56 Fun, Easy, and Effective Team-Building Games for Remote Workers

Smartsheet Contributor Becky Simon on Apr 17, 2020

Team building can be challenging for remote or virtual teams. In this article, use the quick-sort tool to choose from over 50 team-building games for remote workers, and download free game templates and other resources. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a sorting tool to find the right activity to meet your needs, a list of the 56 best team-building activities and online games for remote teams, and free, downloadable templates, including a customized bingo card template.


56 Best Team-Building Games for Remote Workers

Below you will find all the team-building exercises grouped by primary objective. Use the drop-down menus to sort activities by objective, time, group size, or several other qualities.

 

Vacation Exercise

Objective: Bonding, Communication Group Size: Good for pairs, up to 10 Time: 40 Minutes Materials needed: None Notes:Minimal Set-Up, Inexpensive

Divide the group into pairs and tell them they will hold a dialogue following two patterns in virtual breakout rooms. In the first, one partner begins by saying where they want to travel on vacation. The second person responds with a statement that starts, “Yes, but ….” Continue for about five minutes like this, and then switch places. In the second pattern, the response is, “Yes, and ….” Continue the conversation this way, and give each person a chance to lead. Bring the group back together, and ask what differences they felt between the two conversations. Almost universally, people feel less tension in the “yes, and …” conversations. Ask the team what they can do to hold more of their daily conversations in the “yes, and …” format.

The Onion

Objective: Bonding, Communication, Values Group Size: 4-10 Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-Up, Inexpensive

Start by drawing a circle on your virtual whiteboard. Divide it into wedges (one for each team member), and then write a theme, such as growth or service, above the circle. Give participants a few minutes to write their interpretation of the keyword, and send these to the facilitator. Fill in the responses in the slices and lead a group discussion about people’s different interpretations. This activity opens dialogue about your culture and offers insight into individuals on the team.

Best and Worst

Objective: Icebreaker, Communication, Bonding, Learning about each other Group Size: Good for pairs, up to 10, 10 to 50 Time: One hour Materials needed: None Notes: Minimal Set-Up, Fast

Each team member writes a "best" question and a "worst" question. Encourage lighthearted questions such as "What's the worst meal you have ever had?" or "What's the best flavor of ice cream?" Participants submit their questions to the facilitator via email or chat, and the facilitator then creates a "best" and a "worst" collection. Team members choose to answer a “best” or a “worst” question, which the facilitator randomly draws. Go around the group. This is an effective icebreaker and conversation starter. Team members learn little-known likes, dislikes, and life experiences about coworkers.

Deluxe Offsite Retreats

Objective: Bonding, Values, Fun, Building Teamwork Group Size: Up to 10, 10 to 50 Time: Multiple days Materials needed: None (supplied by retreat company) Notes: Real-time, Wow Factor

Remote teams get a lot out of coming together in person. If budget allows, arrange a team retreat where everyone gathers face to face for a day or two of team-building. Potential venues include resorts, campgrounds, hotels, and retreat facilities. Specialized event planners offer retreat packages that they can customize to your needs. These can include elaborate, city-wide scavenger hunts, sport competitions, and service activities. These retreats offer remote teammates the chance to build relationships with colleagues while having fun. You can strengthen team bonds, and the benefits carry over when individuals return to their home bases.

Question Master

Objective: Bonding, Values Group Size: Any Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: Questions Notes:Fast, Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up

One person serves as the question master and poses a thought-provoking question, such as, “When was the most difficult period of your life?” or “If you could choose a different career, what would it be?” Go around the team, and let each person answer. You can also have the team submit questions ahead of the meeting to add another layer of participation by the group members. This activity helps teammates learn about each other, promotes mutual trust, and strengthens group bonds.

Life Highlights

Objective: Bonding Group Size: Good for pairs, any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Minimal Set-Up, Fast, Inexpensive

Start by asking everyone to shut their eyes for a minute and recall the best times in their lives, including personal and professional high points. Then tell the group that they have to cut this down to a 30-second highlight reel. Go around the group, so that each person can share what made the cut for their highlight reel and why. Participants gain understanding of colleagues’ lives and experiences, and the activity aids in bonding and communication.

Three Truths and a Lie

Objective: Icebreaker, Learning about each other Group Size: At least 4, any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: Pens, paper Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-Up, Inexpensive, Remote Teams

Ask each team member to write down three true things about themselves and one thing that is credible but false. Go around the group, and share the lists. Have the audience vote on which statement they believe is a lie. Then the speaker reveals the answer. This exercise works as an icebreaker, combats preconceived ideas colleagues have about one another, makes people aware of commonalities, and lightens the mood.

Karaoke

Objective: Comfort Zone, Bonding Group Size: Any Time: One hour Materials needed: Music tracks Notes: Fast, Wow Factor, Minimal Set Up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Invite staff to participate in karaoke via videoconference, either by themselves or in a group. Find karaoke (instrumental) tracks online, via an online streaming service or as a for-purchase download. Circulate a list of songs in advance to give team members a chance to prepare. For a twist or for team members who don’t want to sing in front of others, try lip dubbing. For this game, pick popular song tracks that include the artist singing, and have team members synch their lips to the words. Karaoke and lip dubbing are great activities that can help get your team members out of their comfort zones. It allows team members to show their personality and talents, while also fostering cooperation and team building. This activity helps create memories and friendships that benefit team productivity and cohesiveness.

