It’s the name of the game: 10 team building games for remote workers
Updated 6th August 2022
Remote work is great. You can go at your own pace, you have your own personal bathroom, and best of all, there's no commute!
But despite its popularity, remote work can be quite lonely. Only seeing or hearing your colleagues via a screen for a relatively short time each day or week can make it difficult to feel connected to them. Especially if you don't have a pre-existing rapport built up in-office. Making connections in a fully remote position can be an uphill battle. That's true even if it's easier now than back in 2020.
But having a little fun is a great way to break the ice. So we've put together a list of ten team building games for remote workers.
Why is team building important?
If game shows like the Crystal Maze have taught us anything, it's that working with others isn't always as easy as it sounds, especially when they're basically strangers. Part of effective teamwork is being able to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. What you can expect from them, and what they expect of you.
Sure, you arguably don't need to be someone's friend in order to work with them. But it definitely makes it more pleasant. But more importantly, workplace friendships improve our ability to work effectively. This may be due to the fact that high-trust workplaces are consistently more productive than workplaces which lack trust.
However, HR unfortunately tends to frown on us trapping employees in locked rooms. So having a workplace Crystal Maze day is probably out of the question.
The challenge of remote work
It's one thing to collaborate on a project with someone sat at the next desk over. But it's another thing entirely when you're on opposite sides of the country. Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools and services to make working with others remotely much easier.
The challenges of remote work stem from the level of isolation involved. If you're used to a bustling office culture, being in your home office or living room by yourself for eight hours a day can get pretty lonely. Some people handle this better than others. But managers should still support the social wellbeing of their remote staff when they can.
Then there's the challenge of communication. Tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack might make virtual communication easy, but it's just not as effortless as it is face-to-face. In the absence of things like body language to rely on, remote staff rapport is vital for effective collaboration. This is why it's in the best interests of managers to set up team building games for remote workers.
10 great team building games for remote workers
1. Two truths and a lie
This classic icebreaker should only take about five to ten minutes per person. The game is exactly what it sounds like. Everyone comes up with two true facts and one lie about themselves. Then you all take turns having everyone else work together to figure out their lie. Our UK readers might want to split into two teams, a la Would I Lie to You?
2. Simulated lists
The aim of team building games for remote workers is to gauge how well they work together. And also to give them a low-pressure practice space to improve in. So one of the best things you can do is to simulate problems that might arise in your work environment. That way, you can have your team work together to develop theoretical action plans to overcome them.
3. Bucket lists
This is a great way to learn more about the people you work with. Everyone writes down and then shares their lists of the things they want to do before they die. You might find you share unexpected goals or passions with other members of your remote team. It can help managers understand the priorities of their employees a lot better.
4: Trivia contests
Just because pubs have reopened doesn't mean they should hog all the quiz action. Besides, you don't need booze to enjoy a bit of competitive trivia. Sit down and draft a quiz for your employees. Or, if you're trying to get everyone to know each other, have them to contribute facts about themselves. Failing that, head to Sporcle and nab a few premade quizzes!
Pictionary is a classic game for family and friends. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to bring it into a virtual space as one of your team building games for remote workers. There are topic generators online, and you can use Microsoft screen sharing, or Team's/ Zoom's whiteboard to share your drawings.
6. Aliens have landed!
Aliens have landed is another classic icebreaker that you don't need anything specific for. Extraterrestrials have come to Earth. It's down to your employees to find a predetermined number of pictures, symbols or objects to help the aliens understand what your company (or, if you prefer, your country, or Earth as a whole) is all about. A pictorial scavenger hunt which often leads to hilarious results in our experience.
7. Virtual murder mystery
There are a surprising number of virtual murder mystery services online. Many of them operate through video conferencing software like Zoom. This makes themselves accessible to groups of family and friends, as well as businesses. Have a few laughs while testing your team's detective skills.
8. Virtual Taskmaster
For our non-UK-based readers, Taskmaster is a British gameshow featuring comedians. As the presenter, you'll devise a series of tasks which your employees try to complete. What makes this the perfect team building game for remote workers is that they'll film their attempts, and you'll all watch them together. Just make sure everyone knows not to take it too seriously.
You're free to organise people into teams or pit them against each other. You award points based on who best meets the criteria for the challenge. But you're also encouraged to award points for creative or entertaining solutions, and deduct them for rules violations. This is the kind of team building game you'll probably need to put aside a day for.
The trick is to be creative with the challenges you set. It's meant to be funny, so feel free to get silly with it.
9. Jackbox party packs
Jackbox just keeps cranking out packs of incredibly popular party games. They offer quizzes, drawing games, fill in the blanks games, and everything in between. You do have to buy the packs to host the games. But anyone can join for free through their computer or phone, using a four-letter room code. Just pick a game, screen share it through Teams, and have fun. It's possible to be pretty inappropriate in some of these games, so maybe read the room.
10. Among Us
Sometimes, the best way to inspire teamwork is to turn your employees against each other in a fit of all-in-good-fun paranoia. In Among Us, you play as astronauts completing tasks to keep your space station running. One of you, however, is an imposter charged with killing the others. As a team, you must vote on which suspect to throw out of the airlock. It's basically the popular party game Werewolf, but for the remote work age. It's free on smartphones, but will run you a few quid on your computer.
Team building games for remote workers benefit communication
But ultimately, these games are just a fun way to practice the communication skills your team will need in their day-to-day. It's also important to have systems in the workplace to enable good communication habits. Weekly10's check-in system connects employees to their managers. Checking in helps you to stay up to date on the wellbeing of your remote workers. But on top of that, you'll be able to offer them with regular feedback.
Our check-ins make it easy to see if all those team building games worked. Employees completing their check-ins can tag each other in recognition-based questions. These allow them to highlight each other's accomplishments or just thank each other for being helpful.
Another benefit of a weekly check-in is that it can be an effective form of journaling. This is thanks to answer histories, and the questions that can be customised on an employee level. They're a great way for your remote workers to help manage their stress. Journaling helps your staff members to mentally process the events of each week, and helps managers to stay in the loop and be able to respond when their employees are experiencing issues.