Remote work has proven to be beneficial for both employees and employers in terms of flexibility and productivity. But all that time spent working alone can have negative effects on employees and the business as well. Working in a physical office makes it easy for employees to build connections and relationships. It’s these social connections that make them feel a sense of belongingness which contributes to higher levels of engagement at work. But when teams work remotely it’s easy to forget the need for socializing and team building.

If you’re managing a remote team, you need to exert extra effort on conducting remote team building activities and providing opportunities for your team members to bond. Not doing so can have consequences on the performance of your employees and your business as a whole.

Why Do You Need Team Building Activities for Remote Teams?

Renowned inbound marketing and sales SaaS provider, HubSpot, published their 2019 Remote Work Report to share insights about working remotely. They surveyed around 1,200 remote professionals which included HubSpot and non-HubSpot employees. Results showed that 20% of non-HubSpot remote workers feel lonely every day, with 35% feeling loneliness 2-3 times a week. It was also noted that non-HubSpot workers believe that a lack of social connection (29%) and communicating with co-workers (29%) are the two biggest challenges of working remotely.

Another study by corporate training innovator, VitalSmarts, showed that remote workers feel mistreated by their on-site colleagues. Remote workers feel that their colleagues lobby against them, make changes to projects without informing them, don’t fight for their priorities, and say bad things behind their backs. When these conflicts escalate, it negatively affects employee morale, productivity, and retention.

Keeping your employees engaged and satisfied with their job whether they work remotely or not should be a priority for any manager. It is necessary to keep them aligned with their team and the company as a whole. Not doing so can result in a decline in productivity and performance, and business targets being missed. Remember that remote workers are integral members of your company and should have equal opportunities for social interaction and interpersonal development. This is where remote team building can help.

Examples of Motivating Team Building Activities

Conducting remote team building activities may seem challenging. But with the help of technology and a bit of creativity, you can successfully pull off one. To help you out, here are 5 fun remote team building activities for inspiration.

Live Remote Co-working Office

Think of a virtual meeting but everyone just gets down to work. Seeing your teammates on video while working gives you a sense of being in an office without leaving your home. Don’t overdo this though or your employees might feel burdened by it. Do it perhaps once a week or every two weeks. And it doesn’t have to be a whole day session. Just a few minutes to an hour would do. What I like about this remote team building activity is that it’s easy to implement. You’ll only need a video conferencing tool and you’re all set. Plus, when employees see their teammates on work-mode, they’ll be motivated to focus on their work as well.

Pro-tip: Make your remote co-working session even livelier by streaming music. You can even have a shared music playlist within your team too.

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Movie Night

One of the best ways to bond outside of work is to watch a movie. But what if you’re miles and continents apart from your teammates? The solution: watch the movie on screen share. One teammate can stream the movie through a video conference call so the whole team can watch together. A non-work-related remote team building activity helps employees feel more relaxed with each other and can be a good conversation starter afterward.

Random Group Chats

Having a group chat dedicated to talking about anything under the sun allows employees to share more about their life outside of work. At Kanban Zone, we have a Slack channel where we send vacation pictures and another channel to talk about random stuff. We send photos of our pets, our holiday trips, jokes, quotes, or anything we find interesting. While this is not a formal remote team building activity, it helps employees get to know each other a bit deeper and share more of their personal life and preferences. It’s easy to implement and everyone can access it anytime.

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt

Whoever said scavenger hunts can’t be done remotely obviously hasn’t tried. This remote team building activity can get out the inner competitiveness of your employees. It also promotes teamwork while having fun. To do this, you’ll need to split your employees into teams and give them a list of tasks to complete. The teams would have to strategize and assign tasks to specific members. A list of things to do can include getting a photo near a street sign, a photo with a green car, a photo wearing a weird hat, or a collage of all the members jumping in the air. The list could go on. Be as creative as possible. You can find photo scavenger hunt lists on the Internet for inspiration. The key is to get photo or video evidence that the task has been done. Once they have all the photos on their list they can send it to your group chat on Slack or Whatsapp. The first team to complete all tasks wins.

Guess That Teammate

Now here’s a fun remote team building activity that’ll help your employees get to know a little bit more about their colleagues on a personal level. The idea is to have your team members answer a list of personal facts. You then collate the fact sheets and come up with a quiz list where other employees would have to guess who the information is about. You can do this on a video call or have each employee answer a quiz sheet. You can even use online tools like Kahoot! if you want it to be more interactive.

What I like about this remote team building activity is it breaks down the walls and allows each employee to share a little bit more about themselves without being intimidated or shy. It’s a fun way to foster camaraderie within remote teams.

Tools for Virtual Team Bonding Activities

Since remote team building activities rely heavily on technology, you need to have access to certain apps and tools. The good news is you’re already using most of these tools for your work, especially your remote team meetings. Check which ones you already have and start using them for your remote team building games. These include the following:

  • Video conferencing and Screen Sharing appGoogle Hangouts, Zoom, Skype
  • Messaging app – Slack
  • File Sharing/Documentation app – GSuite

If you’re feeling more creative, you can explore remote team building apps or game-based learning platforms. Some are free to use while some may need a subscription fee.

Doing Team Building Activities Online

Remote team building is an essential activity for distributed teams. If you want to keep your team engaged and working cohesively, you’ll need a way to strengthen their bond. These simple but fun activities will help your remote teams communicate effectively, establish rapport, and build trust despite being miles apart. This helps them be more productive at work and contribute effectively to the goals of the company.

If you’re managing a remote team, make it a point to touch base with your remote employees regularly as much as you do with on-site employees. Every once in a while, make things more fun with our 5 remote team building activities or come up with your own.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.