Push-Up Ritual

Objective: Values, Just For Fun, Bonding Group Size: Any size Time: 5 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Minimal Set Up, Fun, Wow Factor, Remote

Set a time for everyone to do push-ups simultaneously. This can be a daily or weekly feature, or it can be tied to regularly occurring deadlines and times when you want to amp up the spirit, such as before a big group presentation. You can have everyone do the same number of push-ups, if appropriate. Or let each person set their own number with a goal of increasing the amount. Play a power song to inject more energy into the activity. This activity lifts morale, gives everyone a mental break, and strengthens camaraderie. For asynchronous teams, you can set staggered times for push-ups and have members check off their completion on a shared list. To keep it interesting, you can do challenges or competitions, but remember to keep the spirit lighthearted.

Trivia

Objective: Fun, Bonding, Teamwork Group Size: Any Time: One hour Materials needed: Trivia questions, electronic answer and score sheets, some kind of buzzer Notes: Fast, Minimal Set Up, Inexpensive

For a trivia contest, team members can compete as individuals or small groups, depending on the size of your team. Prepare by compiling trivia questions in various categories, such as sports, current events, and pop culture. You can also include company history and values. Figure out a way for participants to hit a virtual buzzer when they are ready to answer. This could be by typing “x” in the chat window or blowing a whistle. Keep score, and award prizes for the most correct answers. The benefits of this activity include bonding, fun, healthy competition, and shared knowledge.

Charades

Objective: Fun, Bonding, Communication Group Size: No limit, but a minimum of two Time: One hour Materials needed: Charades topic ideas Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up, Remote Teams

Split the group into teams and have the teams take turns. One person pantomimes a “mystery word” for their team while the team tries to guess the answer within a set period of time. Every correct answer wins a point. At the end, the team with the most points wins. This game allows your team to relax and have fun with each other, and it works on communication skills and helps foster a positive work environment. It can also be amended to be industry specific or goal- or value-oriented, depending on the team’s goals and objectives. You can use free phone apps to keep time and provide topics, or use your own timer and an online word generator. To get going quickly, download the list below of charades words customized for remote business teams.

Remote team Charades Word List

Download Remote Team Charades Word List

Word | PDF  

Copycat

Objective: Communication, Problem Solving, Leadership Group Size: Good for pairs, any size Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour Materials needed: Pairs of identical objects Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up

Divide participants into pairs. Before the session, either send each individual in a pair the same objects or ask them to each obtain the same objects. Use common office items, such as a cup, a paper clip, a thumbtack, or a marker. On a videoconference, have each pair turn their cameras off. Tell the first partner (“the architect”) to build a structure with the items provided in about a minute. When time is up, tell the pairs that the other partner (“the builder”) will now try to build a copy of that structure. Give the pairs two minutes — the builder attempts to build the structure based on the architect’s directions, without asking any clarifying questions. When time is up, turn cameras back on, view the results, and trade places. This time, allow questions. At the end, have all the pairs come together and discuss questions such as: In which round were the structures most similar? Which strategies were most helpful? How did you feel when you could not ask questions? Did you notice any changes to your listening or focus during the activity?

Change Timeline

Objective: Bonding, Communication, Values, Learning about each other, Leadership Group Size: Good for pairs, any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up

This activity is especially helpful in times of change and uncertainty, or when a team needs a boost to tackle a major challenge. Ask each person to recall five major milestones in their personal or work lives (examples include marriages, deaths, promotions, or new product introductions). Then everyone draws a timeline of their lives, marking an “x” when each of the five changes occurred. Split the group into pairs and have them share one of the changes. (This ensures no one has to share anything too sensitive.) In the chat, post questions for them to answer, such as: What made the change difficult? What helped you successfully cope with the change? How did you feel before, during, and after? What other changes were going on in your life at the same time, and how did they affect your ability to navigate change? Then bring the group back together and discuss the experience. Many groups remark that they felt closer to their partners because they realized they had experiences and feelings in common. Explore the compound effects of multiple changes. If you are currently in a period of upheaval, help group members realize they have successfully navigated major change in the past.

Virtual Bonfire

Objective: Bonding, Just for Fun Group Size: Any size Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour Materials needed: Supplies sent to or obtained by each team member in advance Notes: Wow-factor, Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up

About 10 days before the activity date, make sure each team member has a small candle, matches, toothpicks, and ingredients to make s’mores. Have the group meet on videoconference at the end of the work day and welcome everyone. You can introduce the activity as an opportunity to bond with colleagues, share appreciation, and recap highs and lows of the team’s work in the recent period. Have everyone light their candles so they can be seen in the videoconference. Then each person toasts marshmallows using a toothpick and the candle to make s’mores. Keep the audio open, so people can chat and joke. After everyone gets settled, you can tell stories, swap jokes, sing songs, and invite talent demonstrations. This makes a great team ritual.

Mystery Person

Objective: Bonding, Just for Fun, Learning about each other, Icebreaker Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up, Fast

Before the session, ask each team member to send you an unusual or fun personal fact. Compile the facts into a quiz, and ask team members to guess who each fact belongs to. You can do this live as a group (with team members discussing and guessing as you go along), or have each person complete the quiz individually. For asynchronous teams, ask participants to submit their answers. Afterward, reveal the identities. The benefits of this activity include bonding, learning about one another, and having fun.

Name that Song

Objective: Icebreaker, Just for Fun Group Size: Any size Time: 5 minutes Materials needed: Music Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Play 15 to 30 seconds of a pop song and have team members guess the song name and artist(s). This invariably lightens the mood and engages the group, and it can be a great intermission during a long meeting to re-energize the team. You can also use it as an icebreaker.

