11 Best Remote Activities to Boost Employee Engagement

Whether you think working from home is amazing or you’re longing to return to the office, one thing’s for sure: remote work is here to stay.

Companies had no choice but to get comfortable with remote work over the past few years — thanks to the pandemic — and more and more of them are going fully (or mostly) remote. Those still on the fence about long-term plans are grappling with the staggering statistic that 55% of remote workers would rather quit than go back to the office.

Remote work isn’t going away, but building a positive company culture is just as important today as it was when we were all located in our cubicles. However, it’s hard work to build a positive environment now that we aren’t face-to-face all the time.

Is your remote team looking for fun, engaging activities that can boost remote employee engagement and lift your team’s spirits? Here are 11 activities we’ve pulled together that can help you reach those goals.

Looking for something a little more seasonally appropriate this holiday season? Check out 15 Team Building Activities Perfect for the Holidays.

Why Your Company Should Be Encouraging Employee Engagement

There are all sorts of reasons why employee engagement and team-building matter. Here are just a few:

  • Engaged employees are happier: While the two concepts aren’t identical, there’s a clear link between a feeling of purpose and a feeling of happiness at work.
  • Engaged employees are more productive and profitable: Highly engaged teams and individuals simply perform better, which leads to higher outputs and better profits. Gallup finds that highly engaged business units generally produce 21% more profits than the rest.
  • Engaged employees are more likely to stay: In today’s extremely tight job market, you can’t afford to lose good talent. Unhappy, disengaged employees already have one foot out the (virtual) door. Engagement, then, has a positive effect on retention.
  • Engaged employees work better with teammates: Team-building is an unsung hero. When employees feel connected to (or engaged with) their fellow team members, they build higher levels of trust, leading to better and more productive collaboration.

While there’s certainly more to remote employee engagement than pulling off the right group activities, those activities do make a difference, lowering disengagement and improving the overall employee experience.

For example, the American Psychological Association finds that workplaces with well-being initiatives in place get impressive marks from their employees — 89% of employees in such organizations are likely to recommend their employer as a good place to work.

Further, one industry leader points out that these activities help employees learn new sides of each other and feel valued. There’s also a somewhat intangible effect on interpersonal relationships that can transform the dynamic of a team for the better.

Ready to dive into our 11 best remote team-building and employee engagement activities? Let’s go!

1) Do a Virtual Painting Class Over Zoom (Or Any Other Video Platform)

Our first (and favorite) virtual employee engagement recommendation is a virtual painting class, which you can conduct with your team over Zoom or your video conferencing platform of choice.

With a virtual painting class, all participants work on their own copy of the same painting kit and operate from the same tutorial video, which can be played locally or as a “member” of the video meeting. Participants can enjoy learning a new skill and can laugh along with each other as they progress through the painting process.

When finished, team members can show off their artistry, and you could even hand out awards (including some comical ones, like “most intriguing interpretation of a tree”).

At Painting to Gogh, we’ve mastered the virtual painting class team-building experience. We have everything you need to get started all wrapped up into a convenient package. You even have the option of participants being able to choose different paintings based on their own interest or have a live instructor virtually teach you. That’s why companies like Disney, Salesforce, and McDonald’s have trusted us for their virtual team-building needs.

Get started with a virtual painting class from Painting to Gogh.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

The easiest way to pull off this activity is to simply use Painting to Gogh’s pre-made kits and videos. Seriously, we’ve done all the work for you! Here’s our guide to team-building through paint parties.

But if you’re going to do this one without a kit, here’s what you’ll need for every participant:

  • Canvas
  • Paints
  • Palette
  • Apron (disposable)
  • Brushes
  • A demonstration video and an example painting

Additionally, each participant needs to prepare their workspace so nothing gets ruined by stray paint. Creative webcam placement can help, as well.

2) Play Some Jackbox Games

Jackbox Games can be a great icebreaker or team-builder. These tech- and web-based party games tend to pull people out of their shells and can be a ton of fun!

Make no mistake — there’s no real skill or learning happening here. This one’s purely about work-related bonding through games.

