Team Building Questions and Activities

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A man sitting at his laptop with a cup of coffee meeting virtually with three other team members.

Effective and successful workplaces require collaboration and teamwork. Team building questions and activities (increasingly virtual in today’s world) can help create the foundation for that success and may include virtual team building games, trivia and icebreakers. The content of team building questions can range across work, life, interests, hobbies, popular culture and more.

Virtual team building questions and activities help remote team members get to know each other and work better together. This is especially true amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused workplace disruption across nearly every industry. The following statistics point to the dramatic changes taking place:

  • About 17% of the U.S. workforce worked remotely from home at least five days a week before the pandemic, according to market insight firm Clutch. During the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown measures implemented by U.S. companies accelerated changes in remote work trends, with the percentage of employees working from home skyrocketing to around 44%.
  • The sudden shift to remote work has disrupted the way organizations operate across industries, with many businesses shutting down operations entirely. Labor force statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 63% of the 18.1 million unemployed workers in June 2020 lost their ability to work due to closures or employers going out of business.

In addition to the lives impacted by unemployment, individuals who maintained employment because remote work benefits were available to them faced difficulties such as finding work-life balance, getting motivated and overcoming feelings of loneliness.

Through team building questions and by employing virtual team building activities and strategies, private, public and nonprofit organizations can help their remote workers and teams adjust and maintain a sense of camaraderie in the new normal.

Virtual Team Building

In virtual settings, the lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to miscommunications, disunity and feelings of isolation. Virtual team building describes the various exercises and activities that geographically dispersed teams use to overcome these remote work difficulties. These exercises and activities can help team members to do the following:

  • Form stronger bonds and improve collaboration through regular interactions
  • Engage with others, helping to improve team dynamics and productivity
  • Build trust and improve communication, both of which are essential for team success

A virtual team’s primary means of communication involves traditional electronic communications tools such as email, collaboration software such as Asana and Slack, and virtual conferencing platforms including the following:

  • Cisco Webex: Capabilities of this cloud-based tool include online meetings, team messaging, file sharing and more. It can also be deployed on-site on a company’s servers or as a hybrid solution (cloud and on-site).
  • Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts was originally offered as a messaging app on Google+, but became a standalone solution in 2013. It enables real-time meetings and video and presentation sharing using a browser.
  • Microsoft Teams: This collaborative workspace enables teams to have live workplace conversations via video, collaborate and share documents. It is used with the Microsoft 365/Office 365 suite of productivity tools.
  • Zoom: The term “Zoom meeting” is often used today in business. It refers to this popular cloud-based video communications app that enables teams to meet virtually, chat live, share screens and more.

These tools represent a short list of available tools in the market. Collectively, they play a critical role in getting teams to work effectively on projects and tasks, and can be used to help individuals get to know each other through team building questions and activities.

It is important to note that virtual team building does not replace the natural face-to-face aspect found in physical work settings. But it can help address these challenges by improving engagement, collaboration, productivity and a sense of purpose.

Improved Engagement

Employee engagement describes the connection employees feel toward their employer. Factors determining employees’ engagement level, from highly engaged to disengaged, include their enthusiasm for their jobs and dedication and eagerness for producing excellent results.

According to a Gallup analysis, U.S. companies lose between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion every year due to disengaged employees. Conversely, workplace management practices that empower employees to be more engaged at work deliver benefits such as higher profits and sales and 72% less turnover.

Better Collaboration

Workplace collaboration enables teams to make decisions, move projects and tasks forward and achieve business goals together. A key aim of collaboration in virtual teams is to foster open communication among all team members. Successful collaboration involves using key skills, including brainstorming, active listening, consensus building, compromise, follow-through and more.

The benefits of workplace collaboration include improved productivity and employee satisfaction. According to a Gensler Research Institute workplace survey, 43% of workers see collaboration as one of the most important elements of their jobs.

Increased Productivity

Working alongside team members enables managers to connect regularly to ensure all project elements are coming together effectively. Achieving the same level of productivity in virtual settings is challenging and a cause for concern for business leaders.

The World Economic Forum reports that 78% of surveyed leaders expect remote work to impact productivity negatively. Team managers are responsible for assigning clear roles and responsibilities to ensure remote employees are contributing as they would in an in-office environment.

Sense of Purpose

Instilling purpose in others is difficult to achieve in any setting. Virtual team leaders must go beyond motivational talks, speeches or mission statements. Additionally, getting employees motivated involves more than financial rewards and work benefits: It also means helping them see the purpose in their work.

