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Fun & Free Team Building Activities for Remote Teams

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When I think of “team-building” one of the first things that comes to mind is the episode of The Office where the whole team is brought to the beach to do a series of unexpected, chaotic team-building exercises lead by the awkwardly lovable Steve Carell. At the very end, Carrell reveals the one who performs the best will be who he will recommend to replace him as manager.

Okay, so obviously real life isn’t USUALLY as rowdy as an episode of The Office, but it goes to show that there’s a right and a wrong way to practice team-building. And often, people do it so wrong that the activities have a reputation for being awkward, meaningless, and generally cringe-worthy.

Despite it’s unfortunate reputation, investing in team-building activities is one of the most effective, fun, and important ways to boost company performance and improve team collaboration. And it can also be done without a big budget. 

Yes, we highly recommend invested facilitated workshops, training, and programs as we love providing these, but we also want to remind leaders that this is not just a once a year initiative. It is something you could build on everyday into the space you create with your team. So invest in your annual and quarterly programs, but also in your regular programs internally. 

You probably already know that team-building can increase collaboration and trust between team-members, but truly effective exercises can increase overall engagement and positive feelings about work which obviously, which helps the business grow and fosters a better retention rate.

According to Team People, “Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their company and those companies experience 2.5X more revenues as well as 2X more in net income.”

In-fact, team-building is also found to be great for manager-employee relationships – after all, they are part of the team! By participating in team-building activities, leaders can increase their approachability and in future, open more doors for open communication.

It’s no wonder that the search term “team building games for adults” is up 200% this past year in the U.S. Especially now, as teams are navigating the hybrid/remote environments, team-building is more important than ever and can be just as effective!

You can’t achieve these results by playing a random Zoom Room Game and hoping for the best. Effective team-building is not just fluff and play, it’s an intentionally-crafted and purposefully designed experience to help team members connect and feel inspired. 

First I will list some fun and free (budget friendly) team-building experiences and resources to consider trying out for your team – whether they’re remote or hybrid. Then, I’ll provide some quick tips on how to meaningfully design the team building experience in a way that helps you get the most results out of it (and have the most fun!)

Fun And & Free Team-Building Activities For Remote, Hybrid Teams For All Time Scales

5-10 MINUTE TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES:

Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO, InnovatorsBox®

 

Monica Kang’s Tip: Make your five minute meaningful by planning and making it easy for participants to engage in an intentional way. Don’t let it simply be “let’s wait until everyone comes” or leave the room feeling awkward. Make it an opportunity to build watercooler moments. 

1. Question Prompts With One-Word Answers w/ 5 Minute Reflection Time

Ask a question prompt and have your team answer in one word – it can be in a chat, poll or even digital whiteboard. This is great for when you’re short on time and want to evoke some immediate engagement in your team. The questions should not be too personal or too easy to answer. They should be thought-provoking and intentionally chosen to spark conversation (so no questions that can be answered simply by saying “yes” or “no”). Also – keep it positive! Don’t ask what they’re pet peeves are or least favorite [x] is, for example. It sets a negative tone.

Some questions you can ask include:

  • Where is your happy place?
  • What’s your favorite food?
  • How are you feeling today/this week? 
  • My favorite snack of the day?
  • Music that makes me smile?
  • Friendship means to me … 
  • A topic you could talk hours about without preparation is …
  • The best stories have ….

You can use online polling platforms like Poll Everywhere or MentiMeter to get real time answers and display them in virtual meetings. Also, a nice touch to reduce the awkward silence of everyone thinking is to play non-distracting background music like ours ! Also it can be convenient to have a timer displayed on a share screen or on a presentation board, so people know how much time is left – yes, we have no-sound options too!

After the answers are submitted, give five or so minutes for people to reflect on the answers. Don’t just say “Who has something to add?” Lead the conversation as a moderator by picking on someone to share and actively engaging in it. See two people answer strikingly similar or different answers? Point it out!

2. Play a Quick Virtual Creativity Card Game

InnovatorsBox has created four incredibly fun and easy-to-learn games designed specifically to get the creative gears turning. You can check them out at free online at game.innovatorsbox.com or buy the physical card games here. If you’re virtual, you can share the screen and take 5-10 minutes to play with another team member or group.

Here’s a brief overview of all of the InnovatorsBox InnovationGames:

  • SPARK: Designed to help get to know new colleagues. To play, simply answer the questions on the creative prompt cards.
  • REIMAGINE: My personal favorite – Designed to help you more intentionally integrate creativity into your daily routine, each card has a creativity challenge for you and your team to complete. Have your team try a card for 24 hours and then the next day, reflect on how they felt. 
  • INFINITY: Asking good questions can be the start of great ideas. Reflect on a card problem and come up with one or more solutions. If you can’t come with a solution in 5-10 minutes – no worries! Reflect on what thoughts generally popped in your mind when you considered it.
  • INFINITY SQUARED: This is the only game that is suggested to maybe go longer than 5-10 minutes — A randomized dice game that prompts you to ask different questions and answer in creative ways. Before you play, pick a challenge you’re trying to solve or a decision you’re trying to make. Then use the dice to create a scenario that you can then brainstorm on. 

