34 team building activities for the world of remote work

The rise of remote work has dispersed teams, introduced more freelancers and contractors into teams that were once entirely in-house, and left a lot of people feeling like they’re not actually part of a team at all.
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Team building activities are more important now than ever.

The rise of remote work has dispersed teams, introduced more freelancers and contractors into teams that were once entirely in-house, and left a lot of people feeling like they’re not actually part of a team at all.

It’s tough for employees to feel connected to their teammates when they rarely (if ever) interact in person and there are few opportunities for casual conversations that help build relationships.

Team building activities (even silly ones) can help fill those gaps and bring your people closer together. And most team building activities also make great icebreaker games to welcome recent hires and solidify newly formed teams.

But not all team building activities are right for every situation. It’s wise to evaluate the needs and attitudes of your team so you can choose the best activities to meet your goals.

We’ve compiled a huge list of team building activities. But before we dive in, we’re going to start with a few tips on how to choose the right activities for your team.

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How to choose the right team building activities

At best, choosing the wrong team building activity simply won’t help build your team. At worst, a poorly chosen activity can irritate people and make them feel resentful that they had to spend time on something that gave them no value.

Here’s how to avoid both of those scenarios.

Start with a goal

This is the most forgotten aspect of choosing team building activities. That’s because the purpose of team building activities seems to be set by the nature of the events: get people talking and having fun together…or something like that.

But every team building activity focuses on a certain aspect of teamwork. And you should select activities based on your current needs. That means the first step is paying attention to your team and discovering where they need help.

If your team struggles with communication, look for an activity that helps them practice communicating in a fun way. Other teams may just need some time to get to know each other on a more personal level (this is especially common in remote situations).

Choosing an activity that addresses the needs of your team will obviously have a more positive impact. And people will be more likely to participate and enjoy an activity if they get the sense that it will make their work life better.

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Get management involved

If there’s one sure way to fail at a team building activity, it’s to make the team run it themselves without the help of management.

It’s tempting to think that getting management out of the way will help people loosen up and enjoy themselves. But it’s still a work event, and managers are part of the team too.

Getting managers involved demonstrates that they care enough to show up and help build the team. But it also takes pressure off individual employees to manage the event, so they can focus on getting the most out of the activity.

Make sure the team is on board

This is especially important for mandatory team building events. If people must attend an activity, it has to be something they enjoy. Otherwise they’ll just feel frustrated that they had to show up for something silly.

Check in with your team and find out what activities they would enjoy. That way you don’t end up with a room full of people rolling their eyes and waiting for the moment when they can go back to their desks.

Set realistic timelines

Speaking of when people can leave, it’s really important to keep the timeline of your team building activities reasonable.

No matter when you host your event — during work or off hours — people could be doing something else. They will be less enthusiastic about your team building activity if it’s going to put them behind on their work or take a big chunk out of their free time.

A good general rule is to limit team building activities to 30 minutes or less, especially in remote situations where it’s easy for people’s attention to wander.

If you’re planning something longer, definitely check with your people to make sure they’re okay with the timeline.

Virtual team building activities

That brings us to our big list of team building ideas. We’ve sorted them into categories to help you find the ones that best fit your team. And what better place to start than in the virtual workspace?

Virtual team building activities have become some of the most important, since they work for remote teams. They’re a great way to introduce new team members, boost employee engagement, and nurture the relationships that make great teams.

1. Lateral thinking challenges

You probably know lateral thinking questions as riddles. The goal of lateral thinking challenges is to get people thinking about problems from different angles and examining a broader range of possibilities.

Lateral thinking challenges make great team building activities because they’re fun to tackle as a group and it gives everyone a chance to see how their teammates approach problems.

Here’s a starter lateral thinking question: There are a dozen eggs in a carton. Twelve people each take a single egg, but there is one egg left in the carton. How?

There are textbook correct answers. But the most valuable thing for your team is the discussion and group problem-solving.

2. Open mic minutes

You could also call this a tiny talent show.

