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The Best 2 Team Building Online Activities

Team Building Online can be done with activity that are easy to plan and execute, involve collaboration and social effort, and resonate with the team

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If you have a remote team, team building online is the way to go. In fact, it might be your only option: if your team is dispersed across geographies and countries, meeting in-person can be a logistical challenge too hard to overcome, not to mention quite costly. The irony is that people working remotely are more likely to feel isolated: they are the ones who need team building the most, and they are the ones for which organizing team building is the most complex. Well, team building online is the solution to your problems.

The Internet is full of junk on this topic. Everyone seems to advertise their own platform, tool, or proprietary technique to do team building online. Most claim “high impact”, few explain what this impact is about and why they can have it, and virtually nobody supports that with scientific evidence. I wanted this guide to be different.

Instead of unloading tons of slightly different activities on my readers, I will provide you with just two. Those are the only 2 team building online activities you will ever need. Plus, I will extensively explain why they are effective, what is the impact on the team, and how to identify other activities based on the same criteria.

Effective Team Building Online

To identify the 2 definitive team building online activities, I started with some clear criteria. Any activity that would match those items will be great for team building online. Read the criteria, so that you can pick your own activity later down the road.

  • Anyone can set it up and moderate it – You want something that can be done easily and at will, possibly at limited costs. Activities that require complex setup, specialized platforms, have significant per-employee costs, or must be run and moderated by an expert are not the way to go. This criterion ensures you can keep consistency in doing this activity, no matter what.
  • Can be timeboxed – Working remote is one thing, but we prefer working smart. This means not everyone is available at the same time of day to connect. Even if you plan in advance, teams working across time zones will struggle to meet, especially if you have full-day workshops (for example, when in San Francisco it’s 9am, in Istanbul it’s 7pm). You want an activity that can be pieced down into smaller timeboxes without disrupting it too much. This criterion ensures you develop inclusivity in your activities.
  • Requires collaboration or social interaction – Spending time together online is also not enough, as it is not enough even in person. You want an activity that makes people collaborate toward a shared objective so that they can rely on one another. Competitive activities can also be good, although less preferrable, but only if it requires interacting with one another. In that sense, playing Monopoly can be good, while playing Call of Duty in a free-for-all mode no. This criterion ensures your activities create bonds among team members.
  • Resonates with your team – You want some activity that people can quickly relate to and immerse themselves into. It must be something that people can quickly understand and feel their own. For example, if you want to play board games online, a popular game with simple rules like Monopoly will resonate with more people compared to a niche game like Dungeons and Dragons. This criterion ensures you have activities that keep people engaged.

These are four simple criteria. Yet, as you can quickly see with a Google Search, most team building online activities proposed will not meet such criteria. So, ask yourself: is this activity really going to deliver on what I need? Why, or why not? Only when you find an activity that can deliver in your goal (typically creating bonds, and secondarily relieving stress) you should pursue it.

With this in mind, I dove down into research to find out what I believe to be the 2 definitive team building online activities. Yes, this is a bold claim, but I believe with these two activities, and these two only, you will need to look no further. You have found what your team needs, you just need to implement it.

And, in case you were wondering, the perfect team building online activities does not need to be surprising. The goal is not to have your employee scream “wow”. No. The goal is to create bonds and relieve stress. Okay, let’s get down to it now.

The 2 Definitive Team Building Online Activities

Have a Minecraft Server or Realm

Yes, Minecraft is an outstanding teambuilding activity, but only if done right. Team building online with Minecraft is a great idea because it matches all our criteria for the perfect team building activity. Specifically:

  • Anyone can set it up and moderate it – Creating a Minecraft server is relatively easy. If that is too complex for you, anyone can buy a Minecraft Realm, which is like a ready-made server where people can connect to. Moderating this (that is, deciding what to do) is as simple as playing Minecraft, something even young children can do.
  • Can be timeboxed – You have the flexibility to play as much or as little as you like. For example, you can book one-hour windows to play. You can even leave the server always on, and let people join in group to perform specific tasks or quests.
  • Requires collaboration or social interaction – Natively, Minecraft does not necessarily imply collaboration: it is a game that works well also as single-player. So, you need to define quests that require social interaction and working together. For example, creating a given building, a farm (a partially automated mechanism to produce in-game items, such as crops), or go fight the end dragon.
  • Resonates with your team – This, of course, depends on your team. If your team was born in the 1990s and onward (late millennials, Gen-Z and beyond), then Minecraft is something they already know about and are familiar with. If that is your team, we have a match here.