Personal Quiz

Objective: Just for Fun, Learning about each other, Icebreaker Group Size: Good for pairs, up to 10, 10 to 50 Time: 5 to 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-Up

Before the meeting, email the group one or more thought-provoking questions, such as: Who would you most like to meet, living or dead? If you could travel anywhere without worrying about time or cost, where would you go? If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Have everyone send in their answers. In the meeting, read answers and ask the group to guess the identity of the author. Then have the author explain or comment on their choice. This activity sheds light on personal interests and values, and it spurs thought-provoking conversations that increase mutual understanding.

Lunch and Learn

Objective: Just for Fun, Practical Learning, Bonding Group Size: Any size Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Wow-factor, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Line up an expert to share information or a skill with your team via videoconference while they eat lunch. The topics can be relevant to your business or just for fun. If your team works in different time zones, you can record the session for members to watch on their lunch breaks in their own time zone. Solicit suggestions for categories from your team (common options include cooking and baking, storytelling, personal finance, comedy, travelogues, meditation, and crafts). Some teams have tried origami and learning Morse code. You can even hold ongoing classes, such as language learning. This activity builds common interests and skills, offers a mental break, and provides fun.

Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Objective: Problem Solving, Just for Fun, Icebreaker, Bonding Group Size 10 to 50, any size Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour Materials needed: Materials specific to activities in the hunt Notes: Minimal Set-up Inexpensive

Give everyone a list of objects to gather within a time limit, either individually or in teams. Make sure to choose some unusual and funny items to make it interesting. You can also use categories like something red, something that flies, or something broken. Reconvene and have the players share what they found. Name a winner and award prizes, if you want. This activity is fun and memorable, and it promotes bonding.

Wellness Challenge

Objective: Practical Learning, Bonding Group Size: Any size Time: Varies Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Inexpensive, Wow-factor, Can become daily/weekly ritual

You can encourage camaraderie and help team members become healthier with a wellness challenge. While participation should be optional, you can make everyone feel comfortable participating by choosing the challenge goal strategically. First, poll team members for suggestions. You can decide on a collective habit for improvement or let each person choose their own goal. However, do not select a goal that might be too difficult or intimidating, such as running a marathon — goals such as reaching a step goal or drinking a certain amount of water work well, especially if individuals target their own level of improvement from their current baseline. If the team needs any equipment to track progress, either provide it or make sure they can do it with an inexpensive option. Create a tracking spreadsheet where each participant checks off every day that he or she completes the targeted activity. Run the challenge for one to three months (focus tends to wane over a longer period). At the end of the challenge, award recognition ribbons or prizes for categories, such as most improved and most consistent. The benefits of this activity include greater camaraderie, team bonding, and health.

Photo Sharing

Objective: Just for Fun, Learning about each other, Bonding Group Size: Pairs, up to 10, 10 to 50 Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

By email, ask each team member to take a picture of the same object, such as their home office, coffee cup, or front door, and either send it to you or post it in a shared board or chat channel. Then challenge the team to guess who took each picture. You can do this in real time together in a videoconference or have each team member in an asynchronous team submit their answer to you. If you are doing this activity live, ask each person to talk a bit about his or her photo and what it shows. This is a great way for remote teams to get a glimpse into each other’s lives, break the ice, and encourage bonding. You can make this activity a regular monthly or quarterly ritual.

Online Games

Objective: Communication, Just for Fun, Learning about each other Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: Online game application Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

There are many fun games for remote teams online. Some are purpose-built for business, such as QuizBreaker, which runs an automated version of the personal quiz activity described here for company teams. Others are online games that can be played by anyone; these include Skribbl, Fibbage, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, and Words with Friends. In addition, many table games have been converted for online play. To get started easily, choose free, browser-based games. Some games also lend themselves to screen sharing. Lastly, you can use the virtual whiteboard feature on your videoconference app to play Pictionary. Teams report that playing games together can build communication, teamwork, leadership, creativity, and more, depending on the particular game. Another variation is add-on games for Slack, like Donut and Aloha that randomly pair two team members and encourage them to get to know one another through video chat and other interaction.

Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship

Objective: Just for Fun, Icebreaker Group Size: Any size,at least 4 Time: 5 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-up, Inexpensive, Can become daily/weekly ritual

This is a great icebreaker or game for re-energizing a long meeting. Pick two people to play rock, paper, scissors on videoconference. The winner (of two out of three matches) then advances to play someone else. Over time, you can crown a winner of your entire team. Though this game is simple and a little silly, it is a great stress reliever and injects humor into the day.

Coffee Break

Objective: Icebreaker, Communication, Learning about each other, Bonding Group Size: Any size, pairs Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-up, Inexpensive, Can become daily/weekly ritual

One of the biggest challenges for remote teams is the absence of casual and serendipitous interactions with coworkers. Schedule a 10- or 15-minute virtual coffee or watercooler break for staff to gather on videoconference for informal chatting. If you’re the boss, be mindful of whether your participation might chill the conversation, and opt out if that’s the case.

Human Bingo

Objective: Bonding, Just for Fun, Learning about each other Group Size: Any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: Pens, paper Notes: Can become daily/weekly ritual, Inexpensive

While you can play old-fashioned bingo, a variation helps remote teams get to know one another better, promotes bonding, and adds laughter to the day. First, create a list of attributes such as “wears a beard” or “plays a musical instrument.” Using these, make bingo cards — no two should be exactly the same. Distribute the cards via email to your team. Gather online, then call out the attributes. Players mark a square if they share that attribute with someone else. Individuals can message each other to see if they have an attribute in common. You can end the game after someone gets three in a row, or keep going until a player fills the entire card. Use this bingo card template to create a set of cards customized to your team.

