As more teams go fully remote, or transition to a hybrid model that includes both in-office and remote workers, it’s important to maintain that sense of connection and camaraderie for employees. Working apart from one another can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, so team bonding activities can be incredibly helpful for making people feel like they’re not alone.
Get tips for hiring and managing your remote workforce.
Finding ways to virtually connect with others is an activity in itself, so we’ve pulled together some ideas that will help you and your teams stay connected regardless of where everyone sits.
Please note that many of these activities assume the use of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Slack, or Google Hangouts to facilitate the group participation. There are many platforms like these available for free if your teams are not already using some type of video conferencing system.
Show and Tell
Lots of people love to share things about themselves. Bring back the spirit of grade-school with these activities and let employees share a part of their world with the rest of the team.
WFH Cribs. Much like MTV Cribs, have remote team members take turns showing where they’re spending all of their time. In-office team members can do the same, or they can opt to share their desk setup or favorite office hangout area.
This Is My Workspace. Round up aerial views of your team’s desks and workspaces. Bonus edition? Messy desks (because who doesn’t love a good mess that you don’t have to clean up?).
Introducing… Everyone’s got an item that they’ve named. Whether it’s your coworker’s baby blanket or their latest succulent, prompt your team to introduce them!
It’s true that not everyone is an artist. But not everyone has to be an artist (or in-office) to enjoy these activities. Get your team to use a different part of their brain with this list.
Paint n’ Sip. These classes have become popular over the last few years, but you don’t need a class to take part. Participants can round up whatever paint and pinot they have on hand, choose a subject together, and have at it together via Zoom.
Terrible Crafts. See which teammate can make the ugliest craft project. Uncommon national holidays like National Tattoo Day (July 17) or National Dog Day (August 26) offer some great themes for this.
‘Cross-the-distance Karaoke. If your employees can’t all sing badly together in person, they can still do so over video chat. Check out virtual karaoke options or use YouTube to find instrumental versions of your favorite songs and sing the night away.
The Workday, But Make It Fashion
Sweatpants were all the rage for a while there, but employees might want a reason to dress up again. Having a reason to don their best outfits can help boost employee moods and productivity in addition to making your in-person meetings and video calls fashion-forward.
Full-on fashion show. Get your team to brush the dust off their fancy duds. Choose a theme or designer and watch your employees get all gussied up for a walk down an impromptu runway in the office or their own living rooms.
Dressed-up Pets. Remote employees with pets can attempt a fashion show featuring their furry friends. Those who normally come into the office can take day at home to join in live, or they can prep photos or a video beforehand. Good luck keeping those furry friends on the runway!
Holiday Dress-up Party. This won’t be like your typical end-of-the-year shindig. Have employees dress up as iconic holiday figures and decorate their home or office workspace accordingly for a mighty festive Zoom room.
Rely on Food
If there’s anything that’s guaranteed to bring people together, it’s food. Take advantage of this fact and use food to drive remote-friendly events and activities that are sure to engage everyone on your team.
Pizza Party. If your employees have ingredients to make a pizza at home, try letting your whole team work remotely for a day and get everyone on Zoom to prepare (and enjoy) homemade pizza together. If your company has the budget, pay for delivery pizza for both in-office and remote employees so you can enjoy it on a video call together.
What’s For Lunch? Prompt your employees to share their meals and inspire colleagues to shake things up in their diet. Start a daily thread or custom channel in Slack, or send out a daily email requesting ideas from your teammates.
New Week, New Food. Using the lesser known national holidays, choose a new weekly or monthly theme and integrate that food into operations wherever possible. Insert related emojis into internal subject lines where appropriate, or request photos from employees who enjoy any related meals.
Accept the Challenge
As people begin to create and settle into new work routines, it can be fun to shake things up with some challenges that hold up over time zones. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a little friendly competition?
Conference Call Backgrounds. Whether they’re real or fake, challenge your team to find the best background possible. Zoom has a feature that allows users to upload any image to use for a virtual background. If your teams don’t use Zoom, see how creative your employees can get using things from around the house.
Photoshop. Choose a theme like movie posters and watch your team create their own hilarious versions. Award the best or worst one (which could be the same one, honestly).
GIF Wars. This activity might be happening already, but involve your employees in an open GIF war so they can bask in their glory when they fight back with the perfect one.
Have a (Virtual) Night on the Town
Just because your team is distributed doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a night out. Show your team a good time by taking advantage of all the institutions offering up virtual experiences that anyone can enjoy.
Tour one of many museums. This one is especially nice for those who don’t live in an area with many museums. Take advantage of this opportunity and give your team an experience they won’t forget with tours of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, The Louvre, or Langley Research Center.
Listen to a brilliant symphony. This is something many people wouldn’t normally have the chance to enjoy, or wouldn’t even consider trying. Let your team be moved by the magic of the symphony through the National Symphony.
Go on safari. Give this one a try for an experience you’d likely never be able to recreate for your team in real life. Check out the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden every day at 3pm ET — while the program is geared toward kids, everyone loves some face time with animals. If this doesn’t resonate with your team, there’s plenty of webcams and tours set up that feature penguins, farm animals, aquarium creatures, and zoo life.
Play the Game
With online gaming being what it is today, there are lots of options out there for virtual gaming. However, employees might be craving a bit more real-life interaction than online gaming provides. Try these new takes on old-school games.
Online Jeopardy. We can thank the internet for creating all of the components one might need to host an online game of Jeopardy. Along with Zoom or some other screen-sharing platform, you’ll need the archived Jeopardy games, a buzzer, and a scoresheet. Choose a host and your whole team is ready to play!
Museum Bingo. This activity works really well with the virtual museum tours being made available right now (like The Louvre). Prepare this for your team by creating bingo cards that include features present in one of the tours. Not only will your employees get to enjoy some culture, but they’ll also be prompted to look more closely at everything.
Regardless if they’re in-office or remote, it’s important that your employees take care of themselves. But if your team members are interested in helping others together, they’ve got a number of options for volunteering.
Make something useful. As others around the world create important and life-saving things like ventilators from 3D machines, it can make your team want to help. Helpful Engineering shares the things they need designed and created that will help in the worldwide efforts.
Visit with seniors. Many older adults have difficulty socializing for a number of reasons. Help address their loneliness by helping your team spend time with seniors virtually.
Even standard processes have the potential to be more engaging for in-office and remote employees alike. Making a few simple operational changes can help your distributed team better connect, collaborate, and contribute.
Turn the video on for meetings. Seeing the faces of others can help your remote team members feel more connected, limiting feelings of isolation. Enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interaction on a large scale by having regular company-wide check-ins over video. Seeing everyone in the company can have a big impact on your teams when they’re distributed.
Send out a weekly newsletter. When employees aren’t all physically together, having a recap of company news and internal updates can help them feel connected and part of the larger team.
Customize tools to help your team. Tools like Slack make it easy to create and personalize features for your employees. Justworks created custom Slack avatars that employees can assign based on their activity or needs on any given day so there’s more visibility into how teammates are doing.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways your team can bond even when they’re physically apart. Employees need to feel connected to their teams, and it’s the experiences they share that help them achieve that sense of connection. Try some of these ideas to help your team better bond as they work toward their shared goals together.