Two women who are professional poker hosts for Zoom team building games

Trust Building Activities for Virtual Teams

Dec 5, 2023

11 min read

Strategies for Building Effective Virtual Teams

In the era of remote work, the dynamics of teamwork have undergone a profound transformation.  Gone are the days of hanging out at the water cooler or catching up on weekend activities over a stroll down the hallway.  Today’s “office” doesn’t need a ping pong table, it needs an effective strategy for virtual trust building. Building trust between coworkers is the the key to a successful office and a successful company. Worried about how to achieve that with your remote workers? Never fear, dear reader. Below you will find strategies for building effective virtual teams and a whole lot more.

For all of the problems that working from home has solved, like commuting, scheduling conflicts, and wearing pants, remote work does bring some unique challenges – namely, building trust between coworkers.  Trust is key to success because it has been proven that people who like each other work better together.  It is not rocket science but since it is so important, companies who want to succeed, (and that’s kinda all of them, right?) need to find ways to build trust between employees.  Spoiler alert: online team building is the answer. 

Virtual team building games are the best way to create space for people to get to know each other and play together.  Games like poker are by far the most effective team building trust activity because they give people a break from work and a chance to play.  Our favorite is Texas Hold’em but if poker isn’t your thing, check out our post on Fun and Engaging Card Games for Building Stronger Teams.

In this article, we delve into the realm of trust building activities for virtual teams, explore the concept of emotional security in the remote workplace, discuss strategies for creating a trusting culture, and offer a curated list of engaging virtual team bonding activities, including the most effective games to build trust.

three images of team building trust activities.  A woman smiling and looking at her computer, an ace of hearts, and a happy male poker dealer wearing a headset.

Why is Trust Building Important for Remote Employees?

A study by The Survey Center on American Life shows that post-pandemic Americans have fewer friends. Remote work has allowed people to move to new places and travel more but many friendships depend on location. We meet for coffee, go to a friend’s house for a game night, or grab a meal together.   That’s hard to do with fully remote work and consequently, we are spending less time with friends and immediate family.  Humans are social animals and have a built-in need for companionship, so we are increasingly turning towards work relationships to feed our need for connection. 

Team building has become even more critical as our work relationships are evolving to be as important as our personal ones.  Companies that embrace trust building activities for virtual teams reap the benefits of a more cohesive workforce.  Trusting coworkers is the path to a more productive and happier work environment.  To get the most out of an employee, a company needs to recognize this and find strategies for building effective virtual teams where trust is key.

Trust as the Foundation for Success

Building trust is key to a successful business – but not just the trust between the customer and the company.  I would argue that building trust between the company and its employees is even more important.  There are (hopefully) lots of customers in the world, but there are only a few dedicated people who are putting in the work to make the best product they can.  Creating an environment where team members feel like, well, actual team members is key to a happy and productive workplace.   There are five key trust factors in any relationship, whether it is at work or at home.

Infographic on the five trust building factors for teams, vulnerability, reliability, competence, honesty, and accepting criticism.

Creating a Trusting Culture for Virtual Teams

What are essential strategies and activities that build a trusting culture between remote workers?  I’m so glad you asked. The answer is team building.  First, a quick definition of virtual team building activities.  At its core, the concept of “online team building” or “virtual team building” shares the same fundamental objectives as in-person team building: it revolves around the idea of intentionally bringing colleagues together in a meaningful manner, even if they are working from all over the world. The best corporate team building activities foster an environment where team members genuinely like and trust their coworkers because they have developed strong interpersonal connections.

People who share common space can have a quick chat in the lunchroom or stop by someone’s desk to hear about their weekend.  These small interactions build trust with very little effort.  However, with a remote or hybrid workforce, it is important to create space for people to have those same casual social interactions.

Three images, one of a smiling male poker dealer with a headset, one of a virtual poker table in use as a trust building exercise, and one of two male coworkers smiling while sitting at a table with a laptop.

What is Virtual Team Building?

