As a remote team, we geek out over virtual team building. We’re always looking for ways to bring our team closer together.
But over the years, we’ve learned that remote team building is much different than in-person team building. When your team is never in the same room together, you have to take a different approach to building your company culture.
Luckily, virtual team building activities can still be super effective in promoting employee happiness, retention, and productivity. And remote team building doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, both in time and cost.
For this post, we’ve included 10+ of our favorite creative virtual team building activities for remote teams. We’ve scoured the internet and drawn on our own experience. All of these team activities are easy to implement (some are automatic) and some are completely free.
Pro Tip: Press “Command + D” to bookmark this list – we update it often.
1. Online Office Games with teambuilding.com
Facilitating virtual team building has unique challenges, and so you may want to have another company do it for you. Our sister company, Team Building, is a 100% remote organization that offers virtual team building activities and online team building games as a service.
Here are some examples of the remote team building options available. First, Online Office Games, which is a series of online games including activities like typing-speed races, spreadsheet pixel-art and print-paper origami. You can also do remote employee engagement activities like storytelling workshops, virtual improv games, and training like “How to Manage Remote Teams” to learn best practices for communication, running meetings and giving feedback.
Follow this link to learn more about the virtual team building activities.
2. Tea vs Coffee: Live Virtual Coffee + Tea Tasting Class
Built specifically for remote teams, Tea vs Coffee facilitates an exotic coffee and tea tasting experience with real beverages. A week or so before your event, the company sends each of your employees a care pack with a mix of four specialty teas, coffees and infusions. Each envelope is marked as “do not open” to save the big surprise for the day of the event.
On tasting day, your team logs into a virtual video-cafe, where the friendly barista will share stories, run games and lead a tasting ceremony for the tea and coffee. The event is fun, educational, and global minded. All teas and coffees are sustainably sourced from farms with Fair Trade practices.
Learn more about Tea vs Coffee.
3. Remote Storytelling Workshops & Training
Museum Hack tour guides are world class conveyors of stories and information. We’ve honed the craft leading thousands of renegade tours, and refined a framework for telling stories and training these skills. This system includes the Five Elements of a Hack, story shortening and more fun team activities.
Storytelling is a useful skill for a wide variety of roles, from marketers to sales reps, to HR, managers, leaders and more. These training workshops will empower your staff to higher levels of productivity and performance, and even give you remote team meeting ideas for your organization.
Read more about Museum Hack’s Online Storytelling Workshops.
4. tiny campfire 🔥: 100% Virtual Campfire for Remote Teams
tiny campfire runs virtual campfires for remote teams. The experience includes haunted historic ghost stories, icebreakers, little competitions and even a real s’more making experience. It’s fun, wildly smart, and probably the best damn online camping experience in the world. No mosquito repellent needed.
Before your event, tiny campfire sends each person on your team a small package with materials like s’more ingredients, a small candle, matches and team colors. Getting stuff in the mail is awesome and your people will appreciate it. This event creates unique shared memories, good vibes and engagement at your organization.
Get started with your tiny campfire here.
5. petri: Online Social Engagement Platform for Remote Teams
petri is an online social engagement platform for remote teams. Each week, petri schedules a variety of online team building games, training seminars and fun virtual meetings. Each experience is led by an engaging host that makes sure all guests can participate and make connections in a way that feels good to them. Example events include pub trivia, guided meditation, language classes, coffee hangs, beat-box harmony and more. The goal is to give your people a fun and relaxing way to connect with remote work peers.
One of the major benefits of petri is that scheduling is off your hands. With virtual events already on the calendar, you don’t have to worry about time-zones, who may or may not attend and what everyone is interested in. Instead, team members can self-organize and choose activities that work with their interests and schedules. Your colleagues can join as a team to build stronger relationships or individually and meet new friends and business contacts.
Learn more about virtual team building with petri.
6. Can You Hear Me Now?
More than just a sound check, Can You Hear Me Now is one of the best online games for virtual teams. You play this game in a virtual conference room, and nominate one person to be the speaker and the rest are artists. The speaker uses a random image generator you can find online to source a suitable image, and the goal is to describe that image in such a way that the artists can draw it successfully.
