13 Innovative Games to Engage Remote Teams
We don’t have to see our company as a second family. But we spend 40 hours per week with our coworkers, on-site or virtually, and our engagement depends on the bonds we create with them.
According to the Qualtrics XM research, 91% of respondents who feel they belong to their organization also feel engaged. And now, teams have to find new ways to create a sense of belonging because of the pandemic and remote work.
One way to introduce new team members or keep existing employees engaged is through virtual team building activities. These can include games such as Pictionary, scavenger hunts, and even book clubs.
The options are plentiful: we already made a list of 16 Non-Cheesy 5 Minute Virtual Team Building Activities for quick bonding moments at the beginning of meetings. Here, we’ll share 13 innovative games for longer team-bonding sessions.
Ice breaker games for new virtual teams
Ice breaker games are among the most popular virtual team building activities as they help newcomers introduce themselves and get to know the rest of the team.
Guess the city
Guess the city helps distributed teams to learn more about each other via the places they live. Everyone can describe their location by mentioning a historical fact, a landmark, or a trivia associated with the city/region/country.
- A team member in Paris can say, “My city has the world's biggest art museum”
- A team member in Munich can say, “My city is the birthplace of the famous car brand, BMW”
- A team member in New York can say, “The first pizzeria in the USA was opened here”
This straightforward game requires no materials. It bonds teams with a fun activity while teaching them about the homes of their coworkers around the globe.
What’s on my desk?
What’s on my desk is a simple, show-and-tell activity in which team members pick an item from their desk and place it in front of the camera so everyone else can see it.
A team member can show a photo of their family or pets and tell a bit more about them. They can also present a souvenir they bought while on vacation and share some exciting memories regarding that particular trip.
As we all spend a lot of time at our work desks, it’s interesting to see how others organize and decorate them.
This or that
Cats or dogs? Hot dogs or hamburgers? Chocolate or vanilla? This or that is a simple game where team members share their opinions on trivial dualities to spark conversation.
Give each member two choices and see what they’ll choose. Leave the team to debate, question, and laugh at the responses. These icebreaker questions can include:
- Cats or dogs
- Summer or winter
- Vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream
- Indoor or outdoor activities
- Fictional movies or documentaries
- Instagram or TikTok
- Friends or How I Met Your Mother
Let’s talk about pets
Here’s another game all pet owners and animal lovers will enjoy. Let’s talk about pets gives your team members the chance to talk about their pets or favorite animals. You can extend the game by looking at explanations of what your favorite animal says about you.
Pet owners from your team could say the pet’s name, when they got the pet, and what makes them unique. They can also introduce the pet by putting them in front of the camera, opening a photo of their pet and sharing the screen, or sending the picture to a group chat.
The scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are perfect team activities for adventurous types. Remote teams cannot go on traditional item hunts, but they can play a virtual scavenger hunt with slightly different rules. First, divide your teams into a couple of groups. Then, ask each member to collect items in their homes. These can be:
- Their favorite piece of clothing
- Something that reminds them of their childhood
- Their least favorite coffee mug
The group that first collects all the items wins. Spice things up by rewarding each member of the winning team a gift card.
Charades may not be the most innovative game around, but it’s a mood booster and a great icebreaker for new virtual teams. When you organize charades via Zoom, ask team members to keep Slack open.
As in traditional charades, one person will pick the movie, object, book, or a famous person and send it via Slack (in a private chat) to another coworker. Now, that person must find the best way to describe the given word (s)—using pantomime or acting while the rest of the team tries to guess the answer.
Simple and hilarious.
Find ten things in common
When running a remote team, creating bonds between members from the same department, let alone familiarizing themselves with the entire organization, is a challenge. A solution for such a situation is a game called “Find ten things in common.”
Organize a Zoom call with as many employees as possible from various departments. First, divide them into groups, each comprising at least one member from each department. Then ask them to find ten things they have in common. Also, encourage them to be as creative as possible when listing shared interests, hobbies, trip experiences, etc.
Virtual off-site games for team bonding
Like check-in meetings that build a connection between managers, human resources, and employees, especially newcomers during onboarding, various virtual activities, such as off-site games, build camaraderie within remote teams. Escape rooms and virtual talent shows are among the most popular.
Virtual escape room
Like in physical escape rooms, participants in virtual escape rooms must follow clues, complete puzzles, and resolve riddles to—as the name says—escape the room within a particular time. In addition, participants can enter online escape rooms via various video conference tools such as Zoom or specialized digital platforms.
Companies with remote teams use these virtual team building games to motivate remote workers for teamwork and collaboration. The game industry has dramatically evolved, so it’s not difficult to find a viral escape game suitable to your team’s preferences; you can even find these online office games for free. Regardless, some of the most popular are:
- Murder in Ancient Egypt
- Wildly Different Escape Rooms
- Mystery Escape Room
- Trapped in the Web
- Brain Chase
Sites like teambuilding.com offer an extensive list of online escape rooms for your remote team.
Side-gig talent show
These are exciting and can include an audience. Ask your team members whether they are interested in inviting their family and friends to watch them perform.
Still, organizing a virtual talent show requires adequate preparations and steps you must take to ensure everything goes according to a plan, including:
- Choose a platform (Zoom, GoogleMeet)
- Define categories (singing, dancing, playing instruments, doing tricks, etc.)
