Beyond Virtual Happy Hours: 10 Remote Team-Bonding Ideas
COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with colleagues. Learn 10 impactful ways to bond with your team while maintaining social distancing best practices.
Whether you're a remote work veteran or have just recently transitioned because of COVID-19, you're probably wondering how to facilitate team-bonding opportunities and maintain positive company culture from a distance.
We're happy to say, there are plenty of ways to do this effectively — but you'll need to move beyond the typical virtual happy hours that have since become standard.
There's nothing particularly wrong with virtual happy hours. In fact, if your company has never used this bonding strategy, you might find it to be extremely successful. But the reality is, virtual happy hours quickly grow stale and lead to meeting fatigue for most organizations.
To combat this inevitable outcome, we've listed 10 remote team bonding ideas below. Each of these event types is unique and fun. Use one or more to reinvigorate your team from afar!
1. Virtual Cooking Class
Well-crafted virtual events are both entertaining and educational. That's why a virtual cooking class is a great remote team-bonding idea. You and your colleagues can gather together via Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or any other video conferencing app. Once there, learn how to cook a delicious delicacy and partake in your creations as a group.
Who's going to teach the class, you ask? That's completely up to you. Bring in a professional chef or simply ask one of your staffers with a keen sense of flavor to show your team how to prepare a favorite dish.
This is an idea that Bizzabo recently used to keep employees connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Company Co-Founder and Chief Data Officer, Boaz Katz, led the team in a tasty gnocchi-making class that was a ton of fun for all involved.
Pro Tip: Ask your team to take pictures of the dishes they make during the class and share them on social media. This will help your team generate awesome and unique content that could help your company's marketing strategy as well as its team-bonding efforts.
2. Jackbox Trivia Night
Have you ever heard of Jackbox Games? If not, your team-bonding events are about to get crazy in the best way possible. Jackbox Games is the creator of party video games that have been entertaining players for more than two decades. The company has a number of games that your team can play together but we're partial to the classic “You Don't Know Jack” trivia option. Here's how it works:
- Head to the Jackbox Games website and choose a pack that suits you and your team.
- Follow the directions on your receipt to download Steam (an online gaming platform) as well as your new pack of Jackbox games.
- Load your Jackbox games into the Steam platform, then fire up you’re preferred video conferencing app. Share the video conferencing link with your entire team. When you're all present and accounted for, share your screen.
- Play your Jackbox trivia game and have a blast with your colleagues!
It's really that simple. Trust us - you and your team will have hours of fun. Don't be surprised if your staff keeps asking you to host another Jackbox game night!
3. Virtual Board Game Night
Source: Board Game Arena
Maybe your team isn't into trivia. Maybe you're a bunch of board gamers and you're all really eager to break out the ol' Terra Mystica board and battle each other for land supremacy. If that's the case, we have a solution for you: a virtual board game night.
Using a platform like Board Game Arena or Tabletopia, you can play top board games with your colleagues online, without having to meet up and break social distancing best practices. There are hundreds of games available between these two platforms including top options like the aforementioned Terra Mystica, Brass: Birmingham, Scythe, Wingspan, and 7 Wonders.
You can even join with your team and play against other board gamers around the world if that sounds like more fun to you and your staff. However you decide to play, a virtual board game night is sure to delight your team.
4. Team-Wide Netflix Party
We're all watching Netflix ad nauseam anyway; why not turn your binging habits into a team-bonding experience via the Netflix Party app?
Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that allows a group of people (you and your colleagues, for example) to synchronize video playback and watch Netflix content together — even when you and your colleagues happen to be in different locations. The app also has a chat feature so that your team can discuss plot twists and favorite scenes while they're happening on the screen.
Here's how easy it is to set up Netflix Party:
- Install Netflix Party from the Chrome Web Store.
- Access your Netflix account and choose a movie or TV show to watch.
- Create a party by clicking the red "NP" symbol next to the address bar in your internet browser. Select "Start Party" and invite your colleagues via a URL link.
- Then, team members simply click on the URL you've sent them, which will take them to Netflix, and click the "NP" button on their own computers to join the video event.
Stop watching Stranger Things alone! Create a Netflix Party and watch it with your colleagues as you bond over 80s music and interdimensional monsters from the safety of your homes.
5. Life Photo Challenge
Here's a unique idea: host a life photo challenge for your team. In a nutshell, each of your colleagues will be asked to share a picture of something important to them. It could be a pet, a good book, a painting that was purchased alongside the canals in Venice, etc. Then your colleagues will share the story behind their photo and explain why it's so meaningful to them.
