Chapter 2

Remote Team Building Activities

We've put together the ultimate list of the top 40 virtual team building activities for remote teams. Includes instructions and handy links!

Heather Harper

Written by Heather Harper

Last updated: Mar 30, 2020

More and more businesses are moving towards building a team with remote workers scattered all over the globe. Remote work is rapidly becoming the norm and not just the exception. However, it can be difficult to build a cohesive company culture when everyone is located in a different time zone. Thus, we created this epic 7000 word guide to the best 40 activities you can try with your team.

Here are some quick shortcut links to the best activities:

QuizBreaker | Pin The Map | Pictionary | Movie Club | Quirky Photo Challenges | Whose Office Is It Anyway | Conference Call Trivia | Online Catchphrases | Virtual Bingo | Joke of the Week

Before we go on to talk about team building activities suitable for remote teams, it is important to highlight that there are many benefits of remote teams.

From 2008 to 2014, the number of employees who said they couldn’t concentrate at their desk in an office increased by 16%, and the number of employees who couldn’t access quiet places to do focused work when working in an office went up by 13%.

Employees who work in remote teams are also motivated by the flexibility of the work. A recent study showed that remote employees work more hours because they have shorter breaks and less sick leave.

They also stay with the company longer and are happier at work. Similarly, research has found that employees who worked from home reported “higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress.”

So overall, the benefits of teams who work remotely are highly motivated and productive. This, along with the lower costs of renting offices, reaps great benefits for any organisation.

Although removing face to face interactions has benefits, building virtual teams can sometimes be hard as communication is lost. Research has found that a key element of distributed teams is good communication. Hence, a lot of our team activities are focused towards improving communication within your virtual team and to help them work together more effectively.

The worrying news is that, in remote teams, 65% of employees surveyed reported that they have never had a team-building session, which is worrying as it means the organisations are missing opportunities to develop trust and cooperative relationships.

The good news is that virtual team building exercises aren’t that difficult to organize and don't require a team meeting, providing that you have the right tools on hand. And they can help take the place of that water cooler or coffee convo that usually happens face to face.

So, now you know the importance of successful team building activities in virtual teams, here are some of the best remote team building activities out there that will go far in helping your team bond, regardless of where they may be.

1) QuizBreaker

Objective: Team Bonding & Get To Know One Another

Participants: 3 - 1000+

Duration: 2 to 10 minutes per round

Difficulty: Super Easy

Materials: QuizBreaker

Quizzes/Fun Questions

Instructions

Forgive us for putting our own game as the #1 activity on this list. But, with thousands of teams all over the world playing QuizBreaker everyday, we think it's a good suggestion ;)

One of the best ways for a remote team to bond, even if they’re located thousands of miles away from each other, is to ask them fun ice breaker questions and have everyone else guess who said what. QuizBreaker makes this easy & automated with lots of gamification along the way.

It might sound silly asking someone what they’d do if they had a time machine or if they’d rather fight one horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses, but these are exactly the kinds of questions that spark conversation and give us a chance to learn more about a person. There is a lot of research showing that psychological safety is the hallmark of the world's most effective teams. QuizBreaker helps facilitate that by creating fun pathways for people to share things about themselves.

You can take advantage of a tool like QuizBreaker which sends the whole team a bunch of fun quiz questions on a set schedule via email, and then everybody can guess which answer belongs to who.

Join happy teams from companies like Google, Microsoft, Starbucks and Coca-Cola. Take our free trial for a spin with your team today!

2) Pin The Map

Objective: Team Bonding & Get To Know One Another

Participants: 5 - 10

Duration: 10 to 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Paper, pens & internet.

Pin the map

Surprisingly, there is an abundance of research to suggest that cultural diversity in teams can sometimes act as a barrier.

So, based on this we feel that it is really important to get everyone acquainted so that individual culture doesn’t inhibit team performance.

Instructions

  1. Help everyone gain a better understanding of where everyone is located by creating an interactive map of the world.
  2. Start it off by asking everybody to demonstrate where they’re born and then ask them where they’re currently located by pinning a picture of themselves onto the map.
  3. As time goes by, you can color in even more of the map by asking your team questions like what their ideal holiday spot would be, the best place they’ve travelled to, or where their parents are from.
  4. This simple team building activity is a great way to break the ice and to help employees learn a lot about each other.

3) Pictionary

Objective: ** Give Team Bonding & Communication Skills**

Participants: 5 - 10

Duration: 30 to 60 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Access to an online virtual room

Pictionary

Authors have noted before that creativity in remote teams is a key component of success. Due to this, we cannot recommend highly enough using team building activities that promote creativity to get the best out of your own remote team.

