Hearing “team-building activities” makes some people cringe. Team members may have memories of employee work retreats, complete with awkward icebreaker games and trust falls. If this is your team-building nightmare, don’t worry – we don’t encourage trust falls here. (Especially when your team is working remotely!)
Great team-building activities don’t put team members on the spot or pressure people into having fun. Building remote teams means giving employees virtual tools that support stronger work relationships. Working collaboratively, playing games, and sharing virtual coffee breaks can all be team-building activities.
The Whiteboards app keeps your remote office running smoothly with deep two-way Jira integration and 100+ versatile meeting templates. Gather on the virtual whiteboard to brainstorm, troubleshoot, or plan your next Sprint with tools that keep real-time collaboration seamless.
The virtual whiteboard also makes a great online meeting space for fun team-building activities. Customizable templates guide remote teams through painless icebreakers and personal check-ins. Virtual sticky notes support all sorts of remote team-building activities and games. Online whiteboard video chats let remote employees connect face-to-face as they work.
Try Whiteboards for free today to test out these remote team-building tools, and keep reading to get practical ideas for easy online games and fun activities that build team morale in the virtual office.
1. A team-building activity to help you plan team-building activities
Have your remote team write their own personal user manuals.
The first rule of bringing together a remote team is that your team-building activities need to fit your team. An extroverted team might thrive on remote office dance parties or a virtual karaoke contest. A newer or quieter team needs safe, incremental ways of building trust and communication. Choosing appropriate team-building activities means considering your people – the team vibe as well as the individuals.
It’s easy to assume other people work like we do. In reality, people enjoy different activities and need different tools and support. One great way to build your online team is to take the time to ask people good questions. What tools help them thrive at work? How can the team encourage them? Which virtual activities are fun for them? Which are really NOT fun?
In pursuit of virtual office team building, Jira’s parent company, Atlassian, has team members create personal “user manuals.” Employees then share these manuals with the remote team to help team members support fellow employees better.
These prompts are adapted from Atlassian’s “My User Manual” template for hybrid and remote teams:
- What are your ideal working conditions?
- Which times of day are you working if people need to contact you?
- What are your preferred work communication methods?
- How should the team share feedback with you?
- What tools do you need to work successfully?
- What’s your learning style?
- What are your work struggles?
- Which work activities are your favorites?
- What else should the team know about you?
Before planning elaborate team-building activities, create user manuals with your remote team. Refer to Atlassian’s template for examples of how employees use these prompts to share key information with the team. Make time for team members to create their manuals.
Participants don’t have to answer every question – just whichever ones will show the team how to best encourage and support their work. No team member has to share anything they aren’t comfortable sharing.
Host a video chat so each team member can present their user manual if they’d like to. Save the manuals in a designated spot on the virtual whiteboard. Refer to them as you choose remote team-building tools. When in doubt about any team-building ideas, ask the team!
2. Breaking the ice remotely
Warm up the virtual room with a pressure-free team-building activity.
We’ve all endured icebreaker games that felt like a waste of time. But quick and easy virtual icebreaker activities can be fun team-building tools for remote teams.
As the icebreaker host, set the tone for the participants. Show people that no question has to be boring. For instance, “What’s your favorite color?” is pretty basic. But it’s fun if the team can show up honestly. Encourage people to be themselves, whether that’s straightforward, thoughtful, challenging, snarky, or a little random:
- “All bright colors are my favorite color!”
- “It depends. Is it a couch or a phone case?”
- “I’m anti-colors. I wish real life was black-and-white, like old movies.”
- “I’m not sure, but I did paint my office blue because it’s calming.”
Host an easy pre-meeting icebreaker on your virtual whiteboard with the Wheel of Questions Icebreaker template or the 100 Ice Breaker Questions template. Change up the questions for each team member, or have the whole team answer the same one.
Adapt these virtual team-building tools for people who know each other better. Have the remote team hide other participants’ cursors for anonymity. Select a question. People answer on virtual sticky notes, then take turns guessing which team member wrote what.
For a slower virtual team building session, try the First Job Icebreaker template. Participants share what their first job was and tell the team what they learned there. It’s easy to reuse this template with the same team – just create and save custom versions. For instance: “Where did you go to high school?” and “What school subject was most fun for you? Least fun? Why?”
3. One-on-one virtual team-building interviews
Help online team members bond with simple guided activities.
Host this remote team-building game on the virtual whiteboard. Pair off team members to talk one-on-one for a few minutes. Send each two-person team to their own separate whiteboard with a list of questions. Skip the small talk and create fun, easy, no-pressure prompts:
- Briefly explain how you feel about sharks.
- Tell me the high and low points of your home office setup.
- How important is breakfast, really? Discuss.
- Board games, card games, or online games?
- Describe your ideal birthday celebration.
The two participants take turns responding to each prompt. Their team-building goal is to find common ground. When the team reconvenes on the main whiteboard, the pairs of employees report their discoveries. For example: “I think sharks are cool. My team member finds them terrifying. We’ve agreed that sharks make bad home office pets, and we’re both glad we have dogs.”
