9 Virtual Team Building Activities to Connect Your Distributed Team

. 8 min read

Team building may seem more complex in the age of remote workplaces, but it’s just a change of environment; human nature remains the same. This means that distributed teams, just like teams working together in a physical office, can benefit from team building exercises. Virtual team building activities just need to be adapted for a team of distributed workers.

However, this begs a few important questions. What are some of the best virtual team building activities to connect distributed teams? How can you help new teams break the ice in a virtual environment? Finally, which software and tools can help you bring your distributed teams closer together? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at what it means to practice team building with remote employees.

What is virtual team building?

“Strong teams don’t just happen by hiring qualified employees — they need to be built through activities designed to bring employees together. The purpose of any team-building exercise is to build a stronger unit of employees...[Team building] improves productivity, increases employee motivation, encourages collaboration, and builds trust and respect among employees.” [1]

- Karina Mojica, Digital PR Manager at Ignite Visibility

Team building simply refers to the practice of actively increasing cooperation, socialization, and cohesion in a workgroup. Thus, virtual team building is the same, just taken out of the physical office and put into a remote one. Needless to say, some activities simply do not translate to a remote environment. For example, some organizations go on work retreats and practice different physical activities, like “trust falls,” nature hikes, or arts and crafts. These are not possible for virtual teams.

Virtual team building activities rely more on visual or auditory communication, usually over video calls. Online games for teams, virtual team icebreakers, team-based challenges, and even quizzes are all great ways to help people get to know each other, enhance communication, and ultimately be a part of a more united team.

Since distributed teams often include team members from all over the world, there is a good chance that English will not be the first language for many virtual participants. Even though Zoom, Google Meet, and similar virtual communication tools make it easier to communicate over long distances, they do not always account for language barriers on their own. Fortunately, Otter.ai allows you to use these tools while also providing live transcriptions to make it easier (and more fun) for everyone involved.

12 Virtual Team Building Activities For Remote Teams

When looking for the best remote team activities for your organization or department, it’s best to think about the needs and characteristics of your team. Are you organizing an initial meet-and-greet? Do you have a team that has worked together for a while but struggles to foster quality work relationships? Or are you simply looking for ways to promote a healthier, more positive work environment remotely? Ultimately, your specific goals will help you determine which fun team games and activities to bring to your next virtual get-together.

Virtual icebreaker activities, games, & ideas

If you recently formed a team or plan to add new members, you should plan to incorporate some easy and free virtual team building activities to help break the ice. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Native Language Vocabulary

This one only works if there are employees who speak multiple languages, but it can be a great way to learn about one another and have fun at the same time. Using Otter.ai, you can instruct people to say a word in their native language (or a language other than English) and let the live transcription tool spell it out on screen. Then, the rest of the participants try to guess its English meaning.

  • Tools: Video conference software (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.), Otter.ai or similar transcription software
  • Duration: 10-15 minutes
  • Objective: Guess the correct meaning of non-English words.


When looking for the best remote team activities for your organization or department, it’s best to think about the needs and characteristics of your team.

2 Truths and 1 Lie

If you are unfamiliar with 2 Truths and 1 Lie, it is one of the best games for coworkers to have fun with each other while also revealing interesting facts about themselves. To play, someone starts by stating three “facts” about themselves. However, only two of the statements are true. Everyone else then gets to vote on which statement they think is the lie.

  • Tools: Video conference software
  • Duration: Roughly 2 minutes per player
  • Objective: Try to make all three statements believable so that your coworkers cannot figure out the lie.

Favorite Things Quiz

The “Favorite Things” quiz requires a little more preparation on the part of the virtual meeting organizer, but it is still enjoyable and straightforward. All you have to do is come up with a series of questions related to what people like. For example: what’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? You can think of unique or interesting questions that are more specific to your team to make the results even more fun.

  • Tools: Video conference software, quiz questions
  • Duration: 10-15 minutes
  • Objective: Learn about your fellow coworkers and teach them about your interests.

Charades

Just because you’re playing online games for virtual teams does not mean that you can’t include physical elements. With Charades, the host of the meeting privately messages a group of words to each player. Then, the player has 1 minute to act out the words (without saying anything) and have the other players guess the words. The player who can get through the most words on their list is the winner. You can also divide the group into two teams that compete to guess the most words.

  • Tools: Video conference software, word list
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Objective: Get your coworkers to guess as many words as possible using only gestures.

