Let The Games Begin!
With today’s work-from-home culture, you may wonder how online board games can be used to boost team engagement. What is it about playing a virtual board game like Monopoly or Codenames that builds cohesion between remote workers? Stick around, dear reader, and find out how to use online board games as a fun and effective team building activity. I’m going to answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of online card games for the office. Scroll down to see our list of the top 15 online board games. And as a bonus, the best game you’ve never considered!
Who needs to use board games as a fun and effective team building activity?
You do! That’s why you’re here. But don’t worry, everyone needs team cohesion. It’s no secret that working remotely puts a ton of pressure on the group to work independently and work together. It may seem counterintuitive but the best way to work together is to play together. Study after study has shown that people who have common bonds are happier and more productive. You simply work best with people you know, and you get to know people by doing things like playing online board games together. When you think about who needs team building think of:
- All remote teams. It can be difficult to feel in sync with team members spread across the world.
- Hybrid teams. Overlapping time in the office is good but dedicated “playtime” with team members helps overcome a disjointed schedule.
- Specialized teams. Groups within an organization that have a highly specific mission, like sales or product development, must perform at their best because when they do well, the whole company does well.
These virtual experiences underscore the significance of clear communication, strategic thinking, and seamless coordination – all essential attributes in a successful business landscape. So, as the virtual dice roll and the cards are dealt, remember that the bonds you strengthen and the memories you create are very real, even in the digital realm.
What makes online board games good for remote team building?
The key to online games, to any team building activity really, is to create space for people to have a genuinely organic experience – to tell a story, hear a joke, or learn something about a coworker that they didn’t know before. Structured events, like meetings and conferences, are led by a speaker and have a specific agenda. The online board game provides a framework for spending time together, but it is the spaces in between that allow for people to truly connect. The best team building games:
- Create a level playing field. Everyone is equal when you start a game of Battleship.
- Allow for leadership changes. The clue giver in Codenames can be a summer associate or the head of marketing.
- Have room to breathe. There is time to talk and laugh between rolls in Monopoly.
Take a moment and explore the world of online board games below. Some games are simple, others more complicated, but these are the top 15 that made our list. Let me know if we are missing your favorite. And as an added bonus, we’ve included a game that you may not have considered.
Did you spot the game that isn’t a board game?
Yes, we included poker. While playing Texas Hold’em is not technically a board game, we believe it has all the elements needed for a fantastic team building experience. Easy to learn, can be played with any size group, and it has lots or room to laugh and talk during play. If you’re looking for more options, check out our Complete Guide A to Z list of virtual team building games.
When is it right time to use online board games to enhance team dynamics at work?
The answer is “regularly”, but what regularly means to your remote team can differ from another team, another department, or another company altogether. Scheduled weekly meetings often have an icebreaker component, but it can be impractical to break out the virtual chess board at 10 a.m. every Monday. Although, I won’t complain if that happens. As more companies settle into a post-pandemic schedule, a monthly team building option seems to be the most popular. This frequency demonstrates a commitment to virtual team building without creating too much of a distraction to the normal workflow. When a company hosts regular team building it means they:
- Value their employees. Companies who invest time in their employee’s personal development as well as their professional development fare better in job satisfaction surveys.
- Reduce their turnover. Compensation is the number one reason employees change jobs, but workplace satisfaction is a very close second.
- Foster better communication. Team members with a personal rapport will reach out before small issues become big ones. They are more supportive and more productive as a team.
It is not easy being in charge of employees’ work schedules. Adding the responsibility of managing their play-at-work schedule can be daunting too. Team building is not always easy to organize. There are companies that offer a variety of games, like virtual team building poker, of course, who can take the burden off of you. If you want more tips on building stronger teams, check out our guide to Best Practices for Virtual Team Building.
Where can I find online board games for my remote team?
The coolest part about playing online board games is transcending geographical boundaries and time zones. Online platforms provide an ideal space for hosting such games, ensuring easy accessibility and participation for all team members. These virtual games mimic the essence of traditional board games while incorporating digital features that facilitate seamless gameplay. From strategy-driven games that require teamwork to decision-making to games that pit coworker against coworker, there’s a diverse selection of games to choose from. Three of the most popular game platforms are:
- Tabletopia. Online platform with over 2,000 games.
- Board Game Arena. Hundreds of games in over 40 languages.
- Tabletop Simulator. Play one of their games or build your own.
Why is building stronger teams with virtual board games a good thing?
Virtual team-building sessions can not only enhance teamwork but also provide a refreshing break from routine tasks. Work is, well, work, but having the opportunity to boost morale can make it a lot more fun. Team building is the process of intentionally creating time for coworkers to build interpersonal relationships. It isn’t rocket science. Studies show that when people have a feeling of psychological safety in the workplace, they are more comfortable, willing to share, and able to be more productive. Employees with routine team building events also enjoy:
- Increased productivity. Working with people you know and feel comfortable with is simply better. Mistakes are caught and corrected sooner, ideas flow freely, and conversations are more productive.
- Increased Morale. Self-motivation is one of the most difficult tasks when working remotely. Being part of a team and knowing your friends are counting on you helps maintain engagement.
- Increased creativity. Being a good clue giver in Codenames requires some definite creativity. My friend used “captivity” to tie “octopus” and “shed” together. Giving people space to be creative during play can foster better ideas during work.
How to start a virtual team building program.
When planning virtual team-building board games, it’s essential to consider factors like the team’s size, preferences, and time constraints. Games like Codenames encourage strategic thinking and communication as teams work together to uncover hidden words based on their teammates’ clues. Alternatively, Pictionary can spark creativity and laughter as team members attempt to convey concepts through drawings. For a more complex challenge, cooperative games like Pandemic can encourage collaboration and critical thinking as players join forces to save the world from various global crises. Things to consider when choosing a virtual team building game are:
- Size of the team. Smaller teams are perfect for board games, but larger teams can still break into groups to compete.
- Time available to play. Choosing a time and time zone that works for as many folks as possible is key. Rotate the game schedule so no one group is always playing at the most challenging time.
- Set a regular schedule. Virtual team building with board games, card games, or even a fully hosted poker tournament just once is self-defeating. Commit to a regular schedule to ensure everyone can join and to build momentum and camaraderie throughout the year.
In a world where remote work and virtual collaboration have become the norm, the power of connection is more important than ever. Engaging in online board games as a virtual team-building activity transcends physical barriers and fosters camaraderie among team members, regardless of their geographical locations. Beyond the pixels and avatars lies a landscape where strategic planning, friendly competition, and collective decision-making intersect. These spaces are fertile ground to cultivate a shared team spirit.
Games that are easy to learn and can be explained quickly are a good place to start. Look for games that fit the group size or select multiple games and break into groups.
Any game can be an effective team building game if the expectations placed on the team are realistic. If your group is new to each other, choosing an overly complicated game will add pressure where it isn’t needed. Set the team up for success. The goal of the gameplay is not to win the game, but to create an environment where the team members can get to know each other.
The goal of team building, virtually or in-person, is to create a space for people to get to know each other. Adding team building to an annual convention once a year is great, but a regular schedule of “playtime” is more effective. Monthly games seem to be the sweet spot.