Remote work has become increasingly common in the past few years. With seventy-six percent of employees saying they don’t want to be in the office full time, if at all, remote work is probably here to stay. But this type of work does have its disadvantages. Organizations face the challenge of virtual team building and maintaining the company culture, despite their teams being scattered across the globe. Fostering a strong sense of team spirit and camaraderie is essential for employees to feel connected to their work, their colleagues, and their employer.
For remote teams, however, team-building exercises are often an overlooked essential activity. Platforms that are primarily used for team communication and collaboration, like Zoom, Slack, or Discord, can also be leveraged for fun and engaging team-building events. With remote work, employee interactions are often almost entirely work-related, without the usual water cooler break chats. Though this may potentially boost productivity, it will likely do so at the expense of team members’ morale and sense of belonging that’s fostered by casual, friendly interaction with their coworkers.
In this article, you’ll learn about five 5-minute team-building activities that can help employees unwind, bring them together, and promote team cohesion. These activities can help employees share their fun, quirky sides, and offer everyone a bit of a break.
Five 5-Minute Team-Building Activities
While there are many great ways for your team to interact and do things together, this list can serve as a good starting point. It focuses on team-building activities that can be done quickly, with little or no preparation, but still offer plenty of opportunity for bonding, laughter, and understanding between teammates.
Share Your GIF
In this activity, everyone shares a GIF or a meme that represents how they feel, or how their weekend or previous day was. Websites like Giphy and Reddit are full of fun content that’s sure to elicit a laugh.
This activity can be held in real time at the start of a weekly meeting, or asynchronously on Slack or Discord. You could even use it as part of a daily check-in.
Why This Activity?
If a picture says a thousand words, a GIF says even more. This activity helps employees express themselves, and maybe share a laugh. It can also provide conversational fodder for later, either with the whole group or in small, spontaneous groups on platforms like Slack.
In a virtual hat game, everyone adds one or more facts about themselves or brief anecdotes about their lives to a “hat” from which the facts will be drawn. For remote teams, the “hat” can be a simple shared Google doc. To play the game, someone reads one of the facts, and participants try to guess which of their teammates submitted it. The more unexpected or unlikely the anecdotes shared are, the more fun the game is.
It’s similar to the game “Never Have I Ever”, and leaves people with a sense of amazement (or at least amusement) at some of the inspiring, unlikely, or just plain weird things people in the team have done in their past.
You could also do a themed version of this, in which all the facts have to relate to a certain topic, such as past jobs, animals, work-related skills, or hobbies.
Why This Activity?
In a remote environment where work-related talk dominates, there aren’t many organic opportunities to share personal stories and let coworkers discover each others’ personalities. This activity often reveals unique traits and experiences, which can lead to more conversation between employees, give employees a better understanding of their coworkers’ skills, and even give managers a better idea of how employees might be able to grow within the company.
If you already use team collaboration software like Slack, Discord, or Teams, there are probably plenty of channels about work, but they don’t have to all be about work. Something like a #Dog-of-the-Day channel to allow people to share pictures of pets can really boost morale. Many corporations have dog-friendly policies for their physical office, and studies show that these reduce employee stress and improve employee engagement and retention—regardless of if the employee has a pet or not. Though studies haven’t been done on the effect of sharing pet pictures virtually, social media has plenty of people who feel it’s the best part of their day.
Why This Activity?
People love their pets—and most people love seeing other people’s pets, too. In remote settings, conversations are dominated by work-related messages and notifications, and pet photos can be a soothing break. It also offers something for employees to bond over, commiserating about dogs who demand to be walked at four in the morning or sharing pet-related hijinks and mishaps.
Show and Tell
Before your next team meeting gets going, take a few minutes to go around and offer people the chance to share something they’re proud of, happy about, or enjoying lately. These things might be physical objects they can actually show, like a sweater they’re knitting or their new keyboard, or less tangible things they can tell the team about, like having a great view of a recent meteor shower, finishing their first 5K, or the fantastic bread they made last weekend.
Why This Activity?
It’s nice to take a few minutes to recognize the things that are going well for your teammates, and to celebrate their victories, however small, with them. It also gives people an opportunity to learn more about their coworkers’ lives outside of work, and a chance to connect over shared interests that wouldn’t have come up otherwise.
When everyone’s in the office together, people bond naturally and instinctively by complimenting someone on their new haircut, asking what that delicious-smelling lunch is, or grousing together about the lousy weather. With a team scattered across the country, if not the globe, this sort of casual, friendly interaction is much harder. It’s easy to work with someone for months or even years, and then realize one day that you don’t know anything at all about where they live, or what their life is like outside of work.
Similar to #Dog-of-the-Day, a channel could be created for your team to share pictures from their lives: cute new shoes, a snowy morning, newly reorganized desk, or the first flowers of spring.
Why This Activity?
Sharing photos can be a great way to connect your team. It lets people share things that matter to them, and photos are an easy way to spark conversations about cooking, travel, gardening, hobbies, organization, and almost anything else people want to share.
Remote working is a challenge not only for the employees, but also for managers and leaders who care about creating a healthy, engaging work environment. Virtual work is dominated by work-related discussions, which can create fatigue and even burnout if not managed carefully. Fostering a sense of camaraderie and team spirit with fun and easy team-building activities helps boost morale, create friendly bonds between teammates, and make employees feel valued and respected as people, not just workers. Team-building activities can bring your team together, wherever they’re located—no office required.
Dr. Sundeep Teki is a leader in AI and neuroscience with professional experience in the US, UK, India, and France. He has published 40+ papers; built and deployed AI for consumer tech products like Amazon Alexa; advises and consults tech startups on AI/ML, product, and strategy; and coaches data and AI professionals and executives.