...with your own personal AI-powered coach to guide and keep you on track.
Access a huge variety of world-class coaching programs at an affordable price.
There's a reason for that. Most people (rightfully) dread them because they tend to be outdated, awkward and sometimes downright embarrassing.
But team bonding is an essential ingredient for a high performing team, and it's a leader's job to facilitate opportunities for it.
Now, with more teams working remotely than ever before, organic team bonding opportunities are even harder to come by. This means team leaders need to take team building even more seriously.
However, we're faced with what some leaders and HR pros would consider a huge conundrum: the typical in-office 'trust falls' and personality test workshops just won't cut it when everyone is working from home.
(And to that we say: good riddance!)
It was well past time to move away from those stuffy old activities, and bring our team building into the 21st century.
That's why we've curated 23 amazing trust building activities (read: thoughtful and non-lame) that can even be done remotely. We'll also outline:
Enjoy (and don't forget to bookmark) this list!
A trust activity is a task designed to increase the camaraderie and faith that team members have in each other. It seeks to challenge the team to work together and lean on each other to come to a solution. A trust activity can also be fun and lighthearted.
Examples of a trust activity include the infamous “trust fall,” escape rooms and the human knot.
A real-life crisis is not the time to find out if your team members trust each other or the time to try to build trust. It’s too stressful and new of a situation.
The benefit of trust activities is that you can engineer a situation where employees are put under moderate stress in a safe environment to prepare them for the times when they’ll be under extreme stress in an unpredictable environment.
By having them solve a fun puzzle to escape a room, for example, you can have them mimic a real-life urgent situation, while also giving them the relief of knowing it’s just a game, and there’s a prize to be had. That way, when hard times strike in real life (like your servers going down), your team will have that trust to lean on each other through a real-life crisis situation.
Building trust doesn’t have to be complicated—but it does take effort. Here are the top things you need to win people’s faith in you:
Showing others that you have a moral compass and will do the right thing is the foundational quality of being trustworthy.
Being open about your processes, decisions and opinions as a leader signals to your team that you have nothing to hide, which increases their trust.
In a study published in The Leadership Quarterly, Steven M. Norman and colleagues found that leaders who were transparent garnered higher ratings of trust from participants.
Empathy is crucial to building trust—and repairing it. In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Zhanna Bagdasarov and other researchers found that when someone committed an integrity violation, if they showed empathy afterward, participants perceived the violator as having more integrity. This may be good news for leaders looking to regain the trust of a team they may have let down in the past.
Trust takes time. Just because someone is empathetic the first time you meet them doesn’t mean you immediately trust them with high-stake tasks. It takes repeated exposures to someone’s integrity, transparency and empathy before you really trust them.
While you can’t fast track the amount of time your team has spent together, you can help build evidence that they’re trustworthy through trust building activities.
A caveat, though: It’s absolutely crucial to realize that trust building activities alone are not enough to build trust among your team members. It takes a lot of work outside these fun tasks to build trust.
Leadership IQ surveyed over 7,000 executives, managers and employees and identified five qualities of bosses that foster trust in the workplace:
So if you want to learn how to build trust, trust building activities are a good place to start, but they’re not the only solution.
The answer to this question can be found in Paul Zak’s research. Over 10 years, Zak dove into the neuroscience of trust to find out what happens in our brains that makes us trust people and what the implications are for team dynamics.
Here are some findings from his research that you can apply to trust building activities:
To apply this to a trust building activity, perhaps you could have a certificate made for each high
performer from the activity, and have some of their peers present it to them in front of the rest of the team.
What’s considered a good team building activity depends on your team, how long they’ve known each other, their comfort levels and your ultimate goal.
In general, though, a good team building activity will be:
For example, if you decide to do an escape room activity, be sure to tell your team that if they want to end the simulation at any time, all they have to do is press the panic button to be let out of the room. Check with your escape room facility. They should have something in place in case of emergency or in case someone feels uncomfortable.
Need specific ideas for trust building activities? Read on!
The marvels of technology can help you view the wonders of the world right from your laptop.
Many prominent museums offer virtual tours of their exhibits.
Pick a book that the entire team can read in a month and then discuss it via video chat.
This is sure to be a popular option, and while it doesn’t involve a lot of team interaction, there is still plenty of bonding to be had. We recommend having a post-movie discussion for about 15 minutes for everyone to chat about their opinions and favorite part of the film!
It’s like the old-fashioned pen pal tradition, except with postcards! We recommend having team members send one postcard to a random team member each month, for a totally unique activity.
Changing the topic each month could be a fun way to make sure this activity doesn’t get stale.
Some ideas include:
A simple way to stay connected and fight loneliness is to log into a Zoom or Hangouts session, put your microphones on mute, and do your work.
Sure, it’s not quite the same as working from your favorite coffee shop or co-working space with freshly brewed espresso wafting through the air, but it has a similar effect in that there are people around you to hold you accountable.
Memes are special in that, while funny and entertaining, they also tend to be news-related, so it can be a lighthearted way to stay abreast of the latest happenings in your team’s lives. But not everyone wants a random meme popping up in their regular work-specific Slack channel. Instead, create a dedicated channel just for meme sharing.
