Team-Building Exercises and Games for Remote Teams

Remote work was once considered a distant dream.
Employees fantasized about it.
Managers dreaded it.
Companies vetoed it.

But a global pandemic has transformed the way we live — and work. Today, 'Work-From-Home (WFH)' has emerged as a necessity for the sake of business continuity. While there are many perks of working from home, the challenges to WFH cannot be ignored. Be it the unforced procrastination, muddled communication, or the inability to keep remote team members engaged and help adapt them to the new work environment.

A recent report by Thrive Global¹ states that "Over 85% of the respondents said they wanted more help from their employers as they adapt to WFH." That said, there is one aspect that demands our undivided attention: rampant loneliness.” Around 52.9% of respondents² agreed to increased loneliness during work from home. Plus, around 56.4% reported experiencing increased feelings of anxiety during work from home." - Blind report

Long story short: Clearly, there's plenty on every manager's plate.
Now, as a manager, you might be wondering what the tell-tale signs of a lonely team member look like? We'll help you out.

If you're finding fewer emails and lesser check-ins from an employee and if more and more of your team members are transforming into silent, inactive spectators on those weekly video conference calls, it's time to take the matter into your own hands. To that end, today, we'll talk about exciting ways to drive team bonding and manage remote teams³ with easy-to-implement online group activities. All you'll need is a stable WiFi connection and a computer that's fully charged. Are you good to go?

Top-9 Team Building Exercises to Drive Team Work and get the Excitement Going

Nod if you agree: Ice-breaker questions and company-related quizzes have been done to death. And quite frankly, are outright boring. So if you're looking for fun and easy-to-execute games and activities for your online team, you've logged onto the right platform. Here goes:

1. Virtual Team Lunches/Coffee Breaks
Everyone breaks for lunch, whether you're at home or in the office. The only difference here is that instead of hitting the cafeteria, you eat together online. Think of it as an online potluck (of sorts). You could suggest food-based themes such as specific cuisines, non-gas cooking items, vegan food items, etc., or better still, ask people to cook instinctively.

Handy tip: You can also ask team members to share simple recipes so that everyone goes home with numerous ideas for new dishes on their cooking wish-list. After all, everyone gets bored of the same food when cooking day in, day out!

There you go. What's not to like? There's good food, great company, and unlimited fun! Try it sometime.

Psst! If the team isn't available to meet for elaborate lunch sessions, an invigorating coffee session works too! You could have a #Dalgona coffee- making competition online and see who has the frothiest-creamiest and the most gorgeous 'looking' coffee from the lot (side-effects of conducting this online).

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Video conferencing tool of your choice - a staple for every company who works remotely and has multiple foodies on the team. 

2. Collaborative Playlists

"Adding a deliberate distraction such as background music without lyrics has shown to boost concentration." - Headway Capital Research
Let's face it. Everyone likes to listen to music when working. Except maybe lyric-heavy ones. You need to replace the regular din of the office with something that has a "white noise" quality to it. This is where music comes in.

Unknown to many, Spotify offers a feature where you can create collaborative playlists. What this means is that anyone on the team can curate interesting playlists and listen to it. Think of innovative themes for the playlist such as "Stress-buster," "Monday Blues," Fri-Yay Happiness," "Work Mode-On," among others, and let the team tune into higher levels of productivity (pun intended).

Handy Tip: Be open to different styles and genres of music. You never know when you might discover an entirely new world of music or find your new jam.

What you'll need for this:
Time: Varies, depending on your team's requirements.
Resources required: Spotify/Google Play along with a group chat app like Slack and people with a diverse taste in music.

3. Learning Hour

"Panjo associates participate in something we call 'Education Day' every quarter. All associates take the day to participate in any kind of educational activity that interests them. Some associates take an online course, some associates read research papers, some associates try programming in a new language. All team members are required to give a 60-second presentation on what they learned." - Chad Billmyer, CEO of Panjo

You'll notice that when the team is distributed, remote employees have more time on their hands. After all, there are no chit-chat sessions next to the water cooler or the general office banter that keeps the office gossip mills running. Naturally, employees want to make better use of their time and up-skill. This is where the Learning Hour comes into play.

You can ask the team to share a list of topics they all want to learn about. From personality development courses and learning a new language to understanding the basics of Excel and digital marketing courses, there are plenty of topics that can be discussed.

So here's how this works: Every month or every two weeks, you can ask a member to prepare a fun and useful presentation on any of the topics from the list and ask them to present to the team. Piece of cake! (Speaking of cake, baking, everyone's favorite pass-time these days counts as a new skill too! There shouldn't be pressure to make your time at home count.)

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Video conferencing, study materials, and a confident presenter.

4. Online Home Tour

If you wish to make your team feel connected, this one works like a charm. Much like giving a tour of your newly-decorated office space, here, people give a virtual tour of their homes/home office. The idea is simple. It's human nature to be inquisitive about how your boss/manager/team member lives at home and what they are like in their personal space. So this idea ensures that everyone gets to know the team better, one room at a time!

Handy Tip: If you don't want to give your teammates a home tour, make it an "only the backyard/garage/shed tour". Better yet, play a little with the virtual backgrounds that many video calling apps provide, invent backstories, and make it fun for everyone!

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Video conference tools such as Zoom, Google Duo, etc. and a home that's ready for public viewing!

