Invented around the fourth century A.D, the Ancient Indian game of Pachisi* is one of the world’s oldest board games. Players strategically block their opponents, take their pieces, and race to get to the “home area” first.
Ancient games like this were popular because they built problem-solving skills, healthy competition, and camaraderie among players—just like today’s virtual employee engagement games help to build remote team relationships and foster a sense of connection.
Strong social connections are a key part of creating a great company culture and keeping people motivated and engaged. Playing games may sound frivolous, but casual downtime helps people de-stress and forge relationships. This is especially important for remote teams that miss out on face-to-face, in-person interactions.
That means remote leaders need to get creative and find ways to bring people together to bond, have fun, and unwind in each other’s company. Here are nine ways to do just that.
Want an easy way to play virtual games with your team?
Switchboard lets you work and play side-by-side to engage your remote team.
9 best virtual employee engagement games & activities
There are plenty of games that can help bring remote teams together and positively impact your company culture. When team members feel connected and comfortable with each other, they’re more likely to share ideas, ask for help, and work together towards a common goal—all of which makes it easier to do well and feel supported in a remote work environment.
Whether you're looking for a way to break the ice with new team members or you just want to inject some fun into virtual meetings, these games are a great way to keep your team engaged and motivated.
We’ve picked a few of our favorites, so grab your teammates and get ready for some fun!
1. Icebreaker questions
A great way to kick off a team meeting is to ask a question about a certain topic or theme that everyone has to answer. These can be hypotheticals like, “If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?” to real experiences like, “What was the best vacation you’ve ever been on?”
Icebreaker questions can help your team get to know each other better and connect through their similarities, silliness, and common experiences. Asking creative icebreaker questions can help create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, which is essential for effective team communication and collaboration.
2. Who said it?
Unlike ancient civilizations, you don’t need a physical board, cards, or dice to play entertaining games. Sometimes, all you need is to brush up on your Slack channel history to engage your team. For example, collecting memorable quotes and getting people to guess/remember who said it.
By talking about things specific to your team, like a running joke or an employee’s unique sense of humor, you can personalize team-building and increase employee engagement.
3. Whose is it?
Another easy virtual employee engagement game is to collect photos from your team based on a common topic or theme. Compile them into a quick slideshow before your team meeting and have people guess whose picture each is.
Guessing whose baby or whose pet is up on the screen is a crowd favorite. But you can also request more creative submissions like asking about favorite objects, food, books, or hobbies. Again, by making the game personal, you can foster meaningful relationships faster—and create a positive remote working culture built on trust and open communication.
4. Two truths and a lie
This game involves each player sharing three statements about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is false. Then the other players try to guess which is the lie.
It’s a fun and engaging way to get to know your remote team members better, break the ice, and build rapport. You can also find out who can keep their cool under pressure.
To play with remote teams, there are a couple of options:
- Have everyone take turns sharing their statements over video chat or messaging apps.
- Use a virtual platform like Kahoot or Quizlet Live to create a game that you can play remotely.
When playing remotely, it can be helpful to have everyone write their statements down in advance and share them privately with the game organizer. This helps make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate and that the game runs smoothly.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to play virtual games side-by-side with your remote team. Write down your two truths and a lie on a Google Doc or use Kahoot to help you. Then add it to your permanent virtual meeting room so you can video chat with your team—and have more fun together—as you play.
5. Virtual scavenger hunt
Virtual scavenger hunts are an interactive, fun way to encourage people to work together and use clues to solve problems.
First, define a clear purpose and theme. For example, celebrating a company win or promoting cross-functional team collaboration. That way, everyone knows what they’re working toward and why they’re doing it.
Then you’ll need to:
- Pick a platform to run the scavenger hunt. You can use Slack, a dedicated scavenger hunt platform, or your virtual workspace.
- Create a list of items for the team to find. Or tasks that they need to complete. These could be physical items, online resources, or challenges that require creativity or problem-solving.
- Set rules and guidelines. Including the start and end times, how to submit items or tasks, and how to determine the winning team.
- Assign teams. Divide participants into teams and assign a leader for each group. Encourage team members to communicate and collaborate with each other while completing the scavenger hunt.
6. Murder mystery
In a murder mystery, everyone’s assigned a character with a unique backstory and motive for murder. Then they have to work together to solve the mystery based on clues and evidence.
A creative, compelling murder mystery can help forge new friendships, inspire original thinking and problem-solving, and highlight potential team leaders. You can either use a ready-made mystery from a site like Night of Mystery or create your own.
If you want to create your own, here’s how:
- Assign roles. Give each team member a character to play, which should be kept secret until the game begins.
- Share instructions in advance. For example, how the game will be played, the rules, and objectives. Make sure everyone understands how the game works and what they need to do to participate.