Each Jackbox Games pack includes several social-oriented games, many of which are perfect for your office (or virtual office). Patently Stupid, where players must convince each other to support a horrible idea, is a great one. Quiplash is a classic, too, supplying players with comedy prompts that lead to plenty of antics. This one is great for large teams, since a team of three to eight people can play the core game while teams of up to 10,000 can vote on their favorite answers.

For more on this idea, check out Jackbox’s post on their five favorite games for the office.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

Jackbox Games are generally easy to use. Any PC or Mac can be used as the hub, as can consoles, Apple TVs, and Amazon Fire TV devices. Most games allow participation via smartphone (once one account has purchased the game).

3) Enjoy a Fresh Cup of Joe During Virtual Coffee Breaks

In pre-pandemic times, many office workers enjoyed shooting the breeze by the water cooler or over a cup of (often questionable) office coffee. These kinds of spontaneous interactions were great for team-building and employee morale, but they just can’t happen when everyone is working remotely. Sure, you might goof off on your company’s chat platform with a co-worker from time to time, but it isn’t the same.

Virtual coffee breaks are one solution to this problem. The idea here is that two or more employees plan for some downtime (with management’s blessing). They agree on a time, and each brings a cup of coffee (or their beverage of choice — they’re at home, after all) and hops on a one-on-one video call or small group chat.

Virtual coffee breaks need not be work-related but can be if that’s where the conversation goes. Team members who don’t know each other well might even benefit from some prompts to get the conversation started.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

To get started, you’ll just need a portable fusion generator and two cats …

Just kidding! All you need is coffee, and maybe some gift cards to incentivize participation. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of getting people together and perhaps supplying some icebreaker questions like, “What’s been the highlight of your week?”

If you’re looking for more specifics on how to pull this off, here’s a great explanation.

4) Host Show-and-Tell Video Meetings

Your employees are more than the sum of their work contributions. And since most of them are working from home, it’s quite a bit easier for people to show off something from their non-work lives.

Knowing that Sarah in Sales is good at selling your company’s product is one thing — knowing that she has three cats and two kids or goes spelunking on weekends is another. Facts like these help humanize employees and can help them bond with each other over shared interests.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

To do show-and-tell meetings well, all you need is some prior planning.

Announce a few days ahead of time that the next team meeting will involve a show-and-tell component. If you do this more than once, you might want to add a category or item type. You could start easy, something like “a hobby” or “family.” Later on, get a little more creative with more abstract prompts like “blue” or “surprising” or “far away.

5) Try a Virtual Escape Room Together

Real-life escape rooms became a highly popular trend in the mid-2010s, and the concept translates surprisingly well to a virtual experience.

Virtual escape rooms rose in popularity during 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Companies like The Escape Game create engaging virtual experiences where your team (of up to eight players) must work together to virtually escape a room by solving clues and puzzles before time runs out. Larger groups are welcome as well, but they must break down into teams of eight or fewer.

Problem-solving outside of the context of work is a fantastic way for teams to build cohesion and trust, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from a virtual escape room.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

If you’re relying on a pre-packaged service like The Escape Game, all you need is a credit card and an internet connection.

6) Solve Virtual Murder Mysteries as a Team

A virtual murder mystery provides a very similar experience as an escape room, only with a little less (virtual) claustrophobia. Your team works together in a real-life game of Clue, attempting to figure out who-dun-it before the time expires.

The team-building benefits of virtual murder mysteries are also similar to those of a virtual escape room — they allow you and your team to flex your collaborative logic muscles, which is a great way for teams to coalesce and grow.

Outback Team Building is one of many vendors that offer virtual murder mysteries for work teams.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

Once again, this one’s pretty simple: All you have to do is set up a time, invite a group, and pay the vendor.

7) Host a Rewards and Recognition Meeting

Did your company have any kind of rewards or recognition programs before you went virtual? Something like “Employee of the Month” or “Innovator of the Year”?

