Do you ever have those days when go you off on philosophical tangents? You know, those cold, gloomy mornings when you stare out the window, coffee mug in hand, wondering, “Does a fish know what water is?”, “Is the colour red really universal?” or “Is Robert from marketing a real person?”
We’ve all been there. The truth is it’s hard for virtual project groups to bond on a personal level with other group members…partly (well, mostly) because we may not even know what the other person looks like! Without bonding, the results could be dangerous. The University of California, San Francisco, lists some of the common symptoms of a disengaged team:
- Decreased productivity
- Conflicts or hostility among staff members
- Confusion about assignments, missed signals and unclear relationships
- Decisions misunderstood or not carried through properly
- Apathy and lack of involvement
And there’s more:
- Lack of initiation, imagination, innovation; routine actions taken for solving complex problems
- Complaints of discrimination or favouritism
- Ineffective staff meetings, low participation, minimally effective decisions
- Negative reactions to the manager
- Complaints about quality of service
And there’s still more! A 2009 article from the Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that a lack of team spirit can even cause employee depression…But don’t panic!
Before you scurry off to Google, furiously searching “how to engage virtual project groups” — take a breath. We’ve done the work for you. Here are some innovative games that are sure to have your team amused and engaged in no time.
1) Virtual Charades – Charades is a great game that builds group spirit, whether in a traditional workplace or a virtual one. If your company usually sets up video conferences for meetings, this is definitely a game that will have everyone working together, solving problems and having fun along the way. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Charades requires the player to mime or imitate a certain action or subject that the rest of the team has to figure out. For more information on how to play, click here .
For those who use voice chat instead of video chat, there’s a fun alternative for you too — Voice Charades. For Voice Charades, create a secret list of objects, animals or famous people. To decide who will go first, enter all team member names onto a site such as Random.org and choose the first name that shows up. Email or send an individual/private instant message to this team member letting them know what they will be acting out. Remember to keep the clues work-appropriate and respectful of others. Have fun guessing what/who the person is imitating. Some entertaining suggestions are:
- Printer sound
- Al Pacino impersonation
- Star Wars Light saber
- Monday traffic
- Radio anchorman
2) Spin a Tale – This fun game fosters creativity and helps team members think on their feet. During a meeting, make up the first line of a story. Then ask team members to take turns and add each subsequent line until a whole plot develops! Let the story go along on its own path and deviations. This is the fun part of the game; you never know what perils or fortunes can occur next! The best thing is, even though your team may develop favourite start tags, the story will never end up the same! In other words, you learn how to think innovatively. Here are some ways you can start your tale:
- I woke up at 9am — that was when we were supposed to Skype in for the meeting…
- Jared looked over the ledge of his balcony, wondering why the crowd had gathered…
- The email had no subject line…I hate it when he does that…
- Fifteen years, 15 days, 15 hours and finally the letter had come…
- As Sophia hid behind the red SUV in the parking lot, she tried to remember how exactly she had gotten there…and why there was that giant scar on her arm…
3) Situation Puzzles – Situation puzzles are an exciting way to exercise creative problem-solving skills while also building team unity. In a situation puzzle, the team leader states one mysterious sentence such as, “a bell rings, a man dies, a bell rings”.* The rest of the team must now solve the situation by asking “Yes” or “No” questions. As each question unearths new information, the team can creatively build on each other’s thought patterns and ideas until all the loose ends are tied. A great reservoir of situation puzzles can be found here! *(Click here for the answer)
4) PowerPoint Game – You will never look at PowerPoint presentations in the same light after this game! This is a great way to get group members thinking on their feet while having loads of fun. To play the PowerPoint game, go online and find a series of complicated or extremely nonsensical PowerPoint presentations (try SlideShare). Then ask team members to improvise a presentation with the slides they’re using. Hilarity is bound to ensue! Go here for more information about the PowerPoint game.
5) 2-Minute LOL – This is another improvisation game that will get everyone thinking fast, learning about team members and literally laughing out loud. First, divide the team into smaller groups or partners. Then give each group a topic or let them choose one. Allow each team about five to ten minutes to create a set of jokes based on their topic. Make sure they have this discussion in a separate virtual conversation so that the rest of the team does not hear the punch lines beforehand. When everyone regroups, randomly choose a group to go first while timing their comedy improvisation for two minutes. Once again, remember to keep all jokes respectful and workplace-appropriate. Award the funniest team with a gift card or some other form of prize!
And there you have it — five amazing ways to engage your virtual project group! Try them out and let us know which game your team liked the best! And if five tips aren’t enough, here’s a whole book full of tips! Across the Hall, Around the World is the ultimate archive of virtual team-building tips that’s sure to get your team engaged!
Don’t forget to leave your comments below.
Claire Sookman is the driving force behind Virtual Team Builders, Claire brings to the table over a decade’s worth of corporate and public sector training experience, working with over 4,500 managers in the past three years. Specializing in virtual team building and communication strategies, Virtual Team Builders provides training that enables global teams to work more efficiently.