Four adults smiling at work while playing an online team building activity.

Online Team Building Activities for Small Groups

Oct 17, 2023

10 min read

Virtual Team Building for Small Groups Can Have a Big Impact

Trying to find fun online team building activities for small groups can be a challenge.  To help combat that, we have put together a list of virtual team building ideas specifically for small groups.  These online activities are meant for 5 to 20 people and are exercises that can be played from anywhere in the world. 

For our purposes, we are defining a small group as a group of under 20 people.  Since we’re talking about remote workers, team members could be spread around the world, adding the extra challenge of times zones and cultural differences.  Because of these differences, it is more important than ever for small groups to find effective online team building activities to continue to strengthen their bond. If you work in a group of less than 20, you already know that you face challenges that are unique to your size.  Members don’t really have anywhere to hide, and accountability is high.  Other challenges include:

  • Limited resources.  Small groups often have limited resources, both in terms of manpower and financial support. This can make it challenging to tackle complex projects or meet ambitious goals.
  • Workload distribution.  With fewer members, each individual in a small group often has a heavier workload and more responsibilities. This can lead to burnout and stress if not properly managed.
  • Group dynamics.  In small groups, interpersonal relationships play a significant role, and conflicts or disagreements can have a more pronounced impact. Managing these dynamics can be challenging.

But one should never underestimate the advantages of working with a small group.  Members may not be able to blend in but that also means it is easier to stand out.  Your small group might only be focused on a portion of the overall company mission, but there is no reason to treat your role as anything less than vital. Working in a small group gives people:

  • The time to shine. Individuals are more easily identifiable, and their contributions and performance are more visible. This can lead to faster advancement as skills are always on display.
  • The ability to adjust quickly.  Small groups often have the capacity to absorb changes in workload or adapt to new challenges much more effectively than a bigger team. This can make them more flexible and more likely to be provided with time-sensitive opportunities that can be a game changer for the company.
  • A common goal. Small groups often rely heavily on the performance of each member. This is known as “Success Dependency” and can be a rallying point for a small team to become a highly effective unit.

Of those, the group dynamics are the most impacted, positively or negatively, by online team building activities.  Not to sound overly dramatic, but in reality we as humans work better with people we like.  It’s pretty simple, and because of this we are more likely to support co-workers when we have a positive relationship with them.  Play is one of the best ways to build these bonds and ultimately for the team to be more effective overall.  LinkedIn has published several posts on the subject including this classic about Why Team Building Through Play is More Important Than Ever

Team building activities can help inject some fun into an otherwise stressful work environment. So, what are these lively and engaging games that help build camaraderie and trust within a small group?  I’m so glad you asked.  Not all games are created equal.  Some are good five-minute icebreakers and others are best played with a professional host.  I’ve broken them down into categories:

  • Small but mighty.  Games that can be played in just a few minutes by anyone or everyone in the group.
  • Worth the effort.  Games that are best played with a professional host.  These are my favorites because they are usually the most interactive.
  • Offline and anytime.  These games offer more one-on-one engagement and can be played in a short session or offline over a period of days or even weeks.

As always, you want to consider the goal when team building.  Team building, either in person or virtually, must be intentional.  That means not only should you plan to include opportunities for your team to spend time together online without it being work-focused, but you should also choose activities that create space for people to make a genuine connection.   If you want to learn more about the why behind the game, check out our article on Best Practices for Virtual Team Building.

Three images.  Small groups doing team building activities.  Men and women looking at their computer screens.

10 Under 10.  Fun and Engaging Team Building Activities That Take 10 Minutes or Less

Chubby Bunny Challenge – How many times can you say that phrase in 30 seconds?  It’s harder than you think! And yes, I know you’re saying it in your head right now.

Fact vs. Fiction – Participants make three statements about themselves, one of which is false, and participants try to decipher fact from fiction.

I Suck At – Participants are given three different skills and must rank how they think they would rate at each.  Example:  Lumberjack, Doctor, Seamstress.  How would they do and why?

My Best Day – Easy online team building activity where participants share a story about a time or activity that they really enjoyed.

Never Have I Ever – Another easy icebreaker game where one person makes a statement about something they have never done, and participants chime in on their related experiences.  This is a popular virtual activity for work because it is a fun way to get to know people.

