Everything Else

Team Building Activities: How To Keep Your Remote Teams Together

December 14, 2017
team-building-tips

Distributed teams are pretty common for brands who want to work with the best of talent from across the world. While this of course leads to success for most, there are those that lose out on reaching the top of the list due to one single problem – lack of ‘team spirit’.

The truth is, if the employees are able to break the ice among each other, it obviously becomes easy to brainstorm, cooperate and deliver timely results. Which organization wouldn’t want its employees to be happy and satisfied at work?

After all – the realization of its goals depends on how well the employees gel with each other!

Agreed it is great if employees become friends on their own. But sometimes, they need a slight nudge so that the bonding process can be accelerated. That’s where organizations need to wake up and make a move.

Team building activities to boost creativity

1. Game of possibilities

Time: 2 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Any random objects

Mode: On-site

team-building-tips-1

Instructions: Divide all the employees into small teams, and hand each member an object. Now what he or she has to do is go in front of their group and demonstrate a use for that particular object – without revealing what it is.

The rest of the team has to guess what the person is exhibiting in 2 minutes. The demonstrator, by the way, is not allowed to speak or mouth words. He or she has to get the creative juices flowing to complete the task.

2. Workspace decorating contest

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Depends on each employee

Mode: Online

Instructions: Since employees don’t share office space and work separately, this activity gives a sneak peak of every remote employee’s workstation. Conduct a short contest of decorating the workspace under 5 minutes.

The employees are free to use whatever prop they wish to. Once everyone is finished doing up their work space, have a video-conference so that each employee can be included and see what others have done. Who said remote working is boring?

3. Quick skits

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Multiple groups of four

What you’ll need: A jar of chits containing skit themes

Mode: On-site

Want to boost the creativity levels of your employees? Gather all of them around and make multiple groups of four. Ask them to pick one chit from the jar. Each team is to be given 3 minutes to prepare a skit of 1 minute. This is an exercise that requires spontaneity and of course, brings out the creative side of everyone!

Team building activities to improve problem solving skills

4. Winning or losing?

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Pairs of two

What you’ll need: Video conferencing software

Mode: On-site or online

Instructions: This is an interesting activity as it not only allows the employees to share their most negative incidents but also helps them explore the positives. In this game, participant A shares a sour experience with participant B. The experience could be personal or work-related but it has to be true.

Then A repeats the incident but this time only focuses on the positive aspects of the episode. Here, B helps A in finding a silver lining of the bad experience. The two participants then switch roles. This activity can either take place face-to-face or over a Skype call.

5. Scavenger hunt

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Pen and paper

Mode: On-site

Split the employees into small groups of four and ask them to make a list of fun activities to do outside office. Once the list is made, ask everyone to find and photograph everything on that list within a certain time limit. The first team to complete the list wins. This is a great activity to energize and challenge everyone to flex their grey cells. What do you think?

6. Memory wall

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: A whiteboard

Mode: On-site and online

This activity’s simple. Write a few work-related topics such as “work travel”, “teamwork” or “big project” on the whiteboard. Gather your team members around and ask them to share a story on one of the topics – especially the ones that bothered them.

Through this exercise, the employees can not only communicate better but also discuss solutions to the problems in a more informal way. The employees working remotely can be included through Skype or any conferencing software.

Team building activities for better communication

7. Purposeful mingling

Time: 2 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Any conferencing software

Mode: Online

hands-people-woman-meeting-team-building-tips

Instructions: Want all employees to put their cards on the table before a big meeting? This activity is ideal! Ask each employee what they hope to contribute to or achieve through the meeting with as many people as possible.

If you want to make this activity more fun, incentivise it. Offer one gift prize to that employee who shares with the maximum number of people, and another to the person who actually contributes what he shared he would contribute.

This will instigate the employees to approach those people (via email, phone or face-to-face) who they have never interacted with before. They won’t have a problem collaborating with each other next time a project or an assignment calls for it.

8. Coffee meet-up

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Computer with a webcam, video conferencing software

Mode: Online

coffee-meet-up-team-building-tips

Instructions: It’s always fun catching up with teammates over a cup of coffee. But what do you do if you can’t do that in person? You enjoy a hot brew together online! Fix a time and date on which you want your team to get together at (different) coffee shop(s).

This activity can work for any number of employees but if the group is smaller, it will be easy to manage it and make sure everyone arrives at their respective coffee shops at the pre-decided day. It’s a great platform to spend a couple of minutes, having coffee, and chit-chatting with peers.

If your conversations get extended, utilize the time to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming project or finish hanging tasks in limbo.

9. Posting pet pics on Slack

Time: 2-5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Slack

Mode: Online

Instructions: If your team comprises people who are dog-loving people, you won’t be surprised to see how eager they are to share photos of their pets doing hilarious things. Slack is one of the most popular tools of communication for businesses, and requires little effort or maintenance.

Therefore, set up Slack accounts for everyone in case if they don’t already. Fix a day for this activity. Friday sounds perfect as everyone’s in a relaxed frame of mind. Let the employees share pet pics and engage in a conversation. There’s nothing better than bonding over the love for dogs!

