Virtual Team Building Activities
In an odd time like this, with local and state governments or organizations taking actions to prevent further spread of COIVD-19. Now, with a majority of the workforce currently working remotely, and no idea of a “office return date” virtual team building is the new norm and is more important than ever.
Virtual team building is just like regular team building, except you’re not in the same physical space. It is a method to bring remote teams together and create a work environment that mimics a co-located office environment. With virtual team building, each team member is on their computer and the team interacts using an internet-connected tool such as video conferencing.
Why team build?
Lack of social interaction and loneliness is probably the biggest downside to remote work. Often times that can lead to disengagement, which in turn, leads to poor performance on the job. Taking the time to form social bonds, have fun and build trust with coworkers not only combats loneliness, it also helps teams work together better.
According to the Harvard Business Review and a Gallup report, “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.” The study also states that, “people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.” What does this mean for remote teams? Easy-peasy. Virtual team building is essential.
Virtual team building consists of several strategies, games and activities that are meant to bring more human interaction to virtual work. Many traditional team-building exercises such as icebreakers and team lunches or happy hours can be adapted to accommodate remote workers or remote teams.
A study by Remote.co found that, “87% of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing.” So if you have the opportunity to use video while team building – do it! Here's a few ideas for virtual team building.
2 truths, 1 lie
I'm sure we've all experienced this fun little ice breaker before. It's pretty easy to facilitate (but if you need a template click here!). Simply ask each member of your team to email you 2 thruth about themselves and 1 lie. They don't need to tell which is the truth or lie. Of course you know who the individual is so it's best if you as a facilitator do not participate. The group gets to guess who the individual is and also which is the lie.
Here's an example:
- I have climbed a mountain above 21,000 feet
- I have hike each of the 58 Colorado mountains above 14,000 feet
- I have deep water dove to 130 feet
It's a fun way to learn new things about each other or even see how well the team know each other.
Virtual happy hour
This is one of my favorites and quite easy to facilitate. Establish a time close to typical end-of-day work hours (maybe 3:30p) so that it feels like a fun team building event rather than a mandatory meeting after hours that bleeds into their personal/family home time. Encourage everyone to bring their favorite beverage and/or snack.
a) Netflix trivia!
This is a fun activity to do virtually, and relatively easy (since I have a PDF for you to download) and it is sort of like you were in a pub on trivia night (ok, maybe not exactly like pub trivia night) but it’s still a ton of fun.
How to facilitate: Have everyone grab their favorite beverage, turn their camera on and get ready to play! Designate someone to record everyone’s answers (have them keep time too, perhaps 20 to 30 seconds for players to give their answer). Also designate someone to page through the PDF or PPT (if that's more your style) and share their screen. It’s so fun!
b) Color Personalities
Ever wonder what makes your co-worker tick? Why some people are very structured, others always want to grab coffee or some enjoy working alone? This is a fun and simple personality test that is a great conversation starter to get to know each other a little better.
How to facilitate: When you’re all on your virtual video collaboration tool of choice, send them all to the Color Personality test (<-- yep, the link right there). Explain to them to reach the grouping of words, fill out each field from left to right adding 1 to 4 in each. Least like you 1, most like you 4. There will be a total at the bottom. The column with the highest number is their lead color (we all have all of the colors within us, but one, or two in some cases are dominant).
Virtual Conference Call Bingo
Conference Call Bingo is a fun game you can play to engage remote workers during a call - they'll listen more! You start with an online digital bingo board that has a number of too-often-used conference call sayings on it. For example, when you hear someone say “sorry, I was on mute!” or "who just joined?" (that's my biggest pet-peve - look at the participants instead of interrupting the call) you can mark that spot off on your board.
Bingo is a classic game that most people are familiar with, and the version for remote teams is a quick, easy and free way to get started with virtual team building.
Or, download and print a game card you can use for your first game.
Virtual Team Building Lunch & Learn
A simple way to start with virtual team building is to get your remote workers together on a call, and have someone volunteer to lead the session. The session lead generally creates a presentation or speak about something they recently learned in a book or conference or something they’re an expert or subject matter expert (SME) on, followed by a question/answer at the end. Generally, lunch & learns are about 60 minutes, and are typically scheduled at lunch time. Encourage your team to eat during the session.
Virtual Lightning Talks
Another way to engage people virtually is through lightning talks. A lightning talk is a very short presentation lasting only a few mintues up to 10 to 15. Several lightning talk will usually be delivered by a different speaker in a single session. This gives many people the opportunity to showcase their expertise or even talk about an interesting book they read. I personally gave a lightning talk on the book, "Crucial Conversations" by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.
Set aside dedicated time for virtual team building. It is important that each member gives their undivided attention during team building activities so that members don’t come off as uninterested or uninvolved. I like to do team building events in the early afternoon, say 3:30 p.m. so if feels like it is a fun event to participate in and it does not encroach on the work/life banlance. We all like our time away from the office (even when virtual!) so don't make team building seem like a chore and schedule it at 5 or 5:30 p.m.
Whatever for forum you decide for team building hopefully these activities will leave those who work remotely feeling valued. You and your team will be able to better understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, learn something new and have some fun!