Number Five Will Shock You – Click bait-style game where you come up with five random things about yourself to share with the group.      

Scavenger Hunt – Participants search their own homes to find the items on the list and present them on camera in a set timeframe.  Easy to play as individuals or with remote teams.

Show and Tell – Easy virtual corporate team building activity with minimal prep.  This grade school classic can reveal what we really like as adults. 

Story Builder – One participant starts the story with an opening line and then the next participant picks it up from there.  Once around the room and you should have a complete story. 

Taboo – Describe the word but don’t say the word. For a corporate team building twist, choose words that are specific to your job or industry.

Effective Online Team Building Activities Don’t Need to be Overly Simplified 

When you were growing up and playing games at the kitchen table with family, you didn’t have an end time.  Well, if you were like me, you used the game to extend your bedtime as much as possible, but I digress. Taking the time to let a game flow is what allows for genuine connections to form. This can be hindered if the game is so easy that it plays quickly.  Choosing an online activity that is more complicated and takes longer is actually an advantage because it gives players a chance to get into the experience. 

There are companies like The Poker People that host specific games like Texas Hold’em poker.  Other companies like TeamBonding have a variety of games available, including trivia, murder mysteries, and escape rooms.  There are lots of advantages to using a professional hosting company.  The people who run the games are there to curate your experience and ensure everyone has a great time.  By working with a professional company, you can:

  • Choose more involved games.  Poker is our favorite because it is easy to learn and has a lot of space to talk while playing.  Having a real dealer in each breakout room will help make sure no one is left behind. 
  • Minimize set up time.  Planning a party for 20 people is not easy and using a pro will take a lot off your plate.  Just send out the invite; they do the rest.
  • Stay on schedule.  Team building is not a one-time activity.  A regular schedule of games keeps the interaction going.  A pro can help you schedule games on a monthly or quarterly basis so the team knows you’re investing in them long-term.

This next group of online team building activities are best hosted by a professional.  They provide the platform and the staff to give your small group a fully curated experience. 

Three professional hosts of small group online team building games. Two men and one woman on headsets. Smiling at the camera.

10 Virtual Team Building Ideas for Small Groups Led by Professional Hosts

International Food Tour – A gift box of goodies from around the world is sent to all participants of this virtual activity and a professional expert joins the video meeting to lead participants through the tastings.

Bingo – Several online versions are available with or without hosts, but hiring a pro means the game will move efficiently.  For a more interesting game, create bingo cards with personal characteristics.  “Speaks more than one language,” “has a pet,” or “has traveled to more than 10 countries” are fun ways to showcase a virtual coworker in the game.  

Casino Night – A Las Vegas experience is a virtual team building activity because there is something for everyone.  Real dealers teach guests to play craps, blackjack, and roulette. Players can win chips and prizes.

Escape Rooms – The popular in-person games make a great virtual activity for corporate teams.  Coworkers must solve a series of clues in order to escape in a set amount of time.

Jeopardy – Play the classic answer-question game as a virtual team building activity.  This game is best done with a professional company because it is more fun with a real game show host to manage the questions and scoring.  Some vendors can customize the answers to reflect company specific messaging.

Mafia – Team members are assigned roles such as “mafia”, “doctor”, and “citizen” in this team building game.  The “mafia” secretly tries to eliminate the other players while the “doctor” tries to save them.

Murder Mystery – Decide whodunnit and see if you’re right. Professional vendors can customize the game to your group size in this activity.

Office Olympics – A professional host will curate the games based on your company’s industry and number of participants.  “Events” can take place in one meeting or over the course of several sessions.  A fun perk in this specific corporate team building activity is that participants earn medals for their finish order that can be mailed to them.

Trivia – Players divide into teams to answer questions and compete for prizes or bragging rights.  We recommend hiring a host for your corporate team building version to make sure there are a wide variety of questions and topics. 

Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament – Over 120 million people worldwide play poker, so don’t underestimate your officemates.  This is a corporate team building activity that you should hire a vendor to conduct.  (I can recommend one.)  The computer runs the game while professional dealers teach everyone how to play. 