Team building activities to promote strategic thinking

10. ‘Book of the month’ presentation

Time: 3 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Skype

Mode: Online

coffee-meet-up-team-building-tips

Instructions: If you have a considerable number of bibliophiles in your team, then starting a virtual book club is a good idea. Ask your remote team members to pick a book for discussion and towards the end of the month, two selected members will give a 3-minute presentation on it.

Book services such as Blinklist are also an option – in case your team wants to consume quick content. The reason this activity works for both remote and location-based employees as they don’t need to be in the same room to discuss a book!

A simple communication tool such as Skype can do the job. This kind of activity promotes strategic thinking and instigates the employees to work together outside of an office setting.

11. Dog, rice and chicken

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Pairs of two

What you’ll need: Pen and paper

Mode: On-site and online

Instructions: This is a puzzle that instills strategic thinking and planning. So a farmer has to return home with three purchases – dog, rice and chicken on a boat by crossing a river. But the catch is that he can only carry one thing at a time with him on the boat.

He can’t leave the dog with the chicken as the dog will kill the chicken. And he can’t leave rice with the chicken as the latter will end up eating rice. What’s the solution? Give each pair a time slot of 5 minutes to solve this puzzle. They can make use pen and paper to analyze the scenario and arrive at a decision.

The employees working remotely can also take part it in this!

Team building activities for welcoming new employees

Making newcomers feel welcomed in the team is a bit difficult. Not only does the new job offer a steep learning curve to the new joinee but also makes it challenging for him or her to start a conversation with other team mates.

But with these simple activities, it is possible to put those woes to rest.

12. Blind sketching

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: Photo, paper and pen

Mode: On-site

painting-pencil-paint-pencils

Instructions: Divide the employees into groups of two. Make sure that each group sits back-to-back. Give one person the paper and pen, and hand over the photo to the other person. Let the latter describe the image without actually saying what it is to the former, who will then try to draw the image based on verbal description.

Set a time limit of 5 minutes. Stretch it to 10, if need be. The reason this makes such a cool activity for newcomers is because they get to interact with their team members in a casual setting. This also gives them a taste of how the team functions.

13. Get to know me, please

Time: 3 minutes

Number of participants: Newcomers every week/month

What you’ll need: computer, video conferencing software

Mode: Online

Instructions: Imagine if you have a new employee in your team. He or she has a bank of cool ideas in mind and can’t wait to get started. But the thing is (s)he doesn’t really know the team that well and vice versa.

What do you then? You make sure the newcomer opens up with the team quickly. How? You can ask him or her to write down 10 important facts about themselves and present that to the rest of the teammates.

This is a great way for the old members to know about the new entrants. If there way too many new joinees, then it is best to conduct this exercise every week or every two weeks. What do you think?

14. Office trivia

Time: 5 minutes

Number of participants: Two or more

What you’ll need: A conferencing software

Mode: Online

Instructions: Remote teams are generally unaware about the things happening outside their work-scape. And if you have new employees on-board, it makes sense to conduct a game of office trivia. If you are the team leader, prepare a list of 10-15 questions such as “how many people are in the IT department?”, “when did the CTO join the company?”, etc.

You can conduct this exercise in a conference room, with the new remote workers plugged in online through Skype or any other software. This activity shows how observant your new employees are. Organize this activity once the employees have completed 4-6 weeks with the company.

This is also a great activity for employees working on location.

Companies pioneering remote team building

1. Buffer

There is a team of 80 remote employees, working across six time zones, behind this social media management tool. Since that’s how Buffer has always operated, remote team building was always a priority for the top management.

One of the coolest things that Buffer does for its team members is group discussions. To build time for “on the spot” conversations, the Buffer team hosts two “Impromptu Hours” every week, one timed for Europe/Asia/Australia teammates and one for North and South America/Europe employees.

These discussions have no agenda but this screenshot is proof that whatever happens online is a lot of fun for the employees! The Buffer team also has something called “water cooler Wednesdays” in which the team shares a “water cooler question” every Wednesday on the Slack channel, with the hashtag #water-cooler.

Sounds cool, right?

2. Wildbit

Thursdays are yoga days at the Philadelphia headquarters of Wildbit. The HR shoots an email to everyone, including the employees working remotely, asking if anyone wants to join in for a yoga session via a livestream!

wildbit-philly-team-building

Of course, it is entirely optional. But such simple activities instill a sense of belonging amongst all employees, even if some of them are sitting miles away from the HQ.

The Wildbit also gets together at the Philly HQ from time-to-time for intense brainstorming sessions. Every Wildbit remote employee has the liberty to visit the office, for any number of days and weeks, to work with the on-site team.

3. Bitly

Every Wednesday, Bitly follows a little tradition called “Lunch and Learn”. The lunch gets delivered to the office from a local New York restaurant, the teams from Denver and San Francisco also join in via Google Hangout. The day is for everyone to learn about the passions of a team member, other than work.

It’s a great way for the team to have fun and also get to know each other better.

4. Marketo

Marketo hosts regular “Marketing Happy Hours” for their team. This is where all of them get together for an hour and grab a bite to eat and drink. Apart from engaging in a conversation, the team also participates in community service events once a quarter.

This not only only gives them the opportunity to have fun outside the workplace but also do their bit giving back to the society!

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of businesses that have started to focus on team building now. They don’t want their team members to work, but also have fun together.

Why do you think team building matters?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: