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The Best Online Team-Building Games to Play Remotely

teambuilding vector

Team building is about finding ways to help a group of people work better together. The goal of a team-building event is for individual members of the group to see each other as more than just co-workers and support each other accordingly. But team-building goals are more difficult to achieve in the “new normal” of 2021 as nearly everything has gone online. People are shopping online, learning online, playing online casino games and they’re working online too.

Team leaders face a tremendous challenge. With so many people working remotely these days, how can you create a bond among your team? Remote work makes it very difficult to schedule the kind of face-to-face team-building exercises that used to be the norm – and the stakes are high. Research shows that remote workers tend to have weaker colleague relationships than members of an in-house team. But it’s totally possible to turn the situation around. In fact, if online is the problem, then online is the solution too. Online team-building games and virtual team-building activities are enabling remote workers to socialize regularly and feel valued. Read on for five great ways to spark your imagination.

1. Build your bucket list

Breaking the ice is essential for teams working remotely. The “bucket list challenge” game is one of the best virtual team-building games for new team members to get to know each other.

To play, hold a video conference and tell team members they have five minutes to come up with their ultimate bucket list of things they’d love to do in their lifetime. Then they share their lists with everyone else on the team. It’s usually great fun: People like to hear about other people’s dreams and sometimes they discover they have things in common. But you can take it further. Say two team members find they have the same ambition. Provided it’s achievable (like learning Spanish, rather than flying to the moon,) they can encourage each other to work on their mutual goal.

This game should take 10-15 minutes. Longer than that and it drags. What’s great is there’s no theoretical player limit – so use your discretion with regard to the time available.

2. Team-building online bingo

Bingo balls and a bingo basket on top of smartphones.

Did you know that online bingo is one of the most popular online casino games around? That’s because online bingo games are tremendously social, with a fun, competitive element as well as live chat functionality. No wonder teams are starting to play bingo online as a way to have a fun social break.

Online bingo games typically involve filling spaces on a bingo board with numbers that are called out or, in the case of online casino variants, randomly generated. To play bingo online for team-building purposes, it’s necessary to adapt the formula somewhat. Start by creating a bingo card template that replaces bingo numbers with relatable phrases. A good example would be things that people in the team have done in the past: “Took a coffee break,” “woke up late,” “fell asleep at desk,” “wore stretch pants to a video meeting” and so on. The card should be in a format that team members can easily mark up with a tool like Paint. It becomes a more collaborative process if the team members think up phrases themselves. 

Once you’ve got a pool of suitable phrases, it’s time to generate and distribute bingo cards. There are a number of bingo card generators online that you can feed phrases into. Next, call everyone to the virtual bingo room on Zoom.  Choose someone to be the moderator. The moderator calls out a phrase at random and gives players time to look for that phrase on their cards. Anyone who has that phrase on their card marks the space. The winner is the first player to complete a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row that matches the moderator’s card. A prize like an online gift card can increase the motivation factor.

A game of team-building online bingo should take 10 minutes on average. As many players can take part as there are members of the team.

3. Can you hear me now?

The best virtual team-building activities succeed because they give all team members a chance to shine. Of course, not all people shine in the same way. A good set of virtual team-building games should include activities that play to team members’ different strengths. “Can you hear me now?” is a popular online team game that draws on abstract thinking and communication skills, and can be played over any video-conferencing software.

To play, choose one person to be the Describer. The other players are the Artists. The Describer has to think of an object and explain to the Artists how to draw it. It could be a Christmas tree, a bird, a bicycle, whatever. The trick is that the Describer can only use geometric terms. The Describer can say things like “draw a half circle,” then “draw two straight lines from the edges that meet underneath the circle” (this would be an ice-cream cone.) What they can’t do is name anything, like “the letter X.” The Artists use their drawings to guess the object.

Three minutes is usually enough for a round of this fun game. Artists who guess the object correctly get a point each, and it’s a great idea to award the winning Artist a suitable prize. Then you can change roles. Choose how many rounds to play according to the size of your team and how much time you’ve got.

4. Alien visitors

This is one of the best online team-building games for communication and creative thinking. One team member is chosen to be the moderator. The remaining team members form groups of three or four. The moderator reads the following script:

“Aliens are visiting Earth and would like to learn about your company. Being aliens, they don’t speak American, and they’re evidently pressed for time, so they need a snappy explanation of what the company does in five symbols or pictures.” 

The groups then discuss among themselves what those five images should be. Each group then uploads their five images and can vote on which ones best describe the company. It’s a great way for team members and leaders to gain insight into how each other thinks.

The game takes 30 minutes to an hour. The number of players depends on the available time, but up to 10 groups of three to four people is a manageable number. You could offer an attractive prize for the most alien-friendly answer.

5. Murder mystery

A hand on a keyboard.

Also known as Mafia, Werewolf is a classic murder mystery game that you can play online with your time. It’s basically a “whodunnit” challenge for six to 16 players with different roles. The most basic version has three roles: werewolves, villagers, and a moderator. A good ratio of werewolves to villagers is 1:3.

The moderator messages everyone to tell them their roles, and the game starts. Pick a video app that everyone can use – Zoom works just fine. There are two phases: Night and Day. At Night, all players close their eyes. The moderator tells the werewolves to open their eyes, they message each other privately to pick a “victim,” and close their eyes again.

In the Day phase, the moderator tells everyone to open their eyes and says who “died” the night before. The “living” players discuss who the werewolves could be. This may well test the werewolves’ ability to bluff! A player can accuse someone of being a werewolf at any time and call for a vote to eliminate them. If more than half the players vote in favor, the accused person is out of the game, and Night begins again. This continues until one side is eliminated.

Werewolf is a great game for developing subtle interpersonal skills, as well as having a good laugh along the way. Once a team has got the hang of it, a game takes about 30 minutes.

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