Creative Virtual Team Building Activities That Can Take Place Anytime

An effective virtual team bonding program should have a regular schedule of activities. However, not everyone can make it to every session.  There is no reason why your team members can’t play games like Wordle or Connections from the New York Times via their site or download a backgammon or Yahtzee app to play against another coworker.  This leads us into our last selection of games.  Aw, I know you’re disappointed, but if you really need a bigger fix, check out 100 Innovative Virtual Activities for Corporate Teams. The flexibility and minimal time requirements of this last group of games can be a nice addition to a more formal team building schedule.  

Three images.  A woman and two men smiling while they play a game with a group.

10 Informal Virtual Team Building Games

Backgammon – One of the oldest and most well-known games in the world. Similar to chess in that it can be played by two people over the course of a day or longer.

Boggle – Build words and points with this easy game. Great when paired with one-on-one coffee hang outs. 

Chess – Fantastic strategy game with a long history that can be used with Slack or other messing as a team building activity. 

Dominos – Match the number on the domino and build your advantage.  Did you know that “pips” don’t just hang out with Gladys Knight?  They are the little dots on a domino that show the value.  They are also the symbols on a playing card and the dots on dice. 

Hearts – Win the game by having the fewest hearts and avoid the queen of spades.  Quick game to learn and play online.

Mahjong – This is a classic strategy game with tiles that dates back hundreds of years.  Similar to poker, it is easy to learn and hard to master.

Scrabble – Use your tiles to build words and build off other people’s words to generate the most points possible.  Triple Letter Fun! This has been a family team building activity at my house for years. It is awesome to see it become a corporate team building activity too.

Wordle – Post your daily Wordle results on a chat and see who reigns supreme.  Add to the challenge with Quordle (4 words) or Octordle (8 words).  And if you don’t have anything else in life that you’re supposed to be doing, try Dordle (solve two words at once) or Sedecordle (16 words) or even Absurdle, the anti-Wordle game that changes the mystery word based on your guesses just to hurt you. 

Words With Friends – This pre-pandemic online game is still going strong and is one if the easiest of the corporate team building activities.

Yahtzee – Roll the dice and earn points.  Yahtzee is a fun online team bonding game for small groups. 

Three images of people playing an online team building poker game with their small group.  A woman in a yellow sweater, a computer screen, and a man waving.

Well, that about sums it up for me.  I hope that you got something from this list of games.  We here at The Poker People host our own in-house team building games for our employees every month.  And yes, we do play poker, but we like a variety of games.  Poker is a fantastic option for a quarterly game but if you follow my advice, you will host team building for your small group at least once a month.   

But wait! What would an online article be without a Bonus Section?  Don’t worry, it’s not clickbait.  Number five will not shock you.  It’s just a list of our company’s favorite virtual team building games.

  1. Poker.  You saw that coming.  
  2. Codenames.  This is a top choice for our monthly online Sunday Funday team bonding.
  3. I Suck At.  We throw this one in during our team meetings for virtual events while we’re waiting for guests to arrive, and it inevitably leads to conversations about past employment and a few very funny stories.
  4. Story Builder.  Another quick game to play before our guests arrive.  One person starts a story with an opening sentence and the next person adds their line. 
  5. Trivia.  See, I said you wouldn’t be shocked.  We partner with a lot of online vendors and occasionally trade services.  Trivia is a great addition to our monthly schedule.

I hope you found some games that will work for your team. We have more coming out that are tailored to medium and large groups.   Check out our past blogs for specific ideas on Building Stronger Teams with Online Strategy Games or Building Stronger Teams with Virtual Board Games. Or better yet, just call us and set up a poker tournament.  That’s my vote.

FAQ’s on Team Building Activities for Small Groups

Small groups should not have to think small when it comes to their online team bonding activities. Building camaraderie is a process and hosting frequent events, from icebreakers to poker tournaments, will have a huge impact.

Can you play virtual team building poker with a small group?

Yes, the game is played with as few as five players or as many as 200, so poker is a good choice for small, medium, or large teams.

Do small teams really need a formal virtual team building program?

I’d argue that small teams need virtual team building as much if not more than large teams.  With fewer people to fill the roles, the success of a small team is extremely dependent on its members having strong communication skills and the confidence to know they are supported by their coworkers. 

How often should a small team host an online team building activity?

Every team will benefit from a regular schedule and a variety of games.  This allows team members to plan ahead and work around time zones or work projects.  Just knowing that the company has a plan to add a little fun to their routine is a huge boost to morale.

For your next Poker Team Building Event