Remote & Async Work 9 min

9 remote team-building activities to strengthen work bonds

Written by Amanda Day
Amanda Day

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Remote work has one major challenge that’s often overlooked: team building.

It’s important to use engaging virtual team-building activities to encourage your team to work collaboratively and create a strong sense of camaraderie, no matter what part of the world they’re in. 

This article reveals the top challenges businesses face when trying to build relationships with their remote team. Then we'll introduce nine remote team-building activities you can use to bring your team closer.

The ‘isolation issue’: why remote workers need team-building activities now more than ever

There are many benefits to remote work, such as increased diversity and flexibility. However, remote employees are more susceptible to feeling alone and disconnected from their colleagues. 

While remote employees “feel more productive without constant interruptions in the office… [they] feel more socially isolated.” This is because remote employees have less opportunities to interact with other team members.

Isolation can impact employees’ mental health, productivity, and retention rates. 

To lower the stress experienced by remote team members, employees should feel comfortable reaching out to managers and human resource (HR) professionals to discuss any feelings of isolation they experience.

In fact, “communication is an essential component not only between colleagues, but also between workers and managers.”  

Team building is an excellent way to help remote employees feel connected and willing to communicate when they need help. It can also encourage a sense of camaraderie and community. However, because remote team-building activities are mostly virtual, there are obstacles your organization needs to overcome to experience the benefits.

The 3 challenges of remote team building (and how to overcome them)

When it comes to remote team building, you’ll need to think outside of the box to ensure your employees can bond. Traditional team-building activities won’t work because of location differences.

Ultimately, remote employees face challenges exclusive to their work situation and need tailored solutions. 

Here’s what you need to consider and some fixes you can use.

1. Time-zone differences and scheduling conflicts: using asynchronous activities 

Remote teams are often employed from all over the globe, making it difficult for managers and co-workers to schedule virtual meetings that suit everyone's schedule. 

This can lead to team members feeling left out, which doesn’t bode well for company culture.

The solution is asynchronous activities, which allow team members to participate in team-building activities without needing to be in a virtual meeting at the same time. This approach enables remote members to build personal connections with their colleagues and feel more engaged with the team, regardless of their location or time zone.

2. Lack of bonding opportunities: hosting real-time video chat team-building activities 

While asynchronous team-building is a fantastic way to accommodate varying schedules, it doesn't leave much room for colleagues and managers to spend time getting to know each other, making it difficult to bond as a team. 

That’s where real-time video meeting activities come in.

Real-time video team-building activities like virtual happy hours and craft challenges are a good solution for remote teams that work synchronously and have similar time zones. These activities allow for face-to-face interactions. They may be virtual, but with high-quality video conferencing software, they can make people feel like they’re together.

3. Lack of participation: hold interactive team-building activities 

Unlike with in-office team-building activities, remote team members can show up to a virtual activity without actually participating. This can happen with more introverted employees who may be all too happy to let other colleagues take the lead.

A good solution is to create an interactive activity that involves every member of the group equally and allows them to contribute their own unique skills.

9 fun and interactive remote team-building activities 

Virtual team-building activities should be accessible to all your remote team members. But it’s also essential to make them as interactive and hands-on as possible to encourage full participation. The more fun and engaging, the more you can bring your remote team closer together.

 Asynchronous team-building activities 

Asynchronous team-building activities can be an effective way to boost team morale. This kind of virtual event allows team members to connect and engage with each other on their own schedule.

1. Ongoing scavenger hunt 

An ongoing scavenger hunt involves creating a list of items or tasks for team members to complete over a set period, such as a week or a month. 

The list could include a virtual “treasure map” attendees must use to find clues. It could also be a physical scavenger hunt, such as a city-wide search for specific landmarks, or challenges like "finding the best restaurant in your city."

2. Message-direct book club 

A message-direct book club is a type of asynchronous team-building activity that involves team members reading and discussing a set book together via a message or email chain. 

