Team building activities are necessary for forming bonds and creating camaraderie between team members. It can be easy to come up with a fun team-building game when everyone is in the office. However, many companies have virtual teams and rely on remote work, and playing games via video conference can feel clunky and awkward. Imagine doing a human knot or a trust fall virtually. While the image might be humorous, the ideas don't translate mediums well. No matter the challenges, it's important to create a social atmosphere and foster relationships to benefit your company culture and your employee's well-being.How do you find games that are appropriate for remote work? And how do you find a game that has transferable skills? An agile game takes both these questions into consideration. As an agile team, it's important to incorporate agile principles, like responding to feedback and collaboration effectively. Using principles from agile software development or other processes can be instructive and help a remote team grow closer together. A simple game can foster friendship and unity.
Knowing that these team bonding activities are important is one thing, and having ideas on how to execute them is another. As you search for games that would work for your entire team, consider the suggestions below. This article will help provide context for the importance of team building, and give examples of agile games for remote teams.
Agile is a specific approach to software development and project management that emphasizes problem-solving skills, customer feedback and satisfaction, and other similar principles. An agile team can be one or several groups working toward the same goal with the scrum master heading the project. Practiced employees know these principles and consider them when they are a part of a scrum team. New teams might not be as aware of agile values and need the practice to get into the habit. Both new and experienced employees, however, need continuous improvement to help them stay on top of their game.
The agile principles focus on change, collaboration, and communication. As your team works on software development for your clients, they need to be aware of what the client needs and listen to the feedback that's given. Your team works with each other and communicates the steps they've taken and what's working with the software, prioritizing how it works and good design. Support and motivation from inside and outside the scrum team provide a successful environment.
Finding the time to execute agile principles in a fun way can increase trust between team members and help solidify strategies to use in real-world situations. Play is an important aspect of learning and vital to forming strong relationships. It can also give extra support when a member joins your team and needs help learning about both the agile production process and the other team members they're now working with.
Virtual Team Building Activities
Remote team members still desire to have a relationship with one another. Even if they're not sitting next to each other, or having lunch together, there are still ways to bond. When you're not in the office together, and potentially spread far apart geographically, it's sometimes impossible to let everyone meet and socialize in person. Having a good working relationship relies on feelings of trust and respect, so making time to get to know other team members is a worthwhile pursuit.
What are Agile Games?
These are virtual team-building activities that focus on agile practices. They emphasize ideas and mindsets that mirror how you work with each other and clients. As mentioned above, these games focus on the agile values of communication, collaboration, and change. They increase team cohesion and help work out bugs in your systems.
Your entire team should be included and feel valued as you play. Virtual team building is just as important as a team building game when you're all together in person. Try finding things that your workers like, and incorporate them. Use these games to get to know each other and have fun, along with practicing agile values. This will increase team cohesion and help your company develop a positive company culture.
Types of Agile Games
These games can be done synchronously or asynchronously, and can have real purpose or just be for fun. Regardless, they're still helping your teams to get to know one another. As you consider the games below, think about how you could use the technology available to you. You could use a collaborative online whiteboard, or use Google Docs. These games could be played via video call or in a private room on Zoom. Whatever the case, here are some ideas of some simple, online games that your agile teams can play.
Seems like a simple idea, but try to choose out-of-the-box questions. All you need to play is a video conferencing app and your team members.
Here are some samples questions to consider:
- Is working remotely or in-office more productive?
- If money was no object, where would you travel and why?
- Do you prefer vanilla or chocolate-flavored ice cream?
- When is the best time to take a shower?
- What's the worst style choice you've ever made? Do you have a photo?
- What would be your karaoke song pick?
- Which song would be the theme song for your life right now?
- What is better: teleportation or mind-reading?
It could be useful to send the questions out beforehand and offer "extra credit" for images or short anecdotes to accompany the answers. Use the time to compare and contrast answers, and share why each person's contribution matters. People like to talk about themselves and connect with others, and this gives them a chance to do so.
Set a prompt for your team members and have them take a photo to share and compare over Slack, email, text, or any other mode of communication. The prompt can be the messiest desk, the best "co-worker" (think a pet, a plant, a child, etc.), the most snacks in the pantry, etc.
After you share, comment on each other's photos. You could rank them or assign awards to each photo or let people vote on which one is the best, messiest, funniest, and so on. Encourage your team members to be authentic instead of curating the perfect photo. This can simulate physical closeness as you each get to know each other authentically and can share real aspects of your lives as you're working remotely.
Create a Trello board, or another virtual surface, and provide a prompt. Your team members can then submit gifs that answer the prompt and a competition ensues to determine who can provide the best gifs. After the initial submission, each person can send other gifs in response to images previously sent to engage in a visual dialogue. Who can be the most creative? Who can be the quickest with their response?