Remote Team Bingo Card

Download Remote Team Bingo Card Template - Excel 

Movie or Book Club

Objective: Bonding, Just for Fun, Learning about each other Group Size: Any size Time: 2 hours Materials needed: Streaming movie service Notes: Can become daily/weekly ritual, Minimal Set-up, Fast, Inexpensive

Team members can relax together and get to know one another better with virtual movie nights and book clubs. With a movie event, encourage everyone to get their own popcorn and stream a classic movie via videoconference. Encourage people to share their reactions in chat. You can make this a regular occurence and build a list of movies team members want to watch. With a virtual book club, participants choose a book and read it on their own. Then they gather online and discuss, just as they would in person. Depending on your purpose, you could select a title relevant to your business. But if your goal is team bonding, pick a nonwork title.

PowerPoint Improv

Objective: Just for Fun, Communication, Learning about each other, Bonding Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: PowerPoint slides Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-up, Inexpensive, Can become daily/weekly ritual

To get your team laughing, gather random slides from various presentations and mash them up into a deck. Then on a team videoconference, ask for volunteers to improvise their best faux-serious, five-minute presentation based on the slides without seeing them in advance. The results are often hilarious. Of course, don’t pick any slides with sensitive information on them or allow the exercise to make fun of important company initiatives

Bucket List Challenge

Objective: Just for Fun, Communication, Learning about each other, Bonding, Icebreaker, Comfort Zone Group Size: Any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Fast, Minimal Set-up, Inexpensive, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Before gathering the group online, confirm with participants that they are comfortable sharing the top five items on their bucket lists. If everyone agrees, have each person share their list with the group via videoconference. Individuals can talk about why the item is meaningful and the plans they have to realize their ambition. Teammates respond by saying whether they share any of the same dreams. Encourage any people who share bucket list items to work together and find ways to achieve these goals. This activity sheds light on individuals’ dreams and deeply held goals. Team members gain insight into what inspires passion in their colleagues. For a variation of this activity, create a bucket list for the team. This list can include business goals or fun things that the team would like to do together, such as a fitness challenge.

Articulate

Objective: Problem Solving, Communication, Icebreaker Group Size: Up to 10, 10 to 50 Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: Lists of words

Create a list of 10 words for each participant, shared via email. When the group gathers online, give each person one minute to define and describe the words on their list to the group without using the words themselves. Also, don’t say “sounds like” or “starts with.” The team member who had the most words correctly guessed by the group is the winner. This activity is an effective icebreaker, and it is good for lightening the mood, getting people to think on their feet, and spurring creativity.

Pixel Art Face-Off

Objective: Problem Solving, Communication, Bonding, Just for Fun Group Size: Any size Time: 1 hour Materials needed: Template Notes: Inexpensive, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Find a picture that you want to use for this friendly team competition. Pick one that is not too complex to ensure the activity can be completed in an hour or less. Make sure the image is not covered by copyright or that you have rights to use it. (If you are looking online, you can filter images by “labeled for reuse.”) After you choose your image, identify the colors in it. Build a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet in which you assign a number to each color. By typing the number in a cell, you turn the cell the assigned color. Break your team into small groups, give them a copy of the spreadsheet and the source picture, then send them into virtual breakout rooms. This activity spurs creativity, bonding, and problem solving. To get going quickly, download this premade pixel art template, which has an example and the colors already formatted for your team to re-create the artwork.

Either Or

Objective: Learning about each other, Bonding, Just for Fun Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: Questions Notes: Inexpensive, Fast, Minimal Set-up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

This activity is a virtual variation of the old-fashioned game Would You Rather. Choose a few questions and have the team answer them and discuss their reasons. Depending on the questions, your discussion may be silly or more serious.
This game gives team members a chance to know each other better and bond.
Here are some sample ways to fill in the prompt, “Which would you choose, either … or … ?”

  • Live where it is always hot or always cold?
  • Work 60 hours a week and retire at 50, or work 40 hours a week and retire at 65?
  • Travel back in time and meet your ancestors or go to the future and meet your descendants?
  • Make a phone call or send a text?
  • Be the most popular person or the most intelligent?
  • End war or hunger?
  • Stay in a luxury hotel or camp in a remote but beautiful wilderness?
  • Be an adult forever or a child forever?
  • Hear good news or bad news first?
  • Be 4-foot-2-inches or 8-foot-2-inches?
  • Be stuck in an elevator or on a boat?
  • Be bored or stressed at work?
  • Commute two hours to your dream job or five minutes to a boring job?
  • Be the oldest or the youngest person on the team?
  • Solve the company’s biggest problem but no one knows you were responsible or get lots of recognition for doing your job?
  • Be always late or always early?
  • Give up your phone or your lunch break?

 

Baby Picture

Objective: Just for Fun, Bonding, Learning about each other, Icebreaker Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: Pictures Notes: Inexpensive, Fast

Ask each team member to submit a baby picture. Then in your meeting, ask the team to identify who is in each photo. If you can meet in real time, do a big reveal together and have people score their responses. Otherwise, share the answers, and ask staff to report the number they got correct. Announce the winners. This fun activity provides an opportunity to connect and learn about one another.

Gift Exchange

Objective: Learning about each other, Bonding, Just for Fun, Appreciation Group Size: Any size, good for pairs Time: Varies Materials needed: None Notes: Wow Factor

Hold a gift exchange to mark a special occasion or just for fun. If you hold it around a holiday, be sure not to associate it with any particular religion or culture. Make sure everyone feels comfortable participating, regardless of their background or where they live, but also announce that anyone is free to opt out. To get started, divide the team into pairs or match a giver with a recipient and keep the giver’s identity secret. Set a budget that is easily affordable for everyone on the team. In fact, setting a low budget encourages more creativity and often results in funny gag gifts. Encourage everyone to gather information about their recipient if they do not know the person well. Find out their hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Announce a date for the gift opening. Allow enough time for packages to be mailed, although you can also send electronic gifts such as music, gift cards, online classes, and the like. If your group is relatively small, you can do the gift opening online together and reveal the giver of each gift. A gift exchange is a festive way for remote teams to celebrate, and the activity helps teammates bond and know each other better.

