Virtual Team Building: The Ultimate Manager Guide

Everything you need to know about building trust for remote/hybrid teams.

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Chapter 6

Unite: Remote Team Building Activities

We couldn’t write the ultimate guide to team building without sharing some of our favorite activities for everyday team bonding. When teams can maintain their "battery of trust," they're likely to be more engaged and invested in the team's success. This battery isn't charged all at once but through little moments of vulnerability and intentional team effort.

Instead of sharing a large list of activities, we’ve broken this chapter into two big categories for remote team building: synchronous and asynchronous. 

Synchronous Team Building Activities

Synchronous refers to live-time interactions. These are the team building activities most people expect: Zoom hangouts, virtual baking classes, or games that require teammates to be online at the same time.


Icebreakers

The most basic, and likely overused, strategy is Zoom icebreakers. These simple questions are meant to kick off a meeting with a bit of getting-to-know-you fun. Bonus points: start the meeting with a custom Zoom background based on the icebreaker.

There are lists upon lists of them, here are a few:


Fun Activities

From lavish cooking classes to spooky online escape rooms, these planned virtual activities were super popular during the pandemic. Companies brought in yoga teachers, shipped terrarium building kits, and invited comedians to give their teams experiences to remember. With a bit of money and planning, managers can schedule a fun event for their team to enjoy.


Cultural Weeks and Workshops

We’ve seen many Employee Resource Groups host entire weeks dedicated to diversity and awareness, inviting speakers and hosting classes. One company celebrated Pride Week and invited drag queens for a spectacular show. Another company shared books on anti-racism and invited the author for a thoughtful discussion. With these events, teams can come together to have fun and gain a bit of perspective.


Games

A particular favorite for our team, weekly game nights help teammates share a bit of competitive spirit and work on teamwork. Some of our favorite games include:


Coffee Chats

For busy teams and teammates looking to get to know more faces at the company, coffee chats prove to be a fun and quick solution. Apps like Donut randomly pair two teammates for a thirty-minute chat, making it a perfect activity for a lunch or coffee break. Every company runs their coffee chats differently so feel free to set rules and mix it up!

Asynchronous Team Building Activities

Asynchronous refers to the opposite of synchronous. It does not require teammates to be interacting live time. This kind of team building is an up-and-coming trend, especially as managers face the reality of Zoom fatigue and globally distributed teammates.


Check-ins & Fun Channels

As a check-in tool ourselves, we’re a bit biased. We have seen fully distributed teams build trust with Kona and spark awesome conversations fully asynchronously. That’s because messaging tools don’t require instant responses and a moment of vulnerability leads to trust regardless of where you are.

Alternatively, we’ve seen teams create fun Slack channels for discussions. Names like #whereImWorking, #dogspotting, #fluffyCoworker, and #cooking allow teams to open up about life outside of work.


Care Packages/Thank You Notes

Another thoughtful strategy is care packages and handwritten thank you notes. These take a bit more effort on a manager’s part but can mean the world to the receiver. The key is understanding that everyone has a preference for gifts and that some gestures will be more impactful than others.


Recognition

A simple but effective strategy that doesn’t require a slot on the calendar is gratitude. Research shows that a gratitude practice can help with mental health, burnout, and isolation. The important part of positive feedback is to make it genuine and thought-out. (Sloppy recognition can feel patronizing and fake!)

Showing appreciation can come in many forms:

  • Create a #kudos Slack channel
  • Try an app like HeyTaco!
  • Send a thank-you video over Loom


Messy Desk Thursdays

One game from Atlassian parodies the perfect desks you always see on Twitter. On Thursdays, teammates share a picture of their horrendous desks and aim for the largest amount of emoji reactions. Not only does this make the team’s neat freaks cringe, but it also allows for a bit of vulnerability and laughter. Add your own spin by creating a team theme for the week.


Async Games

It’s easy to think games have to be live-time to work, but many remote companies have had success with async competitions as well. Companies like X-Team have challenges around exercise, hobbies, and learning that teammates can earn points from and apply towards limited edition swag. These games allow for competition without a Zoom call.


This list barely scratches the surface of team building activities. It’s important to keep in mind that team building is a constant practice and that trust won’t be built off a single game or emoji reaction. By incorporating these fun activities and all these other strategies, teams line themselves up for success.

Next Chapter – Defend: Supporting Your Team’s Mental Health

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