Now that many teams are settling into a new normal of remote working, the biggest threat to continued company productivity maybe loneliness. The isolation from work colleagues and the sudden conflation of work and home lives may lead employees on remote teams to suffer from a mix of social isolation and disconnection from their teams.
Maintaining a happy and productive team requires conscious effort to replicate the organic connections and information sharing that happen informally over the water cooler or around the office.
We’ve put together 15 great ideas for helping your team stay active and connected while remote. We hope these ideas will provide some fun opportunities for team building on remote teams!
1. Virtual Happy Hour
Break out the margarita (or water) glasses and join coworkers for an informal happy hour after a day’s work. Socializing over video conferences may not match pre-COVID team celebrations, but it can provide an opportunity to talk and maintain connections. Having social time with your team allows each member to share valuable information about how they’re doing outside of their work tasks and is a key part of building camaraderie. They are also a perfect time to break out a fun zoom background.
2. Pet Hangout
Grab your furry friends for a special hangout designed to spread cheer and introduce your team to your pets! Dogs, cats, tigers, and other pets are helping us stay comfortable and providing companionship while we’re at home. Bring them along for a special team-building session to introduce our pets, show off any special tricks, and meet each other’s furry friends!
3. Crazy Shirt Day
Pop on your craziest shirt for this virtual twist on the “Casual Friday” dress code. Choose a theme or just go for the craziest outfit. Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t express our creativity and have a little fun. Team members with virtual sales calls or customer interactions can always pop a suit jacket over their crazy shirts to make the look more professional! This is another great time to incorporate the perfect virtual background in your daily huddle to showcase your chosen style. For example, a great beach scene is a perfect backdrop to model a Hawaiian shirt.
4. MTV Cribs: Remote Team Addition
In this twist on the classic MTV reality show, this team-building activity gives people an opportunity to give a mini-tour of their crib. Maybe it’s just a tour of the backyard or the home office, but sharing our current habitats with each other allows us to feel just a little bit closer to one another.
5. Recipe Roundup and Cook-Off
With limited dining options, there has never been a better time to explore new culinary creations. In this bonding activity, team members all submit their own favorite recipes. While a taste-tested cook-off may be impossible, team members can share their culinary creations with the group and give their (not-so) secret tips for perfecting their dish. With ingredient scarcities in many places, cooking nowadays involves added challenge and creativity. Most importantly, this activity also provides ideas for new menu items to try yourself in the future!
6. Gardening Competition
In the realm of epicurean pursuits, gardening has become a fun, time-consuming, meditative, and fulfilling activity during quarantine. We take serious pride in our office plants at Align and many of us enjoy recreational horticulture, even if we’re still working on our green thumbs. Sharing garden ideas, tricks, and tips in a Slack channel or weekly call is a great way to bring team members together–regardless of gardening ability–around a shared pursuit.
7. Virtual One-On-One Coffees
For larger teams, group video chats can be overwhelming and may not give everyone a chance to speak. New tools like Donut or Aloha assign one-on-one meetings between coworkers like an informal coffee chat or meet and greet. These casual chats replicate informal office interactions and give team members a sense of inclusion and connection. Teammates can learn more about each other’s roles and personal lives while enjoying a break from work.
8. Lunch and Learns
Lunch and Learns are a great way to bring different roles together to learn more about what goes into everyone’s day-to-day job. Team members can share specific expertise or more information about what their daily roles entail over lunch. While the rest of the team eats, one person or role group gets the spotlight to give the whole team insights on their roles and dependencies. These Lunch and Learns provide an opportunity to better understand the organization as a whole and communicate across silos.
9. Group Virtual Yoga or Fitness Class
Staying physically healthy and finding ways to stay fit are crucial for mental health and overall wellbeing during these times. Many of us miss the social aspect of going to the gym or attending a fitness class. Hosting a live group fitness session like yoga, HIIT cardio, or even a gentle, restorative guided meditation can bring the team together while encouraging healthy habits. Furthermore, routines can be adjusted to accommodate each team member’s fitness level. At Align, we’re lucky to have our own in-house Yoga expert in Advisor Emmy German, but companies may also choose to sponsor a class for employee well-being.
10. Book Club
Book clubs have always been a great way to connect over others’ stories and experiences. Starting a virtual book club with your team provides a way to learn together and find time to have non-work-related conversations. Your team can choose books focusing on relevant business topics, or simply your favorite fiction! Tools like Better Book Club can help your organization launch a book club. As Harry Truman said, “leaders are readers”, and encouraging continued learning sets your company up for growth.
11. Meeting Bingo
Spending a little bit too much time in meetings? Spice it up with meeting Bingo! Submit consistently occurring meeting events to fill in as squares, randomize and share the boards, and watch meeting engagement soar as team members try to become the first to win bingo. Obviously, make sure that entries are not hurtful or distracting. If done correctly, a meeting bingo can be a fun way to increase attention and have fun during virtual meetings!
12. Live Remote Coworking
Sometimes simply the experience of working alongside other team members provides motivation and focus for heads down, individual work. Creating virtual coworking spaces where team members work on individual tasks while conferencing with the team is a novel way to recreate the working environment of the office. Simply having coworkers in close visual vicinity can help simulate an office environment and the reminder that your team is working together to achieve positive outcomes. These sessions can happen during pre-set times or open-ended to encourage bonding and productivity.
There has been a recent explosion in virtual games for teams to play while remote. Jackbox Games offers fun options like Quiplash, a fill-in-the-blank crowd voting game, and Drawful, a pictionary game where players draw prompts from their mobile devices. These games offer informal socialization and some fun to break up the workday.
14. Fun Slack Channels
Regardless of how your team communicates, having a channel for fun, random, or uplifting posts can help uplift the workday and build camaraderie. A channel for photos of pets, progress pics of gardening, or favorite videos of virtual music performances can be a fun way to stay in touch and share non-work-related items. Like the water cooler or casual check-in, these Slack channels provide critical opportunities for team members to share personal passions, allowing them to feel engaged and connected.
15. Virtual Talent Show
Set up a time for team members to share their secret talents, however silly they may be. Whether musical, magical, or ridiculous, showcasing employee talents is a fun and engaging way to highlight interests outside of work for the team.
A Final Note
However your team stays connected during these times, it’s important to remember that things are far from normal. Engaging your team will require innovative ways of thinking and conscious effort to replicate organic in-person interactions. Be sure to have a survey tool in place (like Align’s eNPS Surveys) to consistently monitor employee engagement and well-being. Together, teams can make it through these tough times and potentially even become closer.
If you’re looking for more ways to bring fun and excitement to your remote team, check out our curated collection of virtual meeting backgrounds!