Prior to the pandemic, my team and I would go out to lunch as a team at least once a month. Once a quarter (at least), we would find some fun thing to do around the office. One time we went to a VR place where we could all play the same "tower defence" game together and had a blast. Another time, we rented human-sized inflatable hamster balls and played soccer. As the manager of the team, they had their chance to legitimately send me flying, and they did... many times.
But when the pandemic happened and we were all forced to work from home, all of that came to a screeching halt. We had to find ways to have fun as a team in order to snap ourselves out of the routine, but that was hard. We did find some things that worked though, so I thought I'd share them here:
An important thing to remember, though, is don't force it. Just like nobody likes "mandatory fun" in the office, they like it even less at home. Most likely, they're just waiting for the end of the work day so they can go back to their families. Keep it short (< 1 hour) and don't be corny.
Here are the ideas that worked for us (or that I had in my list of things to try):
Jackbox These games are a blast and work really well with teams of 4-6 people (and it's only $30). The games are a mixture of funny trivia, MadLibs-like games, and group pictionary. When I was testing it with my kids before I did it with the team, it quickly became a family favorite too. The trick is that you have to stream your audio through something like Zoom in order for other people to hear it quickly. I did that with an app called Loopback on my mac, but there are probably other options. Either way, this was a cheap activity and one we did often with very little planning.
Mini s'mores If people on your team are ok with you mailing them something, you can send them a little personal s'mores kit that you can make together while you talk about non-work stuff on a friday. All you need is a tealight candle, a hershey bar, a couple of marshmallows, a few graham crackers, and a kabob stick. They can toast the marshmallow from their desk and make s'mores while you chat! There's something about getting a package in the mail that makes it even more fun.
Play a Virtual Escape Room I was very skeptical of this when it was first brought up. It felt like the sort of "mandatory fun" that made me cringe. But I was pleasantly surprised. Once you start one of these games, everyone's competitive side kicks in and it's a ton of fun. What's even better is that the companies that host these have gotten really good at running them virtually. It may not be the cheapest option, but it's a fun thing to try.
Just order lunch and eat it as you play something like "two truths and a lie" while you chat Give everyone on your team a clear budget ("order anything you like for under $20 and expense it") and spend the lunch hour playing a game to get to know each other. I've found "Two Truths and a Lie" to be the least cheesy of them all. Each person lists three things about themselves, with only one of them being untrue. The trick is to say two "truths" that sound crazy enough to be a lie.
The important thing here is to not give up on team activities and things that break up the monotony just because everyone is working remotely. Your teammates might be skeptical, but that's ok. Just acknowledge that it might be a little corny, but give it a try anyway!