It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about 5 remote team members, or 50, it takes effort for coworkers (and managers!) to get acquainted with each other. There’s no physical water cooler, no collaborative stand-up meetings, or long lunches to help facilitate togetherness.
It’s incredibly important to have a bond with your remote team members, and coming up with team building questions can go a long way to help with that. With that in mind, I’ve listed out several questions that can give you a headstart in that regard. These team building questions are categorized by situation, that way you can take your pick based on the personality of your remote employee.
Ice Breakers and Personal Introduction
Questions in this category are designed to help team members get to know each other after meeting. Helping remote coworkers and employees feel comfortable right away is very important. The questions should aim to disarm them and make them feel more just vulnerable enough to give some great answers to the team building questions. I would suggest including questions about hobbies, interests, backgrounds, or even what kind of pets they have!
Many of the team building questions in subsequent sections will relate to movies, pets, and history, so you might try to include things like that in the ice breaker questions.
Work Environment and Home Office Setup
For remote workers like ourselves, our workspace is basically sacred. It doesn’t matter if we’re at home, at an Airbnb castle, or on a tropical island, having a productive workspace is incredibly important. For this reason, our personal preferences (as it relates to workspace) is such a good type of team building question.
These questions should encourage team members to share insights about their home office setup, daily routines, and personal touches that make their workspace comfortable and productive. It’s an opportunity to explore the individual challenges and advantages of remote working spaces, no matter what type of place they work from.
Questions that prompt discussions about ergonomic setups, favorite gadgets, or even the views from their desk are great options to include! Since remote work often blurs the lines between personal and professional life, these questions can also offer a glimpse into the personal lives of team members.
Communication and Collaboration
Good communication is the lifeline of remote work, it simply can’t work without it. These questions are designed to uncover the tools, strategies, and personal preferences that make this possible. They should encourage team members to reflect on their communication styles, as well as the nuances of non-verbal communication, tone, and timing in a digital world.
Questions might explore preferences for video calls vs messaging, how to handle misunderstandings in a virtual environment, or creative ways to maintain team cohesion. This category is crucial for identifying areas where communication can be improved and for celebrating the unique ways in which team members connect and work together even though they aren’t in the same physical space.
The boundaries between personal and professional life can often become blurred, making it essential to consciously address balance and well-being. In my experience, this usually isn’t much of an issue, but it can leave us (remote workers) more susceptible to getting burned out.
These questions should encourage team members to share their strategies for disconnecting from work, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They can also explore the unique challenges and solutions related to remote work, such as creating a dedicated workspace, dealing with isolation and loneliness, or staying physically active. This is an opportunity for team members to learn from each other’s experiences, and maybe even to gain new ideas for enhancing their work-life balance.
Challenges and Solutions in Remote Work
As agile and nimble as remote work can be, remote workers also have unique challenges. For instance, I once had an e-commerce client that we were doing SEO for…but they were in Australia. Take it from me, anything in the Oceania region is difficult to work with from a time zone standpoint (I’m in the US). We had calls that started so early in the morning (my time), that sometimes I would just stay up half the night to take it and then just sleep in. Those were some looooooong days.
Questions here can have a wide range of subjects. In fact, I would tailor these questions differently if you are asking them to medium to high-level managers. Many of the challenges for managers relates directly to staff, so take this into consideration when putting together questions of your own in this section.
The questions here should be designed to get them to reflect on their personal experiences with these challenges. This goes a long way to fostering a problem-solving mindset within the team. This is also a space for imaginative thinking – considering how hypothetical scenarios or innovative technologies could enhance remote working experiences.
Team Goals and Objectives
I’m a marketer, so I often take the “if you don’t track it you can’t get better” mindset. The questions here should be sculpted to better understand the team’s goals, and more importantly, what they are doing to accomplish them.
This is also an opportunity to explore how team members envision their growth within the team and the support they need to achieve their aspirations. By openly discussing these topics, the team can strengthen its alignment, ensure everyone is working towards common goals, and identify opportunities for growth and development.
Feedback and Improvement
Feedback is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, especially in a remote setting where direct interactions are limited. The problem I ran into with my team was that they wouldn’t ask for feedback in the first place. This was much more a fault of mine than theirs. However, when I learned this, I started to make a deliberate point to ask more questions about an assignment. That would usually get them to open up a lot more.
Similar to the communication questions, feedback team building questions give everyone a chance to discuss the importance of constructive criticism, the challenges of communicating feedback remotely, and the ways in which feedback can be used positively.
Cultural Exchange and Diversity
Remote teams often consist of members from various cultural backgrounds, and this diversity can be a tremendous asset. The questions here aim to encourage team members to share their cultural heritage, traditions, and perspectives.
This sharing not only enhances mutual understanding and respect but also enriches the team’s collective experience. And from a practical standpoint, it can help better understand things from a managerial standpoint as well. Days off for different holidays, what kind of projects they can’t work on (per religion, personal preference, etc).
Discussions can revolve around cultural influences on work styles, communication, and problem-solving approaches. This is an opportunity for team members to express pride in their cultural identity and for others to broaden their cultural awareness. One word of warning though: try and make sure none of your questions are unknowingly insensitive or intrusive. You might be surprised at what some cultures find offensive or are looked at as overstepping.
Innovation and Creativity
It becomes even more important to actively encourage creative thinking and innovative approaches to work when a team is remote. It’s like a fire that needs to be poked every once in a while. If you don’t nurture it, eventually it will die out.
The questions in this category should inspire team members to think outside the box, share their creative ideas, and discuss how innovation can be applied in their daily tasks and long-term projects. This is a chance to explore how each team member views what inspires them, and how they overcome creative blocks (this is especially important for certain roles). Discussions can also focus in on fostering creativity and how the team can collectively create an environment that nurtures and values innovative thinking.
Fun and Engagement
Don’t forget the fun questions! The team building questions in this category should encourage team members to share what brings them joy and laughter, their ideas for fun team activities, and how they like to engage with colleagues in a relaxed setting.
This is an opportunity to brainstorm on quirky traditions, or creative ways to celebrate achievements and milestones. It’s about creating memorable experiences that foster a sense of community and belonging, making remote work not just productive but also delightful.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.