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Collaborating Remotely and Building Effective Teams Virtually

Published October 26, 2020 (last updated on June 27, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

remote workers sending messages illustration

Many people easily picture traditional in-person team building exercises, but what do virtual team building activities look like? Are they effective in encouraging remote collaboration and building effective virtual teams over time?

In short, yes. At length, also yes, and with the science and fun to back it up.

What is Virtual Team Building?

Virtual team building is the development of strong remote teams in a digital space. Employees still come together to get to know one another and grow their skills interdependently. The only difference is that it’s conducted online, typically for remote employees who sometimes, rarely, or never meet in person. The end goal, whether onsite or online is the same: together everyone achieves more.

What are the Benefits of Virtual Team Building?

An Owl Labs study found that full-time virtual workers are 22% happier in their roles than workers who work in an office. Remote workers have reported having less stress, more focus, and a better work-life balance over time for companies that provide true flexibility to their virtual employees.

It may surprise you to find out that flexible work arrangements sometimes are not as flexible for the mind and body. Remote team members also work over 40 hours each week 43% more than those who work in on-site. Burnout still happens to remote workers. The peace and independence that remote work brings can also feel isolating.

However, bringing the staff together through virtual team building activities can do the following:

  • Boost team morale and collaboration

  • Establish a work culture built on community

  • Encourage creativity, innovation, and versatility

  • Increase positive reinforcement and improve communication skills overall

  • Foster a communal work ethic built on trust and interdependence, while highlighting individual talents

Virtual Team Building Exercises

Need inspiration? Try these virtual team building exercises to encourage collaboration, creativity, and more:

1. Use Icebreakers to Start Conversations

What is your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? Are you an INFJ? Wow! They have an uncanny sense of perception.

What’s next on your bucket list? Rock climbers are really brave. So many people are scared of heights.

Speaking of heights, how many of you have had that reoccurring dream where you have to fly a plane but don’t know how? Anyone?

Oh! You have your pilot’s license! Well, that means you can help out with the whole plane thing IRL, right? Phew. Thanks.

While that’s a pretty random example, you see how a few icebreakers start conversations and allow virtual team members to get to know each other. A few side conversations are fine, as it sparks enthusiasm and innovation, but keep a list of icebreakers to keep your virtual team members on track.

2. Host a Virtual Games Day/Night

Games and activities have brought people together for ages, and just because you share a virtual workspace, doesn’t mean anyone has to miss out! Host a virtual games day or night.

Challenge the virtual team to scour the company policies and resources to complete a scavenger hunt. If you want to remove the company from the theme, make a list of interesting things to find both on the internet and around the remote team members’ homes.

3. Pin the Map

Create an interactive map that allow each virtual team member to pin their hometown. If you have a diverse team located around the world, see just how big the virtual team is while feeling closer to each other while working from home. Challenge each team member to share one fact about themselves.

Alternatively, try creating a global Foodie Map. Each virtual team member pins their most memorable restaurant and shares their favourite dish.

4. Start a Book Club

If you are using your Slack channel to discuss books about inspirational entrepreneurs, why not start a book club? The topics and genres can change each month. Schedule a once a month meeting with discussion prompts. Talk about the book during a virtual happy hour over video chat.

Take it a step farther. Why not encourage employees to take 30 minutes each Wednesday to read the selected Book of the Month on company time? Approved activities based on remote employee input makes the culture richer and gives everyone a much-needed break that doesn’t “waste” company funds. Meanwhile, remote team members are both rewarded and motivated.

Useful Tools for Virtual Team Building

How do you host virtual team building activities? The good news is that you use most of the necessary equipment regularly, such as video chat, conference calls, Slack channels, screen sharing, and more. Think of the tools virtual teams use every day. This may be a great way to covertly encourage virtual team members to feel more confident about these tools:

  • Virtual team members may take turns telling two truths and one lie on the Slack channel.

  • Remote team members can use screen sharing to do show and tell.

  • Make the most of video chat or conference calling as team members share their best actor/actress impersonations.

There are no limits to your imagination as you get everyone to explore how to make the most of your team’s tools through your team building exercises.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Virtual Team Building

So, how do you know if these team building activities actually brought remote employees together or not? What if the virtual team members completed the exercises out of a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment and bonding?

How do you measure the effectiveness of virtual team building on various departments, such as their morale, productivity, sales, or service?

If you don’t ask, then you will never know. Surveys are a tried and true format as well as directly asking team members one-on-one. What did remote team members find most interesting or valuable? What did they learn? What would team members change? Did certain activities have a positive impact on their role?

It is also smart to have baseline metrics regarding absenteeism, productivity, and the data of different profit margins and rates over different times (days/weeks/months) ready. Use this baseline to note any changes, both before and after, as well as over time for your remote team. You can also adjust how often you conduct team building exercises accordingly as you observe the metrics shift.

Remember, together everyone achieves more—TEAM. Virtual team building activities boost morale and trust among remote employees. This sense of well-being, trust, integrity, and trust among employees, whether online or onsite, is vital.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Engage Employees Virtually?

You can engage employees virtually by fostering personal connections and keeping communication lines open.

How Do You Bond With A Remote Team?

Get to know them by asking personal questions, video chatting, and scheduling one-on-one time so you can check in with them.

How Do You Make A Virtual Meeting Fun?
  • Start with an ice breaker
  • Ask the team for ideas
  • Get them to collaborate
  • Conduct fun polls and surveys
  • Get them to do simple warm-up exercises
What Do You Need For Virtual Team Building?

You need a team, reliable technology, and creative team building ideas.

How Do I Know If My Virtual Activity Was Successful?

Establish metrics for each activity to track team members’ performance.

What Are Some Virtual Meeting Software?
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Adobe Connect
  • Google Meet
  • U Meeting
  • Cisco Webex
  • Zoom Meetings
  • ClickMeeting
  • Ring Central Video
  • GoToMeeting

Note: these are not necessarily recommended by Peninsula.

What Are Some Team Building Activities For Conference Calls?
  • Make introductions interesting
  • Use icebreakers
  • Run a poll
  • Play trivia games
  • Use brain teasers
What Are Some Fun Icebreaker Questions?
  • What’s your best scary story?
  • Cats or dogs?
  • What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
  • What are your pet peeves?

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