As the host, find ideas for team-building prompts online or create your own. Select topics that are easy and safe for an office setting. For instance, “What was your biggest childhood fear?” is a fun team-bonding question for many people. But some team members may have had a truly scary or traumatic childhood.
The best team-building prompts give remote participants opportunities to share interesting things but aren’t overly personal. Don’t complicate it. Employees can learn a lot about their remote team members just from their description of a fun birthday!
4. Virtual water coolers for remote office chats
Gather with remote coworkers around shared activities and interests.
Virtual team building doesn’t have to involve real-time games or activities. A remote office is a great setting for casual, asynchronous team building. Adapt online work tools to create opt-in virtual spaces where employees communicate remotely about anything besides work.
It’s easy to host virtual chat rooms around specific non-work topics. For instance, start a “kids-and-pets” Slack channel. Team members share pictures, videos, or stories about their cats, fish, toddlers, grandkids, etc.
Here are other fun and easy Slack “hangout” channel ideas:
- Gardening: Show off houseplants, first spring flowers, or homegrown tomatoes. See what remote team members grow in other climates.
- Cooking: Share favorite recipes and tips. This is especially fun and educational with an international or multicultural team.
- Humor: Create a channel for GIFs, memes, and funny short videos. Bonus points for making your own office memes using inside jokes only fellow employees will get.
- Games: Give online game enthusiasts channels to connect around virtual hobbies.
- Fandoms: Do several people in your remote office watch the same TV show? Create a virtual space to share episode reactions.
- Sports: Debate referee calls and team strategies, celebrate wins, and lament losses with fellow fans.
- Advice: Get suggestions on product purchases, home repairs, etc. Share great life hacks your team members might appreciate.
- Music: Exchange playlists and discover new music to listen to as you work.
The virtual water cooler team-building exercise has one rule: no working! Office jokes are welcome, but keep actual work out of the fun channels.
5. Group activities for remote teams
Take team building beyond the virtual water cooler.
Exploring shared interests can naturally lead to more elaborate online team-building ideas. Think of these team-building tools as the remote equivalent of going out after work with your fellow employees:
- Create a virtual book club.
- Attend online classes with remote team members (painting, yoga, crafts, etc.)
- Host watch parties for sporting events or weekly TV shows.
- Form teams and schedule times to play an online game together.
- Take turns hosting a virtual cooking class.
One word of caution if your virtual team building goes this route: Bonding outside office hours can be a great remote team-building opportunity, but employees should never feel pressured to show up to these activities. Not all people have the same amount of free time or the same energy for relationships with fellow team members outside of work.
If people feel obligated to do team-building activities after office hours in order to “fit in” at work, that’s a problem. Ensure all “extracurricular” team-building activities are optional in practice, not just theory. Actively encourage good personal boundaries and support fellow team members to have excellent work-life balance.
6. Online team break rooms or coworking spaces
Set up a virtual spot for remote team members to share coffee or lunch.
For some people, remote work means a nice, quiet lunch on the couch. But some employees miss the camaraderie of eating and chatting with their teammates. For these people, virtual team building can be as simple as replicating these office activities online.
As time zones allow, host online rooms for team members to share meals or coffee remotely. Create a breakroom zone on the virtual whiteboard and arrange times to gather there for people who are interested. Follow the same rule as with #5 above: no working in the virtual office breakroom! If team members want to work in the same office, set up a virtual coworking space.
7. Taking fun tests to build remote teams
Help remote team members gain insight and empathy.
The internet is brimming with online quizzes, most of which are silly but entertaining. A quick Google search for “fun quizzes” will reveal an endless supply for your team-building activities. Online surveys will:
- Guess your age based on your food preferences
- Reveal which fictional character you resemble most
- Show which animal, houseplant, or type of cheese you would be
Choose a fun online test and host a video chat on Whiteboards. Remote team members have five minutes to complete the quiz, screenshot the results, and post them on the virtual whiteboard. Each team member has 30 seconds to share why they support or reject the outcome.
To host a more serious virtual team-building exercise, have employees take an online Enneagram test. (To get even more serious, delve into work personality tests like CliftonStrengths, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, or DISC.) Remote teams often find these tools insightful. At minimum, they start conversations and encourage individuals to learn about other team members’ quirks, preferences, and work styles.
Alternately, have your remote team describe themselves versus asking the internet what type of pizza they are. For a fun and easy alternative to online tests, take a few minutes to share “Top 5” lists. Ideas include:
- “Top 5 beverages.”
- “Top 5 TV shows.”
- “Top 5 ways to encourage me at work.”
- “Top 5 office pet peeves.” (Only use this one if your team is ready for the truth!)
These activities are great team conversation starters. Share the team building prompt ahead of the online meeting to give employees time to gather their thoughts. Show other team members your answers on virtual sticky notes. Compare and contrast.
Whether silly or serious, these games help connect the virtual team and build work relationships. Keep these team-building activities low-stakes and fun. Let them show you different sides of the people in your remote office. Ultimately, these games are just tools to encourage empathy and support remote employee morale.
8. Team building like we did it as kids
Play fun team games to boost camaraderie remotely.
