Meetings are a necessary evil.
But before you have everyone gather in the meeting room (virtual or not), you should consider hosting some team building activities.
No, we don’t mean the embarrassing types, but rather actually fun, entertaining activities.
These activities work particularly well with remote teams and they’re a great way to get people in the right mindset before the meeting, but they can also help your remote team get to better know each other.
Related: Check out the full Remote Work ToolKit
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42 Easy Remote Team Building Activities for Your Next Meeting
10 things we share
Ask team members to create a list of 10 things they have in common. If you want to make it more interesting, consider sticking to a theme or industry. These shared things can be anything between “we’ve all been working here for over 3 years” to “we all love pizza and ice cream”.
Spill the Bucket
All you need to do is ask “what’s on your bucket list?”. This can give you an idea of things that team members value (and it can give you ideas for company retreats/activities). Have people share 3-5 things that are on their bucket lists and why they want to do them.
Mi casa, tu casa
People’s homes reveal a lot about them. One way to break the ice between team members is to virtually provide each other with a peek into their home. Ask team members if they’re OK with sharing a quick, short video of their homes with the rest of the team.
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Ask team members to share a picture of something in their “work area” that says something about them. It could be their view, their ergonomic chair, their height-adjustable chair, their file organizer, etc. Ask them why that picture tells a story or is descriptive about them.
Fun & Random thoughts channel
Most distributed teams use platforms like Slack, Skype, and Trello to stay in touch. One great way to encourage communication and engagement is to have a dedicated channel for random, fun thoughts ((i.e. motivational quotes, memes, pet photos).
One great way to get new members to feel part of the team is to give them a virtual tour of other people’s location. People can show their workspace,a cool monument nearby, or their favorite coffeehouse. This works particularly well for internationally distributed teams.
Riddle me this
Ask your team to image that extraterrestrials now inhabit Earth and they’re interested in your company. They don’t speak English (or any other language), so your team can only use images and symbols to describe your company and what it does. Are there any images repeated or that stand out?
Guess who? (Baby Edition)
Everyone loves baby pictures. Everyone loves trying to guess who’s who on baby pictures. Ask your team to share a photo of when they were a baby with you. Once you have all baby photos, ask the team to figure out which photo belongs to which team members. This game can also be played with personal facts.
Record company events
Distributed teams rarely get a chance to be together in company-wide events. To make sure that everyone feels part of the company, consider taking videos (including live video) and photos of company events and share them on company channels. It’s a great way to foster a sense of belonging.
Do we even need to explain this? Ask everyone to come prepared with good ideas, make sure everyone has their video on, and start guessing!
Grab a cuppa (on us)
Every now and then, treat remote employees to a nice cup of coffee (or tea). Send them a gift card for a local coffee shop and encourage them to change their work environment every now and then. Extra points if employees snap and share a photo of them at the coffee shop.
If you have a globally distributed team, ask team members to submit someone from their country that sings, does magic, dances, cooks, or has any other special talent. Once everyone has submitted their talent of choice, ask everyone to rank each submission from favorite to least favorite.
This is a great way to get people going. You can do a general trivia, a corporate trivia, or you could stick to industry-related topics, or specific subject areas. It’s best if you divide your team into small groups (the one who sends the correct answer on the chat first gets the point).
Personality tests are a great way to learn about yourself and others. Simply send each team member a link with access to personality tests like the DiSC™ Training or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). If they’re comfortable with it, have each member share his or her results with the rest of the team.
Draw the picture
This is a fun communication game. Have a team member describe a picture and have the rest of the team draw out what they hear. At the end of the session, have everyone share their drawings.
These are a few of my favorite things
This game can be adapted to different situations and events. You can ask people to say their favorite things about the company, a product, a coworker, their office, etc. You can ask people to type their answers or to include a visual element (a snapshot of their favorite company swag).
What’s on your desk?
Ask your team members to take a picture of their desks directly from above it. Seeing how someone arranges their desks or what items they have in it can be a great conversation starter and provide employees with a deeper understanding of each other.
Geographic fun facts
If you have a distributed team across cities, states, and countries, then this is the game for you. Simply ask each team member to share an unusual or fun fact about the country, city, or state they live in.
Guess the artist
Before meetings, ask employees to create a drawing or share a photo that tells something about their lives. Have everyone upload his or her photo/drawing and get the team to figure out which picture/drawing belongs to who. Once someone guesses right, the “artist” has to share the story behind the photo/drawing.
Encourage team members to include more than just work events and deadlines in their calendar; like for example birthdays, plays, graduations, etc. The idea is to encourage remote employees to engage in more personal conversations with the rest of the team.
Embrace live video
Organize a live remote office by having a team member start a video chat where everyone else can join. As team members come online, encourage them to join the video or “live remote office.” It can create a strong sense of community and motivate employees to stay focused.