15-20 MINUTE TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES:

Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO, InnovatorsBox®

 

Monica’s Tip: A well designed 15-20 mins could be a powerful moment to bond but don’t over orchestrate it. Think about the journey. Be intentional both in what you ask participants to do but also how it would feel operationally. Would they have to think about what buttons to click, where to look at or would they automatically be wizzed in and out of the room. Where would they see question prompts? The more you think through operation and content together the more at ease participants will feel experiencing and fully focusing on being there.

1. Assign 1-2 Prompts That Ask For Open-Ended Answers w/ a 5-10 Minute Reflection Time

This is an expanded version of the one word question activity, where you give your team more to actually discuss the answer in randomized Zoom Rooms (or if in-person, in corners somewhere). 

You can find some great open ended questions using the SPARK card questions from the game listed above.  As a way to make this exercise even more fun, ask the team to sketch it instead of talk it out. It can help them think about it differently and practice seeing things from different perspectives. You might be surprised also what drawings you’ll get

If you choose to ask two questions, which usually suffices for about 8 minutes of time, then be sure and leave the question in the chat as they go in and out of zoom rooms so they don’t forget it. 

2. Curate Team Favorites & Ask Them To Present

I love this activity because it integrates the team from the very start and makes them feel in control. This is a team-lead exercise! Even better. Some themes for this exercise can include:

  • Ask them what their favorite songs to work to are, and create your own playlist you could play and share.
  • Ask them to submit a photo to do a photo guessing game – like guess who is who from baby pictures.
  • Ask them to submit a photo that represents a hobby they do outside of work and have people match the hobby to the person.

The key is to tune into something they’re passionate about, which makes it easy for them to talk about it. Also it’s really great at helping the team get to know each other. “You happen to collect weird antiques too? Who knew!”

1 HOUR PLUS TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES:

Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO, InnovatorsBox®

 

Monica’s Tip: The key through an hour activity is to include interactive sessions and not make it feel like an hour presentation. No matter how big your group is built in time for breakout sessions, reflection prompts, idea sharing and silent reflection time. Here are some ideas on specific topics you could dive deeper into.

1. Test Your Team’s Self-Awareness With Rethink Worksheets

95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10 to 15 percent actually are, according to research by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich. Working with colleagues who aren’t self-aware can cut a team’s success in half and, according to Eurich’s research, lead to increased stress and decreased motivation. InnovatorsBox Rethink Worksheets is a non-invasive, simple playbook into understanding your team’s awareness and then gives you tools to analyze and build off of that.

For this exercise, I recommend providing at least 15 minutes to reflect, especially on page three.

2. Dive Deeper Into Your Team’s Relationship With Failure Using a Simple Worksheet

InnovatorsBox provides a ton of actionable, innovation worksheets for leaders and team members, but perhaps the best for team-building is the “How to Recover from Failure – Reimaging Your Creative Courage” workbook. Rejection and failure is a natural part of work, but many times team members will hold back on creative ideas if they don’t feel it’s a safe space to have them – out of fear.

Having your team members fill out this workbook (perhaps even anonymously) and then leaving ample time to reflect on their answers can do wonders for not only their own self-awareness, but your ability to empower your team as a leader.

And if you need some more light-hearted activities to break up the more intensive team-building exercises, grab some of our playful games and resources like wallpapers and  https://rethinkcreativity.co/free/ 

Oh, and Bonus more worksheets and even Kid-friendly Activities! 

Intentionally Designing a Meaningful Team Building Exercise – Quick Tips!

Now I know after seeing all these resources you’re excited to go out and try one in an hour! But before you do, consider some of these quick tips for designing a meaningful team-building exercise – especially remotely. Basically this is the how to avoid being Steve Carrel’s character in The Office:

For more insights on team-building from a wide range of industries, check out our podcast  Dear Workplace where InnovatorsBox Founder Monica Kang untangles key work-place related questions with her expert friends.

And finally, be kind to yourself! Hosting events is hard enough but hosting team-building events in this ever-evolving hybrid workspace is even harder. Even if your first team-building exercises don’t go perfectly, that’s okay! Keep trying, evolving the methods, and getting feedback from your team.

And if you’re still navigating how to build inclusive and happy workspaces remotely, try checking out our Culture Roadmaps and Innovator’s Digital Playbook that will literally lead you to an answer.

About the Author

Sarah Bloodworth

Sarah Bloodworth

Sarah Bloodworth is a writer and sustainability & culture specialist located in Austin, Texas. She studied Journalism and Environmental Science At The University of Texas at Austin and partly at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She worked as a freelance writer for several years, eventually founding my own LLC where she helped mission-driven organisations understand and connect with their audiences through clear, impactful communications. She now works at Flex International, a global manufacturing partner dedicated to creating products that improve people’s lives and make the world a better place. Her specialties include writing/editing, research, customer relations, community-building, and data. The views Sarah expresses are her’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Flex.

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