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Team building activities for remote employees

Team building activities for remote employees

Remote work is a hot topic as the pandemic draws to a close. 

Employees in remote positions are reluctant to return to the office while managers and team leaders worry about the impact of remote work on company culture.

The pandemic has demonstrated that, while remote work is valuable and effective, it’s important to give remote teams the opportunity to collaborate and bond.

At PandaDoc, we’ve done this over the past year with team-building games.

Our team used these games to stay connected, build partnerships, and learn about one another in ways that went beyond conference calls and video meetings. We were even named one of the Best Workplaces of 2020.

If you’re looking for ways to build culture, here’s a list of games that can help your team succeed.

Team building activities for remote employees

  1. Bingo
  2. Icebreakers
  3. Two truths and a lie
  4. Would you rather?
  5. Virtual dance party
  6. Aliens have landed!
  7. Don’t forget: communication is key!

01. Bingo

Number of participants: Any group

Setup time: 10-15 minutes

Player objectives: Discover more information about coworkers to win a prize

Setup and how to play

As a virtual team-building activity, bingo is easy to set up and simple to play. When done correctly, this game encourages players to dig deeper during team conversations and learn more about their coworkers.

To set up a bingo game:

  1. Create a bingo card using a 5×5 grid.
  2. Fill each space with interesting facts and trivia that team members can use to learn about one another during casual conversation.
  3. Set the timetable (days, weeks, months) that players will have to discover this information.
  4. When a player discovers a detail that matches a square on the bingo card, they can mark it with an X or something similar.
  5. Award prizes when players complete a row or when someone finishes the entire board.

How to get the most from this game

While the objectives that you add to the bingo card are great objectives for task-driven employees, the real value comes when those goals are used as conversation starters.

Not only will team members learn fun facts about one another; they’ll also pay closer attention during online meetings and have to hone their communication skills in order to discover the necessary information.

You can play this game on a shorter timespan by using details that are more likely to apply to multiple players, or you can elongate gameplay by adding objectives that are less likely to come up in workday conversations.

At the end of the game, you can even create a team-building event where you review hard-to-find information and reveal hidden details to the rest of the team.

02. Icebreakers (with a twist)

Number of participants: 10-15

Setup time: 10 minutes

Player objectives: Answer questions in real time and have a laugh with other coworkers

Setup and how to play

Typically, icebreaker games fall into the category of introductory games that you’d play at the first team meeting or video chat.

Everyone is familiar with how icebreakers work, and — if you’ve ever been through this exercise before — you might even have your icebreaker question prepped and ready to go.

Here’s how to flip the script with an icebreaker that will leave the most seasoned teams in stitches:

  1. Spent 10-15 minutes creating icebreaker questions. These can be silly or semi-serious questions based on topics of casual conversation.
  2. Randomize these questions by printing them and putting them in a hat, using notecards, or using a digital randomization tool.
  3. During a meeting or video conference, ask each individual a set number of questions that have been selected randomly.
  4. Have participants answer the questions.
  5. Optional) For extra fun, grab a stopwatch and only allow 30 seconds to answer between three and five questions.

How to get the most from this game

An icebreaker can be a challenge because it’s so familiar. To get the most out of this game, you’ll need to find a fun way to boost employee engagement.

By transforming the game into a rapid-fire event filled with silly and creative questions, you can facilitate team bonding and hilarity by asking questions that are harmless, silly, and completely off-topic.

Keep in mind that the more complicated the question, the longer it will take a team member to answer. Try to find the right balance between brevity and depth that fits your virtual workspace.

03. Two truths and a lie (with a twist)

Number of participants: 10-15

Setup time: None

Player objectives: Guess the lie from one of three statements

Setup and how to play

This is a classic game to play during video calls.

With two truths and a lie, players will disclose two truths about themselves and one lie, then leave other team members to figure out the lie.

In the traditional version of this game, players are given no additional information beyond what the liar chooses to disclose, which can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

Here’s a way to turn this game into a more effective remote team building activity:

  1. Have your remote workers take a few minutes to come up with two truths and a lie about themselves.
  2. After someone presents their truths and lie, give other players a set about of time to ask follow-up questions that the liar has to answer. This forces the liar to continue expanding on their lie in real time and under scrutiny.
  3. Once the allotted amount of time has passed, have players debate amongst themselves and see if they can determine which statement is false.

How to get the most from this game

Done correctly, this can become one of the best collaborative online games for your team.

By giving the audience a chance to ask follow-up questions and validate the authenticity of the player’s statements, employees can build trust through teamwork while engaging in some harmless fun.

Virtual meetings also lack the nuance of face-to-face interactions, with the only facial expressions given via video, so players will be forced to scrutinize one another more carefully in their search for clues.

Turn your online team into dogged investigators as they try to uncover the lie in a web of truths — and be prepared to laugh when they get it completely wrong.