10 Things

Objective: Just for Fun, Bonding, Learning about each other, Icebreaker Group Size: Good for pairs, any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up

Divide your team either into pairs or small groups. Match people who do not know each other well. Send them into virtual breakout rooms and ask them to compile a list of 10 things they have in common with their partners. If you want, you can restrict this to work-related information. After 10 or 15 minutes, bring everyone back together and share the lists. The activity sparks conversation and laughs, and it helps remote staff to know each other better. The exercise also promotes creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and fast thinking. Teams in different time zones can do this offline over 48 hours by having partners discuss via email.

Group Calendar

Objective: Just for Fun, Bonding Group Size: Any size Time:Varies Materials needed: Electronic calendar Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Create a shared electronic calendar for the group, and dedicate it to personal and social connections. Enter all team members’ birthdays and work anniversaries. In addition, enter any fun group events and silly holidays, such as a virtual coffee break, movie night, or National Bagel Day. Only include activities that are open to all team members. Ask individuals to put fun and meaningful personal events on their own calendars and then invite them to the shared calendar. That way, everyone will know when Jim runs a 10K or Heather picks up her new car. Make sure everyone subscribes to the shared calendar. The reminders are good conversation starters and prompt more bonding among teammates.

Do Some Good

Objective: Just for Fun, Bonding, Values, Problem Solving Group Size: Any size Time:Varies Materials needed: Varies Notes: Wow Factor, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Engaging your team in an effort to support a charitable cause strengthens bonds, reinforces team values, and improves morale. Remote teams may find it difficult to participate in live events such as fundraising runs and awareness-building walks unless they are held simultaneously in many locations as some are. But there are still plenty of ways to get involved in charity work. Once you select a cause, either at the company or team level, brainstorm ways to support the chosen organization. Ideally, the group will have a branch everywhere that team members live. You can organize contests, raffles, and games with entry fees, and donate this money to the charity. Hold a day of volunteering and have staff take photos of what they are doing to share. In an “acts of kindness” scavenger hunt, each team member gets challenges to do good deeds in their local community, such as volunteering, donating to a coat drive, writing letters to military personnel overseas, walking dogs at a shelter, and collecting food for food banks. Alternatively, select a project that can be done by each team member in his or her location, such as putting together packages to cheer up children in the hospital, backpacks with nonperishable food for kids in need, or comfort kits for people affected by a natural disaster. Make sure your staff works from instructions provided by the charitable organization. Each person on the team should take photos of their effort and share them with the group. Recognize those who do the most, and tally the team’s total contribution.

Gif Battles

Objective: Just for Fun, Bonding, Icebreaker Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes or less Materials needed: Shared electronic board Notes: Inexpensive, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual, Minimal Set-up

gifbattle.zone

Aliens Have Landed

Objective: Communication, Values, Bonding Group Size: Any size Time: 30 minutes or less Materials needed: Material for drawing or access to digital images Notes: Inexpensive, Fast, Minimal Set-up

Gather your group and tell them to picture that aliens have landed on Earth. The aliens want to learn about your business, but they don’t understand spoken or written language. So you have to convey your company in five pictures or symbols. Each team member spends a few minutes drawing five images or selecting them from online picture galleries that convey your business and culture. Share and discuss these images, identifying commonalities and differences.

Swedish Story Improv

Objective: Communication, Just for Fun, Icebreaker Group Size: Any size Time: 15 minutes or less Materials needed: None or index cards Notes: Inexpensive, Fast, Minimal Set-up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Group participants into teams of four. Each group assigns the roles of storyteller, audience, and two word suggesters. The storyteller starts to tell a story facing the audience. The word suggesters randomly call out a word or phrase, and the storyteller must immediately incorporate them into the story. If you want to play this game together, you can write new words on index cards. The storyteller relates the story to the whole group on a videoconference, and the facilitator can call out words from the cards. This activity gets people laughing and cultivates communication skills and agile thinking.

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Objective: Communication, Just for Fun, Values, Bonding Group Size:Good for pairs, any size Time: 5 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Fast, Minimal Set-up

In this activity, divide into pairs, and give each pair a story prompt such as “on my last vacation” or “when we were competing for a big sale.” Have the first person begin telling the story with one sentence that starts with “fortunately.” The second person takes over, continuing the story with one sentence that begins with “unfortunately.” Continue until the story naturally ends or for up to five minutes. Here’s an example: “Fortunately, when we were competing for the big sale, we had just updated our sales playbook. Unfortunately, not all the team members were familiar with it. Fortunately, the account manager realized this before anyone contacted the client. Unfortunately, the client was only accepting RFPs.” This exercise builds rapport, encourages resilience and problem solving, and reinforces that every challenge presents an opportunity.

Deserted Island

Objective: Communication, Values, Bonding Group Size:Good for pairs, any size Time: 30 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up

Divide the group into teams and ask each team to come up with a list of 10 items that they would most want if stranded on a deserted island. You can set up the activity by adding details, such as the climate and the length of time they might be stranded. Each team debates the possibilities, and then finalizes its list. The teams then present their lists to each other, explaining their reasoning. As an option, you can also create a master list with the most popular suggestions from the team lists. This is an icebreaker that helps teammates get to know each other, spurs creativity and problem solving, and encourages cooperation.