Minecraft is probably my preferred team building online activity. Unlike other activities that are self-contained, Minecraft has a continuum. The server is always there, and you keep progressing on what you build the previous time. So, it is great to create bonds and a sense of progression even beyond work. This can be good when the company is pivoting or changing strategy, and you want a virtual place where everyone feels things progress linearly.

Minecraft is a great Team Building Online game to play
A minecraft world.

Here are a few tips on how to do team building online with Minecraft:

  • Play in survival mode on normal or difficult, not creative, and not peaceful (without monsters)
  • Define clear rule in advance on what you want employees to do. You can even leave them inside the server, for example with wooden signs scattered across the world.
  • Leave the server always open so that team members can spontaneously decide to hop in and play when they feel like
  • Schedule team building online meetings where people have a call (with video turned on) and play Minecraft together, pursuing a specific objective. A good role is to clearly state what objectives or things people are not allowed to do on their own and need to have meetings instead (to ensure collaboration)

Your team will love this team building online exercise. Happy Minecraft playing!

Murder Mystery (Dinner) Party

This team building online is some sort of activity that works well in person, but can be quickly adapted for the online world without losing its appeal, function, and fun. Let’s start by describing the in-person one before diving into the online adaptation.

A Murder Mystery Dinner Party is a social gathering, typically a dinner, where people play the role of specific characters in a story. This story is about a murder, and depending on the story you might have some people investigating and others playing other characters, or everyone investigating. One of the guests is the murderer, and the objective of the game is to figure out who: the person figuring that out will be the one winning the game. It is kind of playing Clue while interpreting the characters.

Murder Mystery Party Dinners are a great way to do team building online, even without dinner
The move Knives Out is an example of a murder mystery party.

You can do this online by simply omitting the dinner, or even keep the dinner. I’ve seen many companies ship out delicious meals (for example to celebrate new the Fiscal Year) and have teams eat them together in video conference. That’s somewhat cringe to me, but if you add the murder mystery party to the mix it can be actually good – because now you have a “real” purpose to be eating your dinner in front of a screen.

Before diving into how to do team building online with a murder mystery party, let’s check why it matches all our strict criteria.

  • Anyone can set it up and moderate it – You will need to do some planning: picking or inventing a story, assigning characters to employees, and conducting the game or releasing clues. It requires some preparation, but no special skills. A few online guides and YouTube tutorials will get you up to speed quickly.
  • Can be timeboxed – Most stories go through phases, like Introduction, Search, Discovery, Examination and so on. You can split your murder mystery party into multiple slots, each with a specific phase.
  • Requires collaboration or social interaction – People can discover the murdered by talking to each other and trying to gather information from other characters. They will also need to be able to tell if someone is trying to deceive them. You can even setup a story where characters tend to play together (e.g., family members lobbying for inheritance of the dead). Social interaction is high with this game.
  • Resonates with your team – Some people may feel some sort of discomfort playing characters, but they typically overcome that naturally and quickly when the game starts. Besides that, it is like playing Clue, something that has been already around for generations. Most stories have settings in the late XIX century or so (like Agatha Christies books) so it can appeal even the older of employees, even across cultures. This is also a game getting popular with young generations, so you are all set with that.

Okay, so the Murder Mystery Party is a great team building online activity. This activity is strong on social interaction, and great to develop empathy and communication between team members. Here are some tips on how to do team building online with this activity in a way that is effective:

  • Assign characters to people matching the traits of the character. If someone is shy and quiet, you don’t want them to play an extrovert character, it would make them feel a little uncomfortable.
  • You can find scripts for your murder mystery dinner party online here. Or, you can create your own. I suggest going with ready-made scripts for a few times to get the gist of it before trying getting creative.
  • When it is time to get creative, you can pivot away from the classical murder mystery. You can even play a case study, like pretend some sort of requests came from a customer, and let people play themselves instead of normal characters.
  • Use or create stories that require people to work together in groups, ideally 3-4 people groups, but pairs can also be fine.

I am sure you will love it. Even if you are skeptic, give it a try, it s a great team building online activity, and a whole lot of fun!

Team Building Online in Summary

There isn’t much to summarize for today because we have the 2 definitive team building online activities. It’s not 200, or 20. It is just 2, the very best. So, if you were looking for a TL;DR, do this team building in two ways:

  • Host a Minecraft server and play quests to foster interaction
  • Organize a virtual murder mystery party where people play characters and have to guess who is the murdered

Happy team building! You can continue to read more about effective team building with Collaborative Teamwork here.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2023-01-05T16:30:00+00:00

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