With the pandemic likely to grind on for many more months, many organisations expect work-from-home to last a while longer yet. Others want to make remote working a more permanent part of their business model for operational or HR reasons. Yet human beings still crave contact with each other and collaborate better when they have opportunities to bond.

While most organisations try to foster camaraderie through virtual drinks and coffee sessions, these video meetings can sometimes be awkward or might be dominated by the extroverts in the group. Or the ritual could simply become boring after being repeated each Friday for 52 weeks. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to help people in your remote teams bond over shared interests and activities:

  1. Watch the sport together

If your team can’t meet up at the pub or stadium to watch the big game because of lockdown levels or living in different locations, they can get together online. As the team leader, you could make an event out of the next major rugby or soccer match by sending a box of snacks to each team member, and asking them to join a virtual hangout to cheer and banter over the sport.

  1. Enjoy a movie together

Watching a film together can be a great way for the team to relax together. Perhaps ask them to vote on a short list of appropriate movies on Netflix or Showmax, then meet to watch it on a videoconferencing app of your choice, in our case we have done this using Microsoft Teams. Invite everyone to comment in the chat window. You could also use the Teleparty browser extension, if everyone in the team has a Netflix subscription.

  1. Play a board or card game

Playing a few hands of Texas Hold ‘Em or a round or two of Pictionary or Scrabble is an enjoyable, low-pressure way for a virtual team to spend some together. Sites such as Board Game Arena make it simple to play a range of popular games using any modern browser, and there’s no shortage of Apple iOS and Android apps to choose from, either. Hop on a call together and chat while you play.

  1. Quiz night

If you’re missing pub quizzes, the format is easily replicated online. You can decide whether one person wants to be pub quizmaster for each session or whether to rotate this duty among the members of the team. You can use Google Slides or PowerPoint to create a slide for each question, incorporating images, audio and video if you wish. Each person could submit their written answers to the quizmaster or capture them in a Microsoft Form. If you want to kick things up a notch, a tool like QuizShow.io lets you create slick interactive quiz shows and gameshows. There are also plenty of websites with trivia questions to help you compile your quiz.

  1. Create a live virtual office

Many office workers miss the ‘presence’ of their co-workers and the opportunities for a casual chat when they bump into each other at the coffee station. This is hard to replicate online, but one way to do it is to have a few hours a week when everyone is invited to leave their video stream on while they carry on with their work. Just knowing that others are also tapping away at their keyboards while you’re working away can help create a sense of togetherness. However, if there are team members who are not comfortable leaving video on when they’re not on a call, their wishes should also be respected.

  1. Play Werewolves, Mafia or Among Us

Werewolves and Mafia are popular party games among people of all ages, offering opportunities for social deduction and good-natured deception. The core idea is that there is a monster or murderer in the group—this person’s aim will be to remove the other people from the game before the players identify them as the guilty party. Check out primers for videoconference Werewolves and Mafia for more.

Another option is to play Among Us, a similar videogame that exploded in worldwide popularity during the lockdown months of 2020. It’s available for most devices—including PC, Android and Apple phones and tablets, and the Nintendo Switch. It’s also really simple to play, so even casual and non-gamers will pick up the basics within minutes.

Find what works for your team

It’s not easy to recreate the same sense of solidarity online that teams share when they work in the same physical space. They key is to make it fun and engaging, rather than yet another Teams call to get through each week. It may take experimenting with different rituals and activities to find what works best for your team, but the results will be worth it.

Inspirations from the following sources:

10 Virtual Team Building Activities to Build Stronger Teams (workamajig.com)

5 remote team activities that aren’t Zoom happy hours | Zapier

Virtual Team Building: 5 Activities For Your Remote Team (hotjar.com)

37 Best Virtual Team Building Activities in 2021 (Ranked) (museumhack.com)

17 Virtual Team Building Activities Your Remote Team Will Love (timedoctor.com)

References:

https://www.netflixparty.com/

https://thepokerpeople.com/virtual-poker/

https://en.boardgamearena.com/gamelist

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g32073897/best-apps-to-play-with-friends/

https://www.quizshow.io/

https://www.triviaquestionsnow.com/

https://anjuansimmons.com/blog/how-to-play-werewolf-over-zoom/

https://nerdschalk.com/how-to-play-mafia-on-zoom-and-google-meet/#:~:text=During%20the%20day%2C%20the%20narrator,think%20is%20in%20the%20Mafia.&text=The%20Mafia%20wake%20up%20at,not%20figure%20out%20their%20identity.

https://innersloth.com/gameAmongUs.php