Googlism

Objective: Just for Fun Group Size:Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast

In the “just for fun” category, the website Googlism.com cross-references search results to find out what Google thinks of you. You can enter your name or places and products. The answers are sometimes accurate, but mostly goofy. Gather the team, and have everyone enter his or her name. Each person reads out the top five answers and reveals which are correct and which are nonsensical. If you want to make this more business-focused, enter your company or product name. You may get some insights.

Mission Mad Libs

Objective: Values, Bonding, Communication Group Size:Any size Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour Materials needed: Mission statement structure Notes: Inexpensive, Wow Factor

In the format of Mad Libs, write a mission statement for your team, leaving key words blank. Either as individuals or small groups, ask the team to complete the mission statement, aiming for the best and most compelling version possible. For example, your blank version might look like this: “Drawing on (quality or beliefs), we (activity, contribution, or impact) to (who we benefit or serve) because (reason or motivation for what we do) and (statement of how your team distinguishes itself or what you want your customers to think of you).” Come together and share everyone’s versions, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. This activity increases shared vision, team unity, and clarity of values.

Virtual Top Chef

Objective: Just for Fun Group Size:Any size Time: More than 1 hour Materials needed: None for the facilitator; Each participant obtains food Notes: Can become daily/weekly ritual, Wow Factor

Food is a great common denominator, so activities tied to cooking typically generate high engagement. For an easy entry, create a dedicated chat channel for team members to post recipes, pictures of dishes they have made, tips, and questions. Monthly challenges are also popular. Set a theme such as an ingredient or type of cuisine, and ask all participants to make a dish based on the theme. Then post photos or videos in a shared online space, and the team votes on a winner. For the most fun, hold a Top Chef-style competition over lunch. Select a date, set a theme, and have everyone meet online at lunchtime. Each person describes and displays their lunch, a winner is crowned, and everyone eats together. Some options for themes include healthiest, least healthy, best sandwich, ingredient, color, cuisine type, and color.

Costume Contest

Objective: Just for Fun, Bonding, ComfortZone Group Size:Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: Costumes Notes: Can become daily/weekly ritual, Wow Factor

On Halloween or another special occasion, hold a virtual costume contest. Encourage creativity and fun while reminding participants to remain tasteful. On the day, have each person show and explain their costume on a videoconference. Remote teams can submit pictures to a shared channel or document.

Virtual Dance Party

Objective: Just for Fun, ComfortZone Group Size:Any size Time: 5 minutes Materials needed: Music Notes: Can become daily/weekly ritual, Inexpensive, Fast, Minimal Set-up

Set a regular time for your team to blow off steam with a dance party. You can even pick a theme song and use it regularly. Have everyone join on videoconference and rock out as you play the song. Asynchronous teams can have participants play the song individually and use the record feature to share video clips with colleagues.

Me Too

Objective: Bonding, Communication Group Size:Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast

This activity helps foster trust among teammates. In the first round, ask a team member to say something true such as, “I like baking,” or “I play ice hockey.” Anyone else in the group for whom this is also true says, “Me, too.” You can also simply raise hands on a videoconference. Continue doing this for a few minutes. In the second round, participants say something true about themselves that they feel no one else is likely to share. Sometimes, individuals are often surprised to find someone does share this statement, which raises awareness of interconnectedness. Even if no one speaks up, people become more comfortable being vulnerable with their teammates. In the third round, speakers say something true about themselves that they feel others are likely to share, while avoiding the obvious. You can help by giving an example such as, “I get nervous before speaking in front of large groups.” Afterward, talk about the experience, and ask questions: “How did this experience make you feel? Was it hard speaking first? Were there any surprises?”

Hack Day

Objective: Bonding, Communication, Problem Solving Group Size:Any size Time: More than 1 hour Materials needed: Varies Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast

Inspired by the hackathons that programmers hold, this activity gathers your team for a day of brainstorming and focused effort on a business challenge. You can select anything relevant to your team, whether it is solving a long-standing quality issue, developing a new product, or coming up with a new way to do something. A popular way to organize a hack day is to divide the team into subgroups. Ask each to come up with an idea, develop it as much as possible within the time allotted, and then present it to the full team. Participants rank the solutions. You can develop the winning ideas after the hack day. This exercise inspires creativity, teamwork, leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and problem solving. Team members appreciate feeling that their ideas have impact, and you can significantly improve your business.

Yoga

Objective: Bonding, Just for Fun Group Size:Any size Time: 15 to 30 minutes Materials needed: Yoga leader Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Help your team relax, improve circulation, and stretch out the kinks with a short yoga session. You can make this a ritual. Pick an easy set of yoga moves or stretches. If you have someone on your team with some experience, they can lead the session. Make sure the moves are accessible for all levels, require only a small amount of floor space and can be done in work clothes. Chair yoga also works well. You can use a conference call or videoconference to create a shared experience for your remote team. Yoga is a proven mindfulness technique and can lead to long-term improvements in focus, listening skills, and empathy.

Remote Olympics

Objective: Bonding, Just for Fun Group Size:Any size Time: 1 hour or more Materials needed: Supplies Notes: Inexpensive, Wow Factor, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Fans of The Office will remember the Dunder-Mifflin office Olympics and its zany games like “flonkerton.” Get in on the fun with your remote staff via videoconference, or have asynchronous teams submit results in different time zones. Divide the group into teams, and have the teams select names or countries. Then draft a schedule that includes time for a grand opening (bonus points for playing the Olympic theme song and having someone hold up an Olympic torch) and medal ceremony. Figure out a scoring system and prizes for the top three teams. Come up with a slate of activities that work for remote colleagues. Some ideas include chugging a glass of water for time, rubber band archery, pencil javelin, synchronized chair swiveling to music, and rock, paper, scissors. Hosting a remote Olympics will generate laughter, teamwork, communication, and bonding.