Bonus tip: While on GIPHY, ask your team to save some of the best GIFs they find and upload them into Slack as custom emojis, to boost your team’s repertoire of unique emojis!
Remember MTV Cribs, where celebrities took viewers on tours of their mansions? Think of this as a far less extravagant version of that. Each team member can give a tour of their house or their remote office.
This short game can be a fun ice breaker before a virtual meeting!
You can have each team talk about what they’ve achieved that week, or invite one team to discuss something they think is important for colleagues to grasp.
For example, the design team could give a talk describing the time-intensive process of designing graphics for an app, which would help the engineering and marketing teams understand why it’s not feasible to expect 24-hour turnaround times.
Grab a drink and a paintbrush and get crafty with your coworkers.
Bonus tip: Try giving out silly awards at the end, for everything but ‘best painting’. Have the team work together to come up with some zany ideas for awards beforehand! Some ideas include:
Invite everyone to make their fave drink—from cocktails to tea to coffee—and get together for a virtual hangout after work.
Unlike the virtual happy hour, which typically takes place at the end of the day, the mid-morning coffee break allows your team to mingle during work hours (so more people can likely attend).
And it might boost your productivity, too.
MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory analyzed high-performing teams and found that “the best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings.”
When MIT suggested that one call center change its coffee break schedule so that everyone could take a break and socialize at the same time, the call center’s average handling time (a measure of efficiency) dropped by 8% overall.
Pick a topic, assign a host, and have your team grab a drink to participate in an online pub quiz.
Developed by an MIT and Stanford trained neurobiologist, Patchwork Adventures offers two-hour virtual adventures led by a facilitator.
They even mail your team the necessary supplies.
The Donut app pairs people within your organization’s Slack and encourages them to get to know each other outside of work.
Using the app Houseparty, you can play Heads Up, which is essentially charades, with up to eight people.
Here’s an uncomplicated (but super effective) team builder. At the start of a video meeting, ask each team member to share one positive thing (high) and one negative thing (low) from their day or week.
All-hands meetings are great to host on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, either in person or online. They often consist of team presentations sharing their latest projects, a social component, a word from the founder, and a Q&A session.
Yes, fitness classes are good for the heart and body, and research suggests they’re good for team cohesion too!
Studies show that shared pain brings people together and improves team creativity.
Invite someone to teach a skill, work-related or otherwise, while everyone shares a meal. Maybe your HR manager can talk about effective communication skills for leaders, or your engineering lead can teach an Intro to Python class.
Popularized in Korea, “mukbang” translates into English as something like “eating broadcast.”
While it’s now a trendy YouTube fad, at its core, it’s a way for viewers to share a meal with a friend, or at least feel like they are.
You can have one teammate lead the mukbang by sharing a dish from their culture and talking about it while they eat. Or, you can turn it into an interactive dinner, where everyone eats a meal together while talking about their respective dishes.
Psychologists say our society’s obsession with personality tests reveals something about the human psyche: We yearn to know what makes us unique, yet we want to belong to a group of people with shared traits.
Our F4S assessment reveals your key motivations and blind spots when it comes to how you work. Plus, it’s based on science, so you can get both of the above desires satisfied, with the added benefit of knowing the test is evidence-based!
Okay, now that your mind is brimming with ideas for your next remote team building session, how will you harness technology to make it happen? Below, I’ll list some popular tools you can use to make your virtual hangouts a breeze.
A survey by Nulab found that employees are 3.6 times more likely to enjoy a team building activity when it’s optional rather than mandatory. If you must require attendance, schedule the activity during regular working hours. Mandatory team building exercises after hours are particularly unfair to those who have post-work commitments, such as parents who need to care for their children.
A diverse and inclusive workplace strives to incorporate different people with different abilities. While some teammates will thrive in a physically challenging environment, such as working up a sweat in a Pilates session, others will shine in a more cerebral situation, such as teaching a workshop on coding.
Make sure to include team building activities that allow each team member to showcase their unique abilities.
Get creative when trying to think of how to tweak an activity for teammates who are spread across the globe in different time zones!
Rather than requesting someone wake up at 2am to go on a virtual field trip to the Louvre (because let’s be real — we all have other priorities at that time), or skipping your team building activity altogether due to scheduling conflicts, consider hosting two (or more) sessions to accommodate team members who can’t make the first one.
If that’s not possible, record your session via Zoom and share that recording with the team members who couldn’t be there. Then, suggest that they record their own reaction to the activity and share their thoughts with the team.
Asynchronous team building activities are still enormously helpful, and some teams such as Basecamp and Zapier communicate this way nearly all the time, so don’t be afraid to give it a go.
Team building exercises don’t need to be directly related to work to be effective at building trust and camaraderie. Be creative. If you think there’s an activity that would be fun for your team to get involved in, give it a try. Some of the best team bonding can happen outside of structured activities.
Thankfully, there are plenty of team building activities that boost trust without requiring you to close your eyes, fall backward, and hope for the best.
Heck, you don’t even need to meet in person to get some good quality time with your colleagues. With technology and a dash of creativity, you can bond with your teammates without bruising anyone’s ego (or back).