Many companies think of “team building” as a fluid idea.  They throw in a few ice breakers before a meeting or maybe have a holiday party once a year.  Or they ignore the whole concept because they think it is just a few trust falls.  Trust falls are a valuable tool for in-person team building activity, but I can tell you from personal experience, they do not work virtually.  There are three main types of team building games that take place online for remote workers.  These include:

  • Icebreakers.  Question-triggered personal discovery games.  These are generally posed as a question and designed to reveal a personal trait or opinion.
  • Games played in under 30 minutes.  These are more organized events designed to have a large social impact. They take the most time to put together.
  • Games organized by professionals.  Often these are the most effective type of trust building activity because they have set goals and structures.  They are also easy to execute because an outside vendor will handle most of the details. 

 You came here looking for team building activities that build trust, so here are our top five choices from each of the categories.  We are starting with games hosted by professionals because they are the best option when hosting a medium or large sized group.  For more game options based on your group size, check out our posits on games for small groups, mid-sized groups, and large groups. The second bunch are trust building games that you can organize within the office and the last group of virtual team building games are basic icebreakers that can be added to just about any meeting.

For your next Poker Team Building Event

banner text saying top five trust building games organized by professionals.

The Top Five Professionally-Organized Virtual Trust Building Games

Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament – Over 120 million people worldwide play poker, so don’t underestimate your office mates.  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.  Poker is a great game for all sized groups because it can be played with 8 people or 200.

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.

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.

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 and 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.

banner text saying top five trust building activities that take 30 minutes.

The Top Five Online Trust Building Games That Take Around 30 Minutes

A to Z – An easy icebreaker game that requires minimal planning.  Select an object like a fruit or a type of car.  Players then take turns naming the items in alphabetical order until they cannot think of the next one in sequence.  For example: Apple, Banana, Cherry, etc.

Camera Off – One person turns off their camera and must describe an object one word at a time.  The group must guess the object based on the description.  Fewest descriptive words needed wins.

Reverse Charades – A twist on the original.  Only one player is unaware of the word and the remaining players must act out their clues on camera at the same time.

Shark or Tank – Participants are randomly assigned a mundane item in their home like a lamp or toaster and must pitch the product to the rest of the team who rate their presentation and the product’s potential.  Feel free to pair up two remote workers for this virtual activity and have them pitch as a team.

Tour Guide – Each participant is randomly assigned a location in the world and has five minutes to prepare their “tour” of that location.  This is a great team building activity for coworkers from different countries because it also promotes diversity and cultural education.

banner text saying top five trust building games that are easy icebreakers

The Top Five Virtual Icebreakers that Build Trust Quickly

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.

I Suck At – Participants are given three different skills to rank how they think they would rate at each.  Example:  Lumberjack, Doctor, Seamstress.  How would you do and why? “I would be a great lumberjack because I love climbing things.  I would suck at being a doctor because I am scared of needles.  I’d be a terrible seamstress for the same reason.”

Story Builder – One participant starts the story with an opening line and then the next participant picks it up from there.

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

Zoom In – A close-up image of an object is shared and gradually zoomed out.  Players must guess the object before it is fully revealed.

The Importance of Trust in Virtual Teams

Strategies for building strong relationships are rooted in making the workplace a safe place.  When people feel safe, they have emotional security.  That might sound like some pseudo-science mumbo jumbo, but it is a real thing, and it really matters when you are talking about trust building.  Emotional security is a shared belief held by members of a team that it’s OK to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to ask questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences.  The formula for building trust in virtual teams includes a healthy dose of emotional security.

You may wonder why trust building is important for virtual teams.  Work relationships are arguably one of the most important ones we have in our daily lives just based on the sheer volume of time spent at work.  A person will spend about 14 years of their life at work. That’s a lot of time at the office. 

But how do emotional security and trust-building work together? And why does it matter?  Just do your job, right?  Not really.  It is a basic human need to feel safe and appreciated. That extends to work relationships as well.  Companies that implement trust building activities for virtual teams:

  • Have less turnover.  Remote workers change jobs on average every 3.4 years.  Building trust helps reduce turnover. 
  • Have higher productivity. A study from LinkedIn shows that happy employees are 13% more productive.
  • Have better attendance.  Research from Harvard Business review shows that happy employees take fewer sick days, leading to a more consistent workflow. 

The bottom line is that people who are in a high-trust environment are more secure.  They are more able to fully engage, take creative risks, and because of this, are happier at work.  High-trust environments are created when a company has a strategy for building effective virtual teams.  Trust becomes the foundation for success. 

infographic on companies with high trust and the benefits their workers enjoy.