The one guideline that makes this task challenging is that you speaker must only use geometric shapes. For example, you could say “draw a large circle and then there equidistant triangles” but not “write the letter E.” By limiting instructions to geometric shapes and positions, the speaker needs to exercise extremely accurate communication skills, and the artists need to listen and interpret. This game is a proxy for effective online communication, and is also just really fun.
7. Spreadsheet Pixel Art
While most virtual teams are intimately familiar with Google Sheets, relatively few think of them as remote employee engagement activities. If you are a nerd like me then you likely enjoy developing complicated spreadsheet formulas and graphs. If you are both a nerd and an artist, then you will love doing Spreadsheet Pixel Art.
Essentially, Spreadsheet Pixel Art is when you add a little code to Sheets that will automatically replace numbers with a color fill for that cell. You can then use these colored cells to “paint the numbers” and create pictures of animals, landscapes and similar. For virtual team building activities, you can do a short-term or long-term competition to see who on your remote team produces the best work of art.
Here is a free template for Spreadsheet Pixel Art.
Bonus: If you comment on this post with your thoughts on virtual team building and include the hashtag #pixel we will send you another free Spreadsheet Pixel Art template.
8. MTV Cribs: Remote Team Edition
Throwback to the ’90s!
Because remote teams are distributed around the world, there’s a chance your team members might never meet face-to-face. However, that reality doesn’t mean they can’t open up their homes to one another and participate in some MTV style remote employee engagement activities.
Help Scout recently started an internal MTV Cribs-inspired video series, where team members show off their homes and personality in quick self-made videos a la the classic ’90s show.
It makes for both an interesting look into the personal lives of your co-workers and is also a hilarious way to get to know your entire team better.
9. Online Team Building Bingo
Online Team Building Bingo is a fun game you can play to engage remote workers. You start with a bingo board that has a number of action items or accomplishments on it. For example, when you hear someone say “sorry, I was on mute!” you can mark that spot off on your board, and similar for “wearing pajama bottoms to a video meeting.”
Bingo is a classic game that most people are familiar with, and the version for remote teams is a quick, easy and free way to get started with virtual team building.
Here is a template you can use for your first game:
10. Quarterly Christmas
Every December 26th, Carly starts counting down for Christmas. This countdown doesn’t have to be a long wait, and instead you can run Quarterly Christmas or Quarterly Care Package for your team. Basically, once every few months you surprise your team members with a package in the mail. Quarterly Christmas is effective team building for remote teams because getting a surprise package is like a little burst of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy day.
Examples of packages you can send include tech gadgets, coffee and tea samplers, chocolate and wine, and gift cards. If your remote workers have furry friends then you can send pet toys as well. We recommend a budget of about $25 per person per quarter, plus shipping.
11. A Slack Channel To Post Cute Pictures of Pets
This one is a company favorite.
In March we made a Slack channel called #pets-of-museum-hack where we post pictures of our pets making funny faces and doing hilarious things.
This is a really simple channel and it takes very little effort/maintenance, but there’s a big payoff in the amount of team building and culture boosting it provides! Basically, this channel is a hit in the arena of quick and easy team building activities for telecommuters.
Here are some of our favorite pictures to date:
Let’s be honest, this post would be incomplete without a picture of our team’s dogs in blankets.
12. Make Video Recaps of In-Person Events
With remote teams especially, it’s a good idea to provide your team with regular updates about the impact their work is having. This messaging doesn’t have to be for direct impact: for example, a web developer might not have any involvement in the design of a trade show booth, but everyone in the company has contributed to keep all aspects of your organization working properly to make attending the trade show possible.
You want to remind your team “Oh yeah, this is why I do this” as much as possible. Without these reminders, morale can drop and team members can become disillusioned. An easy way to keep morale high is to record videos of any in-person, company-related activities. For example, a few of our team members recently hosted a booth at an industry trade show, and our CEO Nick Gray recorded a three-minute video recap of the experience for the entire team. This effort takes a real world experience and develops it into meaningful virtual team building.
Since your team is remote, they’re not always going to be able to see the real-world impact their work is having. Recording videos of in-person activities and events are great ways to keep the team connected to your company’s mission. These videos don’t even have to be long or well-produced — whether it’s a trade show recap, a post-call debrief with an important client, or just a Monday morning pep talk, videos are a quick, easy, and effective way to keep morale high and demonstrate to your team you want to keep them in the loop.