Most employees do better work when they regularly step out of work mode for a few minutes. It’s easy to fixate on work tasks and spin our wheels. Create time in the work schedule to play silly games online, share a laugh, and challenge your brain with your remote team.
Many kids’ games are easy to adapt into fun adult games. Here are some team-building ideas based on classic games and turned into virtual office activities:
Mad Libs made a lot of us giggle growing up. The premise is simple: you have a short story that’s missing a bunch of words. People who can’t see the text share suggestions to fill in the blanks, and then you read the complete piece with their answers in the proper places. Your finished work is always absurd and often hilarious.
Find free Mad Libs online or create your own. Host a remote office Mad Lib game using a page from an online work document: the Official Scrum Guide, a compliance report, or the employee handbook. Keep your selection secret. Cross out a dozen or so words. Prompt remote team members to contribute replacements: a verb, noun, adjective, animal, body part, number, time period, etc.
Read the finished piece aloud with a straight face.
20 Questions is quick and fun, the rules are easy, and it works great remotely. The team member who is “it” chooses a person, animal, or object. Participants take turns asking yes-or-no questions. For instance, “Is there one in your office?” “Can I buy it online?” “Do people use it every day?” The team member who discovers the answer starts a new round.
Scattergories is also an easy game to adapt for team building remotely. The host posts virtual sticky notes with ten categories, for instance: movie characters, work tools, round objects, liquids, things in a remote office, etc.
Pick an alphabet letter at random. Set a timer for three minutes. Participants write one answer for each category. For instance, if the letter is C, “things in a remote office” might be “computer,” “chair,” “coffee,” “clock,” etc.
When time is called, share your answers. Team members get one point for each answer no one else had, and extra points for doubles or triples: “coffee cup” or “computer charging cable.” Warning: Debates will ensue. Does “calico cat” work? Probably, if the team member can show there’s one currently in their remote office! Is “crabby calico cat” pushing it? The team might need to vote.
9. Team building with images instead of words
Have your remote team speak through pictures.
One great virtual office perk is the ability to share online images with team members instantly. Try these team-building check-ins when you host your next remote meeting:
- Which cat are you today? This is an easy team-building exercise to encourage employees to share their feelings and support each other. Add the Super Quick Team Building template to your virtual whiteboard. People choose the cat that matches their mood. Explain your choice, or don’t! Customize the template with fun new images for the next time you host.
- Go-to GIFs. Share a GIF that describes your work life right now. Explain further, or let the GIF stand on its own. Memes also work. Change this one up to “which emoji are you today?” (Face emojis work, but consider a turtle, alien, robot, tennis ball, etc.) Or, share an impromptu “mood” photo of your home office: a blank wall, a full coffee pot, a chewed-on pen, etc.
Or, play quick picture-based games:
- Emoji reveal. Team members screenshot their phone’s “frequently used” emojis, then add the screenshots to virtual sticky notes (cursor names off). People take turns guessing which employee contributed which emoji set. After all participants are identified, give each team member 30 seconds to defend their weirdest emoji choice.
- What is that object? Each team member photographs something in their home office, but zoomed way in. Other team members submit guesses. The most detailed correct answer wins; for instance, “your dog’s toy” beats “stuffed animal.” This game is harder than it sounds!
- Collaborative emoji Jeopardy. This game takes some prep time. To host, create categories, like “Disney cartoons” or “board games.” Have the contestant choose a category and turn away from the screen. Show the rest of the team the answer. Participants individually add their best all-emoji clues to virtual sticky notes. The contestant uses the various team contributions to guess the answer.
- Whose refrigerator? People photograph a glimpse inside their refrigerator (or office desk, coffee mug, etc.). The host collects the photos and adds them to the virtual whiteboard. Participants guess which team member took which photo (or stole an online stock photo to cover for their messy office).
10. Retrospectives as remote team-building activities
Use retros to check in personally with your remote team.
The Whiteboards app has great tools to host quick, task-oriented retrospectives. But work teams also need to connect people on a human level. Even after a great Sprint, the team could use a few minutes to meet online and check in.
Use the Emotions Wheel template to encourage team members to reflect on the recent work cycle. Have participants identify specific feelings they experienced and share them with the team. Listen carefully, offer people support, and find better tools to work remotely together.
Or, try the Temperature Reading Retrospective template for your virtual team-building retro. Share your recent work experience and any new ideas it sparked. Give constructive criticism and encourage remote team members with positive feedback.
Checking in regularly on your remote team’s emotional well-being is an important team-building activity. The team grows stronger when people listen carefully, affirm any concerns, and take action to accommodate each other’s work needs. You can find tips on hosting effective retrospectives in our guide to running remote team retros on a digital whiteboard.
Whether it’s time for work, games, or check-ins, remote team building is better with Whiteboards. Host virtual activities with audio or video chat. Store your templates and presentations on the endless whiteboard canvas. Manage your Jira issues, create a product roadmap, have coffee with team members, play a ridiculous game, and make fun of the super-clean desk people on your team.
Try Whiteboards for free to build your remote team with tools that keep you working, laughing, and growing together in your virtual office.