10 virtual team building ideas to suit a neurodiverse workforce
Working remotely has a variety of advantages and disadvantages. For workplace culture, remote work could be a major roadblock in helping employees feel welcome and engaged with their coworkers. Especially for neurodivergent employees who may find social interactions challenging, and particularly difficult to navigate in the online space.
But how do you create an environment for employees to bond when everyone is working from home? And in ways which suit your diverse workforce?
Below, 10 professionals share their team building ideas for boosting employee morale and communication.
Two Truths and a Lie
“Two truths and a lie is a personal fact guessing game that helps team members get to know each other better. Each member lists three facts about themselves, two truths and a lie, and the team has to guess which is which! The answers might surprise you!”
- Jon Schneider, Recruiterie -
Social games with a purpose are great for those who might find social situations challenging, such as employees with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). With an outlined goal, these types of games remove the pressure to strike up conversation, making it easier and more enjoyable for all employees to get involved! They also present a fun challenge for the analytical gurus in the company, and offer a unique way for colleagues to get to know one another.
End of the World Gift Exchange
“We had each team member put together a shortlist of items that were in short supply in their city. We compiled a larger list and each team member spent $20 of company money buying any of those items (making sure not to purchase any unreasonable quantity) that were available locally to them. We put together a list of purchased items and each team member got to take turns "claiming" items that we then shipped to them. It was a fun way to help each other out and try out some new products from around the globe!”
- Adam Sanders, Successful Release -
Again, another great social activity with an end goal. This ‘exchange’ is perfect for enticing the problem solvers to get involved, and also offers employees the chance to help others. This can help give a sense of purpose and value to those that might be feeling alone, such as anyone self-isolating with little interaction from the outside world.
“Make time for a virtual happy hour with the team. Appoint someone to be in charge of the happy hour and have that person ask a series of getting to know you questions for all team members. This will keep the happy hour organized so people aren't talking over each other and will allow everyone to let loose and share the more personal side of themselves that might not be shown in a work environment.”
- Liz Riggleman, Arrow Lift -
We love the addition of an organized take on the traditional ‘happy hour’ as it ensures that every person will get the chance to join in the conversation, and gives some structure so people know what to expect. Making the unknown known is something that can help calm the anxieties of neurodivergent employees, who might otherwise defer from attending such social events. Sending the questions to your colleagues ahead of time would help those with difficulty processing, focusing, and structuring sentences, to put their answers together beforehand - so you can effectively get to know them too.
Test Out Interactive Games
“Look into interactive web and mobile games to play with team members via video conferencing. Bingo, Jeopardy, and Trivia games can all be done remotely and can really build up team morale.”
- Megan Chiamos, 365 Cannabis -
This is a lovely way to get employees interacting with one another in a way which can identify with their hobbies too. Simply ask your employees to suggest games based on what they love to do when they’re not working. Some neurodivergent individuals, such as those with Asperger’s, may fixate on a particular hobby or topic of interest, so being able to come up with social activities that cater to an area they’re very comfortable with, will help to increase their engagement with their co-workers more meaningfully.
Whose Pantry Is It?
“Sounds silly, and it is, but that's what makes it fun! Here's how it works:
Team members were encouraged to send photos of their pantries to our office manager. She would post one in Slack while keeping the pantry owner anonymous. Our team would work together to find clues and guess whose pantry it was! We now know very specific details about each other and our eating/organization habits, but it was a fun, light-hearted way to work together.”
- Aly Russo, FinanceBuzz -
Any game which promotes employees working together as a team has it’s benefits, and allows individuals to get to know people they may have never otherwise spoken to. The personal elements this one brings in also means employees are getting to know one another in the process, in a fun and light-hearted way. Having a task to complete that’s fun and intriguing can also help keep the attention and interest of employees with ADHD, who can find it challenging to stay focused.
Virtual MTV Cribs
“Every other week we hold a Happy Hour with a new game or theme. This week, we did a virtual parody of MTV Cribs where we took turns showing off our spaces and favorite things around the home. It was a blast to see how many of us let our personalities shine with our spaces (especially now that we've been remote for so long). If you have millennial plant parents on your team - they'll love to show off their fiddle-leaf fig.”
- Natalie Marcotullio, Map My Customers -
Virtual games such as this one, really allow employees to show their personality to one another - and that’s great! For some neurodivergent employees, they might find that neurodiversity isn’t openly talked about or celebrated within their workplace culture, and they may worry about stigma (regardless of whether it exists in their working environment or not). Activities such as this empower them to show off to their colleagues who they really are, and demonstrate their personal strengths and talents.
“Our team recently did a virtual pow-wow where we all had to pick one place in the world we've been and tried to convince the rest of the group that's the next place they should visit once travel is open again. During the Zoom call, we all shared photos through slideshows and galleries and took turns telling each other all about our happy place.”
- Phillip Paquette, EON Clinics -
Every individual is unique and being able to see into the worlds of those around us helps us to identify with each other. Being given the chance to tell co-workers more about our personal lives, offers an opportunity to form bonds with new people. That’s so empowering for colleagues who struggle to do this on their own.
Match the Random Fact to the Person
“Virtual happy hours with planned activities are wonderful for team building. Our team once played a game where everyone submitted a few random facts about themselves ahead of time. Then on a group call, the team members had to guess which person on the team submitted each entry. Everyone had a good laugh and got to know each other a little better.”
- Jessica Schocker, Recruitment Consultant -
Another interesting way to share some fun facts, this enables employees to delve into their unknown side! Giving employees the opportunity to think up their chosen facts ahead of time is beneficial for employees who find it difficult to process and think on the spot.
Pecha Kucha Presentation
“Everyone creates a brief personal slideshow called a Pecha Kucha presentation. 10 slides, auto-advancing every 10 seconds. Only images, no text. Only images about you as a person, outside of work. You can learn more about someone in under two minutes than you typically do in two years of working together.”
- Scott Crabtree, Happy Brain Science -
This activity offers another opportunity for employees to share their personal side, and even better is the use of only images to do so! This is particularly beneficial for employees with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia who may find writing a time-consuming process, and prefer to express themselves using more visual formats.
“My team and I love to connect every couple of weeks to play Quiplash over Zoom! It's a really fun game that everyone can play, as long as they have a smartphone. The game prompts everyone with silly questions and whoever’s answer gets the most votes wins. It’s an easy way to unwind and have a great laugh with your coworkers.”
- Nikitha Lokaeddy, Education SEO Company -
We hope we’ve helped you to discover some new ways to engage with your remote working teams - and remember, change up the types of social activities on offer, to make sure you’re presenting social opportunities which suit the many different preferences of your diverse workforce.
To discover more about neurodiversity, check out our guide 'Unlocking neurodiversity in the workplace'. Alternatively, why not have a read and hear how our team of Texthelpers are staying connected and engaged while working remotely.