Bonus: during our research for this post, we came across another great video from Help Scout that demonstrates how video can replace weekly meetings. Not only is this medium an efficient way to deliver information, people are likely to enjoy it and absorb what is communicated.
13. Live Remote Co-Working
Co-working spaces exist for a reason — they help people feel the social accountability of an office environment, and the smell of “get to work” fills the air. Among other things, working from a co-working space (or an office) is a constant physical reminder that you’re supposed to be working and helps you get into that flow.
Since your team is distributed around the world, it’s likely not possible for everyone to meet up at a co-working space. And while working from home has many perks, it’s not always easy to tap into the implicit motivation and social accountability that comes from working together in person with your team.
No need to worry! Remote co-working is a real thing, and it might help your team be more productive. To set up a session for your team, simply create a Slack channel called #coworking. The first person who’s online for the day can create a video call that’s open for anyone to join, with the understanding that the purpose of the channel and call is to get work done.
A few more options: everyone on the call could follow the same schedule using the Pomodoro Method — 25 minutes working followed by a 5 minute break. Being “in-sync” like this with other team members could help create a sense of camaraderie and motivation. You could also make a “coworking Tuesday” where everyone gets online together or make this channel completely optional. Finally, you can mix-up the co-working with co-playing and integrate some fun virtual team building games into the schedule.
Note: If no one else is online or in the #coworking channel, you could always use a tool like Focusmate to find someone to work with.
You may have played Werewolf at summer camp, in college or on a company retreat. Werewolf is a game of wits, deceit, and skilful manipulation as you seek to survive the night. The entire game is based on speaking, careful listening and voting, so you can run the experience in a virtual conference room like Zoom or Google Hangouts.
First, each player draws a card that indicates a role: werewolf, villager, medic or seer. For a remote game, you could use a random generation tool and send each person the role in a private message. Werewolves eat other players, villagers vote on who they think is a werewolf, medics can rescue a player from the jaws of near-death and seers can reveal a player’s status as wolf or not.
Once each one of your remote workers has a role, the game master announces that night has fallen, and everyone closes their eyes and does a pitter-patter drum roll for something fun to do and to mask other sounds. The game master then calls the werewolves to wake-up, select one victim, then go back to sleep. Next, the medic wakes up, points to a person to save and then sleeps again. Finally, the seer points to one person to reveal whether they are a wolf or not, and the game master nods yes or no to confirm. After all of the special roles have taken action, the game master then announces it is morning and reveals whether the wolves successfully ate a villager. Usually one villager dies in the night, with the exception of the occasional save by a medic.
The survivors debate who the werewolf is, and then vote to either eliminate someone or skip the round. Anyone that dies or is removed from the game becomes a silent ghost, and can no longer speak or otherwise participate in the game. Repeat this process until only villagers or wolves remain.
Werewolf is great for remote teams because it fuels a lot of discussion. Your team will love it.
15. Icebreaker Questions for Virtual Team Building
Icebreaker questions are simple prompts that allow you to get to know your peers better. For example, you can start a remote meeting by having each attendee share their name, role and what they like to eat for breakfast. Icebreakers are a simple and effective way to build relationships with remote teams, and to increase the person connections between your people.
A few tips and ideas for great icebreakers:
- Unless you know each other extremely well, start with “green level” easy icebreaker questions. Some of your team member will be nervous to share, and so you can start with simple questions like “dream vacation” or “cats vs dogs?”
- Before any person shares the answer to your icebreaker prompt, announce who the next few people to share will be. This process helps create order and is especially important for online meetings where you don’t have as many visual cues.
- Go first. As the meeting organizer or leader, you can ask the question and then be the first to share as an example to others. By starting, you give your team members a little longer to think about answers, and also model what a great answer can be.
- Keep it short. We recommend no more than 30 seconds per person.
Integrating icebreakers into your meeting is a free way to do virtual team building for remote teams. For specific questions to ask, check out our epic list of icebreaker questions for all the inspiration you need.
16. Donut Calls
Even at a remote company, each member of your team can truly benefit from getting to know their co-workers. But since there aren’t opportunities for your team to randomly chit-chat at the water cooler, you have to be a little more deliberate in creating these virtual team building opportunities.
That’s where Donut comes in!