- Set the scene. Create an immersive atmosphere for the game, like a virtual conference room or shared online workspace. Make sure everyone can access the space and communicate with each other.
- Provide clues and evidence. Throughout the game, players receive clues and evidence to help them solve the mystery. These can be sent via email, chat, or video conferencing.
- Encourage discussion. Allow time for players to discuss the clues and evidence they receive. Encourage them to share their thoughts and theories about the murderer with each other.
- Ask for final accusations. At the end of the game, each player must make their final accusations about who they think the murderer is. The player with the correct accusation wins the game.
7. Virtual escape room
Virtual escape rooms are a stimulating way to put team critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the test and are good practice for working through challenges together.
There are many different themes and scenarios for virtual escape rooms, so your teams can choose a room that appeals to their interests and then figure out how to escape together.
Here’s how to organize a virtual escape room in real time with your team:
- Choose a virtual escape room. Popular platforms include The Escape Game and Puzzle Break.
- Pick a time and share instructions on how to access the virtual escape room. Make sure everyone has the software and tools they need to participate.
- Assign roles. For example, team leader, clue keeper, or puzzle solver. Each team member should have a specific task to complete during the game.
- Solve the clues: Work together as a team using your communication and problem-solving skills to figure out puzzles and challenges and move through the virtual escape room. You can use a video conferencing platform, Slack, or phone to communicate in real time. Don’t forget to keep track of time.
- Hold a post-game debrief. Discuss the experience and what to improve for future games.
Codenames is a word game that challenges players to guess words (i.e. codenames) based on one-word clues provided by their team leader, or “spymaster.” It’s a fun and engaging game that requires strategy, creativity, and communication skills to successfully guess all the words on the board before the opposing team.
Here’s how to set it up for your remote team:
- Set up a virtual meeting: Use a virtual collaboration platform like Switchboard to enter your permanent game room.
- Choose a Codenames online tool: One popular option is codenames.game, which allows you to create a virtual game board and generate random word cards.
- Create teams: Divide your team into two groups, and choose one person from each to be the spymaster. They provide clues to their team to help them guess the correct words.
- Generate the word cards: Use the Codenames online tool to create a set of word cards. Only spymasters can see which words belong to their team and which belong to the opposing team.
- Start the game: Spymasters take turns giving one-word clues that relate to some of the words on the board. The aim is to get their team to guess which words belong to their team.
- Guess the words: Each team tries to guess their words based on the clues provided by their spymaster. The team that guesses all their words first wins.
9. Pancakes vs waffles
Pancakes vs waffles is a classic game that brings out the high school debate team in all of us. And it’s simple: you split your team into groups and start debating pancakes vs waffles.
You need to come up with a list of reasons and debate why your choice is best—and the team with the most votes wins. Then, when you've chosen collectively, you move on to the winning choice versus something else. i.e. pancakes vs cheese.
It’s a great game for when you haven’t prepared anything and don’t have time to set up another platform, but want to get team morale and engagement up. Use it for debating practice, turn-taking, and learning to respect other people’s opinions—which will help your employees do better in team or client-facing meetings.
You can also keep it fresh by changing the topics of debate, and personalize it to foods or brands your team is the most passionate about.
Best platform for team-building games
Playing games together can help you recharge your batteries and foster workplace friendships—and boost focus and engagement.
To make sure everyone gets the most out of team games, you need a virtual employee engagement platform that's easy to use and helps you stay invested in the game—while connecting and bouncing ideas off your team in real time.
Platforms like Google Meet are great for conversations, but tools like Switchboard let you share more than just your screen.
Switchboard is a virtual engagement and collaboration platform that lets you upload any web browser, file, web app, and browser-based game directly to your virtual meeting room—with no integration. That way, you can stay connected on your video call as you play or work in sync or async with your team, whatever the game, topic, or task.
You can explore any file or game in the room, move around and view or collaborate on whatever you want without getting in the way of others. Best of all, Switchboard saves everything, so you never need to download anything or repopulate the room with your favorite games again.
Virtual employee engagement games: Share fun, not screens
Ancient Indian emperors played Pachisi to showcase their ability to strategize and make calculated moves. But it was also an effective way for them to relax and enjoy themselves after periods of intense work.
Like them, we use games for a similar purpose: to de-stress, build relationships, and practice our skills. As a bonus, they also help build a great company culture and keep people motivated. This is especially important for remote teams that miss spontaneous, face-to-face interactions—and need a sense of connection to do their best work.
With Switchboard, you can create permanent meeting rooms specifically for team-building activities and games, sprint planning, brainstorming, or client meetings—so you can always share more than just your screen.
Want an easy way to play virtual games with your team?
Switchboard lets you work and play side-by-side and engage your remote team.