Farewell, awkward happy hour: Try these 5 virtual games to help remote teams socialize

Richard Fendler

Richard Fendler,

Director of Content at SnackNation

26 August 20200 min read

Staring blankly at 14 tiled faces, scrolling through Facebook and r/AskReddit simultaneously, people talking over each other, awkward laughs. Yep, it sounds like a Zoom happy hour.

When you’re working remotely, it can be tough to keep everyone engaged and connected. That’s why the wonderfully awkward Zoom happy hour trend has emerged. Even for the most extroverted people, though, Zoom can be a difficult outlet to have a quality, un-work-related conversation with a teammate. Sometimes it’s hard to get a word in — or other times, you’re stuck rambling because no one else will speak up.

Enter: virtual team building games. These can help encourage teammates to socialize and bond remotely without having to endure the long pauses of an unstructured Zoom call.

Here are 5 virtual game options to spruce up your next video conferencing get-together. Cheers to structured fun.

Get pulses pumping with a murder mystery game

Professor Plum? Miss Scarlett? Clue is timeless. Murder mystery games are all the rage for parties that you can attend in person, and they work just as well when played remotely as well.

You do not need to come up with the narrative yourself, as there are tons of carefully crafted experiences for online team building murder mysteries. Yes, the internet is a glorious place.

There are also a wide variety of themes covered, from games set in old school mansions to those with a more modern twist. It is easy to find other themes for your next murder mystery party as well, so if the first one proves to be a hit with your team, it can be the first of a long-running series.

The other great thing about virtual murder mystery games is that participants can dress up for the occasion, pretend to be different characters and generally break out of what can be a monotonous drag of sitting at your kitchen table for...weeks. It’s also great for the reserved folks, because you’re not forced to share details about yourself specifically — instead you’re embodying your character.

Quizzing is fun for everyone

A good old fashioned quiz is a tried and tested team-building activity that works particularly well virtually.

There are lots of different options for running a quiz with your team. You can choose to use established quizzing platforms like the popular Jackbox.tv, although if you’d prefer to inject a more personal touch to proceedings, why not let teammates add their own questions to the quiz?

Don’t feel limited by the standard trivia questions, either. For example, plan it around facts about people who’ll be in attendance, or even introduce some sort of team-relevant prize. A branded t-shirt, a paid day off, a gift card to Starbucks, or a donation to your charity of choice are all good ways to get people invested in the win.

Creative challenges can boost camaraderie

If everyone is asked to prepare something for your remote socializing sessions, then this can help balance the workload in advance and avoid one person being lumbered with prepping a full hour of virtual game time.

To that end, choosing a game that encourages creativity is a good option, and there are lots of ways to go about this.

Ask the team to submit a picture or image that relates to some aspect of their personality or their day-to-day life. This could be a picture of their hip coffee maker, a snap of their pet or kid, a screenshot of a quote from their favorite author, or anything else that represents them.

After all of the images have been submitted, you can then present them over the virtual meeting platform of your choice and get the team to guess which person submitted which of the images.

This is not just a fun way to socialize, but also helps people start some conversation outside of "So...what are you watching on Netflix?" Not that I don’t love Netflix. Hello, Great British Baking Show!

Emoji guessing is endlessly entertaining

Emojis can be fun and professional, and you can totally game-ify their usage in texts and emails sent by teammates in a thoroughly entertaining way.

The way this game works is simple; get participants to write down the names of the other people attending the virtual get-together, then ask them to predict which 5 emojis are most frequently used by each of their colleagues. Make sure that everyone has sent you their top 5 ahead of time so that you have the answers to hand, ready to reveal once everyone has submitted their guesses.

No doubt some people will be surprised to see just how many emojis they use, and hilarity will ensue if there are some unexpected inclusions outside of the usual 👍, 😀, 😂 and 💩.

Remote karaoke is the ultimate (awkward) ice breaker

The introvert in me is cringing at the very thought of this, too. Lots of in-office teams head to karaoke bars together in real life, so if you’ve got the right audience, your team might actually find this to be highly entertaining.

There are various dedicated apps and services for hosting virtual karaoke sessions, including KaraFun and Lucky Voice Karaoke. You can also go the quick and easy route by just getting each participant to play their track of choice from YouTube.

But realistically, this will probably only appeal to the most outgoing members of your team, so it is important not to make this mandatory or introduce too much peer pressure into it. You should also aim to lead by example. If you get up and belt out your best rendition of "Hakuna Matata", people will be more likely to grab the mic after if you’ve gotten the ball rolling already.

Hopefully you’ll now be inspired to try out some of these virtual games with your own team as we all embrace this new and strange world of remote socializing.

Written by Richard Fendler

Originally Published: 26 August 2020

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