5. Online Fitness Workout Sessions

"A recent study by Doodle states that there's been a 100% increase in group meetings booked for virtual-only yoga, dance, exercise, workout, fitness, and aerobics and Pilates sessions.”

One in every four team members will agree to mindlessly snacking when working remotely. So when you can't go to the gym, transform your living room into one. One of the best ways to add some fun to boring solo workouts at home is by getting the team together to do it collectively.

You could go for energizing Zumba sessions, restorative yoga sessions, or even hard-core cardio and HIIT workouts - the world is your oyster. To make things easier, numerous fitness portals are offering free classes on their apps/websites/social media platforms. Here are some examples worth considering:

Popsugar Fitness for cardio, Pilates, body strength, HIIT, etc.
CorePower Yoga on Demand and Down Dog for core power yoga.
Cure.Fit for every kind of workout possible from Zumba, Cardio Kickboxing, HIIT, etc.

Handy tip: In order to boost concentration and reduce stress, you can try doing the Naam Yoga hand trick. Simply start by applying pressure to the space between your index and middle finger. This is said to activate a nerve near the heart, ultimately bringing about a sense of peace and calm.

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Video conference tools such as Zoom, Google Duo, etc., lots of stamina, and a bottle of water.

6. Virtual Happy Hours for a Jolly Good Time!

"According to the same Doodle report, there was a 296% increase in group meetings for virtual-only happy hours, cocktail hours, and wine/beer/drink social events.”

This one's a fun activity (as the name suggests it). Say your team is just closing a big project after weeks on pulling off all-nighters and 12-hour long days. You can treat the remote workers by conducting an impromptu cocktail hour!

You can get the team to arrange for some basic ingredients at home and make a cocktail together or simply ask everyone how they're doing and congratulate them over a glass of chilled beer! Trust us when we say that this idea might just become a trend! But hey, make sure this comes after work and preferably on a Friday.

Handy Tip: With the website Make Me a Cocktail, you can enter the ingredients you have at home right now and follow the recipes for cocktails that come up on it. It's that easy to be a creative and resourceful bartender now! Your team can loosen up and fill the void of casual, fun social interaction.

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Video conference tools, choice of cocktail/alcohol/mocktail, and good old music from the 70s and 80s (preferably).

7. Embrace the Team's Cultural Values with a 'Birth Map’

"Every Friday morning, our team from around the world hops into a virtual meeting that lasts about 30 minutes. An appointed "Question Master" kicks off the call by asking a thought-provoking question aimed to create camaraderie, break down walls, and allow our distributed team to feel closer. People reveal themselves in fascinating ways that greatly enhances the collective level of vulnerable trust, which leads to better collaboration and greater organizational health. Here are a few of our favorite questions that we've asked:
If you were to go back to school and get an advanced degree, what would you get and why? What was a tough time in your childhood, in what ways did that change how you view the world?"' - Shane Metcalf, VP Customer Success

Often times, people don't realize how diverse their team truly is. Because no one likes to talk about how they got where they are. This one encourages team members to open up and understand the different cultures and values that shape up the team.

All you have to do is print a world map and upload it on an online whiteboard or on Google Docs. Then, ask your team members to place a pin on where they were born and share interesting insights and stories from the birthplace.

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Video calling and screen sharing tools, online whiteboard/shared document, world map, and adventure-loving team members.

8. It's Picture-Sharing Time!

While there's a treasure trove of personal stories that emerge from virtual meetings, there can be engaging stories about working styles too. In this group activity, ask your team members to share a picture of something that demonstrates how they work.

Ask your team members to get as creative as they can. Memes, small videos, and comic strips go too. Now, ask everyone to share their pictures on an online meeting board and explain why they chose what they chose. There's plenty to learn about problem-solving techniques here as each team member may have a distinct work style that makes their work tick.

Handy tip: Ask a team member to collate all the information gathered and post it on your team collaboration app under the theme, "My Working Manual," so that people can access it easily for future reference.

What you'll need for this:
Time: 30-60 minutes
Resources required: Virtual meeting and video conferencing tools, online whiteboard/shared document, and funny yet truthful work ethic-related pictures.

9. Bucket Lists for Fostering Deeper Connections

"It's a powerful way to learn about people and their dreams, as well as to generate ideas for future team-building activities." - Brian Scudamore, CEO of O2E Brands

Finally, it helps to know what drives your employees. What does their personal ambition look like? What kinds of values drive them to be better, do better? Ask your team members this: "What's on your bucket list?” Believe it or not, this simple question demonstrates more about the team than endless hours of conversational banter.

What you'll need for this:
Time: 60 minutes
Resources required: Video conference tools and enthusiastic team members.

The only thing that inhibits productive collaboration is the barrier of formality, which can be overcome by introducing team-building exercises and activities. Adapting to today's situation, these team building activities need to be virtual. Luckily, technology has fuelled creativity and made this possible. Now you only need to try it out! Which of these team-building exercises did you like the most? Experiment away and share your experiences.

This article was published by one of our Guest Authors Ajinkya Panse:
He is a Product Manager @Xebrio (Project management platform). A product guy at heart who loves to write about project management, business analysis, and design.


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Sources:
¹https://content.thriveglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Thriving-in-the-New-Normal-March-2020-Thrive-Global.pdf
²https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2020/04/04/what-7-studies-show-about-social-distancing-and-remote-working-during-covid-19/#3805924b757e
³https://www.xebrio.com/blog/how-to-manage-remote-teams
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