The number of Americans working remotely more than doubled in 2020. The benefits of working from home became apparent very quickly, but so too did the downsides to remote working, like the lack of face-to-face interaction and the opportunities for team-building.
To help employees work at their full potential, employers need to foster a collaborative atmosphere, even online. Virtual team-building activities are a great way to help make that happen. These activities can be equally effective in fostering a sense of camaraderie amongst virtual attendees at online events.
Why Is Virtual Team-Building Important?
Remote working has plenty of advantages: People love the flexibility it offers and appreciate the extra time they gain by not having to commute. However, one potential downside is that the loss of in-person interaction sometimes makes it harder to foster a sense of connection amongst people who would normally work in the same location. This may in turn impact how effectively people can work together in a remote setting.
In a survey of over 2,000 remote workers, more than 60% of respondents cited flexibility as the biggest advantage of remote work. More than half cited not having to commute. On the flip side, 17% of respondents said that difficulty communicating and collaborating was their biggest work-related problem. For another 24% of respondents, feelings of loneliness were a major issue. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, as 97% of survey respondents said they would prefer to continue working remotely on a permanent basis.
For jobs where on-site work is non-essential, remote working may become the new standard. Now that so many people know their jobs can be done just as well at home, they could come to expect that employers offer remote working options. In fact, many employers say they plan to permanently allow employees to work remotely at least some of the time.
However, employers may need to make additional changes to help remote workers reach their full potential. Employees that feel isolated from the people they work with aren’t likely to be working at their best. This means it’ll be important for employers to not just offer remote working options but to find ways to mitigate some of its negative aspects—most importantly, to foster a sense of connection and teamwork amongst people who work together.
To this end, employers are likely to benefit from holding remote team-building activities on a regular basis. Virtual team games and other activities may be the key to creating remote workforces that can communicate and collaborate effectively.
With virtual team-building, your objective is to have a team of people take part in activities that help them work together more effectively. Activities don’t necessarily have to be work-focused, but they should facilitate teamwork in some way. For instance, they might help people connect and communicate, learn more about one another, or boost morale. The activities you choose should be fun too! While your main goal is boosting productivity, these activities should be things that employees look forward to, rather than consider just another part of the job.
Team-Building for Virtual Events
Team-building may become a vital part of remote work, but that’s not the only application for these kinds of activities. Team-building can also be vital to the success of an online event.
One of the biggest challenges of virtual events lies in creating an audience of attendees who are engaged and focused for the duration of the event. It’s hard to do online simply because the virtual event environment is less immersive and interactive than a typical in-person event. Gamification offers a solid strategy for boosting interaction and engagement. Team-building type activities can work perfectly alongside gamification as a means not just of increasing engagement but also of creating a sense of community amongst virtual event-goers—many of whom may, in reality, be sitting alone at their computers.
Virtual Activities for Team Development and Community-Building
1. Icebreaker Q&A
Start off your virtual team-building with a quick round of icebreaker questions. Create a list of simple questions that team members can answer relatively quickly. Use one or two questions at the start of a team-building session to get people in the right frame of mind. For virtual events, firing off a round or two of icebreaker questions is a good way to help people get to know one another a little. When people start off knowing nothing about one another, even a small information exchange can make a difference.
Check out this extensive list of icebreaker questions for ideas.
2. Show and Tell
For this game, choose a team member at random, and ask them to grab any object within arm’s reach. Then ask them to tell a quick one-minute story about that object. It can be a true story or a completely fictitious one. The key is to challenge their creativity and ability to think quickly to come up with an entertaining story.
3. Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a great option for a quick, easy-to-prepare remote team-building exercise, and its inherently competitive element means it also meshes well with virtual event gamification. All you need to prepare is a list of objects for teams or individuals to find. Or you could use an app like Scavify®. This app allows you to create customized scavenger hunts that can include check-in locations, video clips, multi-choice questions, photo challenges, and more.
4. The Pitch
Divide people into teams of two or more, and task each team to create a pitch to present to the rest of the group. Pick a topic that’s relatively simple and that allows people to get creative, as well as collaborative. For instance, ask groups to write a company jingle or come up with an idea for a company commercial or radio spot.