Virtual Background Competition

This competition is extremely easy and allows participants to be fun, humorous, and creative. The host of the meeting simply tells everyone to change their virtual background to something funny or interesting. Then, the entire group votes on who used the best virtual background. As you can see, this game is fast, simple, and does not require complicated instructions.

  • Tools: Video conference software
  • Duration: 5-10 minutes
  • Objective: Come up with the funniest, most interesting, or most unique virtual background.

Fun remote team building activities for any occasion

Oftentimes, there is no need to break the ice during team building activities for conference calls. You might simply want to try out virtual team building challenges or games that can improve communication [2] and help your team enjoy themselves, even if they’ve been working together for years. So, here are five more ideas that should work in just about any virtual work environment:

Trivia Competition

Trivia is one of the best ways for people to flex their knowledge on a variety of topics in the form of a friendly competition. Typically, the meeting host will have a set of trivia questions on hand that span a wide range of subjects — from sports to geography — and everything in between. Each person will write down their answer and reveal it (ideally by sharing their screen) after 30 seconds have passed. The player who gets the most questions correct wins.

  • Tools: Video conference software
  • Duration: 15-20 minutes
  • Objective: Answer the most trivia questions correctly.

Remote Scavenger Hunt

The remote scavenger hunt is one of the best team building games on Zoom, as it allows employees to think quickly and use everyday objects that they have nearby. The host of the meeting will come up with a category of objects, and the player who is able to retrieve and show an object that meets the right criteria before anyone else wins the round. For example, the host can ask to see something red, something that you use to clean your house, or something that belongs in the kitchen.

  • Tools: Video conference software, categories list
  • Duration: 15-20 minutes
  • Objective: Retrieve the correct items as quickly as possible.

You might simply want to try out virtual team building challenges or games that can improve communication and help your team enjoy themselves, even if they’ve been working together for years.

Read My Lips

If you’re looking for quick virtual team building activities, “read my lips” is a great choice. It requires virtually no prep time, as you simply ask each player to mouth a simple sentence. Then, everyone else must try to guess what the person is saying. You can divide the group into teams to turn it into a competition. The player or team who guesses the most sentences correctly wins.

  • Tools: Video conference software
  • Duration: 5-10 minutes
  • Objective: Guess the most “silent” sentences correctly.

Pictionary

Finally, pictionary is a fun game for coworkers, especially if some participants are shy and prefer not to speak up. With pictionary, players are divided into two teams. One player is given a list of words that they must draw in a given amount of time, allowing their teammates to guess each word. Then, the other team gets a chance to do the same. Once every player has had a chance to draw words, the team with the most correctly guessed words wins the game. This game is easy to do on Zoom, as the conference tool features a virtual whiteboard. Otherwise, players can simply use traditional paper and hold their drawings up to the camera (though this method is far less efficient).

  • Tools: Video conference software, paper and pencils (optional)
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Objective: Guess the most words based on the drawings.

Fostering even more collaboration with Otter.ai

While Otter.ai can help you integrate new methods into your virtual team building activities, it also has important uses for distributed teams. Approximately 33% of businesses are actively seeking bilingual employees, a number that has risen drastically in just the last 5 years. [3] This means that going forward, more and more teams will have members that speak more than one language. With distributed teams, the likelihood (and even need) for bilingual or multilingual employees increases even further. As businesses look to foreign, non-English speaking markets for talent, the chances of having distributed teams with multilingual members increase even more.

Fortunately, Otter.ai can help foster collaboration when there are one or more team members who do not speak English as a first language. Looking beyond structured team building games and activities, Otter.ai’s transcription capabilities make it a great choice for transcribing calls, meetings, and other verbal communications. These transcriptions can then be edited, stored, and shared for all team members to use, though they will likely be most beneficial to employees who are still working to improve their English.

By offering non-native English speakers multiple ways to digest information, you can increase their ability to participate in the conversation and contribute toward your team’s goals. This, in turn, can help non-native English speakers feel more included and create better comprehension and communication between all team members. So, even if you don’t like the idea of formal activities to build team cohesion, Otter.ai still offers a reliable way to improve the exchange of information on multiple fronts.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to enhance team communication, collaboration, and unity with games and activities. It just takes a virtual environment that allows your employees to work together toward common goals. Rather than simply talking to your staff about being a better team, feel free to try out some of the virtual team building activities above! Additionally, if you’d like to try out Otter Live Transcription to bring even more fun and versatility to your remote team building efforts, be sure to check out Otter.ai today!