Instructions

The instructions for this activity are really very simple. Use something like Skribbl to create your own virtual room for doodling. Just get the team online and you can immediately start playing.

4) Movie/Book club

Objective: Team Bonding

Participants: 5 - 10

Duration: 60 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Books… and a lot of them!

Movie/book club

Who says you need to be a suburban housewife in order to enjoy a book club? Depending on your team’s interests it could just as easily be a movie club, a podcast club, or heck even a fight club!…or maybe not a fight club, because, y’know that first rule and all…

Our point is that there’s something about regularly meeting up with a group of people to discuss something that all of you enjoy. It’s a very ordinary activity but it allows everybody a chance to get together and talk about something other than work and, in turn, learn more about each other as individuals and grow closer as a result.

We also love this book club idea because it promotes regular communication within teams, which has been found to be the key to building trust and communication within remote teams.

Instructions

The instructions are really quite simple - ask people if they want to meet every month on lunch breaks to discuss the books they’ve been reading.

To organize your own book club, make sure that participation is voluntary and that everyone agrees on what book to read.

Nothing kills a fledgling club more than mandatory participation.

5) Quirky Photo Challenges

Objective: Team Bonding & Get To Know One Another

Participants: 5 - 10

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

Quirky photo challenges

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, if that’s the case then we can learn way more about our colleagues with one good picture than we could with dozens of email exchanges. And that is why we love the photo challenge…

These types of team building activities are great because they’re simple and you can learn so much about another person through the photos they take. They also mean that quite literally anyone with a phone can join it.

Instructions

Again, the instructions are super simple. At the start of every week, create a new challenge. For example, one week the challenge could be ‘the best photo of a pet’ or the ‘nicest looking plant in their garden’.

To keep it relaxed and fun, set up a Slack channel just for this and start every week with a new photo challenge with anyone being able to post a photo anytime they want.

Add a little bit more motivation to the mix (if cute animal photos aren’t enough) by picking out the best photo at the end of the month and sending the winner a framed print of their picture.

6) Whose Office Is It Anyway?

Objective: Getting everyone to know each other

Participants: However many you want!

Duration: Ongoing

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Electronic devices and a file sharing tool

whose office is it anyway

We love this activity because it is simple, but also a lot of fun.

It’s often hard to get to know each other in remote teams, so this allows people to find out a bit more about what each person is like.

Instructions

  1. Ask each team member to take a picture of his or her ‘office’ and get them to upload it to a shareable file.
  2. When taking the picture, encourage participants to leave their desk and working space as it is. This gives a true representation of them.
  3. Then, get everyone else to try and guess who’s desk is who’s.

7) Conference Call Trivia

Objective: Getting everyone to know and understand each other

Participants: 4 to 16 people

Duration: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Trivia questions and an electronic device

Conference Call Trivia

While simple, this team building game encourages quick-thinking and is a fun way to learn more about each other's interests.

This activity is good for fairly newly formed teams, when they don’t know each other that well and need to get better acquainted.

Studies have recently suggested that in virtual teams specifically, it is crucial to build trust right at the beginning.

So, we think this activity will be really beneficial for your remote team.

Instructions

  1. Divide your team into smaller groups and send them each a sheet of trivia questions.
  2. For 30 minutes, ask them to play conference-call trivia and learn about each other’s personalities and interests outside of work.

8) Online Catchphrases or Charades

Objective: To improve team bonding

Participants: 10 or less

Duration: 30 to 40 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Virtual charades cards or a similar resource

Online Catchphrases or Charades

‘Catchphrase’, also known as charades, is a family favourite. We love it because it’s fun and light-hearted, whilst still being professional. It’s a great way to get everyone up, get everyone involved and to push them out of their comfort zone.

Instructions

  1. Split your team in half to form two separate teams that will be competing against each other.
  2. Decide on a theme (e.g., animals, films etc).
  3. Get everyone to join onto a video call.
  4. Each team member get a chance to act out a certain object, scene or movement from the them.
  5. The first person to get it correct wins a point for their team.
  6. Carry this on for a long as you want, and then count the points up at the end.

9) Virtual Bingo

Objective: To promote team bonding

Participants: 10 or less

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: Bingo cards (emailed to each player), questions and an electronic device

Virtual Bingo

We can all admit, we love a game of bingo… even if it is for grannys! Sometimes in remote teams, it’s hard to feel like you know who you’re talking to on the other side of lengthy email discussions.