5. Team Origami
For this game, divide the group into pairs. In each pair, give one person an origami pattern and a set of instructions. The person with the pattern and instructions has to guide their teammate in making the item. The catch is, their teammate can’t see the instructions and doesn’t know what they’re making. And neither party can see what the other is doing—as all cameras are off for this one! Check out sites such as Origami.me for patterns and instructions.
6. Mock Shark Tank
For this game, the team leader acts as the “investor.” Everyone else divides into pairs or teams, depending on the size of the group. Each team comes up with a fictional product to pitch to the investor. Add an element of fun by choosing a particular theme or topic for the products, and encourage team members to get creative with their choices.
7. Virtual Coffee Break or Happy Hour
Make virtual team-building a regular part of the work schedule with coffee breaks and happy hours. For virtual coffee breaks, schedule 15 to 30 minutes during the working day where the team gets together for a coffee break and a chat. These breaks are also perfect for inserting into the schedule of a virtual event. Regular breaks in a content schedule are essential during a virtual event, as most people find it hard to stay focused when sitting at a computer for long periods of time.
For team-building, schedule happy hours for the end of the working day—for instance on Friday afternoons—and run some simple games. A virtual happy hour is also a good alternative to the social events that cap off the day at an in-person event. For instance, have a round or two of icebreaker questions followed by a round of trivia or other game. Teambuilding™ offers a range of happy hour suggestions for virtual team games.
8. Virtual Campfire
Hosted by Tiny Campfire, this virtual team activity comes in the form of a kit sent to each member of the team. Included is a “kitset campfire” with a candle, matches, and s’mores ingredients. The event is facilitated by a camp host who runs activities for the duration of the event.
9. Escape Room
Escape rooms are a popular group activity, and now there are virtual versions that can be played online. For instance, there’s The Escape Game, which has created online versions of its real-world escape rooms. Groups of people play by using a video-conferencing service to communicate as they work through the problems posed by the escape-room challenge.
10. Murder Mystery
Like the escape room, murder mysteries are a popular option for live team-building exercises that have been adapted to the virtual world. Apps such as Whodunnit offer a simple way for small- to medium-sized groups to participate via Zoom.
11. Virtual Team Pursuit
From Outback Team Building & Training comes this app that lets participants take part in a range of challenges, from mental and mystery pursuits to physical and skill-based tasks. All of the virtual team games included in the app are designed to promote teamwork and communication but let participants have fun at the same time.
12. Game Night In
This online counterpart to Game Night Out provides an evening of fun and games, with an experienced host to guide the experience. Teams of people compete in a series of games and challenges, including scavenger hunts, trivia, skill games, and guessing games.
How XtendLive’s Virtual Events Platform Can Facilitate Community Development
The average virtual event doesn’t inherently provide much time or scope for building a cohesive community. And the bigger the event, the tougher it is to encourage those interactions that help people get to know one another and feel like part of the event community.
The XtendLive event platform can help with that. While typical events provide the attendee with an event interface that resembles a web browser, we’ve gone a few steps further. The XtendLive platform allows us to create immersive, three-dimensional settings that look and function just like event venues. And within the 3D environment, we’ve embedded a range of elements that encourage interaction, engagement, and community:
- A first-person experience that allows attendees to view and engage with the event as they would if they were there in person
- A group chat function, where attendees can talk with one another privately or to the group while they interact in the virtual venue environment[p3] .
- Event venues feature 3D environments that attendees can explore. Each venue has presentation rooms, breakout spaces, exhibition halls, and interactive spaces for entertainment and socializing.
- Visual cues within the event environment make it easy for attendees to locate opportunities for interaction with the venue and with other people.
- Gamification is an integral part of the platform, with gamification elements accessible within the interface. By customizing an event’s gamification elements, you can encourage attendees to participate in community-development activities and interact with one another and the venue.
- Integrated features such as polling and Q&A provide opportunities for attendees to interact or participate during presentations.
Virtual Team Games Can Help You Build an Effective Remote Team
The huge increase in remote working is likely to be permanent for many workers. That may mean a steep learning curve for managers and team leaders who are new to remote leadership and for employees who are working remotely for the first time. Incorporating remote team-building activities into the schedule may be an effective way to help employees feel connected and supported, as well as encourage communication and teamwork—overall helping to ensure that remote workers stay engaged, productive, and happy while working at home. And in the world of virtual events, these same activities are an excellent way of boosting engagement by encouraging attendees to interact with the event and with one another.