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Resource Center / Teams

Virtual Team Bonding During COVID-19

Team bonding is a challenge when the whole team is working remotely. Try these ideas to help your employees connect from afar.

Amanda Beach photo
Amanda Beach
9 minutes

Let’s just start out by saying the struggle is real. For those who aren’t used to working remotely, cabin fever may be setting in and people are feeling the strain. With that in mind, one of the things we should be relying on right now is connection.

As more and more teams are getting acclimated to working remotely, it’s more important than ever to maintain that sense of connection and camaraderie for employees. Social distancing can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, so team bonding activities can be incredibly helpful for making people feel like they’re not alone.

At a time when employees need to feel connected more than ever, it’s the experiences they share that help them get through each day.

With more time spent indoors and away from others, finding ways to virtually connect with others has become an activity in itself. We’ve pulled together some ideas that will help you and your teams stay connected during this difficult time.

Please note that many of these activities assume the use of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Slack, or Google Hangouts to facilitate the group participation. There are many platforms like these available for free if your teams are not already using some type of video conferencing system.

Show and Tell

Lots of people love to share things about themselves. Bring back the spirit of grade-school with these activities and let employees share a part of their world with the rest of their team.

  • WFH Cribs. Much like MTV Cribs, have team members take turns showing where they’re spending all of their time.
  • What Is This Thing? Employees can take turns sharing a zoomed-in image of something. The rest of the team then tries to guess what the object is based on the macro shot provided.
  • This Is My Workspace. Round up aerial views of your team’s desks and workspaces. Bonus edition? Messy desks (because who doesn’t love a good mess that you don’t have to clean up?).

Get Creative

It’s true that not everyone is an artist. But not everyone has to be an artist to enjoy these activities. Get your team to use a different part of their brain with this list.

  • Paint n’ Sip. These classes have become popular over the last few years, but you don’t need a class to take part. Participants can round up whatever paint and pinot they have on hand, choose a subject together, and have at it.
  • Terrible Crafts. See which teammate can make the ugliest craft project. Uncommon national holidays like National Arbor Day (April 24) or National Superhero Day (April 28) offer some great themes for this.
  • Quarantine Karaoke. If your teams can’t sing badly together in person, they can still do so over video chat. Check out this popular Facebook group or use YouTube to find instrumental versions of your favorite songs and sing the night away.

Quarantine, But Make It Fashion

Sweatpants are making a big comeback, but try giving your employees a reason to get dressed in the morning. Having a reason to don their best outfits can help boost employee moods and productivity in addition to making your video calls fashion-forward.

  • Full-on fashion show. Get your team to brush the dust off their fancy duds. Choose a theme or designer and watch your employees get all gussied up for a walk down an impromptu runway in their own living rooms.
  • Dressed-up Pets. Employees with pets can attempt a fashion show featuring their furry friends. Good luck keeping those furry friends on the runway!
  • Holiday Dress-up Party. This won’t be like your typical end-of-the-year shindig. Have employees dress up as iconic holiday figures and decorate their home workspace accordingly for a mighty festive Zoom room.

Rely on Food

If there’s anything that’s guaranteed to bring people together, it’s food. Take advantage of this fact and use food to drive virtual events and activities that are sure to engage your team.

  • Pizza Party. If your employees have ingredients to make a pizza at home, try getting everyone on Zoom to make and/or eat the pizza together. If your company has the budget, pay for delivery pizza for each employee so you can enjoy it on a video call together.
  • What’s For Lunch? Prompt your employees to share their meals and inspire colleagues to eat well while cooped up. Start a daily thread or custom channel in Slack, or send out a daily email requesting inspiration from your teammates.
  • New Week, New Food. Using the lesser known national holidays, choose a new theme weekly or monthly and integrate that food into operations wherever possible. Insert related emojis into internal subject lines where appropriate, or request photos from employees who enjoy any related meals.

Accept the Challenge

As quarantine boredom increases, people are looking for different ways to pass the time. What better time than now to pose some fun challenges to your employees?

