You’ve just been appointed as project manager of a team of talented individuals who are working on a brand-new project with a deadline 6 months away. You planned to do a teambuilding session as soon as the 21-day lockdown was over but, disaster! The lockdown has been extended and your team will be isolated at home when the project starts. How on earth are you to get this highly skilled bunch to build trust in one another and collaborate without collocation?
In this article I will take you through a number of remote teambuilding activities that you can use to bring your team together while being physically apart. I encourage you to use these activities in your team, even if you are a well-established outfit. These are trying times and I think everybody could do with a light-hearted break from the usual day to day running’s.
What would the workplace be without that colleague who pops into your space just to share a spicy meme with you? Just as these spurious moments of happiness pop up in the workplace, you can organise them remotely with a little prep. Perhaps set a meeting 5 minutes longer in which the first 5 minutes are dedicated to everyone bringing their funniest topical meme to share with everyone. Instant icebreaker that can add a jovial tone to everyone’s day.
Guess a sketch
While I’m not sure that I can legally use the name of the board game owned by Hasbro, the classic game of having a team mate draw while the others guess can be a fun way to let the team gel and get comfortable with each other. Equally a game of charades in the form of video-call 30 seconds can really bring the team together and sow friendships between strangers.
This is one I actually picked up from my grandfather, who used to run this ceremony at his weekly Rotary meetings in which every week someone would have to start the meeting off with a joke as the first point of the agenda.
Typing Speed Race
Typing speed races are free virtual team building activities that you can start right now. To begin, take a typing test using typingtest.com or similar. Then, post your results on your company message board or by email. The more competitive members of your team will reply with results quickly and others will follow.
You can then up the challenge by hosting a typing speed relay, which is when you form squads and add up the cumulative scores to see which team wins.
Typing speed races are ostensibly a fun little challenge to get everyone playing online team building games together. It is also great skill building; typing speed is incredibly important for remote workers.
Sell me this
Sell me this is a quick and easy storytelling game that you can use for remote team building. To play on virtual team calls, each team member grabs a random object in arm’s length and creates a story about it, that makes it sound way more valuable than it actually is. The goal is to exaggerate the truth about what makes that object amazing. For example, if someone picked up an alarm clock, they could say “this is a relic from the past and someday Indiana Jones 2.0, AI edition, will travel back in time and snatch it up for a museum collection.” At the end of everyone’s presentation. The team gets to vote for the item that they would buy, and a winner is selected.
This game is sure to give everyone a giggle and is a very pleasant way to stretch your team’s creativity.
Show and Tell
Ask every member of your team to bring either an embarrassing photo of themselves from their youth or a trophy of sentimental value to show and contextualise for the other members of the team. This is an excellent way to get to know each other’s background, find common interests (like a particular sport) or to find everyone’s sense of humour.
The Deserted Island Scenario
Many of us played a game similar to this in school. In this virtual team building game, team members are given the scenario that they are stranded on a deserted island with seven objects, but they can only choose three. Make these objects as obscure and strategic as possible so that members are challenged to really think and plan. Then split the team into groups and allow them to collaborate on which items they want to choose. Once all collaborations have finished, get onto a team video chat and discuss the results. Sounds fun, right?
Examples of items are a bag of fruit and vegetable seeds, a pocketknife, a 100 ft rope, a bed sheet, a bucket, 2 litres of kerosene, a lighter, and so on. Activities like this naturally make team members see each other as teammates and can create pride, healthy competition, and excitement within the team. Such games also demonstrate how working together can yield better results and can help virtual workers learn how to collaborate in a virtual setting.
Capture important events
In a Monday stand up, be sure to ask each team member if they or anybody close to them are celebrating a significant milestone that week. As a manager you can organise the other team members to be dressed up on that special day to celebrate the milestone in that person’s life.
Match the fact
Match the fact is a simple game that requires the team leader to ask each team member to submit an honest but obscure fact about themselves. Theses facts are then read out individually by the leader and the group is then asked to guess who the fact belongs to and why.
This can be a lovely way to introduce the team as each member is in control of how revealing they would like the fact to be and is also a nice way to reveal other’s assumptions in a friendly setting.
It doesn’t have to require fancy equipment – anybody with a smartphone can participate. Photo competitions are a great way of uniting people around a popular shared hobby, while also sharing insight into each other’s lives. It’s a simple and enjoyable means of visual self-expression, which you can theme around pretty much anything. While working from home does place a limit on the subjects and vista’s available for photographing, there are still many ways to get creative and push your team’s imagination.
Once everyone has shown or submitted their photo, the team can vote on the best. Apart from the adoration of fellow team members, the team leader can also have that team member’s photos printed and framed as a prize.
Company Trivia Session
This is one I picked up from a recent cruise (thankfully before the outbreak) on a rainy day when everyone was indoors. This is a nice way to introduce new recruits to the company by holding a trivia session based on milestones and achievements of the company. Examples of questions can include the date of listing on the JSE, the number of offices around the country and even the names of leadership in the business.
Why remote socializing matters
The absence of direct in-person communication presents a huge challenge for remote teams. Research show that remote workers develop weaker relationships with colleagues than their in-house counterparts – which isn’t surprising when 65% of them have never had a group bonding session.
Regular team socializing needs to be a priority for remote teams. It enables human connection between remote colleagues, by building a sense of trust, inclusion and representation. And it has a big impact on company culture: interaction can make the difference between feeling like a valued, equal member of the team and a satellite observer. So, protect space for it and ensure that everybody can contribute.
Author: Thashen Naidoo