Virtual bingo is a fun and easy way to get everyone involved and realising what they have in common.

Instructions

  1. Prior to the activity, create bingo cards or use this People-Bingo printable template.
  2. Create a list of statements. For example, “has brown hair” or “works for the HR team”.
  3. Call out the statements and team players then have to put a cross in the box if they share that quality with someone else.
  4. The first player to get three in a row, and then the first to a full house, wins.

10) Virtual Diversity Bingo

Objective: To promote team bonding

Participants: 10 players or less

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: Bingo cards (emailed to each player), questions and an electronic device

Virtual Diversity Bingo

As mentioned early, diversity can inhibit team performance. However, managing diversity in teams has been shown to form a greater team identity; which will reduce the negative impact of individual diversity.

Virtual diversity bingo will help your team to understand each other's differences and create a group identity.

Instructions

  1. This game is very similar to what was described above. However, the purpose is different.
  2. The statements/questions in this game should be related to different cultures, religions and ways of life. For example: did you work whilst being at school? Or do you pray to a god?
  3. We recommend that after conducting a few rounds of diversity bingo, ask people why diversity is important and how it helps with success.

11) Joke of the Week

Objective: To laugh together

Participants: 5 - 10

Duration: 2 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

As well as saying a picture says a thousands words, they also say that laughter is the best medicine. So, similarly to the team building activity described above, we suggest sharing a joke of the week.

Just like sharing pictures, we love this activity because it is simple, you can learn a lot about your employees sense of humour, and they involve everyone.

Instructions

  1. At the start of every week, create a new challenge or theme for the joke. For example, jokes about animals or jokes about doctors. To keep it relaxed and fun, set up a Slack channel just for this and start every week with a new joke challenge.
  2. Add a little bit more motivation to the mix by picking out the best joke at the end of the month and sending the winner a prize!

12) Outdoor Scavenger Hunts

Objective: To create a competitive but fun atmosphere

Participants: 5 to 15

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: Assorted items

Scavenger hunts aren’t just for co-located teams. Online teams can participate in them too and have great fun whilst doing it! Scavenger hunts allow team members to collaborate with one another, while also letting them delegate tasks and utilize each other’s strengths and skills.

Instructions

  1. Split your teams into two teams (or more if your remote team is bigger)
  2. Create a list of items that you think most people will have in their homes or office work place (to make it extra fun, we suggest adding in some interesting and uncommon items)
  3. Team members should create ways to communication instantly whilst completing the challenge
  4. Set the clock for 5 minutes and get each team to go and find their items
  5. At the end, create a big video chat and get everyone to show what items they have collected. If you can video chat, get each team to submit photos of what they have collected
  6. Count up the points and the team with the most collected items is the winner!

13) Charity Donations

A risk many remote teams face is feeling like that are strictly online teams and that they have no emotional connection or interaction. Often, remote teams will feel that once their laptop webpage is closed, the team doesn't exist and it’s easy to forget about everyone else and your responsibility to them. 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 charity to a charity that represents the values of your team will make your team feel proud and like they are making a difference to the world. Similarly, donating to a charity helps your team to feel connected and personal - they are all working together to support the same cause.

Instructions

The instructions are really quite simple, pick a charity that is inline with your company values and beliefs. Choose how you would like to donate; do you want to donate only, or do you ask everyone to chip in? Make sure you always keep your team updated on how their donations are helping!

14) Favourite Things

Bringing laughter and security to the remote workplace can be challenging, especially when team members aren’t familiar with one another. We love this team building activity because it gets everyone sharing things about themselves, and often these create a giggle!

This icebreaker game is also useful because it can be adapted to align with the meeting goal, work environment or something more personal. However, since the participants are all asked to name their favorite, there is no risk for “getting the answer wrong”. This works well for remote teams because everyone can participate. We also have a fantastic article of the top 100 icebreaker questions.

Instructions

  1. Assign the “Favourite thing” topic (e.g., they it could be favourite thing about the company or favourite aspect of the product they are creating)
  2. Ask team members to find an image online and upload it to the favourite thing channel or group
  3. To make it a little more competitive, get people to vote on which other things they agree are the favourite things in the company!

15) X or Y

Objective: To get everyone to know each other's preferences and spark discussion

Participants: 4 to 400

Duration: No more than 5 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

This sits high up on our list because it gets everyone talking for sometime and allows different people to interact every week.

