasbord of activities to help us bond, even when we’re miles apart.
And remember, these activities aren’t just for kicks. They’re all about boosting our team vibe, sparking creativity, and keeping us connected on a deeper level. So let’s lean into the virtual world and make the most out of it. After all, working remotely doesn’t mean working alone, right? So dive in with some of the above suggestions – and we’d love to hear from you about which ones worked best for you!