For example, team members could read a chapter or two of a book each week and then share their thoughts and insights with the group. 

To set it up, choose a recent bestseller. From here, set up a reading schedule as part of your workflow and check up on each employee to make sure they’ve left their weekly comment about the book.

3. The “most ridiculous work essentials” contest 

The “most ridiculous work essentials” contest involves team members sharing the most absurd item they deem “absolutely necessary” in their home office. 

For example, team members could share photos or videos of a desk filled with five different refreshments for the day, or all their lucky troll dolls. 

As a bonus, this activity lends itself well to a larger team — you could set up a gallery or a bracket of all the silly desks.

Real-time video virtual team-building activities

Real-time video chat virtual team-building activities are a fantastic way to promote team bonding and collaboration.

Remote teams can build a stronger sense of community and foster a positive work culture through synchronous activities. Virtual trivia is a classic, but there are other options like the below:

4. Virtual high tea experience

A virtual high tea experience involves the entire team sharing tea and snacks together via video chat. 

To set it up, provide a list of suggested teas and snacks, set a date and time, and create a video chat link. For example, team members could prepare their own personalized refreshments and then share their creations with the group. 

This activity provides a low-pressure environment for team members to socialize and get to know each other better.

5. Brainstorming for the "end of the world" role-playing game 

The “end of the world” role-playing game can bring team members together to survive a fictional apocalypse scenario.

For example, you can ask a colleague what they would do if a zombie outbreak occurred, and they only have an hour to gather supplies, find shelter, and defend themselves against the undead. 

This activity promotes teamwork and problem solving, and gives team members lots of reasons to laugh while brainstorming.

6. A round of "would you rather" questions

Asking questions about your team members' preference is a great way to know them better. Take turns asking your colleagues "would you rather" do, choose, or avoid certain activities or objects.

Try to think of engaging questions while keeping respectful boundaries. You can prepare a list of questions in advance to get the flow going. This online game promotes open communication, builds trust, and encourages team members to get to know each other in a more relaxed and informal setting.

Hands-on team-building activities 

Virtual team-building activities can also be hands- on to boost team morale and bonding.

7. Virtual cocktail-making workshop 

Virtual cocktail-making workshops are delicious events where team members make cocktails together via video chat.

Team members could follow along with a professional mixologist as they demonstrate how to make custom cocktails based on the personalities of each employee. 

To set it up, provide a list of necessary ingredients and tools (such as a blender), set a time and date, and create a video chat link. Consider supporting your employees with a stipend for the activity, and don't forget to offer non-alcoholic options as well.

8. Online yoga class 

An online yoga class is a virtual event where a yoga instructor leads the class, and team members participate from the comfort of their own homes. 

To set it up, choose a reliable yoga instructor and set up a poll to decide the best date and time.

This virtual activity promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages team members to connect in a healthy and positive way. Depending on your company culture, people could share their fitness goals, but it’s not necessary if they don’t want to, especially if this is a one-off event.

9. Portal Bots 

Portal Bots is a robot game that can be used to let off steam in a friendly competition.

The bots are designed so remote teams can compete in different challenges, such as races, soccer, or battles. Team members use their computer to control real-life robots.

Using portal bots can help stimulate creativity, improve productivity, and give your remote team something fun and unique to bond over. To set it up, book with an online platform like Portal Bots, provide clear instructions for your remote team on how to access it, and set up a time to participate.

Build connection between remote teams with creative team-building activities  

Remote team building is more important than ever. With social isolation affecting remote teams, it’s essential to proactively put measures in place that help make your team feel connected and engaged. 

Team-building activities can help stimulate conversation and foster strong relationships between teammates, encourage them to ‘hang out’ virtually between office hours, and build long-lasting connections. 

For more insights into the challenges and benefits of remote work, check out our Remote Workforce Report and learn how to build a successful remote team. 

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