Team-Building Ideas for Remote Workers

Teamwork makes the dream work. And it also powers small businesses. But what if your team members work in different locations? Even before the pandemic, over 5 million U.S. employees worked remotely at least part of the day. Now almost half of workers are remote and many expect to continue even after the pandemic. So how do you keep them working together when everyone is apart?

One way is through team-building activities. Forbes calls it the most important investment you can make for employees. While the traditional trust-fall activity won’t fly with remote workers, there are team-building exercises that will. Just use your video conferencing platform to connect everyone. Take a look at these ideas and consider whether they’re right for your remote staff.

Ice Breakers

This category of team-building exercises works best for new teams or when a new member is added. One of the barriers to virtual collaboration is not knowing how to connect with each other. Employees don’t know what they have in common or what skills they can draw on. As a result, an extrovert might unknowingly make a more introverted worker run for the hills and shut down. Then the business loses out on the contribution they could make.

Exercises like these from Snacknation can help break down the barriers. They’re quick and easy ways to kick off a virtual team meeting:

  • Critical thinking – This activity helps team members learn how others solve a common problem. That helps them identify who to go to get ideas. Start by posing the question, “If you were alone in a dark cabin with only one match and a lamp, a fireplace, or a candle, which would you light first? Why?” Spend time discussing the different answers and what you took away from each.
  • Fast recall – This works well with larger teams. Each team member is asked to provide their answer to a prompt. For example, what streaming movie or TV series do you recommend and why? When everyone is finished, team members are asked to recall who recommended which title. It uncovers common interests so they can relate to each other.
  • Rose and thorn – Here’s one that helps employees learn what motivates team members and where they need help. Each team member shares their rose (something positive that made them happy). Then they share a thorn (a challenge they’re having). Either can be work related or not. It’s a chance for team members to offer congratulations or support.

Common Experience

One way for people to bond is for everyone in the group to experience something new at the same time. This shared experience gives them something in common they can relate to. It frees them to start a conversation about what they thought. And in that process they learn what makes each other tick. Here are some suggestions:

  • Build a Storyline – This activity flexes everyone’s creative muscle. It also develops listening skills. One person opens with a sentence and an incomplete phrase.  For example, “On Mark’s first day of his awesome new job, his car breaks down. At first he felt helpless, but then he ____.” The next person fills in the blank and adds another line. The aim is to finish the story by the last person to speak.
  • Teambuilding.com – This website offers online games and experiences for teams. They also offer virtual team experiences. Watch this video promoting their Tiny Campfire activity which features real-life s’mores.
  • Escape Rooms – This is a popular leisure activity, particularly among younger people. For businesses, it helps employees practice their problem-solving activities remotely. The Escape Game website is an example of this activity.

Just because your team isn’t physically together doesn’t mean they can’t work together. But like most skills, it takes practice. Team-building exercises like these can help. Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of 40 more tried and tested remote team-building games.