04. Would you rather?

Number of participants: 10-15

Setup time: 10-15 minutes

Player objectives: Answer questions and spark follow-up conversations

Setup and how to play

The goal of “Would you rather?” questions is to put players in a position between two extremes and then ask them to choose their preference. Most of the time, these questions start with “Would you rather,” hence the name of the game.

While the questions you ask can be work-related, it’s not required.

The questions can reference something simple and approachable like “Would you rather have donuts or cookies on your coffee break?” to something hilarious and out of the blue like, “Would you rather fight one elephant-sized duck or ten duck-sized elephants?”

Setting up a game of “Would you rather?” is easy:

  1. Take ten minutes to gather a collection of “Would you rather” questions from online resources or create a set of your own.
  2. Go around the video conferencing room and ask these questions to random team members.
  3. Follow up with additional questions after they answer the first question and see if it’s possible to start a more in-depth conversation.
  4. If no productive conversation is forthcoming, move on to the next person until you run out of time.

How to get the most from this game

While this can be a fun activity, it really shines as a way to get a group chat going around hypothetical situations that wouldn’t be a part of every day, work-related conversations.

Whether you want to talk about emojis or escape rooms, “Would you rather” opens the door to a wide variety of flexible conversations that can be interesting to expand upon during that virtual happy hour on Friday afternoon.

05. Virtual dance party

Number of participants: All team members

Setup time: 10 minutes

Player objectives: Dance around and have fun!

Setup and how to play

Sometimes, the best virtual team-building activities are the ones that get you up and away from your desk.

In remote settings, scavenger hunts, sports events, and other casual outings are next to impossible for distributed teams — but throwing a virtual dance party isn’t!

All you’ll need to do is find some tunes prior to your meeting and give everyone a chance to unplug and express themselves.

To create your own virtual dance party:

  1. Find some music that everyone on your team can connect with and queue it to your playlist.
  2. During the meeting, announce that you’re having a virtual dance party, cue the music, and encourage everyone to get up and dance around.
  3. Have a fun time dancing!

How to get the most from this game

Okay, we realize that this isn’t a “game” like the rest of the items on our list, but it’s one of the better team-building activities for remote teams precisely because it’s not like everything else out there.

During the pandemic, some communities developed around the idea of remote dancing. We Unity Dance, which encourages connection, self-expression, and support, is a great example of one such community space.

An impromptu dance party is a great way to build relationships, boost team morale, and give everyone some time to shake of the stress and take care of their own well-being through virtual expression.

06. Aliens have landed!

Number of participants: All team members

Setup time: 10 minutes

Player objectives: Figure out how to explain company concepts using images and animated gifs

Setup and how to play

Oh no! Aliens have landed on earth, and they want to know more about your company.

Just one problem, the aliens don’t speak English. It’s up to your team to explain everything that they’d want to know about the company using five symbols or pictures!

Much like a game of Pictionary, this game will force your virtual office to stay on its toes while trying to figure out the best ways to explain complex concepts.

Here’s how to set up the game:

  1. Divide your remote team members into groups of three or four and explain the premise of the game.
  2. Using breakout rooms in software tools like Zoom or Slack, group chats, or other tools, give them 15-20 minutes to talk among themselves and come up with five images that best describe the company.
  3. Have each team send the five images to you so that you can review each image set.
  4. Use screen sharing to show each set of images to the group and give each team a chance to share their thought process.
  5. Conclude with discussions around themes, company values, and review how each team views and understand company objectives.

How to get the most from this game

Playing virtual games with remote teams can be a fun and worthwhile experience, but it’s also an opportunity for employees to engage in team-building exercises that are focused on company values.

“Aliens have landed!” is a fun team check-in for remote groups because it asks employees to engage with one another around the fundamental concepts of the organization.

This strips away the game show pomp that you’d see with something like charades or trivia questions and moves the conversation to a conceptual realm where players are forced to communicate creatively due to their limited toolkit.

The more your team communicates using out-of-the-box thinking to create ideas, the more at ease they will feel about their colleagues and the beliefs that they share with one another.

Don’t forget: communication is key!

While playing fun games during your virtual coffee break can be a nice change of pace, it’s not a shortcut to a great team experience.

The goal behind each of the games on our list boils down to strong communication — and that’s true of any online team-building game in your arsenal, whether it’s a murder mystery or a trivia game.

There are dozens of other games to play with coworkers while working from home, but these are the games we’ve used at PandaDoc in order to keep our team closely connected over the course of the pandemic.

(We actually have a bot in our Slack channel called Donut, which automatically sets up virtual meetings on our behalf.)

Feel free to use any of these games during your next team meetup or virtual event!

Bethany Fagan

Bethany Fagan Senior Manager, Content Marketing at PandaDoc

Bethany is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at PandaDoc. She has over 10 years in the sales and marketing industry and loves crafting new stories and discovering new content distribution channels. Outside of the office, she spends her time reading, working out at Orangetheory or trying a new Brooklyn brewery with her husband and two French Bulldogs, Tater Tot and Pork Chop.

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