Remote Team Building: How To Make Remote Fun, Fun

Alicja Wilemajtys
Jun 30, 2020 · 7 min read
Illustration: Adrianna Pisarska

How to make the team integrate and have fun during remote work and why is it so important? I have a few great ideas for you to use.

Everything related to the word “remote” has been a hot topic for the last couple of months. At SwingDev, we have changed our work model to 100% remote easily, but as a Talent Manager, I was mostly concerned about something else — how to translate team building activities into this new reality?

We have been throwing parties, organizing meetings and on-site activities for years, but suddenly it became necessary to shake things up and come up with something entirely new. People seemed to really need such a thing, so just postponing the activities was never an option. I have tried a few ideas and it worked!

Right now, some people start coming back to the office, but many of them still choose to stay home. The activities I propose should please both types, and be useful even when the office starts working full steam.

I can suggest you three, or actually four ideas you can implement in terms of remote team building activities:

Let’s go through it all:

1. Short remote activities

About 30 mins long activities that happen once a week during working hours. We created a channel on Slack called #remote-fun dedicated to such games, announcements and talks.

Movie emoji contest — more on this below!

You could say: Why should we take 30 mins of people’s work time for fun games or activities? The answer is simple. Many people struggle with remote work and one of the reasons why is because they work too much. They don’t go for lunch, or chat with others on the cigarette or in the coffee room, and don’t take proper breaks. Giving this 30 minutes break organized by the company can be a kind of permission to these employees to rest, do something fun and get closer with their colleagues without feeling guilty. And if someone has an important task to do at that time, they will just show up another time.

2. Not time-specified activities

In our case, they are short activities that can be taken whenever someone has a spare 10 minutes. I call these “challenges”. They may differ, from posting a GIF showing how you feel during your remote work, or a photo of the best dish you made recently, to describing the funniest story of your life, etc.

Use Trello, Notion or another suitable tool to create a place when others can post their answers. Make them visible to everyone, and after each week, you may vote to choose a winner.

3. Online evening party

One time, we also threw up an online party — it went so good that we are seriously considering making one again. During the extended period of remote work, it was one of the rare occasions to talk to each other longer and more casually. We were drinking beer together, showing our flats MTV Cribs-style, encouraging our dogs, cats or even goats to pose to the camera, and of course, playing games. Throwing such a party is not that difficult — here are some tips:

How to draw “Makarena”? Believe it or not, but someone guessed it!
  1. Schedule a date & hour. For us, Thursday worked best, but ask your employees which day and hour would fit them most to increase attendance.
  2. Give people a choice. Random conversations are cool, but you should give people alternatives. We created an agenda and 2 rooms: one for games, one for casual chats. If someone doesn’t want to take part in a specific game, they don’t need to leave the party — they can simply switch to another room and talk with colleagues!
  3. Let people know in advance. Not everyone is enthusiastic about such activities. But maybe knowing in advance about a game they enjoy playing or about the space for random conversations will encourage them to join?
  4. Make sure there is a Party Facilitator. It may be one person for the whole evening or different people for different games. This person should also think of the things that should be prepared for the game in advance.
  5. Make it fun! Think of fun and also diversified games, it will be more likely that more people will join.

Ideas for remote games

I know that this is what most of you came here to see, so here you go! Check out ideas for remote team activities that we have tried and find awesome.

There’s not much to say — everyone knows this game. For drawing charades, we used skribble.io — it lets you use your own words, so you can use, for example, the words known only for employees of your Company.

Create your own questions —browse the internet in search for fun facts, Guinness records, or whatever will do the job in your environment. Check out who will figure out most of the answers. You may also use a platform with a ready set of questions.

Instruct each player to think of three statements about themselves (we suggest to do this in advance). Two must be true statements, and one must be false. For each person, he or she shares these three statements to the group. The goal of this game is to determine which statement is false. It’s a cool way to get to know more about your co-workers.

Escape rooms online may be almost as fun as they are in real life. You can find both paid and unpaid tools allowing you to organize such events. We played the one prepared by Battlejungle and though it was pretty easy, we still had to shrink a little and cooperate with each other.

The rules are simple and you can suit them to your needs. Prepare a set of emojis describing popular movie titles — it can also be band names, video games, or whatever works for your company.

In each round, post one set of emojis on your dedicated Slack channel — whoever will guess the title first gets 3 points, the second person gets 2, and the third one gets 1. You can tweak the rules by excluding answers with typos, limiting the maximum number of tries etc. We did it with 30 movie titles, and believe me, it was fun!

Pretty similar to the Emoji competition but this time it’s also about face recognition :) Ask your employees to send you some photos from their childhood in advance. When the competition starts, post each of them separately on the channel and let other people guess who’s on the photo. It brings fun and a lot of surprising moments!

I know, the name sounds extremely weird, and so is the game — but it’s also really funny. Choose 3–5 participants that will be the presenters. Participants need to make up presentations live using slide decks they have never seen before. Of course, what they say must refer to the slides shown on the screen.

The more weird it is, the better!

You should prepare the slides in advance. They should not be serious — it can be a bunch of random ones, so the presentation can be as silly as possible, and leave much space for improvisation. You can see some examples of the PowerPoint karaoke on YouTube or Google search.

A hint from us: we did it with about 15 slides per person and think it’s a bit too long. About 8 slides per person should be enough, as one talk should take 3–5 mins!

Let’s exchange ideas!

At least a few people participated in each of our games, and the most popular ones gathered 2/3 of the team! Based on the feedback I’ve got, and just genuine smiles on my colleagues’ faces, I think that they liked it a lot. And that team integration is still crucial during lockdown — maybe even more than ever.

We are still planning the upcoming remote fun events. We are going to play such games as long as most of us stay home, so let’s exchange ideas! If you have any, write them down in the comments section below. I’d be grateful! 👏

SwingDev Insights

Beautiful software developed with a human touch

SwingDev Insights

SwingDev is a software development and design consultancy working with top companies from Silicon Valley. We believe that software development is combination of art, craft, and industry.

Alicja Wilemajtys

Written by

Talent Manager

SwingDev Insights

SwingDev is a software development and design consultancy working with top companies from Silicon Valley. We believe that software development is combination of art, craft, and industry.

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