If your answer is yes, did that program vanish when you went remote? It’s okay to be honest — it vanished in many organizations. However, now is the perfect time to bring it back. People still want to be praised for their exceptional effort or success, whether it’s publicly or privately. You can, and should, still keep track of these great successes, then nominate and recognize your team members the same way you would if you were together in person. The only difference is that now it just needs to be over video conference.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

This one doesn’t take a ton of prep or production work, either. However, if you’re giving physical awards, you might want to make sure you’re offering rewards that can be mailed easily (or delivered electronically).

8) Conduct a Healthy Habits Challenge

A Healthy Habits Challenge is a way to encourage employees to work toward healthier lifestyle choices. These choices can include just about anything, and it could even be up to your employees to choose their own goals, which could include:

  • Lose weight
  • Improve mental health and wellness
  • Exercise a certain number of times per week
  • Cut out an unhealthy food
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Improve work-life balance

Your organization or team can suggest certain goals as well, though we caution you to be careful not to overstep — and to vet this program through your HR department before it launches. General goals you assign could include hydration (drink 64 ounces of water per day) or mindfulness (set aside 15 minutes for quiet time).

What does this have to do with employee engagement? Simple: People working toward common goals will naturally build camaraderie.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has a great breakdown of Healthy Habits Challenges to give you some inspiration.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

For this one, you’ll need to craft program parameters and then launch the program for your organization or team. The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan resource is a great place to start, but your HR professionals will help you stay within safe bounds.

9) Throw (Virtual) Work Anniversary Parties

Like employee recognition, work anniversary parties don’t have to go away just because your whole team is now remote. Longevity with a company is something to celebrate, so don’t be afraid to do so! While year-to-year anniversaries are no small feat, consider giving a little extra recognition to employees at five-year intervals: five years, 10 years, 15 years, etc. Announce these at the next division meeting or all-call and give an opportunity for coworkers to congratulate and even reminisce.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

Nothing more is needed for virtual work anniversary parties than what you’d need for an in-person anniversary recognition. Again, you might want to shift physical awards toward meaningful objects that are easy to mail.

10) Virtual Beer or Wine Tasting

Does your team love a good bottle of wine? Do groups of coworkers regularly hit up a local craft brewery for happy hour on Fridays? If so, a virtual beer or wine tasting (geared toward corporate events) could be a great way to boost morale and loosen up even the most reserved personalities on your team.

In Good Taste offers corporate-oriented private virtual wine tastings, while Common Space offers a fully customizable, deliverable virtual craft beer tasting experience.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

We highly recommend choosing a pre-built tasting experience like the ones linked above — that way all you need to do is account for the virtual meeting and the alcohol.

Make sure you’re accommodating your entire team. Bear in mind that some people may not drink alcohol, or may be allergic to the gluten in beer. It’s good to plan to have some non-alcoholic parallels on deck so that everyone can feel included.

11) Include Themed Days Once a Quarter

The last of our virtual team-building activities is one of the most fun activities on the list — introduce quarterly theme days. These are days where employees can dress up as their favorite TV character, wear gear from their favorite sports team, or even just dress in their favorite color.

Team members can go as crazy or as subdued as they like for the special workday, showing off their personal style throughout the day of Zoom calls (or on the special Theme Day call).

This activity definitely helps team members get to know each other on a more personal level. Plus it gives teams plenty of talking points for the future!

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a list of 30 fantastic themes that your team can get excited about.

What You’ll Need for This Activity

The beauty of this idea is that it needs almost no prep. Simply announce a theme and a date and let your team go wild! You can always enhance the theme with trivia or a special boss’s background on the main call of the day, too.

Boost Employee Engagement and Have Fun with Painting to Gogh

Any activity that gets employees working together, laughing, or solving problems helps teams grow closer together and allows employees to feel more connected to the organization and its mission.

A virtual painting class with Painting to Gogh is one of the best options — give your team the chance to try something new, and marvel at what the shared experience can accomplish for your employees. They’ll have fun together, and most of all, they’ll know you care enough to give them a positive team-building experience.

See more about how Painting to Gogh can help you with your team-building efforts.