The power of play: Innovative team-building ideas for hybrid teams

We’ve all been there. A day of back-to-back meetings, trying to squeeze productive work in between Slack messages and emails. As the afternoon rolls around, you realize you have yet another calendar invite: a dreaded virtual happy hour.

While virtual happy hours are well-intentioned, they can often fall flat for team members experiencing meeting fatigue. But finding ways to foster team connection is especially important in hybrid work settings: A Miro survey found that knowledge workers who feel connected to their teams are less likely to quit.

Below, we’ll explore creative and innovative ways for hybrid teams to engage in team-building activities that go beyond the standard virtual happy hour, and that build connection and boost morale in the process.

Play is an important way to foster cohesive, creative, and innovative teams. In fact, Einstein was a famous proponent of play and thought of his best ideas when playing the violin.

Play can even boost productivity — and interactive activities that focus on reaching common goals (such as solving a puzzle together) have the added bonus of building connections and interpersonal skills that further strengthen team bonds. 

On an emotional level, play can provide a morale boost, giving team members an opportunity to relax, be themselves, and get to know their colleagues outside of work assignments — all while learning how to work together in a low-stakes environment.

Innovative team-building activities for hybrid teams

Interested in hosting a team-building activity that goes beyond a virtual happy hour? Here are some ideas: 

  • Virtual escape rooms: Online escape rooms can be engaging and intellectually stimulating, encouraging your team to work together to solve each clue.
  • Online gaming sessions: There are many free virtual games available online. Pick simple games that help team members get to know each other, like bingo, charades, or trivia, or up the ante with strategy-driven games, like a murder mystery or Battleship.
  • Asynchronous challenges: For team members in different time zones, consider activities that can be done individually but still contribute to a collective goal, such as a virtual scavenger hunt or cryptogram puzzles.
  • Interactive workshops: Fun and educational workshops, like a cooking demonstration, virtual art class, or mini gardening activity, are a great way to incorporate more tactile activities, which provide a welcome respite from screen time. Be sure to send supplies in advance so everyone can participate.

Make the most of your next team-building activity

Hybrid work environments can make it especially tricky to coordinate effective team-building activities. Here’s how to make the most of your next hybrid get-together.

Consider your team dynamics. Is this a group that knows each other well? Are there a few newcomers? Has this team ever met in person? Addressing these questions can help you determine the intention of each team-building event and craft activities that best serve the group. For a brand new team, a get-to-know-you bingo or trivia game is a good option, while a more established group could strengthen their collaboration skills with an online escape room or strategy-based game.

Start with an icebreaker. Icebreakers can help colleagues get to know each other and deepen existing bonds. It’s also a great way to start your hybrid event on a positive note. Icebreakers can go beyond, “Tell us a fun fact about yourself.” For instance, if you’re bringing together a global team, you could upload a map into your shared online workspace and ask participants to pin where they’re located.

Ensure inclusivity and participation in hybrid team activities. Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, considers hybrid gatherings to be three separate events in one: “an in-person gathering, a virtual gathering, and the moments when the two are connected.” Keeping this in mind, make sure those participating remotely are just as involved as those in the room together. Have a designated facilitator who can ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.

Leverage collaborative tools and technology. Miro templates can be used creatively for games, icebreakers, and other team-building activities. The visual and interactive nature of Miro templates democratizes the experience for in-person and remote employees, making it a useful option for hybrid teams. You can also leverage tools like Slack or shared documents to facilitate engagement in hybrid work environments.

Get creative, experiment, and solicit feedback from your colleagues so you can continuously offer team-building activities that are fresh, fun, and innovative. That way, the awkward pauses of virtual happy hours will be replaced with conversation, laughter, and connection.

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