Give everyone a few minutes to prepare a one-minute performance that shows off something they can do or showcases something they like. It can be a story, a joke, playing the guitar on camera, or anything else they can think of that would be fun or entertaining for their teammates.

This is a great meeting warmup or series of icebreakers for newly acquainted teams.

3. Positive reinforcement GIF party

This one is simple but powerful, and it makes a great online team building activity because GIFs are easy to share in most online communication and collaboration tools.

Here’s how it works: have everyone give another person in the group a shoutout on something they’ve recently done well, or that they do well all the time, and find a GIF to represent their kudos.

For example, “When my project fell behind last week, Joe stepped in and saved the day” might look something like this:

Once everyone chooses a GIF, have them give their praise and share their GIFs one by one.

4. “Whose answer is that?”

Ask the entire group the same question. Use a question that will generate unique answers like, “What kind of animal was your first pet?” or “Where were you born?” or “What was the name of your first stuffed animal?”

Have everyone write their answer on a piece of paper with their name or send their answer in a private chat message. Read each answer and have the group guess who’s answer it is.

Easy enough, right? But there’s a twist: the group must come to a consensus for each answer. And whoever owns the answer must avoid being spotted, so they must pretend that it’s not their answer. Once all the answers have been voted on, reveal who gave each one.

This activity encourages the team to ask each other creative questions and use clever interpersonal techniques to get information.

5. Fast fact recall

This is a great way to help teams get to know each other and build memory skills.

Ask everyone the same question and have each person give their answer to the group. It’s best to use questions that generate simple answers.

Asking for a book, movie, or show recommendation works well. Asking people their favorite food, color, or another favorite thing also works. Just do your best to ask a question that generates a fact about that person.

Once everyone answers, ask each person to recall someone else’s response. The catch is that they can’t use a fact that someone else has already mentioned. The game gets harder as the number of available facts gets smaller.

If someone is stumped, the group can help them out. This keeps the game moving and ensures that everyone stays engaged.

6. Emoji Pictionary

Have one person tell a story, summarize a current work project, explain what they did over the weekend, or anything really. But they have to do it using only emojis. Then have the rest of the team work together to interpret the emoji message and see if they can get it right.

You can add interaction by letting the team ask questions of the person who wrote the emoji message. But that person can only respond with more emojis.

7. Virtual socialization space

Create a virtual watercooler where people can gather when they need a break. The simplest way to do this is to set up a Zoom meeting and leave it open during the workday, so people can come and go.

This one works best in industries where even remote teams require a lot of ongoing interaction or for teams that transitioned from traditional office spaces to remote work.

If people are accustomed to working from home and only periodically speaking to co-workers, they’re not likely to appreciate a common break space. But it can be useful if people are accustomed to periodically aggregating for a quick break and a chat.

8. Virtual Pictionary

This is exactly what it sounds like — but over Zoom.

There are websites that enable you to host a more formal version of Pictionary, complete with cards and a virtual drawing board. However, it can actually be more fun to have people draw on a piece of paper and show it to everyone through their camera.

It might sound lame. But the challenge of showing a drawing on camera while the timer is running is often hilarious.

Just keep in mind that you may have to add a little time to account for showing the drawings on camera. You can also use this list of Pictionary words, if you don’t have the actual game handy.

9. Reverse virtual Pictionary

This is similar to playing virtual Pictionary, but the group has to tell one person how to draw something without saying the word itself.

It might seem redundant, but this game is actually less resource intensive than Pictionary because it’s less dependent on randomized words. Reverse Pictionary is more of an exercise in giving clear, precise instructions. And that can be done with nothing but a pen and paper.

10. Remote scavenger hunt

Come up with a list of items people might have at home. Then have them run and find each item. Do this one item at a time. Give kudos to the people who find an item the fastest and the person who found the most items from the list at the end.

This one is nice because it can be really quick, with just a few items. Or you can draw it out with more items or exotic items that people are less likely to have.

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11. Remote show-and-tell

Have people show off their hobbies on a Zoom meeting by giving each person up to 10 minutes (or more if you have time) to show something they made or talk about something they like to do.

