Team Building Activities for Virtual Teams
By Alex Stevens
For a full list of resources and toolkits, check out our COVID-19 response page.
Humans are naturally social beings. As we find ourselves sheltering in-place and socially distancing in order to flatten the COVID-19 curve, many of us are struggling with the sudden shift from daily in-person interactions to screen based communication. Without our usual outlets and routines we’re all at risk of feeling lonely and disengaged from each other and our place of employment. Making time to form bonds and build trust not only combats loneliness, it also helps teams work more efficiently together.
When we think of team building activities we generally envision group outings like escape rooms and happy hours. With in-person activities not available for the foreseeable future, newly forged virtual teams need to find a way to bond, communicate, and build trust across screens.
Staff mobility and virtual meetings are a big part of our company culture at The Clearing. As a human-centric firm, we focus on building strong, communicative teams no matter where in the world team we are working. Over the years we’ve battle tested many different ways to bond and communicate with each other virtually. We’ve compiled some of our favorite virtual team building activities in this post in hopes they are helpful while navigating our collective new normal.
Timing and Frequency:
- Real-Time Group vs. Individual Activities: Decide whether you want the activity to happen simultaneously as a group in real-time or if team members participate at a time that works best for their schedule.Sometimes called synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous activities, consider recording synchronous meetings that others can access at a later time! Have an action item to close the meeting where everyone shares a little bit about themselves in a group text, Slack post, or other internal communications channel.
- Practical vs. Fun Activities: Is this activity practical (e.g., setting up a team charter) or just for fun (e.g., virtual team lunch)? Hint: you can absolutely do both!
- One-Time vs. Recurring Activities: Is this activity something your team will do once (or maybe only when new team members join) or is it something you plan on building into your regular meeting cadence?
Virtual Team Building Ideas:
Type: Real-time, Practical, and Fun – Recurring
Time: 5 minutes
This one might seem obvious but check-in questions can be a great way to center the group and/or find out something interesting about your teammates. A check-in question we use frequently at The Clearing is, Is anything preventing you from being present today? This gives teammates the opportunity to address possible distractions or share things on their mind. It also invites others to lean in to the conversation or pick up the slack if their teammates are dealing with other priorities and cannot fully participate.
You can also use check-in questions to set the mood for your meeting or learn interesting facts about teammates. Here are a five check-in questions to try with your team:
- What’s one thing you miss most about your home state/town?
- Name one product you couldn’t live without.
- If you had a walk-up song, what would it be?
- Share a funny story about your pet or member of your family.
- What’s one unique holiday tradition your family keeps?
Coffee Mug “Stand-ups”
Time: 15 minutes
Type: Real-time, Practical, and Fun – Recurring
Stand-ups are quick, 15-minute status meetings where teams come together to answer three questions:
- What tasks have you worked on since we last met?
- What tasks are you planning to work on today?
- Is anything preventing you from finishing your work?
Spice up your daily stand-ups to show some more of your personality and home. Choose a theme for the meeting and see what creative things your colleagues can come up with. You can start simply by asking everyone to bring their favorite coffee mug or get silly and institute funny hat day.
Create “User Manuals”
Type: Individual, Practical, and Fun – One-Time
Time: 60 minutes
What is your personal workstyle? What does your home life look like? What personal commitments do you have that may impact working hours? All of these questions are even more relevant as we’re all scrambling to understand how to balance a healthy home and work environment now that they’re in one space. It’s the perfect time to set boundaries for yourself and your teammates around how to communicate and when to communicate with you. Have team members write out their user manuals and schedule a team meeting to discuss and share as a group. We created a downloadable guide you can use to create user manuals with your team.
Team building activities are a great idea for both in-person and virtual teams even when we are not in crisis as they leave members feeling appreciated, heard, and refreshed. Any opportunity for team members to connect and engage at a higher frequency increases team efficiency and ultimately bottom line profits for the organization. It’s important to remember that while we may be physically apart while social distancing, we must make every effort to maintain social connections.
What other ideas has your team used to connect and bond virtually? Share your ideas with me via email!