Yearly Retreats & Meetups
Face to face interactions continue to be king. While it can be more expensive and challenging to organize, yearly meetups can help nurture a strong sense of belonging and help employees bond on a deeper level.
Remote Movie club!
Start a video call and stream a movie. Keep the chat open so that team members can comment about the movie, specific scenes, or characters. An alternative would be to pick a movie as a group and discuss it the next day before a meeting; a movie club!
To get people jazzed up for a meeting, make a playlist full of throwback hits and have team members guess the name of the song and the artist.
Video games (or other online games)
Host a regular gaming session for remote employees. Extra points if you choose a game that requires people to work in teams. Choose games that are popular among team members (Fortnite, Dota, Counterstrike, League of Legends, etc.) and start playing.
Before you officially start any meeting, provide people with a couple of minutes to chit chat. It’s a great way to get to know people and for team members to get comfortable talking with each other. Pro tip: get the chit chat going by asking what people were up to during the weekend or what they had for lunch, etc.
IRL Scavenger hunt
Create an identical list of tasks to complete, send it to all team members, and divide them into small groups. Make sure everyone has your communication channel installed in their smartphones so that they can share pictures and updates on the go. Some ideas for the hunt include (do a yoga pose, buy a coffee/ice cream, wear something funny, etc.).
Every now and then, host a photography competition (pro tip: make it a themed contest like still photos, photos of food, portraits, etc.). A picture says a thousand words and photos can be a great way to get to know someone. Consider providing a professional print of the shot to the winner.
There are a couple of ways to go about this with remote teams. Either have them draw on a piece of paper and share the image through the company chat, or you can use online platforms like Skibbl and Drawasaurus.
Have team members share a non-work related goal with the rest of the team. Ask them to share why it’s important and their deadline; add that deadline to the group calendar. Sharing goals creates a sense of accountability, and it can be a great way for the team to bond and support one another.
Hit reply all
Before a meeting, send an email to all remote employees with a question or series of questions. Ask them to reply to those questions by hitting “reply all.” Some ideas for questions are “which place in the world would you like to visit?”, “what superpower would you like to have?”, etc.
Copy my drawing
Ask a team member to draw something using only geometric shapes. Have someone else describe the drawing and ask the rest of the team to reproduce the drawing based on the description given. The goal here is to see if any two people can replicate the original drawing.
And no, it doesn’t have to be pricey. Simply set a budget and use a gift exchange randomizer to decide who gives a gift to whom. If you have an international team, encourage people to send git that’s specific to their country or culture.
Every now and then, gather employees into groups and task them with creating a new product or product feature. Each group will be in charge of product development, improvement and marketing, and will present their proposal to the rest of the team. This is a competition, so consider having some company executives on the call to help “judge” each presentation.
Virtual Coffee Café
Encourage team members to start their workday by jumping on a call (extra points for video calls) with a fellow coworker while they enjoy their cup of joe. The idea is for each employee to talk about what they will be working on, what they need help with, while bonding over a hot cup of coffee.
Here’s where I’m from
Create or upload a world map onto your communication platform of preference (pro tip: make sure it’s an editable format). Encourage all remote team members to place a sticker on the map to indicate where they were born; once everyone has added their stickers, ask people to share something they love about the place they were born in.
Stuck on a deserted island
Group members into small teams and ask them to imagine they’re stuck on a deserted island. They can only have three objects with them. Provide each group with the same options of objects. Once they pick their 3 objects, encourage them to explain their decisions.
The one-word brainstorming session
Group remote employees into small groups and ask them to brainstorm ideas. The catch is that they can only use one word to describe “X”. “X” can be the company, a product, a task, etc. Pro tip: choose a topic/theme that is aligned with the meeting’s goal.
Three truths, one lie
This classic game requires that a person share 3 truths and 1 lie, while the rest of the group has to guess which is the lie. This game can be easily played through a video conference and it’s a great way for team members to learn more about their coworkers.
Get each team member to pick a physical activity that can be tracked with a phone; set goals and a deadline, and start tracking. The person who performs best or reaches his or her goal sooner wins.
Virtual, non-work meetings
With remote teams, it’s important to have meetings that aren’t fully related to work. Take some time each month to host a virtual video meeting where people can talk about things that are going great, things that need to improve, how they’re doing personally, etc.
One meeting, one word
Before your scheduled meeting, ask people to write down one word they associate with the meeting’s purpose/topic. For example, if the meeting is about a product review, ask them to write one word that they associate with your product. This can get the meeting off to a good start and find common issues and goals between team members.
There you have it!
These team building activities can be a great way to increase engagement and socialization between remote employees.
It can boost morale and, more importantly, it can help spark each person’s creativity, which can be extremely beneficial for meetings.
In any case, it’s a fun way to get to know those you work with and it can — to a certain extent — get people to look forward to rather than dread meetings.
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