This team-bonding activity can be done live via a video conferencing app like Zoom, in a private social media group, through Slack — whatever works best for your company. It's simple yet accessible and gives your colleagues a chance to connect with each other on a deeper level by sharing, not ignoring, our new home-work environments in a positive way. We think you'll be surprised at how excited your team is to share their stories once the ball gets rolling.
6. Virtual Museum Tour
Source: The Louvre
Earlier we said that the best remote team-bonding ideas are both fun and educational. And what's more educational than a museum tour? Unfortunately, the world's greatest museums like the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the British Museum are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But each is currently offering virtual tours that anyone can access for free.
Take a gander at the Rosetta Stone or the Mona Lisa with your colleagues from the comfort of your own homes. Then discuss these amazing artifacts and works of art as a group. While nothing can replace a real, in-person viewing of these world treasures, a virtual tour is the next best thing and a great remote team bonding experience that your staff will enjoy.
7. Build an Origami Zoo
If you and your colleagues are right-brain folks, you might enjoy the chance to build origami zoos together via video conference. Like the virtual cooking class mentioned above, one of your teammates could lead people through the creative process while everyone else follows along. Alternatively, you could all follow directions from a YouTube video. The choice is up to you.
This remote team bonding idea is unique in the sense that your team's progress on the zoo would be physically apparent week to week — assuming you host this bonding experience on a regular basis. It could be fun to see each team member's animal collection steadily grow.
An added bonus: your team won't have to order and/or download anything to participate in this activity. They simply grab a piece of paper and follow the instructions.
8. Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Everybody loves scavenger hunts. They're exciting, adventurous, and can even make us feel like Indiana Jones. Thanks to technology like Scavify, you can create fun scavenger hunts for your team without asking them to leave the house to participate.
Your team will download the Scavify app then complete different tasks such as taking pictures and/or videos and answering quiz questions. For each task completed, a certain amount of points will be rewarded. At the end of the event, the person (or team if you decide to go that route) wins bragging rights.
You don't actually need a fancy app to plan a scavenger hunt. You could just make a list of things for your staff to find, post in a Slack chat, and track who finds all of the items first.
9. Donut Conversations
Donut is a Slack app that "builds trust and forms friendships for even the most distributed teams by making it easy to launch virtual coffee or group lunches, encourage peers to meet for learning opportunities, and build important internal networks for new hires."
Basically, Donut connects random employees inside Slack and encourages them to meet (virtually or in real life) at a specified time. It's a great way for teams to get to know each other on deeper, more intimate levels.
Selfies from the virtual hangouts, as well as fun facts from Donut conversations, can be added to the company-wide donut channel to help your team as a whole connect better too.
10. Host a Guest Speaker
Finally, why not bring in a guest speaker to educate your team? As virtual and hybrid event ideas become commonplace, many companies are now accustomed to hosting keynotes and other speeches via video conferencing software. The topic of your presentation can be anything you want, as long as it's of interest to your whole team.
For example, you could bring in a marketing or sales coach to speak to your team about business-related topics. Or a parenting expert to help your employees deal with quarantined children during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Main Takeaways: Connect With Your Team
When it comes to COVID-19 and events, many people in the industry are looking for new ways to authentically connect online. And while the cancellations of big conferences like South by Southwest (SXSW) get most of the media attention, internal event organizers are brainstorming how to adjust to the new events landscape as well.
Fortunately, internal event organizers now have a secret weapon to help them do their jobs effectively: a list of stellar virtual event ideas they can use to bring their teams closer together. Just keep these main takeaways in mind when planning your next digital hangout:
- Release Your Inner Creative: In order to come up with fun virtual event ideas for your team and facilitate team-bonding, you have to get creative. From digital cooking classes to museum tours, we've listed 10 great ideas for you above. But you'll be able to think of plenty more if you take the time to let your creativity flow.
- Mix Entertainment With Education: While there's nothing wrong with purely entertainment-driven team-bonding activities, you'll get more bang for your buck by choosing virtual events that are both fun and educational. Try to teach your team something new (work or non-work related) and your staff will leave your team-bonding experience with an added sense of accomplishment and productivity.
- Use Team-Bonding to Create Content: Lastly, team-bonding exercises are fantastic ways to build tight relationships between staff members and keep everyone on the same page. But why not squeeze every ounce of benefit out of these events? Use pictures and/or videos from your virtual gatherings as behind-the-scenes marketing content to show your company's personality to your target audience.