You can simulate a sprint by using the prompt to symbolize the goal. Then set a time limit to mirror the specific period available to you when completing the project. After each prompt comes to an end, you can review the previous sprint to determine the winner of the gif war.
Make Me a _____
Sometimes called the Chocolate Bar game, the idea is to have a client that wants a specific product. This can be a chocolate bar, a sandwich, or anything you'd like. Think outside the box when imagining which product you'd like to create--this way you could reuse this game often with different products each time.
One member represents the client and the rest of the team works together to present the product, considering feedback to revisit and reinvent the product to the client's liking. This can mirror customer feedback and improve your next sprint. Review earlier creations to see if the client liked the milk chocolate base for the chocolate bar, for example, or if they'd like to see white chocolate instead. Use problem-solving techniques to determine the best shape for the bar or the tastiest filling. You could model these games after a previous sprint you worked on for a real client to troubleshoot strategies to improve your self-organization in the future.
Ball Point Game
This can help better your team's understanding of agile processes. A ball must make its way around a surface and each member has to take turns "touching" the ball. In creating the game, you can set specific rules of what touching entails or how the ball must be handled. This requires your scrum team to self-organize to set themselves up for the processes in the game.
Assign a point value for each ball that makes it around and crosses the finish line. Any "dropped" balls or ones that don't follow the system are negative points. For each new round, set a goal of how many points (or balls) to reach in a certain period. It can be deceptively tricky as you work together to figure out the best way to move the ball, as each person must do the same thing.
How to Hug
Upload photos of your team members and place them on a collaborative virtual board. Take turns being the center photo and move the other photos to touch the center for a virtual "hug". As the scrum master, you can place limits on where team members can place their photos around the center one, or ask them to think of a different way to get the photo from A to B. You can ask them to organize them according to a specific organizational pattern, like alphabetical order by middle names or who has the most siblings. This can encourage conversation and more get-to-know-you bonding time.
Upload a photo of a map and provide prompts that require team members to place pins on the map as their answers. The team members can then provide short answers to justify their choices. You could set geographic limits on the question, asking where in a certain country or where in this hemisphere your answer lies. The team members can attach photos to their answers to provide a greater sense of themselves.
The questions could be any of the following:
- Where were you born?
- Which country has your favorite food?
- Where would you like to travel?
- What is the prettiest city you've ever been?
- Where was the best concert you've ever attended?
- Where's the furthest you've ever traveled?
- If money weren't an object, where would you like to live?
This stands for Keep, Add, More, Less and serves as a retrospective activity. It can be used to review past sprints or to look at how your team is running. A virtual board is split into four quadrants labeled Keep (this worked well), Add (let's try something new), More (let's do more of this), and Less (this didn't work well). Each member has the opportunity to add things from the last sprint to the board in each category. After the items are placed, there's time to discuss the rationale behind the choices.
Pick a prompt and let team members trade off drawing. Split your groups into different teams and put a scoreboard on your screen. You could offer a prize to the team that wins the most rounds. You could even make it a group Pictionary, in which they have to work together on the board to create the image.
This game doesn't have to focus on the alphabet, but rather helps teams refine categories and order items in different ways. Each person chooses an icon or an item from a prompt and then you work together to order each other according to the category at hand. The category could be to place everyone in alphabetical order, or it could be based on distance from a certain geographical point, or something else.
Some categories for the prompt might include:
- Famous people
- Articles of clothing
These are ten examples of agile games available to your team members. Use your imagination to expand on these ideas. Ask your team members what they’re interested in and see if those hobbies can serve as an impetus for a new game. You could also take inspiration from a previous sprint that didn't go perfectly. Making a new game to practice those skills that need honing will increase team unity along with a better understanding of your projects.
Using agile games can help strengthen any team, increase understanding of agile principles, or aide in simply get to know each other. Helping your team members to bond is important. The concept sounds simple but it can help you collaborate quickly and have a better knowledge of your team's standards and personalities. Along these lines, strengthening your remote teams enhances company culture. Instead of feeling isolated and like work might be just a checklist to finish each day, your workers will find personal fulfillment in their skills and their relationships.
Often, your remote teams might include some independent contractors. Using TalentCrowd to source these workers can yield an increase in your team and their output. Making sure to bond and form relationships with your employees and your independent contractors helps create a stronger overall team. If your scrum team is made up of a variety of employees and independent contractors sourced from TalentCrowd, let them get to know each other! An independent contractor might feel out of place in a new environment where everyone else knows each other. Using agile games can help them along as they make new friends and gain the respect and trust of those with whom they work.