What is virtual team building?

Virtual team building can be anything that brings your people together in an online setting. Even though many people are now working remotely, it’s important that businesses still try to capture a sense of team and togetherness. So, while traditional team-building activities that you’d normally do in the office aren’t available, there are several ways to bring people together and create a connection.

Being physically isolated from co-workers can sometimes be a lonely experience. Some people love it, but others would prefer having those opportunities to be together in person, build relationships and form bonds with colleagues. Generally, teams that have good personal relationships and mutual respect are more likely to achieve good results.

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Why is team building important?

Team building isn’t just about doing a fun activity and getting out of work for a little while (even if some employees see it that way!). The idea behind team building is to build connections between team members, and there’s usually some learning to come out of the activities too. For example, many team building activities for work require an element of problem-solving. So, it gets people working on their communication skills. Team building also usually focuses on the premise that you need to work together to achieve results.

When we talk about virtual team building, there’s also an important social aspect to it. If people have been away from the office for a while, a disconnect can occur between colleagues. This can often lead to poor performance, worse team results and even staff disengagement. Virtual team building activities can help bridge those gaps and keep social connections alive.

Things to consider when planning virtual team building

When you’re planning how to bring people together for a bit of virtual workplace bonding, here are some things to consider.

When will the activity occur?

You need to choose a time that suits everybody, particularly if the activity takes place in real-time. Real-time activities are great for bringing everyone together, however, there are also activities that allow people to participate at a time that works for them. Remember, not all team building activities need to involve everybody being together and having a chat.

What’s the purpose?

There are usually two main types of team-building activities you’d consider. Those that are just for fun, and those that have the benefit of improving how you work. In the real world, you might consider going out for a game of mini-golf to just be for fun. But something like LEGO® Serious Play is fun but has elements of teamwork and problem-solving embedded in the session.

How often will team-building take place?

You may have smaller team-building activities that occur every day, while others might only occur once a month. A fun daily activity is a good way to keep people focused and engaged, while longer activities may be better as an irregular occurrence.

The top virtual team-building ideas for remote workers

If you’re struggling with corporate team building activities because people are working remotely, this list should give you some great ideas.

Virtual lunches

Let’s start with the most obvious team-building of all. Team lunches! Having a team lunch is something we take for granted when everybody is in the office together, but in the era of remote work, it’s a lot less common. So, why not take your team lunches virtual?

All you need is a video conferencing tool, which most people have access to if working remotely. People can share their homemade lunches, or you can even go out and visit your favourite restaurant and café to make it feel a bit more special. With so much food to talk about, you should generate some good connections and conversation that isn’t work-related.

Information sharing or learning circles

This is the type of session that you might decide to hold once a fortnight or once a month. You can choose how long you want the sessions to go for, but the basic idea is that somebody takes centre stage to run a presentation regarding something that’s important to them. The great thing is, you can decide if you want it to be work-related or not.

For example, someone might be keen to share their love of fishing, and the other team members might learn a thing or two. Alternatively, one of your staff members who is great at time management might do a presentation on how to prioritise tasks. These types of sessions can be fun, but also valuable for creating an ongoing learning culture.

.gif battles

This one certainly has no real work-related benefit and is completely for fun. It’s a cool little game that you can run daily, and all you really need is a collaborative work tool like Trello. Create a board with a space for each day. Every day will have a different theme, and team members are encouraged to find a .gif related to that theme. They post it on the board, and everybody gets to vote on the best submission.

You may not necessarily learn anything or improve your capability, but you’ll definitely have some fun and laughs with your colleagues!

Online quizzes

We’ve all seen online quizzes before, and you can probably take the results for most of them with a grain of salt. There are more light-hearted ones like ‘Which Star Wars character are you?’, through to more professional quizzes like strength finders. So, you can use this type of activity as a more meaningful team-building exercise, or just keep it fun with everybody completing a silly quiz.

For the more serious tests, it’s a great idea to jump on a video call and discuss people’s results as a team. For example, share your strengths and talk about how those strengths contribute to team success. For the silly quizzes, you can just share results on a Trello board or a chat channel and have a bit of a laugh!

Self user guides

Another activity that can be taken as a bit of fun, or perhaps something more serious. Some companies have benefited greatly from allowing people to create user guides or manuals for themselves. The basic idea is to create a presentation on how you like to work, your strengths, areas of expertise, weaknesses, things that bug you and much more.

Depending on the team culture, this can be taken as a bit of fun, or it can be an extremely valuable way to get to know your colleagues and how best to work together.

Set up a social chat channel

If you’re using collaborative software such as Slack, there’s no reason it has to be all business. Simply set up a dedicated chat channel for social discussions, and people can jump in and follow the feed any time they have a spare moment. People might talk about what they did on the weekend, something they saw on TV last night, or just start general conversations about any topics.

Icebreaker questions

Finally, we don’t want to forget the most obvious team building activity of all. Icebreakers are usually used at the start of meetings or training sessions to get everybody talking and involved. It might be something as simple as going around the room and asking everybody to answer a question about themselves.

This can still be done in virtual meetings, but you can even make it a bit of a daily ritual. Throw out a question for everybody to answer at the start of the day, ideally on a chat channel or similar. It can be a mixture of serious and fun, and it’s a great way to continuously learn more about your colleagues.

As with all things work-related, you need to consider all team members before planning activities. It’s important that everybody can participate so that nobody feels left out. Most of the suggestions above are pretty inclusive, and of course, people should have the option of sitting out if they feel uncomfortable. However, since most of these ideas are harmless and fun, you’ll find that most people can get involved and have a bit of fun with their colleagues even if they’re separated by distance.

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