When there’s no physical “in real life” interactions, building a virtual team can feel like you’re expected to create something out of nothing. But as we continue living life against the backdrop of a “new normal,” digital tools like video conferencing, plus a little creativity and ingenuity, can work to create a better sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
Virtual team building adds a layer of community. Activities, games, and icebreakers done via video chat actually have a lasting effect. When remote workers feel out of touch, unsupported, lacking in excitement and wanting more trust and responsibility, conducting a virtual team building exercise can refresh that sense of feeling seen and heard.
According to Harvard Business Review, there are a few core rules to making a virtual team work effectively and productively:
- If possible, try to meet in real life as early on as possible.
- Drill down tasks and processes, not just end results and roles.
- Create a set of guidelines and behavior codes for each mode of communication.
- Choose a robust platform that centralizes workers.
- Build rhythm with regular meetings.
- Avoid ambiguity by communicating clearly and what means what.
- Encourage informal interactions at the beginning of an online meeting.
- Refresh, manage and clarify tasks and commitments.
- Find ways to involve multiple leaders to create “shared leadership.”
- Conduct 1:1s to get down to check status and provide feedback.
Use these rules combined with a few icebreakers and activities for online meetings that instill a sense of togetherness, even though you might be far apart. To get your virtual team building started, get everyone onboard by sending out an email and inviting them onto the same video conferencing platform. Here are a few ideas to ease into it:
Critical Thinking Virtual Icebreaker
This brainy exercise is thought-provoking. Since there is more than one way to crack it, everyone walks out having learned something new.
- Start your online meeting by posing a lateral thinking question to the group: “A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says ‘Thank you’ and walks out.”
- Here’s another one but has multiple answers to inspire discussion: “If you were alone in a dark cabin, with only one match and a lamp, a fireplace, and a candle to choose from, which would you light first?”
- Give everyone 30 seconds to ponder.
- Have everyone share their answer in the chat box or by unmuting themselves to speak. Spend a minute or two on each person to share their thoughts and what you learned.
Open Mic Virtual Icebreaker
Ok, so not everyone might want to break into a dance. The bottom line is that everyone shares something – it can be as simple as talking about the book they’re reading or as extra as singing opera.
- Invite team members to take the virtual stage.
- Each person has a minute at the beginning of the meeting to share a fact, sing a song, play an instrument, share a recipe – anything they want – from performance-based to lifestyle-oriented.
- Allow a few moments between each share for acknowledgement.
Snapshot Virtual Icebreaker
Lighthearted but also a little personal, this activity is engaging and collaborative. It’s fast and easy and is visually appealing too!
- Ask everyone to snap a picture of something. It could be anything: Their desk, pet, inside of the fridge, flowers, balcony, new shoes, etc.
- Invite everyone to upload it to the online whiteboard and create a collage.
- Spark conversation and compliments by getting people to ask questions and share impressions.
“Big Talk” Virtual Icebreaker
It’s easy to get bored of small talk, so encourage conversation that’s contained, but goes a little deeper.
- Choose a current news story that is appropriate.
- Send it out for the team to read ahead of time.
- Give everyone a moment to share their thoughts without disruption.
- Set aside a few minutes for group discussion.
This can be weekly or monthly, and can involve sending out supplies, or can be put on by team members.
- Choose a company like Wavy to help you curate an activity:
- Interested in wellness? Host a meditation hour.
- Into cocktails? Get a bartender.
- Want to cook? Bring on a chef.
- Just make sure to send out the essentials beforehand so everyone has what they need to get started.
- If getting a third party involved isn’t in the budget, delegate one person per occasion to run the show. Other ideas include:
- Pet Show And Tell
Highly engaging and heartwarming, get everyone to grab their pet and bring them on camera. Share their name, origin story and a funny tale.
- Book Club
Could be work related or what the majority wants. Read on your own time, but swap thoughts and share insights weekly.
- Employee Wellness Or Fitness Challenge
Working from home means a lot of sitting around. Get employees on the health train by setting up a challenge. Could be 30 days of crunches or a week of eating meat-free. Encourage regular video chats and online meetings while using an online tool or app to help keep track.
- Pet Show And Tell
And here are few apps that integrate with Slack to keep the morale high:
- Bonusly – Use this point system to help reward people and give recognition.
- Simple Poll – Pull up any kind of poll – nature, anonymous, recurring – to get people engaged and to receive instant feedback.
- Donut – For team members who’ve never met each other, this app helps to inspire conversation.
Let Callbridge bring your team closer together in an online space with video conferencing solutions and integrations, including Slack, for more streamlined and effective communication and team-building. Keep it professional while also having a little fun and socializing.