Strategies for Building Effective Virtual Teams

Building and maintaining effective virtual teams requires a thoughtful combination of strategies that foster communication, collaboration, and a sense of unity among team members. Because clear communication is key when working remotely, leveraging video-conferencing helps bridge the physical gap and promotes real-time interaction. Seeing is believing, and being online with each other allows for spontaneous interaction.  This is the closest a distributed team can get to running into each other in the lunchroom. 

I am a strong believers in the power of play.  Leveraging games for team building is a great trust building technique for remote teams.  The key to a positive play experience is choosing a game that has three main elements:

  1. A structure that allows for social time as well as play time.  We advocate for card games because there is room to talk between hands, tell stories, and share in real time.
  2. Individualized competition.  Letting people excel on their own but winning a round, a pot, or the whole game, is a great way to get people involved in the activity.  Avoid choosing games that always split people into opposing teams.  Let people have their own time to shine.
  3. Fun is the foundation of effecting team building.  Games that are engaging, offer friendly competition, and include a unique element are the most appealing to a wide audience.  

 The formula for building trust in virtual teams is not a complicated one.  Humans are pre-wired for play and naturally drawn toward each other.  All the organizer has to do is create a space where people can connect.  Hosting a regular schedule of trust building games will reinforce that connection month after month and build a strong team that can weather the storms it faces together.

For your next Poker Team Building Event

What is the Most Effective Virtual Team Building Activity for Building Trust?

Poker.  Yes, poker.  To some folks, the word poker conjures up men with cigars in a back room or internet wunderkinds in hoodies and sunglasses.  Those stereotypes were certainly true in the past, but today there are more that 120 million people who enjoy the game of poker and the fastest growing segment is women.  Poker is a game that can happen on the kitchen table, the casino, or in our case, on the virtual felt.  Poker is a great team building activity because it has broad appeal, is easy to access, and our live dealers can teach players anywhere in the world.

When thinking about poker as a trust building activity, it is important to consider the audience.  There are three general types of roles in any organization: the top executives, the middle managers, and the main workforce.  Each of these groups finds a slightly different appeal to team building through poker.  The game is versatile enough to accommodate everyone’s perspective.     

  • Executive Engagement:  Executives enjoy the individualized competition and the ability to prove that they can beat the other players.  They get into the statistics of the game and enjoy the camaraderie that is similar to that on the golf course.  If you are looking for a great virtual VIP team building activity, consider bringing in a professional poker player or celebrity to join the online poker game.
  • Management Skills Are Business Skills:  Managers are the heart of any organization and the main force for good (or evil.)  Poker and business have many overlapping concepts like operating off of incomplete information, managing budgets, and making strategic decisions in real time.  Incorporating these skills into play allows them to showcase their individual abilities and stand out in a crowd.
  • Peer to Peer Poker:  Poker checks all the boxes for effective trust building.  The game has engaging individual competition but is still easy to learn.  There is time to talk freely during the play and tell stories or jokes.  Our games all come with live dealers who curate the experience so that no one is left behind.    

 If you are looking to create a trusting culture through virtual team building, you cannot ignore these strategies and activities.  Remote work is here to stay and keeping remote employees connected and growing through virtual team building activities will go a long way towards keeping a happy and reliable workforce.  Taking the time to create a schedule of trust building activities that includes easy icebreakers and engaging poker tournaments will set a company, and its employees, up for success.

FAQ’s

Looking for a couple of quick answers on the wisdom behind trust building through virtual team building games? Look no further.

What is the best team building game to build trust?

Poker.  It is easy to learn, has a flow that allows for play and social interaction, and can be played with live dealers anywhere in the world.

How do you build trust with remote workers?

Team building games like poker allow employees to be social, have fun, and build emotional bonds that will help improve their overall productivity and work experience. Setting a consistent schedule of trust building activities for your virtual team is key to long-term success.

Why is building trust with remote workers so important?

When it comes to strategies for building effective virtual teams, trust is key. Remote and hybrid teams are less able to build social ties because they don’t have the opportunity to see each other without a work-related purpose.  They cannot meet in the lunchroom or stop at another’s desk.  To build camaraderie and strengthen bonds, employers must intentionally create opportunities for remote workers to play games and hang out in order to build trust.

For your next Poker Team Building Event