Great opportunity to create personal interactions with people who don’t normally talk on a daily basis

Overtime, without much effort, get to know a lot more about co-workers… RESEARCH TO SAY PEOPLE THAT KNOW EACH OTHER WELL INCREASES KNOWLEDGE SHARING ETC?

Instructions:

  1. Every week, pick a different ‘X or Y’ questions. Examples of good questions are: pepsi or coke? Cats or dogs? Working from home or remotely?
  2. Post this question in a slack channel, or whichever other form of communication you use
  3. Allow everyone the opportunity to discuss their answers

16) Get Fit

Objective: To keep everyone fit and healthy whilst introducing some competitiveness

Participants: 5 to 50

Duration: However long you like

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: A step or fitness tracking device

We love it because it’s a bit different. I personally work from home and find that exercising as a break helps me feel energised, productive and focused.

Instructions:

In all honesty, the instructions are fairly simple - either provide apple watches or Fitbit’s for your team or use the ‘health apps’ provided on phones and set challenges. For example, who can do the most steps before they start work? Who can do the most exercise on their day off? Or, who can get their heart rate the highest in the next one minute?

You can also set weekly goals that occur every week. For example, who can do the most steps a week or minutes exercised? Who’s walked up the most stairs or ran the most miles?

17) PowerPoint Karaoke

Participants: 1 to 10

Duration: 30 minutes to 2 hours

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: A powerpoint slide

Well suited for remote teams, does not require any particular skill and isn’t competitive. Wouldn’t use with new teams where people aren't yet comfortable with each other… need to do some more ice breaking stuff first, but it does really help everyone jell together and creates a good laugh!

Instructions:

  1. Create a random deck of random powerpoint slides
  2. Everyone receives a random deck and does a 5-minutes presentation on them, without having seen the slides before
  3. Do this over zoom or skype

18) Two truths, one lie

Objective: To get people to connect and understand each other

Participants: 4 to 40

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

We love two truths and a lie because it is a classic ice breaker game that can be used to get the conversation flowing and have some fun while you’re at it.

It’s also good because it involves video conferencing, which is the next best thing to face-to face communication. Can read each other's body language and facial cues, which builds trust and connections between teams.

Instructions

  1. The night before a video conference call, get all remote team members to write down two true facts and one lie about themselves
  2. Make sure these are personal anecdotes, not work related things
  3. Once they have said them, everyone goes round and says which ones they think are the truths and what is the lie
  4. Give the person who got the most correct ones a prize!

19) Celebrating International Holidays

Objective: To get co-workers better acquainted and to understand each other’s culture Participants: 1 to 10

Duration: Years

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: None

Typically, team members can be based in different countries or have different religions and cultures. This means that (hopefully) you’ll have lots of different holidays to celebrate within your team!

Helps people to feel valued and understood

Instructions:

  1. Get everyone to input their special holidays into a calendar that everyone has access too
  2. Everyone should get reminded a few days before and encourage them to do something special that day (e.g., have a drink or food relevant to that holiday)
  3. After the holiday, create a video call with everyone to get them to discuss what they did for the holiday and what they learnt about each other's culture

20) Baby Photos

Objective: To get everyone to know each other

Participants: 5+

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: Baby photos of each team member (emailed to you prior)

We love this remote team ice breaker because it's an old tradition - remember in your year books when you’d have baby photos posted? Or, on your 18th when your mum would make you an embarrassing collage of all your childhood photos?

We also love it because it’s super simple and super fun!

Note: this only works when team members know what each other look like, thus, we suggest using it with slightly better formed teams!

Instructions:

  1. Get every team member to send you a baby photo of themselves
  2. Create a word document with these photos in it
  3. Send it round on slack (or whatever channel you use) and get participants to guess who is who within a certain time limit (we suggest about 10 minutes)
  4. Collect their answers and mark them. Give the winner a prize (e.g., some amazon vouchers or a food voucher)

21) Articulate

Objective: To get team member to use their brains and laugh with each other

Participants: 4 to 15

Duration: 10 minutes to an hour

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: None

Uses their brain, gets everyone involved also its funny

Some remote teams play this once a week because they love it so much! We can either suggest playing this once a week or you can use it every now and then. Either way, we guarantee it’ll provide a great laugh.

