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Virtual team-building activities have become increasingly important in today's remote work environment. Teams that are distributed across different locations, time zones, and cultures face unique challenges when building strong relationships, enhancing communication, and improving productivity. 

That's where virtual team building comes in. 

Research agrees. 

  • Virtual team-building activities can increase team cohesion and lead to improved team performance (Journal of Management).
  • Virtual team building exercises enhance trust and collaboration among team members, leading to better communication and increased productivity (University of Central Florida).
  • Virtual team building activities can reduce the feeling of isolation that remote team members may experience, leading to improved mental health and job satisfaction (Journal of Business and Psychology).

HR teams need to prioritize virtual activities that build trust and keep the team engaged, especially when working with distributed teams. 

Ten virtual team-building exercises

Here are ten exercises you can incorporate into your virtual team 

Here are ten virtual team-building exercises that can help enhance team cohesion, trust, and communication among remote workers:

Virtual Office Tour

Have team members give a virtual tour of their home office or workspace, including a brief introduction of themselves and their work setup. This can be an effective way to help remote workers feel connected and comfortable when they are getting onboarded to a new team, and it can serve as an icebreaker for new team members.

Personal Trivia for virtual team building

Have team members create a list of personal trivia questions, such as favorite foods, hobbies, or childhood memories, and take turns answering them during a virtual meeting. This can be a fun and interactive way to help team members get to know each other on a personal level and build stronger relationships.

Virtual Paint Party

Host a virtual paint party, where team members can follow along with a painting tutorial and create their own masterpieces. This is a great way to foster creativity and collaboration among team members, and it can serve as a fun and relaxing break from work.

Online Charades

Play a game of virtual charades, where team members act out words or phrases for others to guess. This can double up as a fun happy hours activity and helps develop communication skills.

Virtual Book Club

Choose a book for the team to read and discuss during regular virtual meetings, with each member taking turns leading the discussion. This can be a casual team meeting that happens over Zoom and also helps improve communication and critical thinking skills.

Remote Talent Show

Have team members showcase their talents, such as singing, dancing, or comedy, during a virtual talent show. This is an excellent way to promote self-expression and boost team morale.

Virtual Storytelling

Have team members share personal stories or anecdotes during a virtual meeting, with a focus on building stronger relationships. This helps team members develop a better understanding of each other and develop stronger bonds.

Virtual Cooking Class

Host a virtual cooking class, where team members can learn how to make a new recipe together. This is a fun and interactive way to promote collaboration and teamwork among team members.

Online Mindfulness Session

Organize a virtual mindfulness session, where team members can practice relaxation and stress reduction techniques together. This is a great way to promote mental health and wellness among team members and enhance overall productivity.

Online Movie Night

Host an online movie night where team members can watch and discuss a movie together. This is a great way to promote teamwork and camaraderie among team members and enhance overall team performance.

Things to do when planning virtual team building activities, explained with examples from your favourite shows

Keep activities inclusive

Ensure that all team members can participate in the activities regardless of physical ability or other limitations. In "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Terry is uncomfortable with a mandatory running activity due to his asthma, and the captain accommodates him by allowing him to do a different activity.

Focus on teamwork 

Design activities that encourage teamwork and collaboration, rather than individual competition. In "Parks and Recreation," Ron's scavenger hunt activity brings the team together by requiring them to work as a team to solve clues and complete challenges.

Be mindful of time

Keep team building activities within reasonable time limits, so they don't interfere with work productivity. In "The Office," Jim suggests a quick round of "Catchphrase" during a slow day, but Dwight takes it too far and turns it into a full day activity.

Build on strengths

Consider team members' individual strengths and skills when planning activities. In "New Girl," Jess uses her artistic skills to design a mural for the loft, and the team works together to bring it to life.

Dont’s when planning virtual team building activities, explained with examples from your favourite shows 

Team building exercises could often backfire. Here are some things to avoid when planning a virtual team-building exercise. 

Don't make team building activities mandatory

Making team building activities mandatory can be counterproductive and can cause resentment among team members. In the TV show "The Office," Michael Scott's mandatory team-building activities often resulted in chaos and frustration among his employees.

Don't force team members to participate in activities they are uncomfortable with

Forcing team members to participate in activities they are uncomfortable with can lead to discomfort and awkwardness. In the TV show "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Captain Holt's mandatory singing competition made some team members feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Don't make team-building activities too competitive

Competitive team-building activities can sometimes do more harm than good, as they can create tension and resentment among team members. In the TV show "Survivor," the competitive challenges often led to alliances and conflicts between team members.

Don't make team building activities too time-consuming

Team building activities that take up too much time can interfere with work productivity and cause frustration among team members. In the TV show "Parks and Recreation," Leslie Knope's elaborate team building activities often led to delays and distractions in the workplace.

Don't neglect the preferences and needs of team members

When planning team building activities, it's important to consider the preferences and needs of team members, such as cultural backgrounds or physical limitations. In the TV show "The Office," Kevin's mobility issues were often overlooked during team building activities, causing him discomfort and frustration.

In conclusion

Virtual team-building exercises are a valuable tool for teams to build strong relationships, enhance communication, and improve productivity in today's remote work environment. 

Research has shown that these exercises can have a positive impact on team cohesion, trust, collaboration, and job satisfaction. There are many virtual team-building exercises that teams can try, including personal trivia, virtual cooking classes, and online movie nights. 

However, it is also important to avoid common pitfalls when planning team-building exercises, such as making activities mandatory or too competitive, or neglecting the preferences and needs of team members. By incorporating effective and inclusive virtual team-building exercises into their regular routine, teams can build a strong foundation for success.