Team members can feel a sense of purpose in their work if they understand how they impact others. For example, team members raising funds for cancer research may feel inspired when they meet the people they are helping. In this example, a virtual team leader can invite a patient to a video conferencing call to speak about their experiences.

Resources on the Importance of Team Building

For organizations looking for resources about virtual team building, the following links provide insights into its importance and benefits to businesses and employees.

A list of six ways virtual team building helps strengthen remote teams.

Virtual Team Building Games

Virtual team building games enable team members to learn about each other, improve bonds and foster communication and engagement. By nature, they are also intended to be educational and enjoyable. The games intend to spark conversations, generate ideas and get people to laugh and have a good time. Below are examples of various virtual and remote team building games for your employees.

Game of Possibilities

The game of possibilities is a form of guessing game, like charades. Without speaking, a team member demonstrates uses for an object to the rest of the group. Only the presenter knows what the object is; the rest of the team has the job of guessing what object is being presented. This virtual team building game allows team members to familiarize themselves with their colleagues and creatively solve a problem.

Murder Mystery

Murder mystery games are ideal for parties. In the age of COVID-19, limiting large physical gatherings is wise. However, the premise and goals of murder mystery games are well-suited for online settings. The leader or facilitator can develop a script based on a theme, such as a murder mystery at a manor in 19th-century London. Or they can use a ready-made virtual murder mystery party script. Working together to find clues and solve riddles enables virtual teams to exercise their creative problem-solving and collaboration skills.

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt

Employees who are on double duty — working while watching over their children as they participate in remote learning — can find getting outside especially challenging. An outdoor scavenger hunt breaks the monotony by getting the participants to find specified objects in and around their neighborhoods in a responsible, socially distanced manner. It also provides an opportunity for exercise. Alternatively, the scavenger hunt can take place inside homes.

Show and Tell

Before the pandemic, school-aged children around the country often participated in show and tell exercises as part of their education. The game is also useful in professional settings. A leader can let team members prepare in advance of the game. Alternatively, a leader can use a spontaneous approach, where individuals have to talk about something within arm’s reach. The game allows individuals to share something important to them. The game promotes public speaking, creative thinking and storytelling skills. It also enables team members to glimpse their colleagues’ personalities and interests, helping to form stronger bonds.

State Capitals Challenge

Do you know the capitals of all the 50 states? For virtual teams based in the United States, this game offers a fun way to test people’s geography knowledge. The leader will first need a list of state capitals in the United States. A map of the country is presented. The team is then broken out into small groups — Zoom’s breakout room feature makes breaking out into small groups easy. Each team has 15 minutes to name all the 50 state capitals without doing a Google search. The team with the most capitals wins.

Tiny Campfire

While working remotely means the ability to perform your job duties from anywhere with internet access, rarely do people get to enjoy the outdoors. A tiny campfire game brings the outdoors in and encourages the senses of touch, taste and feel. Each person assembles items to make s’mores and sets up a candle to be the campfire in their home. A team leader runs games such as trivia or activities such as telling ghost stories.

Truth or Dare

In this virtual game, team members are given a choice: Answer a question truthfully or complete a task, known as a dare. It begins with everyone on the call with their cameras on. The leader asks, “What is your biggest pet peeve?” or another question. The leader can also give an instruction, such as, “Show us the wall of your home office.” It’s important to lay down the rules and make sure everyone is willing to participate professionally. The player who completes the truth or dare gets to ask the next question. The game leaves room for a little vulnerability. Still, it allows team members to form strong bonds by sharing common experiences.

Virtual Bingo

Most people are familiar with bingo, making getting remote employees to participate in a virtual version of the classic game easier. Virtual bingo offers great opportunities to get in touch and engage with teammates. A team leader or moderator can create and send team members virtual bingo boards and then call out the numbers. Another option is to use a free online virtual bingo tool.

Virtual Team Building Activities

Like games, virtual team building activities encourage engagement. However, their purpose differs from games. While games are focused on making virtual meetings fun, activities aim to provide individuals with opportunities to improve their skills and bond with others. Virtual team building activities are most effective when they are integrated into the culture of the organization. In other words, while each activity may be unique, team building activities are part of the continuous process of training and development.

The following five team building activities aim to get teammates to understand each other better while improving communication and listening skills and building trust.

Birth Map

In this activity, team members have an opportunity to know about each other’s birthplaces. First, it requires creating and giving team members access to a collaborative Google map. Team members place a sticker on the place where they were born. Each member takes a turn in telling stories about their birthplace.

