It’s one thing to build an atmosphere of trust and understanding between people who spend eight hours a day in the same building. But how do you recreate that special feeling of camaraderie if some or all of your employees work remotely?
Team bonding usually occurs organically over time, but there are a number of non-invasive activities that can help speed up that process. We outlined the best virtual team building activities that are easy to implement and can go a long way towards helping distributed teams bond:
- Coffee Break Chats
- Virtual Learning Events
- Expertise-Based Communities
- Sports Watch Parties
- Online Games
- Meme Caption Contests
- Virtual Zoom or Messenger Chats
- Chats for Random Messages
Why Do Online Team Building Activities with Virtual Team Matter?
High-quality work relies largely on communication and collaboration between team members. And virtual team building activities are great for increasing interpersonal interaction. Simply knowing that you can easily approach your coworkers and get help can substantially simplify your day-to-day working process.
Such companies as Arkency, Articulate, and Automattic have fully distributed teams. One common thing they list in their day-to-day lists of activities is daily sync up call. For them, a daily video chat is more than just a mandatory Scrum ceremony. It’s a way for remote employees to share their plans for the day as well as some personal details.
In Articulate, for instance, a virtual team gets together for a coffee break in an online chat where they discuss interesting news and topics of their choosing. Each small conversation can potentially grow into a travel or a cooking club where your colleagues will be able to bond over their personal out-of-work interests.
Group Calls with Offshore Team Members
A workshop or an open discussion with leading specialists in the field can become an effective get-together that doesn’t just have great team building potential, but increases your employees’ professionalism as well.
Here are seven types of online workshops that you can host to educate your remote team and help them bond at the same time:
Online Workshops for Virtual Team (source)
Your employees will collaborate with each other while doing interesting tasks, facing challenges together, and working closely to find a solution, which are all incredibly useful skills for any team, remote or not.
Knowledge sharing within a team often happens organically when people work in one office space. In a remote team, however, you might need to do some gentle nudging to encourage your coworkers to show initiative. Here are some ideas you can try:
- Engage people in expertise growth initiatives or offer professional guidance.
- Ask your remote team to contribute to a list of great online programs their coworkers may appreciate.
- Create an online reading list based on the recommendations of your coworkers.
- Ask members of cross-functional teams to prepare relevant online masterclasses for their teammates.
And why limit yourself with professional knowledge only? Look around, some of your coworkers may be devoted yogis, book lovers, online gamers, pet owners, discount hunters — the list can go on and on. The point is, most people have a passion they’d be more than happy to share with others.
Share Tips on Working Remotely with Your Virtual Team (daxx.com)
Daxx’s running community gained its fame thanks to Daxx Run to Amsterdam Contest and active participation in various running events. Inspired by the success of this running club, our very own yoga expert decided to organize morning flows via Zoom, and it seems like the yoga club is here to stay.
Let’s move on to possibly the most passive way of strengthening bonds between your remote team members — watching major sports events together. Whether it’s going to be soccer, basketball, hockey, boxing, or even figure skating will obviously depend on the tastes of your team.
Here’s a handy calendar of the World’s Biggest Sports Events in 2020 if you’d like to plan a sports watch party in advance.
Time difference can be an issue here. But let’s be honest, what kind of a die-hard fan misses a match because it airs late at night? Consider these apps to ensure perfect sync between the members of your virtual team:
- Google Hangouts
And those who prefer playing sports rather than watching other people do it on screens could join physical challenges and track their progress in mobile apps such as Strava and many other fitness apps.
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Besides hackathons, which take first place among the best team building activities for software engineers, some of your employees might enjoy a less intellectually intense bonding activity. Online gaming is perfect for that. One of the blessings of playing games online is that you get to know the competitive side of your coworkers.
So why not invite your remote team members to play Mortal Kombat together? I bet they’d be happy to show off a combo or two. But bear in mind that this should be a team bonding activity first and foremost, so ideally, everyone should be able to take part regardless of their previous gaming experience.
Shooters, action, adventure, or puzzle games—anything goes. Here are a few ideas for an online gaming event with your offshore team:
Online Game Contest Ideas for Virtual Team
Fighting Games: Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros, Marvel vs. Capcom, Tekken, Killer Instinct.
First-Person Shooters: DoomCounter-Strike series, Call of Duty series, Halo series, Painkiller, Battlefield series, CrossFire, Overwatch
Real-time Strategy: StarCraft: Brood War, Warcraft III, StarCraft II
Sports Games: FIFA series, Madden, NBA 2K, Pro Evolution Soccer, Rocket League, Real Subspace Hockey League
Racing Games: iRacing, Project CARS, TrackMania
Multiplayer Games: Online Battle Arena, Dota 2, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Heroes of Newerth, Smite, Vainglory
Remember when Pam from The Office made a funny sketch and unintentionally launched an office-wide meme caption competition? You can use this idea and ask your team to make up captions to pictures, sketches, or memes.
Running a short caption contest now and then won’t take much time or effort (or money, for that matter), but will easily gather the remote employees around one activity and boost their imagination.
Use this website for an absolutely effortless way to organize a caption contest.
You can take this activity even further and suggest that your employees make custom images for the rest of the team to caption. When it comes to memes, the possibilities are truly endless.
You may be accustomed to using Skype and Slack as your main day-to-day communication tools. They’re fast and reliable, true. But doesn’t seeing your coworkers against the same minimalist whitewall or floral wallpaper get a bit dull over time?
Zoom Backgrounds for Funnier Syncup Meeting with Remote Team (source)
If there’s one good reason to use Zoom for daily sync up meetings, it’s that it has a great variety of backgrounds to choose from. Give it a try, play around, even if you’re not planning to switch to Zoom for good.
Alternatively, you can lighten up the atmosphere by chatting in any messenger that allows you to use filters on your face, like SnapChat or Facebook Messenger.
Call it “random chat” or call it “fun”, the point is that you need to have space where those with a terrific sense of humor and those eager to share what their dog babies got up to last night can shine. Organize a chat where people can share whatever they feel is worth sharing — even if it has nothing to do with work. They really need it.
These chats are often underestimated even though they play the essential role of creating the water cooler effect in a virtual office. Sharing a cat gif in a general chat for serious work matters might be perceived as distracting and unprofessional. Your random chat, however, is ideal for that sort of interaction.
Yet another great opportunity for a geographically dispersed team to get to know their colleagues a little better is to invite everyone to collaborate on a playlist centered around a certain theme. Here’s an idea: ask everyone to add a song they associate with summer vacation and to share a fun summer memory next time you meet on video or in your group chat.
After that, simply create a playlist featuring everyone’s songs. If there’s a holiday coming up, every team member could add their favorite song associated with that holiday to a dedicated playlist.
If there’s one key takeaway from this post, it’s this: never underestimate the importance of informal communication. Be open with your team, listen to what they have to say, and you’ll soon realize that your best source of excellent virtual team building activities is the team themselves.
And if you need help hiring software engineers and building a great development team, or just want to find out more about what we offer, just let us know by completing the contact form below.