- Set date and time
- Invite participants to sign in, reminding them that it’s a friendly competition
- Spread the word about the event on social media and the company’s communication channels
- Form the jury
- Enable the audience to vote (most video conferencing platforms have polling features)
- Prepare awards (in the form of a gift card)
- Host the event
- Share the results
Keep in mind that not all people know how to sing or dance, so encourage team members with unusual talents to participate as well. Aside from giving the best singer or instrumentalist award, you can have a category for the most unique/funniest performance.
Also, virtual talent shows don’t just comprise solo acts. On the contrary, motivating employees to create groups and perform like a dancing crew, band, or choir, enables them to build bonds and create meaningful coworker relationships (even virtually).
Keep talking, and nobody explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a VR game that adrenaline junkies within your team will adore. It is also a fun way to bring your team members closer and evaluate their efforts toward teamwork.
Steel Crate Games is a game studio based in Ottawa, Canada, responsible for creating this problem-solving game. Your employees can play it on their desktop computers, iOS, or Android mobile devices.
The rules are: One participant enters a room with a bomb that they must defuse but don’t have a manual. The rest of the team is outside the room. They don’t see the bomb, don’t know how it looks, but they must give instructions to the player in the room on how to defuse it before it’s too late.
The game is exciting, full of tension and uncertainty. The game revolves around communication, teamwork, and trust.
Equipment you’ll need to play the game:
- A gaming console (Xbox or PS4)
- Mobile or PC VR platforms (Google Daydream, Oculus Go, or GearVR)
Virtual murder mystery parties
A virtual murder mystery party is an excellent way for team members to get together and enjoy one of the most exciting online team building activities. You can organize it around Halloween, although like every theme party, this one is a good choice whenever you decide to throw it.
Gamification to make remote work more engaging
Simply put, gamification refers to using gaming concepts for non-gaming purposes, for instance, employee training. Gamification is also used for creating virtual workplaces.
When employees are not in the same location, a virtual office helps them feel like part of the team or working community even though they are not in the same physical space.
Aside from allowing the remote workforce to work from whatever location they desire and still have the opportunity to communicate effectively with the rest of the team, such a workspace enables employers to save on many costs related to a physical office. For example, when your employees are in a virtual work environment, you don’t have to pay rent, maintain the physical office, purchase furniture and equipment, and pay utility bills.
Also, such environments positively affect employee productivity and engagement. It’s because they are designed to offer everything a physical office could offer (adapted to the digital space)—constant interactions between coworkers, online meetings and brainstorming, even a virtual happy hour, and informal virtual events - remote team building activities.
Gamified training platforms
The gamified training platform is every tool, site, or training software incorporating gamification into its features, including:
- Points: your trainees earn points for every activity completed
- Badges: for instance, trophy icons, you'll give to top performers
- Levels: a feature that employees can use to track their progress, moving from one level to another
- Leaderboards: some trainees love to see how they stand compared to others
- Customization options: feature allowing you to customize the game according to your training needs
Some of the most famous gamified training platforms that aim to improve employee engagement and help them acquire knowledge to enhance performance outcomes are:
Ongoing games to keep virtual workers engaged
The great thing about virtual team building activities is that everything can be prepared and organized automatically. It all comes down to finding the right tools.
Meeting roulette is a tool for organizing random meetups between team members from the same or different departments. These encounters are like conversations during a coffee break in the physical office when coworkers run into each other and start talking over a cup of coffee.
As remote work doesn’t provide traditional face-to-face interactions, virtual coffee breaks can give a similar experience. Meeting roulette allows employees to remove all potential communication barriers and build trust, especially with coworkers with whom they don’t interact too often. In addition, an employee who enjoys being part of the team is more motivated and productive, which results in positive performance outcomes.
Managers can organize meeting roulette:
- Manually: matching employees from different departments for an informal talk via phone or Zoom
- Automatically: using a tool that matches coworkers to meet and discuss business and non-business related topics virtually
- Once in two weeks/once a month/ once in three months
- In the form of a virtual coffee or lunch break
Learn how Connections by Roots facilitates simple team-wide meeting roulette.
Songs on repeat
As Nielsen’s Total Audience Report: Work from Home Edition finds, 75% of people listen to music while working from home at least once a week. It is a considerable percentage you can use as a reason to organize a fun game called Songs on repeat.
The game is pretty straightforward and open to adjustments. For instance, each team member can share the entire playlist they listen to while working in a given week or name their top three favorite songs for a successful workday.
Also, a manager can create a new playlist around a theme each month (Jams for focus work, Hometown favorites, Relaxation jams, etc.), and each person recommends one song to add to the themed playlist.
However you approach it, the game is fun and a valuable source of recommendations for all the passionate music lovers within your team. And who doesn’t appreciate a good playlist?
Additional tip: Use the provided list of songs to organize an online karaoke night via Zoom.
Water cooler trivia
Water Cooler Trivia is another effective solution to engage your employees regularly. The tool integrates into your Microsoft Teams, Slack channel, or email and sends quizzes to your employees regularly. You can choose a game template and categories and set a schedule; Water Cooler Trivia will create questions, distribute them automatically and publish results.
Keep remote employees engaged with Connections by Roots
Virtual team building activities can be organized as a DIY project. Schedule a video call, invite your team members to join, prepare a whiteboard and draw a welcome emoji.
Want to streamline the process? Connections by Roots is your facilitator of online team-building games. Your team members can use it for various activities, including water cooler trivia and meetup roulettes.