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 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 six 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 activities are easy to implement (some are automatic) and most are completely free.
The main question this post is trying to answer: how do you both make your organization a more fun and efficient place to work? Read on to find out.
1. 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 doesn’t mean they can’t open up their homes to one another.
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. Check out the video below to see what Help Scout’s MTV Cribs-inspired videos look like.
2. A Slack Channel For Team Members To Post Funny Pictures Of Their Pets
This one’s 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!
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.
3. Make Video Recaps Of In-Person Events
With remote teams especially, it’s always a good idea to provide your team with regular updates about the impact their work is having. This doesn’t have to be 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.
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 a great way 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 an efficient way to deliver information, people are likely to enjoy it and absorb what is communicated. Below is an example of a Help Scout weekly update video.
4. 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 it up 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.
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.
5. 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 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, 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.
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.
6. Donate To A Cause That Matches Your Team’s Values
A risk many remote teams face is having the company feel strictly as an online presence in the members 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.
7. Play an online ice breaker game like QuizBreaker.
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. That’s a lot harder to do in a completely online environment. However you can still do it with the help of a game like QuizBreaker.
The folks over at QuizBreaker created an online team building game where you answer ice breaker questions and then once a week guess who said what. It’s a really fun, simple and quick way to get to know each other within a remote team. They offer a free trial and a Slack integration to easily import your whole team. Visit QuizBreaker.com to check it out.