  • Conference Call Backgrounds. Whether they’re virtual or in real life, challenge your team to find the best background possible. Zoom has a feature that allows users to upload any image to use for a virtual background. If your teams don’t use Zoom, see how creative your employees can get using things from around the house.
  • Photoshop. Choose a theme like movie posters and watch your team create their own hilarious versions. Award the best or worst one (which could be the same one, honestly).
  • GIF Wars. This activity might be happening already, but involve your employees in an open GIF war so they can bask in their glory when they fight back with the perfect one.

Have a (Virtual) Night on the Town

Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a night out. Show your team a good time by taking advantage of all the institutions offering up virtual experiences.

Social distancing can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, so team bonding activities can be incredibly helpful for making people feel like they’re not alone.

  • Try out Netflix Party. The popular streaming service recently announced a Google Chrome extension that allows groups to view a movie or show at the same time while being able to chat about it.
  • Tour one of many museums. This one is especially nice for those who don’t live in an area with many museums. Take advantage of this opportunity and give your team an experience they won’t forget with tours of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, The Louvre, or Langley Research Center.
  • Go on safari. Give this one a try for an experience you’d likely never be able to recreate for your team in real life. Check out the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden every day at 3pm ET — while the program is geared toward kids, everyone loves some face time with animals. If this doesn’t resonate with your team, there’s plenty of webcams and tours set up that feature penguins, farm animals, aquarium creatures, and zoo life.

Play the Game

With online gaming being what it is today, there are lots of options out there for virtual gaming. However, people might need more real-life interaction than online gaming provides. Try these new takes on old-school games.

  • Whiteboard Pictionary. LIke the classic game, players must guess the keyword their teammate is drawing. Technology like Miro’s whiteboard or Zoom’s whiteboard feature can help make this possible.
  • Zoom I-SPY. Best with medium-sized teams using Zoom’s gallery mode, this game relies on a good eye and the whole team being on video. Employees take turns choosing something they spy in the grid of faces while everyone else tries to guess what it is. This one really takes face-to-face connection seriously!
  • Museum Bingo. This activity works really well with the virtual museum tours being made available right now (like The Louvre). Prepare this for your team by creating bingo cards that include features present in one of the tours. Not only will your employees get to enjoy some culture, but they’ll also be prompted to look more closely at everything.

Volunteer Virtually

It’s important that your employees take care of themselves. But if your team members are intent on helping others during this time, they’ve got a number of options for volunteering.

  • Make something useful. As others around the world create important and life-saving things like ventilators from 3D machines, it can make your team want to help. Helpful Engineering shares the things they need designed and created that will help in the worldwide efforts.
  • Sew masks. This one might require some upfront preparation, but teammates who know how to sew could come together to make masks for healthcare workers. Participants are urged to use whatever they have on hand at home as long as it meets the requirements available for mask creation.
  • Keep up the search. If your team is hungry for more opportunities, you can find more open calls for help at sites like Idealist and Covid Projects.

Personalize Operations

Even standard processes have the potential to be more engaging. Making a few simple operational changes can help your team better connect, collaborate, and contribute.

Use our guide to to answer common questions and keep your team safe and informed about COVID-19.

  • Turn the video on for meetings. Seeing the faces of others can help your team feel more connected, limiting feelings of isolation. Enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interaction on a large scale by having regular company-wide check-ins over video. Seeing everyone in the company can have a big impact on your teams.
  • Send out a daily newsletter. At a time when we’re all a bit unsure of what tomorrow will bring, having a recap of company news and internal updates can help your team feel connected and part of the larger team.
  • Customize tools to help your team. Tools like Slack make it easy to create and personalize features for your employees. Justworks created custom Slack avatars that employees can assign based on their activity or needs on any given day.

For even more ideas, check out this great list from Museum Hack, one of our customers.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways your team can bond even when they’re far apart. At a time when employees need to feel connected more than ever, it’s the experiences they share that help them get through each day. Hopefully you can help your team share some of these experiences as we get through each day of this together.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.