top of page

Why Your Team Hates Virtual Team Building & How To Change Their Minds

50 points to anyone who can guess what year the popularity of virtual team building surged!

As offices around the world transitioned to remote work to prioritize safety, teams found themselves physically separated in 2020. To maintain collaboration, camaraderie, and team cohesion, organizations turned to virtual team-building activities, but team members were quick to push back. Despite that, in a time of uncertainty and isolation, virtual team building emerged as an essential tool for preserving teamwork and employee well-being, driving its widespread adoption and growth.

Today, three years post-pandemic, many companies are grappling with the challenge of restoring engagement levels to pre-2020 norms while navigating a hybrid work landscape. The shift to remote work during the pandemic altered the dynamics of teamwork. Now, with a mix of remote and in-person work options, companies face the delicate task of balancing flexibility with team cohesion. Some employees may still prefer remote work, while others crave the in-person connection of traditional office settings. Striking this balance demands innovative approaches to virtual team building, revamped office spaces, and policies that accommodate both remote and in-office workstyles. Achieving the right equilibrium remains a top priority for organizations striving to sustain a motivated and connected workforce.

People may dislike virtual team-building activities for several reasons. One primary factor is the feeling of detachment and isolation that can come with virtual interactions. Many miss the face-to-face connections and physical presence that traditional team-building activities offer. Some find virtual team-building activities less engaging or authentic, missing the spontaneity and energy that in-person interactions provide. Moreover, screen fatigue from excessive video calls and the blending of work and personal life in virtual settings can make employees resistant to more screen time, even for team building.

10 Reasons Employees Dislike Team-Building Activities:

  1. Forced Participation When participation is mandatory, some employees may feel uncomfortable or resistant, preferring to choose how they spend their free time.

  2. Awkwardness Some activities can be awkward or contrived, causing discomfort for those who prefer genuine interactions over forced ones.

  3. Lack of Relevance If the activities don't align with the team's goals or daily work, employees may see them as a waste of time.

  4. Ineffective Activities Poorly designed or repetitive team-building exercises can lead to skepticism about their value.

  5. Introverted or Shy Employees Team-building activities that emphasize extroverted qualities may alienate introverted employees who thrive in different environments.

  6. Time Constraints Employees often have busy schedules, and team-building activities may disrupt their work, leading to frustration.

  7. Past Negative Experiences If employees have had negative experiences with team-building activities in the past, they may develop a negative attitude toward them.

  8. Cultural Mismatch Activities that don't consider diverse backgrounds and preferences may not resonate with all team members.

  9. Perceived Lack of Impact Employees may not see a direct link between team-building activities and improved teamwork or productivity.

  10. Poorly Managed Activities Ineffective facilitation or organization can lead to confusion and dissatisfaction.

Overall, the challenge lies in creating virtual team-building experiences that capture the essence of in-person bonding and address these valid concerns.

To overcome these challenges and make team-building activities more enjoyable and effective, it's crucial to:

  1. Offer Choice: We want volunteers, not hostages. Choice empowers employees and allows them to take ownership of their team-building experience. When they can select activities they genuinely enjoy, it boosts enthusiasm and participation. Plus, research shows that giving choices enhances motivation and engagement.

  2. Relevance: When team-building activities align with team goals or address specific challenges, employees can see the direct impact on their work. It gives purpose to the activity and enhances its value.

  3. Variety: Repeating the same activities will leave your team members bored and disinterested. By introducing variety, you keep things fresh and exciting, preventing monotony. A study by Harvard Business Review found that diverse activities contribute to more creative thinking and improved teamwork.

  4. Respect Individual Differences: Recognizing and celebrating diversity within the team is crucial. People have different personalities, preferences, and comfort levels with various activities. Respecting these differences fosters inclusivity. Acknowledge introverted team members who might prefer low-key activities like book clubs or virtual brainstorming sessions, while extroverts may thrive in more social events. Research by Deloitte reveals that diverse teams are more innovative and adaptable, so create an environment where people from varied backgrounds feel connected to your company.

  5. Feedback: Collecting feedback after team-building activities demonstrates that employee opinions matter. It allows for continuous improvement and tailoring future activities to better meet their expectations. We suggest asking for one area where the experience excelled and one area that could use improvement (I've also heard it called a Glow & Grow, Make & Break, etc.). Research shows that organizations that actively seek feedback have higher employee satisfaction and retention rates. While not all feedback should be weighed equally, it will give you a sense of your team's sentiment.

Ultimately, the success of team-building activities depends on thoughtful planning, sensitivity to employee preferences, and a genuine focus on fostering positive team dynamics. By giving employees a sense of autonomy, making activities relevant, introducing variety, respecting individual differences, and valuing feedback, you'll not only boost enthusiasm but also strengthen team cohesion and productivity. It's a win-win for both employees and the organization.

Tried & Tested Virtual Team Building Activities

#1 Online Escape Room

Benefit: Enhances problem-solving and teamwork skills.

How: Choose a virtual escape room platform, divide the team into smaller groups, and work together to solve puzzles and "escape" within a time limit.

#2 Virtual Trivia Quiz

Benefit: Boosts knowledge sharing and team bonding.

How: Create trivia questions related to your industry or team, use platforms like Kahoot or Zoom polls, and compete to see who answers the most questions correctly.

#3 Two Truths and a Lie

Benefit: Builds trust and encourages personal connections.

How: Each team member shares two truths and one lie about themselves. Others guess which statement is the lie.

#4 Digital Scavenger Hunt

Benefit: Promotes creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration.

How: Create a list of items or clues for team members to find or solve within a set time. They can use the internet to search for answers or find items in their homes.

#5 Virtual Art, Craft, or Cooking Class

Benefit: Encourages teamwork and creativity.

How: Hire a professional or designate someone to lead a virtual class. Team members cook the same dish, or paint the same artwork together and enjoy their creations afterward.

#6 Online Board Games

Benefit: Fosters healthy competition and teamwork.

How: Play digital versions of board games like Settlers of Catan, Scrabble, or Monopoly together on platforms like Tabletopia or Board Game Arena.

#7 Storytelling Challenge

Benefit: Enhances communication and creativity.

How: Start a story with one person and have each team member add a sentence or paragraph, building a collective narrative.

#8 Virtual Talent Show

Benefit: Celebrates individual talents and boosts team morale.

How: Allow team members to showcase their unique talents, whether it's singing, dancing, or magic tricks, during a virtual talent show.

#9 Online Charades

Benefit: Improves non-verbal communication and teamwork.

How: Use a charades generator or app to act out words or phrases without speaking while team members guess.

#10 Professional Development Workshops

Benefit: Enhances skills and knowledge relevant to work. A-Players enjoy learning new skills and want to be around others who are hungry to level up.

How: Invite experts or team members to lead workshops on topics like time management, leadership, or industry-specific skills.

Remember to tailor these activities to your team's preferences and goals to make them more effective and enjoyable.

At the end of the day, it's a reality that there may always be a bottom 10% of employees who remain resistant to team-building efforts. So it's important to acknowledge that we can't compel everyone to fully embrace these activities or change their attitude. That's okay because genuine teamwork should be voluntary, not coerced.

For the rest of the team members, these activities can be transformative. They have the potential to shift perspectives, build stronger bonds, and inspire a more positive outlook toward work. By nurturing a culture of collaboration and camaraderie, team-building activities can empower employees to bring their best selves to the table, not just for the team but also for the clients they serve, ultimately enhancing the overall team dynamic and the quality of service delivered.


Maya Isharani


bottom of page