People who have active hobbies like rock climbing or mountain biking can create a short video and show that instead since it’s tough to show off a rock wall or mountain bike on a Zoom call. (Just make sure everyone knows how to screen share with audio on Zoom for this).

12. Virtual meeting bingo

This is one that you can use to spice up your usual team meetings. Create a bingo card with things that often happen during virtual meetings. Things like, “someone tries to talk while on mute” or “cat on camera.”

Also feel free to add things that are unique to your team. If someone always has a cup of coffee during team meetings, no matter the time of day, add that to the bingo card to make it more fun and interactive.
Just make sure you distribute the cards ahead of time so people can be ready.

13. Remote coworking groups

One of the most challenging aspects of working remotely is that people don’t feel like they’re part of a team because everyone is at home, working by themselves. There’s very little casual team interaction, if any.

Creating remote coworking groups or just paring people up as coworking partners helps bring teams together. All they have to do is hop on a video call and work silently together. They don’t even have to keep their microphones on. Only the camera has to be on.

This method of coworking even increases productivity. It’s actually so effective that there are services that connect remote workers for this exact purpose.

So you’ll make your teams feel more connected and probably help them get more done.

14. Recipe sharing party

People are doing a lot more home cooking these days. So get everyone together on a video call and have them share their favorite homemade recipes. If you give people enough advanced notice, they can even bring the completed dishes to show off.

You can also mix things up by making it just recipes for a certain meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). Or have people present something they think no one else will like.

15. Virtual spaces cleanup party

No matter how organized you are, you probably have at least one folder on your computer that’s the digital equivalent of a junk drawer.

This might sound lame. But it can be fun to get the whole team together and clean up the desktop and folders on your computers together. You can have people share their screens while they organize their digital workspace. Or simply post before and after screenshots.

16. Office trivia

Trivia is a pretty standard team building activity. But you can tailor the game to your team by asking questions pertaining to your particular office or organization.

This can be especially fun if your team used to work in a physical office, because you can ask questions that show how well (or not so well) everyone remembers the space.

Read your trivia questions aloud, pop them in the chat, or wow them all by sharing your questions via a trivia video, like this one:

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17. Remote campfire (with campfire stories)

The long and the short of this one is that you’ll host a group video call to tell ghost stories, play mad-libs, and even have people light candles at their desks to simulate a tiny campfire (or play a campfire video).

This one is especially fun if you host regular review meetings at the end of the day or week. Add a little campfire theme to your wrap up meetings and close them out with a fun campfire story or game.

18. Only the worst ideas

This one is a great way to open meetings. To start off the meeting, present a work project or problem. Have people give only the worst, most ridiculous ideas for how to complete the project or solve the problem.

It gets everyone warmed up to think about the topic at hand. And it’s a great way to open a brainstorming session, because it encourages people to give their ideas, since they can’t be worse than the ones you started with.

Asynchronous team building activities

Asynchronous team building activities are activities that you can do without your team needing to interact in real-time.

These activities are especially handy for global teams or teams where members have different work schedules, because you don’t have to get everyone together at once.

19. Home office snapshot collage

Have everyone take a snapshot of their home office. Then make a collage of all the pictures and use it as a background in virtual team meetings. Or post your home office collage in a common space at your physical office.

Alternatively, you can have team members make a home office video tour, like that MTV show “Cribs.” They can have as much fun with it as they want, but it’s wise to set a reasonable time limit for the videos.

20. Learn the NATO phonetic alphabet together

The NATO phonetic alphabet is a standardized collection of words that represent the letters of the alphabet. It’s used for spelling words on the radio because the words of the phonetic alphabet are easy to understand (even on fuzzy radio transmissions) and can’t be confused with other letters.

For example, the letters “B” and “D” sound very similar. They’re easily confused on the phone or on the radio. But the words for these letters in the NATO phonetic alphabet — Bravo and Delta — are easy to separate.