Donut is a Slack extension that, once a week, automatically pairs everyone in your company up for a non-work-related 1-on-1 call. These are fun calls that give an opportunity for remote employees to get to know people they normally wouldn’t be working with on a daily basis. Generally these calls run anywhere from 15-30 minutes, and lots of fun is had.
At Museum Hack, we have a soft rule that work should not be discussed during Donut calls, this is really just a chance for team members to get to know each other. And since the Slack extension is automatic, this is a really lightweight way to incorporate team building into your remote company. If you aren’t sure where to start with your calls then try a prompt with icebreaker questions.
Note: You can also change the frequency with which Donut pairs people up for calls, anywhere from 1-4 weeks. For more information on incorporating Donut calls into your team’s culture, here’s a link to the Donut Slack extension and their website.
17. Exciting Sponge
Exciting sponge is a quick and easy storytelling game that use can you for remote team building. To play on virtual team calls, each team member grabs a random object in arms length and creates a story about it, or can default to describing a generic sponge. The goal is to exaggerate the truth about what makes that object amazing. For example, if someone picked up an alarm clock, they could say “this is a relic from the past and someday Indian Jones 2.0, AI edition, will travel back in time and snatch it up for a museum collection.” Exciting Sponge is to remote team building activities as regular sponges are to washing the dishes; not necessarily essential, but pretty darn useful.
18. Pub Trivia for Virtual Teams
Your team can’t go to the pub together, but they can still do pub trivia and other virtual social events. For these video conference games, invite everyone to a call and let them know they can bring a pint of their favorite brew; whether that beverage is tea, beer or wine. Then, a host organizes everyone into smaller teams and reads out questions. Participants must answer as a team, and each correct answer wins points. You can do themed trivia like Netflix shows, musical clues and science facts.
19. Online Team Building Lunch & Learn
A simple way to start with online team building is to get your remote workers together on a call, and invite an expert to lead the session. You can find people to speak about topics like science, history, health and wellness, productivity, how to work from home, and more. You can expect most of these virtual team building sessions to be about 60 minutes, and you typically schedule them at meal times and encourage your team to eat during it. If you have the budget then you can also cover the bill for your team members to order food.
One tip is to shortlist three experts, and then ask your team which topic they most want to learn about. If you have a team of five or more people then you likely won’t have consensus, but you can either do “majority rules” or have some mechanism for resolving the choice. For example, you could say “the person with the longest hair” gets to choose first, or play a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
20. Coworker Feud
Like the TV classic Family Feud, Coworker Feud is an online version specifically for team building for remote teams. One person, typically the host, does research on a variety of prompts. For example, you can aggregate numbers related to animals, human behavior, food preferences and the solar system. An alternative is that you can send a survey out to your team members and their families, and then use the answers from these surveys as your data source.
Then, on a virtual team call, you play the game following the same rules as the show. For example, a lead member of each team is the speaker and buzzer and can consult with their team on answers. The teams take turns guessing at the most common answers. At the end, the team with the most points wins.
21. Team Building Jeopardy
Jeopardy is more than just the second greatest game show in history, it is a the perfect framework for virtual team building activities. Like some of the other games on this list, you can either find pre-built online games or do the research to build your own. As you put your scoreboard together, remember to include fun elements like double jeopardy.
For game day, let your team know you are going to be playing Jeopardy and that the purpose is for it to be remote team building. By setting these expectations everyone on your team will know what they are attending. You can upgrade the event with actual prizes you send out to winners.
22. Virtual Dance Party
One of the quickest and easiest team building exercises for remote teams is the Virtual Dance Party. You can either host your virtual dance as a standalone event or add it as a quick three-minute session during a scheduled team call.
Our preference is to do the three-minute version, and have the music playing when your team members for login to a call. If you choose an upbeat song then you can start the meeting with high energy which will help with engagement throughout. You can also add a short dance break later in the call to bring the energy back up.
23. Never Have I Ever: Rated E Edition
Many people play a version of Never Have I Ever is college, and it often depends into NSFW topics. Instead, play the online team building version of this game with a “Rated E for Everyone” version. As the event organizer, you can write all the topics in advance or have team members submit topics that you filter for the group.