60-Second Speech

In this activity, a facilitator chooses a topic or theme that each team member has to talk about. For example, the topic can be “If I ruled the world, I’d …” and every person would have 60 seconds to explain what they would do if they ruled the world. The activity’s point is to get people to speak about an impromptu topic for 60 seconds without stopping.

Sharing Bucket Lists

Everyone has things they’d like to do before they die, like seeing the northern lights, learning to play an instrument or trying a new type of food. In this activity, team members share with their teammates the activities they would like to do, such as places they would like to visit.

Sharing Pictures

Team members are asked to post a picture of someone or something special in their life. For example, someone can post a picture of their dog. Alternatively, team members can post a picture of them doing something they love, such as skydiving, riding a bike or reading a book. Each member gets a turn to explain what the focus of the picture means to them.

Survival Scenarios

Whether you’re stranded on an island or lost at sea, certain items and actions are necessary to help you stay alive for as long as possible. But what are they? In this activity, each person is given a list of 10 items. Each person ranks the items by importance, then meets with the rest of the team to collaborate on a unified list. At the end of the activity, the activity leader reveals the correct rankings.

A list of six steps for planning a virtual team building activity.

Team Building Trivia Questions

Virtual team building trivia is intended to be a fun way to get individuals to engage with others and make decisions without prior thought, which are essential skills in business. Trivia also provides opportunities for a little friendly competition. A facilitator is selected to come up with a wide range of questions. Virtual team building trivia questions can be organized by theme or completely random. Examples of questions (and answers) include the following:

  • What year did “The Lion King” open on Broadway?
  • Who has scored the most points in the NBA?
    • Answer: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 38,387 (Source: ESPN)
  • Who first played the role of James Bond in the 007 movie series?
  • If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, how much will you weigh on Mars?
    • Answer: 38 pounds (Source: NASA)
  • Which is the only state in the United States where it’s illegal to pump your own gas?
  • In what country is the tallest building in the world located?
    • Answer: Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Source: ArchDaily)
  • Which living artist has won the most Grammy Awards?
  • How long is New Zealand’s Ninety Mile Beach?
  • What do you call a duel between three people?
    • Answer: A truel (Source: Nature)
  • What was the first feature-length animated film ever released?

Resources, Tools and Apps

Remote businesses can hold virtual trivia games using the following resources and tools:

  • QuizBreaker: A scheduled trivia quiz with curated questions is delivered to team members directly. Teams can change the day and time the quizzes are sent out, and participants can receive digital achievement badges.
  • QuizUp: This app combines trivia with a social network, so if team members want to play it outside of work hours, they can.
  • TriviaMaker: Teams can choose from four different game styles, and games can be created and edited from a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
  • Water Cooler Trivia: Team members automatically receive a trivia contest at about the same time every week. Answers are reviewed and results are sent directly when the trivia game is completed.

Team Building Icebreaker Questions

Unlike in trivia exercises, icebreaker questions have no right or wrong answers. Icebreakers help people overcome their hesitancy in meeting and getting to know others. Team building icebreaker questions are designed to encourage laughter, build community and get team members to feel comfortable with each other. Facilitators should also consider including serious questions to allow others to get deeper insights into their colleagues’ personalities. Themes of icebreaker activities should be changed throughout the event to encourage participation.

Examples of team building icebreaker questions include the following:

  • If you could only have three food items on a deserted island, what would they be?
  • Which is better: pancakes or waffles?
  • Who has been your biggest inspiration in life?
  • If you could do any job in the world other than this one, what would it be?
  • What is your best recipe?
  • What is the best gift you ever received?
  • What is an interesting fact about you that we may not know?
  • Sweet tooth or savory tooth?

Team Building to Improve Team Dynamics

Holding virtual team building exercises regularly can help team members understand each other and work better together. Team building questions and activities can also help improve communication and collaboration, enhance creativity and minimize conflicts.

As people become more familiar with remote meeting and video conferencing technologies, they’ll be more willing to participate in team building activities.

Team building:

  • Offers a fun way to interact and get to know each other
  • Helps reduce stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic
  • Prepares individuals with key skills to succeed in the new normal of working from home

Most importantly, virtual team building questions and activities increase opportunities to connect and collaborate and improve engagement and productivity. They also create a stronger sense of purpose in employees, which can help optimize performance and results.

Infographic Sources:

Forbes, “Seven Tips to Improve Virtual Team Building”

Mind Tools, “Virtual Team-Building Exercises”

SnackNation, “The Truth Behind Why Team Building Is Important in 2021”

Thrive Global, “Tips for Leading an Effective Virtual Team Building for Your Remote Team”