Have the team learn it together, then send messages to each other using the phonetic alphabet. It’s fun. And knowing the phonetic alphabet is a useful communication skill.

21. Video recaps

This one can be more or less work related, depending on how well your work lends itself to video. But the long and the short of this activity is to have your team capture progress footage of a specific project.

Have one person gather the footage and create a recap video once the project is complete. If your work projects aren’t great candidates for video footage, people can create recap videos for their personal projects instead.

It will be a bit like virtual show and tell, but with more focus on documenting the process of doing something such as building a planter box or even just cleaning up the spare bedroom.

22. “Whose office is that?”

Ask the whole team to take pictures of their home offices, then have everyone guess whose office is in each picture.

The rules are similar to “whose answer is that?” Whoever owns the office has to do their best not to be spotted. You can even encourage people to take pictures that will make it difficult to determine whose office it is.

You can also turn this into an activity your team does together on a regular basis. Invite people to share a picture of something in their office — a coffee mug, their headphones, etc. — and the team can guess who’s office the object is in.

You can create a Slack channel for this game or use another communication and collaboration tool. This gives your team a fun quirk that they can all chuckle about.

23. Company values and policy videos

You can do this one even if you already have company values and policy videos.

Have each team member choose a company value or policy and make a video that explains it in a way that would be engaging for a new employee. Then have everyone share their video with the team.

It’s a fun way to get everyone to engage with company values and policies. And if you’re in HR, you might even want to use some of the videos as part of your employee onboarding package.

Not sure where to start? Give them a few video templates (like the one below) to get their creativity flowing.

In-person activities

Even with the prevalence of remote work, in-person team building activities still have a place. Some remote teams are local enough for occasional get-togethers. And physical workspaces are still a thing, even if they’re not as popular as they used to be.

So keep these in-person team building events in your playbook.

24. Problem-solving escape

There are a lot of ways to set up critical thinking and problem-solving team building activities. You just need a collection of puzzles or problems to solve and some sort of game mechanic to gamify the process of working through the puzzles and problems.

Here’s an example to show you what we mean:

Pretend there’s a lava fissure in the middle of a room. The pool of lava expands by one foot each minute. For each puzzle or problem the team solves, they get a brick. They must get enough bricks to build a levy that stops the lava from filling the entire room.

You can change the game mechanic or invent your own altogether. Set the time limit based on how much time you have for your team building activity. And you can use fun puzzles or real-world problems from your company’s industry.

Regardless of how you set up the game, this is a great way to get your teams working together to solve problems.

25. “Salt and pepper”

This one takes a little prep. You’ll have to write down pairs of complementary items on separate pieces of paper (things that go together like salt and pepper, i.e. peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, hand and glove).

Give each person a piece of paper and have them tape it to their back.
Each person must ask other people questions to figure out what’s written on their paper. The catch is that they can only ask yes-or-no questions. Once they’ve discovered which half of the pair they have, everyone must then find their mate.

You can have the game end there if you wish or you’re short on time. But you can also go one step further and have people talk to their salt-and-pepper partner to find things they have in common or to engage in some other get-to-know-you activity.

26. Blindfolded obstacle course

This is a great team building activity if you want to help your team build communication skills.

It’s simple: set up an obstacle course with chairs, waste bins, and other office items. Don’t go crazy, though, because a blindfolded person will have to navigate it.

The blindfolded person has to make their way through the obstacle course with verbal instructions from the rest of the team. The team must guide the blindfolded person through the obstacle course without any physical contact.

They’ll have to develop a communication strategy and clearly communicate to succeed. The cool thing about this game is that there are no diminishing returns from doing it more than once.

You can have everyone take a turn being the blindfolded person, and the team will develop communication skills each time because each person will respond differently to the chosen communication strategy.

This game is a delightful way to illustrate how different people communicate differently, and help teams work out how to communicate with each team member.

27. Active listening quiz

This can also be a virtual team building activity, but it’s especially fun for in-person meetings.

