With the pivot to remote working here to stay, but with businesses also slowly opening up offices again, there’s one question on every company leader’s mind: how do I effectively manage a virtual or hybrid workforce?
It’s not easy keeping your in-person and remote employees in sync. Beyond the day-to-day tasks that need to be completed, managers and leaders need to also figure out how to build connection, trust, camaraderie - all those things essential for team members to work well together.
“The biggest dilemma for us in the current scenario of work from home model is…how to translate the same level of 'belongingness' in the virtual space”, says Anita Bhatia, HR Director for the Times Internet, the digital arm of the Times Group, the largest media conglomerate in India. “[This is important] to ensure seamless engagement, motivation, and retention of our key talent…”
The need of the hour is therefore for managers and leaders to work with purpose towards uniting their team, regardless of whether their colleagues are at the office or are half the world away. Technology can help — but only to an extent. But if you are deliberate about helping your team to bond and build relationships, it can yield great benefits in teams of communication and productivity.
One way to do this is through virtual team building activities.
But let’s come back to this in a second, and cover the basics first.
Why team building is important for your bottom line
Yes, it’s true that suggesting team building activities for employees is often met with a roll of the eyes, but there’s no doubt that they’re effective.
A study by Gallup reveals that “Virtual team building activities lead to an increase in employee engagement & performance rate, claiming 41% lower absenteeism and 21% higher profitability.”
These findings are buttressed by a new research from Better Up which show that workplace belonging leads to a 56% increase in job performance.
Team building is central to this. According to the Gensler US Workplace Survey, people see team building as the most important aspect of great workplaces, with 43% choosing ‘promotes team building and collaborate’ as a key attribute, 20% choosing ‘foster camaraderie and fun’ and 18% choosing ‘build social connections and community.’
Now that this is clear, here are some simple but effective virtual team building activities you can use to strengthen your team.
9 fun virtual team building activities for your hybrid workforce
1. Virtual scavenger hunt
As you’re running this activity for a virtual or hybrid team, keep in mind that you’ll need to try to find items for your list that can be found by colleagues in the office or at home, such as books or keyboards. To up the ante, you set riddles as scavenger hunt clues, for instance “I have a spine, but no bones” (answer: books).
To make it even more creative, your list doesn't have to comprise physical objects - they could be people at the company instead. So your participants will first need to figure out who the person is and then take a picture with them either on-screen or at the office.
This is one of the best virtual team building games that can also help build inter-company camaraderie.
2. Cultural celebration parties
When you have a diverse workforce, with employees from different parts of the world, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the cultural environment and location where each person works. Cultural celebration parties are a great way to do this. On the day of the celebration, you can decorate the office.
Your team members whose culture you are celebrating can attend wearing cultural clothing, while others can dress up too in support. They can hold virtual cooking classes to teach others how to cook a national dish, and you can order delivery of the dish to the houses of remote colleagues.
Though these are small activities, they’ll go a long way in making each person feel like they’re part of your company community.
3. Online adventure games
Online games are a fun way for virtual team members to work together to solve puzzles and riddles, usually against a clock. They are great exercises in creative problem solving and collaboration. Some popular options for your to consider:
Your team will have to solve a series of challenges to find the jewels before time runs out. Or, you can take this up a notch and make your team the bad guys who have to escape from the police with the jewels.
- Murder Mystery
Assign a character to each of your team members. They will have to put on fancy costumes, learn about their characters, and solve the clues to identify the murderer.
4. Virtual house tours
A virtual house tour is a fun way to let your team members show off their creativity and personality! Each week, ask a different team member to take the others on a virtual tour of their house. To make this even more entertaining, everyone can present their homes in the style of MTV Cribs or Architectural Digest just like celebrities do.
This activity allows team members to learn about each other on a more personal level and see colleagues as parents and hobbyists too. It deepens relationships and fosters greater understanding.
5. Virtual deserted island game
You’ve probably played this one before as it’s a classic team building activity for employees. Ask team members to pretend that they are stranded on a deserted island with an object that each possesses (distributed from a list or picked on their own). They will then need to work together to come up with creative ways to combine the various objects to improve their chances of survival. Working together in unfamiliar territory has a way of creating bonds that cannot be created in any other way.
6. 20 questions
This is another classic, although there are different variations.
Ask each employee to choose an item and tell everyone what category it belongs to (for instance, if they choose ‘ball’ as an item, then the category will be sporting equipment). Everyone else must guess the item by asking 20 yes or no questions. You can award points based on how many questions it took for the team member to guess the item. It is a simple game that can be played during a tea time break.
7. Two truths and a lie
This is another fun and light-hearted team building activity. To play this game, ask team members to write down three statements - two that are the truth and one that is a lie. Each team member will read their statements aloud in a random order, and the other participants will need to guess which one is the lie. The winner of the game is the team member whose lie wasn’t caught.
It’s a fun activity that’s a lot of laughs and helps your team learn more about each other too!
8. Idea workshops
The aim of organizing an idea workshop is to give your team a platform where they can brainstorm and work together to solve a problem.
It could be something that solves a problem the team or the company is facing. Or it could be a more lighthearted workshop wherein your team discusses ideas to make the company more fun - perhaps debating the merits of a pool table or casual Fridays.
9. Lunch and learn!
Eating lunch together is a simple way to strengthen the connections between hybrid team members. You can order a catered lunch for employees at the office, and food delivery for virtual teammates. As everyone eats their meal, they can relax and socialize.
It takes effort to nurture communication and camaraderie among virtual or hybrid teams, but by using team-building activities such as the ones mentioned in this article, you can turn your distributed team into a well-functioning unit.