Team Emblem

Objective: Bonding, Values Group Size:Any size Time: 1 hour or more Materials needed: Video whiteboard Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up

Hold a videoconference and have your team design an emblem or crest. Start off by talking about what you want to symbolize, including team values and aspirations. Using a shared whiteboard, start sketching the team’s ideas. You may want to include a motto. The group can refine the idea over several short sessions. The exercise gets the team talking about their shared purpose and the values they want to embody, and the activity forges a closer team identity. When everyone is happy with the design, you can have an artist do a final rendering, and then make T-shirts or other team gear with the emblem.

Remote Recognition

Objective: Bonding, Appreciation Group Size:Any size Time: 15 minutes or less Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Remote staff often feel that no one notices their work, so it’s important to make an effort to recognize and appreciate the contributions of your team members. There are many ways to do this: you can simply email the group calling out a team member’s accomplishment, or use sophisticated recognition tools that incorporate social elements and automate congratulations on birthdays and work anniversaries. One of the best ways to recognize employees is to start meetings with a round robin in which anyone can highlight their own, or a colleague’s, recent achievements. To take this a step further, you can recognize a team member of the month, and, if budget allows, award a gift card or another small prize. In a remote circle of appreciation, each person shares one thing that they appreciate about every other person on the team, via a videoconference or conference call.

Range of Opinions

Objective: Values, Learning about each other Group Size:Any size Time:30 minutes Materials needed: Video whiteboard Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Can become daily/weekly ritual

This activity reveals the attitudes of team members around critical issues, opens up communication, and helps individuals understand each other better. Before you begin, identify a topic that you want to put before the group. Come together on videoconference and write the topic on a shared whiteboard. Ask each person to message you his or her opinion on the topic. Read the responses aloud to the group and discuss them. Arrange the statements as a range of opinions along a horizontal line on the whiteboard, and group similar beliefs together with the most popular to the far left side of the line, and unique or unpopular ideas on the right. Doing this exercise reveals the diversity of opinion in your team, and if the topic relates to your business, the activity can uncover some fresh perspectives. Another way to play this game is to start with a statement of opinion. The left side of the line represents complete agreement and the right side represents complete disagreement. Ask team members to tell you where on the line they stand, and make a mark for each person. At the end, you will have a visual representation of the different attitudes on your team.

Team Scrapbook

Objective: Values, Learning about each other, Just for Fun, Appreciation Group Size:Any size Time:1 hour or more Materials needed: Varies Notes: Inexpensive, Wow Factor, Can become daily/weekly ritual

Remote staff often feel isolated, but you can foster a sense of togetherness with a digital shared team scrapbook. Take photos and videos during team events, ask team members to draw pictures, have a photo and bio of each staff person, record hires and retirements, and write recaps of milestones in the team and company’s life. Post these in your scrapbook. You can use a shared electronic document or a digital scrapbooking app. You can rotate the job of maintaining the scrapbook or assign it to a committee. If you want to step it up, you can send highlights of this month last year to the team or pull together a montage of memories for the holidays. This activity builds team identity and fosters bonding. Download this scrapbook template to get started. It includes multiple pre-designed pages with space for photos, text, and more.

Remote team Scrapbook Digital Template PowerPoint

Download Remote Team Scrapbook Digital Template - PowerPoint  

Typing Rodeo

Objective: Leadership, Just for Fun Group Size:Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: Access to typing speed website Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual

In a typing rodeo, team members compete to see who types the fastest, the most accurately, and the most words in one minute. You will find several typing-speed sites online that make this easy to do, and asynchronous teams can submit their results in their own time zone. This team-building activity is for fun, but it also has a more strategic purpose. Research from the University of Iowa has found that the fastest typists are most likely to show leadership in virtual and remote teams because they are able to communicate their thoughts more quickly, foster collaboration, and make their influence felt.

Pet Parade

Objective: Learning about each other, Bonding, Just for Fun Group Size:Any size Time: 15 minutes Materials needed: None Notes: Inexpensive, Minimal Set-up, Fast, Can become daily/weekly ritual

In a typing rodeo, team members compete to see who types the fastest, the most accurately, and the most words in one minute. You will find several typing-speed sites online that make this easy to do, and asynchronous teams can submit their results in their own time zone. This team-building activity is for fun, but it also has a more strategic purpose. Research from the University of Iowa has found that the fastest typists are most likely to show leadership in virtual and remote teams because they are able to communicate their thoughts more quickly, foster collaboration, and make their influence felt.

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Who Are Remote Team-Building Activities For?

The team-building activities included on this page are designed for teams that have members who are not in the same physical location, including virtual, remote, work-from-home, or distributed teams — each of which is distinct.

  • Virtual: These teams are typically matrixed or cross-functional groups from different departments or regions. Members may or may not work in a company office, and some individuals may have another team member in the same location.
  • Remote: Remote teams have some members who work in traditional offices, as well as others who work full time outside of corporate offices, whether at home, at client locations, or on the road. These teams may be close enough geographically to occasionally meet in person. 
  • Distributed: Members of a distributed team are physically separated all the time. They may work in company offices where there are no other team members, co-working spaces, or at home.
  • Work-from-Home or Telecommute/Telework: These teams have members who work from home or another noncompany location full time, and they use technology to stay connected.

Remote work has been on the rise. A study by Flexjobs published in early 2020 found a 91 percent increase in the number of people working remotely in the United States — currently totalling 4.7 million people — over the prior 10 years. 

However, the option has typically been reserved for managers and highly paid white collar professionals, according to Pew Research analysis of 2019 U.S. government data. Only about 7 percent of U.S. private sector workers had a telework or flexible workplace benefit. 

But the coronavirus crisis forced millions of people around the world to start working from home for the first time, and some economists have speculated that this could cause a permanent shift. A 2018 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 29 percent of U.S. jobs could be performed at home, notably those in business, finance, management, and sales. 

Employees have traditionally loved remote work: A survey by Buffer of remote workers around the world found that 98 percent wanted to continue. For companies, the benefits include savings on office overhead, higher morale, and increased productivity. According to the Buffer study, individuals cite schedule flexibility and the lack of a commute as the best parts of remote work. 

Infographic Of Remote Work Statistics

But there are downsides. Loneliness and difficulties collaborating and communicating are the biggest struggles. Remote teams face challenges getting to know one another on a human level and lack opportunities for spontaneous, social connections. Silos are common.

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What Are Team-Building Games for Remote Workers?

Remote team-building centers on games, activities, exercises, and rituals to build trust, spur interaction, increase unity, and offer comic relief to teams whose members are not in the same physical location.

Remote team-building games have the same goals as in-person team-building, only with adaptations for the needs of remote teams.


How Remote and In-Person Team-Building Differ

In remote team-building, the leader has to overcome the physical separation of team members as well as members living across different time zones and, therefore, unable to interact in real time.

Luckily, technology makes it relatively easy to tailor activities designed for in-person teams to a virtual world, as well as to develop new online games. On this page, we’ve compiled a list of 56 online team-building games for remote employees.

If you are looking for team-building exercises for in-person teams, check out “Top Team-Building Exercises: Experts Recommend the Best Activities to Match Your Team’s Needs” and consult “Top Team-Building Games: Experts Share their Favorites” for a comprehensive roundup of games designed to boost problem solving, break the ice, and improve teamwork for in-person groups. 

Asynchronous teams — those with members who work at staggered times or do not overlap in real time — pose additional challenges for team-building, but they are manageable. In the activities on this page, we have tagged those that work or can be adapted for asynchronous teams.


What Are the Benefits of Online Games for Remote Teams?

Teams that regularly engage in team-building games for remote employees are more effective and happier, research shows. The culture is stronger, communication flows better, and individuals feel more valued.

Gallup has found that having close friendships at work increases employee engagement and leads to higher profitability, and a meta-analysis published in Small Group Research concluded that team-building had a positive impact on performance. 

Especially relevant to remote teams, team-building games for remote workers can help bridge language, culture, and geographic divides. Since electronic communication such as email and chat can be prone to misinterpretation, building personal relationships in remote conditions is critical and ultimately leads to greater harmony as team members get on the same wavelength.


Important Tips for Managers Leading Remote Team-Building

Managing a remote team is challenging. Make sure to dedicate time for games and activities like those included here, but remember they do not take the place of training and career development. 

Here are some top tips for building your remote team:

  1. Try to get people together. If you can, hold a physical, in-person event once a year or once a quarter. Nothing compares to seeing each other face to face.
  2. Recognize that remote staff are the most vulnerable to becoming disengaged. Take any issues with distributed staff as indicators of brewing problems with the workforce as a whole.
  3. Set an example of open communication. Make an extra effort to encourage people, and show respect for all ideas, no matter who they come from.
  4. Embody the values of your organization. Even with a remote team, find ways to live up to your culture. (For example, we included a charity activity on this list.)
  5. Be transparent. Make a habit of communicating plans, expectations, and changes to all staff members at the same time, and explain your reasoning. Remote workers can easily feel out of the loop, and misunderstandings may arise.
  6. Don’t be too rigid in meetings and on calls. Allow some chitchat and casual conversation since your remote team does not have an opportunity to bump into each other in the hallway or break room.
  7. Hold one-on-one meetings with all team members. Talk about their goals and help them access training and troubleshoot any problems with human resources. Remote staff often feel isolated and unsupported when they have a pay or benefits issue. If they struggle to resolve a problem, be proactive.
  8. Set an example of hard work. That said, be quick to share recognition and appreciation.

What You Need for Team-Building Games for Remote Teams

For almost all activities involving distributed teams, you will need at least an application for conference calling over the phone, but videoconference is better. You should also have screen sharing and a virtual whiteboard capability. 

Some activities make use of shared chat channels, documents, folders, or task boards. These especially come into play with asynchronous teams. 

Beyond that, you need to have a facilitator and to set aside time for your activity. The manager is often expected to run the activity, but you can rotate the facilitator role. Or appoint a committee working under the manager’s guidance to collect ideas and plan the schedule. 

Some activities require specific supplies or materials that need advance preparation, so read through the instructions ahead of time.


Types of Remote Team-Building Games and How to Choose One that Fits Your Needs

Team-building games for remote workers fall into several categories, and you’ll need to take several factors into account to find a good match for your organization. First, choose an activity that matches your objective. Then consider group size, time, cost, setup requirements, and the like. 

The list on this page allows you to choose your activity based on your goal: fun, icebreaker, discovery, bonding, practical learning, communication, leadership, problem solving, appreciation, or testing the comfort zone.

Also consider whether you need an activity that works with asynchronous teams or if you want to turn the exercise into a regular feature or ritual (you can filter on those tags). Ultimately, you’ll find a variety of virtual games to fit every situation for remote teams.


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