Host a team meeting as usual. But during the meeting, have one person say or do something that’s totally out of left field. Draw a cartoon character on the board while talking about the meeting agenda or add a totally nonsense statistic to a performance report.

Obviously, you have to be subtle enough that people don’t ask what’s going on immediately. That way, you can quiz the team about the odd happenings at the end and see what they remember.

28. Business problem simulation

If you prefer business-oriented team building activities for work, this one is for you. And it’s relatively simple.

Come up with some sort of problem that’s common in your company. Then run a tabletop simulation for solving that problem. These exercises are very common in organizations like firefighting crews, military units, and engineering firms.

In real-world scenarios, it can take days, weeks, or months to solve these problems because implementing the solutions takes a long time. The benefit of tabletop exercises is that you can compress the solutions into minutes and focus on decision-making strategies and considering different courses of action.

29. Back-of-napkin problem solving

“Back of the napkin” is mostly just a figure of speech. But taking it literally can make for a fun problem-solving activity.

The idea is similar to the business problem solving simulation. The difference is that each person must work out their contribution to the solution on a napkin. If you want to make the activity even more challenging, limit the whole team to using just one napkin.

30. Find the common thread

There are two variations of this activity.

The first is to split the team into groups and have them ask each other questions until they find something they all have in common. It can be a hobby, a favorite food, setting their morning alarm for the same time, or anything else. As long as it’s something the whole group has in common.

A fun extra step is to have each group come up with a group name based on the thing they all have in common.

The other variation of this game is a little more subjective.

Start with two people. Have them ask each other questions until they find something they both have in common. Once they’ve identified something, choose someone else from the group and ask questions to identify something that they like that’s related somehow to the thing the first pair had in common.

It’s best to approach this variation as a group. Once the first pair has identified the thing they have in common, everyone can start offering up ideas that might connect that thing to the one of the next person’s interests.

That way everyone is involved and the team is forced to examine things from every possible angle.

31. Puzzle negotiation

You’ll need puzzles for this one. In the interest of time, it’s best to use simple puzzles. Before you start, secretly swap a few pieces of the puzzles, so each puzzle has pieces from all of the other puzzles.

Split the team into two or more groups and give each group a puzzle. The goal is to complete the puzzles, but they’ll have to barter with the other teams to get the pieces they need. It’s a fun way to help the team develop negotiation skills.

32. Who sells it best?

This is a classic exercise from sales teams where one person must sell a random object to someone else or to the team as a whole, within a limited amount of time.

This activity is most efficient if you limit the team to pitching objects that are in the room or office. And it’s more team oriented if you have each person create a short pitch for their item and present it to the team.

Once everyone has given their pitch, have the team vote on whose pitch was the best.

33. Office “Nailed It”

This activity is based on the show “Nailed It.” Don’t worry if you’ve never seen the show. The activity is simple:

Choose a piece of art or a picture. Split the team into two or more groups. Have the groups recreate the image using objects from the office.

Once they’ve completed their masterpieces, have the managers or team leaders choose who most accurately recreated the picture. Tell the winning group that they nailed it.

34. Team Sudoku

Believe it or not, Sudoku can actually be a team game. And you can get free Sudoku puzzles on the internet.

You can have the whole team solve a single puzzle together. Or, split the team into groups and see who can complete their Sudoku puzzle the fastest.

Believe it or not, this team building activity is even better if not everyone knows how to play Sudoku. Rather than explaining to the whole team how the game works, just make sure at least one person in each group knows how to play. Let that person explain it to the rest of their group.

You can take this tactic one step further by prohibiting the person who knows how to play Sudoku from writing on the puzzle. That way they have to get the other team members involved. This stresses communication and helps team members work on their leadership skills.

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Team building activities do a lot of work for team cohesion. And they’re not just about helping people get acquainted and build strong working relationships. It’s also good for morale to let loose and have some fun at work.

We’ve mostly focused on team building activities that require relatively few materials. But if you want to try some of the video creation team building activities, Biteable has tons of video templates — complete with animations and text — that make it a snap to create gorgeous videos for work or play.


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