Instructions:

  1. Give everyone a different list of 10 words (e.g., laughing, movie, dog etc)
  2. Set the clock for one minute. The first participants begins by describing as many of their words as possible to everyone else, without saying the actual world
  3. After 1 minute, the next participant goes
  4. Cannot say “sounds like” or “starts with”
  5. The winner is the person who had the most of their words correctly guessed

22) A Quiz About Employees

Objective: To get new employees integrated and feeling involved

Participants: 1 to 10

Duration: 5 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Hard

Materials: None

Best when used on new employees as a very good ice breaker at the start

Makes sure everyone is listening to each other and makes the newcomers feel welcome

Instructions:

  1. Get the new employees to create a presentation about themselves that answers questions (e.g., where they are from, how many kids they have, their degree etc).
  2. Before they join, get them to send you the list of the questions you want them you answer
  3. After the 5 minute presentation, get the other employees to attempt to answer the questions without knowing the questions
  4. The winner is the employee who gets the most answers/facts

23) 10 Common Things

Objective: To get participants realising what they have in common

Participants: 4 to 30

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: None

This is good for brainstorming in remote teams as it gets them realising they are similar. Also, helps practice the use of brainstorming materials

Instructions:

  1. Divide your team into small groups and ask them to come up with a list of 10 things they have in common
  2. They can put this on a shared document or an online whiteboard to generate the list quickly
  3. You can either make the topic personal (e.g., kids or hobbies), or business related (e.g., degrees, departments or years in the field).

24) Remote Lunch

Objective: To get everyone caught up in a relaxed manner

Participants: 1 to 10

Duration: 30 to 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

We love this activity because its super chilled and just gets everyone relaxed and communicating, which is key in teams

Instructions:

The instructions are very simple, once a month get everyone together via video chat. Encourage everyone to order food from their favourite restaurant and just chat over skype. Try and avoid talking about work and just get everyone catching up.

Employee of the month

Objective: To get employees feeling values and wanted and to boost self-esteem

Participants: 5 to 500

Duration: Years

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

We like it because it makes people feel special.

Instructions

Again, another one with very simple instructions. Simply choose your ‘employee of the month’ every month (wow, who would’ve thought it was monthly!). Pick them based on things such as what they have contributed to the team, their effectiveness etc.

27) Weekly Jukebox

Objective: To get everyone bonding over their taste in music

Participants: 5 to 500

Duration: Days, months or years

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: Spotify (or other music app)

We love this ice breaker because you can learn a lot about someone by their music taste. Do they like indie rock, pop classics or some funky tunes. Either way, music bonds and unites us.

Also, listening to music can increase our spirits.

Instructions:

  1. Each week, create a new spotify playlist with a theme (e.g., band’s we’ve seen live, songs we could listen to on repeat forever, tunes to work to)
  2. Get everyone to add their song to that list at some point during the week
  3. For the last hour on Friday, encourage everyone to listen to a few songs and find out who’s posted them

28) The birth map game

Objective: To get everyone to understand each others culture and where they are from

Participants: 5 to 100

Duration: 15 to 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

We love this game because everyone will be from different places and have different heritage, this game unites everyone and gets them connected and working better together

Instructions:

  1. Get everyone to send a fun fact or a weird legend about the place they were born
  2. Send them around to everyone and get them to vote on who sent the most interesting story about their birth place
  3. Offer the winner a prize, such as an amazon voucher

29) Never have I ever: Rated E Edition

Objective: To get everyone bonding and sharing facts about themselves

Participants: 4 to 10

Duration: 30 to 60 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: None

We’ve all played never have I ever, in small university halls as we fuel up for a big night out. However, playing this game as a remote team building activity is an excellent way to get members involved, having a laugh and getting to know each other.

Instructions:

  1. Set up a group chat with everyone who is playing
  2. Tell them they have five lives
  3. Each player take it in turns to say “never have I ever…” (keep it PG, for example “never have I ever been to Africa)
  4. Everyone who’s done it places an emoji of their choice (which is a life)
  5. The game keeps going until the first person it out

Another 11 activities are coming very soon to this list. Bookmark this page and check it again soon!

Conclusion

We hope you've liked our list of the best virtual team building activities for remote & distributed teams.

More than anything, we hope this post has made you realise that just because your team are distributed over eight states, 12 countries, two continents, and seven time zones, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a team and promote the same communication, trust and collaboration as normal teams.

When you set aside some dedicated time for focused virtual team building, and integrate activities like these into your weekly routine, you will find your team growing stronger and better day by day.

Try these out and let me know how you go.

Is there one that we've missed that should definitely be in our best of list?

Let me know in the comments below!

Heather Harper

About the author

Heather Harper has a Masters in Occupational Psychological from the University of Manchester. She currently works as an editorial writer specialising in organizational psychology - helping teams work better together.

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