Never Have I Ever is typically a knock-out game, which means you start with five fingers up and lose a point for each of the topics that you have in fact done. For example, if the prompt was “never have I ever eaten sushi”, then everyone that has eaten sushi would put a finger down. The game works because it is fun and interesting to see who is an exception to each topic.
24. Things for Virtual Team Building
Things is a game of talking and topics. Before the game starts, each of the participants adds topics to a common pool. The main guidelines is each topic must start with the word “things”. For example, “things my dog wishes he could eat for breakfast” or “things we want to do for virtual team building next time.”
One person starts as the host, and reads off a single prompt. The other players then anonymously submit answers to the host, which you can do via private message. The host reads the answers out loud, and then you go in a circle giving each person a chance to guess who said what. You can have players accumulate points and win prizes, or ignore points all-together. For the next round, switch hosts and continue with the same game mechanics. This game is fun because it gives everyone a chance to share and learn more about how each other think.
25. Virtual Happy Hour
One of the easiest ways to engage a virtual team and build team morale remotely is to ditch the usual agenda. Most meetings are kind of boring, and so people attend these meetings expecting to disengage and surf off to other areas of the internet.
Instead of doing the same old thing remote teams expect, make your next virtual meeting fun by hosting a Virtual Happy Hour. Let your team members know they can each bring a beverage of choice, which doesn’t have to be alcohol. For the virtual call, include quick online team building games like icebreakers and use breakout rooms to have themed conversations. We recommend giving each of the breakout rooms prompts to start the conversation, to make sure the chat flows well.
26. Donate to causes that match your team values
A risk many remote teams face is having the company feel strictly as an online presence in the minds of your employees — i.e. once the laptop is closed or the phone is turned off, it doesn’t exist, or it’s easy to forget about. In other words, the impact your team is having can sometimes feel limited to Slack channels without a real-world presence.
One way to remind your employees of your remote company’s real-world presence is to donate to a cause that matches your team’s values. Donating to a company-chosen charity can make people feel proud to work for your organization and that their work is helping to make a difference in the world.
For example, Zapier helps to sponsor events in towns where their employees live. Even if the company can’t be there physically, they can still have an impact. And this impact can help give back to the world and leave their team members beaming with pride.
27. Play online team building games like trivia and quizzes.
When you share an office it’s easy to find moments to have little conversations where you get to learn about the people you work with. Those simple connections are a lot harder to do in a completely online environment. However, you can simulate the experience with the help of virtual team building games like online trivia and quizzes.
One example of online team building games you can play is “guess the icebreaker.” To play, you anonymously prompt team members with icebreaker questions and then once a week have participants guess who said what. The game is a really fun, simple and quick way to get to know each other within a remote team. You can play via Slack, email or other remote work platforms.
FAQ: Virtual Team Building Activities
Here are some of the common questions we see about remote team building and engagement activities for remote workers.
How do you make a virtual meeting fun?
One way to make a virtual meeting fun is to include elements like icebreaker questions and group photos. A rule of thumb is to make these activities quick and easy for remote workers to participate in; it’s not meant to be stressful or a skill challenge.
How do you build team morale remotely?
In addition to strong leadership, one of the most effective ways to build team morale remotely is to do virtual team building activities and online team building games. You can work with a third party services like teambuilding.com, Tea vs Coffee, tiny campfire or Museum Hack. You can also do free remote team building activities like virtual trivia and other online games.
How do you engage a virtual team?
To engage a virtual team you can follow many of the same principle that apply to engagement at the office. For example, ask your people questions, do phone calls, and participating in team building activities. Another way to boost engagement for remote workers is to schedule calls between colleagues where the only rule is “no talk about work projects.” These calls help build relationships and friendships between coworkers, which leads to more engaged remote teams.
How do you bond with a remote team?
To bond with a remote team, spend QTT together, which stands for Quality Team Time. If all your remote workers do together is work projects, then that is all they are going to know they have in common. Instead, plan activities and conversations that allow team members to learn more about each other personally. When people learn they have common interests outside of work, like travel, pets, music and more, they form deeper bonds.
How do you make a team call fun?
One of the best ways to make a team call fun is to include breakout sessions. If the main call has 30 people on it then you can schedule breakout rooms with four or five people. The advantage of these smaller conversations is more people will have the opportunity to speak and share their ideas, which is a way increase the “fun factor” and engagement in the meeting.