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Many businesses have become aware of the extensive benefits of recruiting a diverse team. For one, employees of different backgrounds bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table, which can contribute to companies reaching wider audiences.
Yet, with a workforce consisting of people of varying identities, creating a sense of unity can be difficult, especially with remote teams. This is why companies need to establish a culture that embraces diversity and promotes equity and inclusivity, and one way to achieve this is by implementing diversity team building activities.
In this article, we’ll share an extensive list of fun, educational, and empowering DEI team building activities that will reinforce your remote team. For diverse teams that are particularly big, continue here.
Diversity team building activities for remote teams
To get you started on building a stronger diverse team, here is our list of 25 diversity team building activities, all of which can be done virtually.
These activities are divided into six categories:
- Literary and visual activities
- Food-related activities
- Teaching and training
- Team sharing and discussions
- Employee empowerment, and
- Fun activities
Literary and visual activities
1. Book club
A DEI book club is an effective and interactive diversity team building activity that allows your team members to explore and embrace different viewpoints through reading.
To get this started, you’ll need to pick an engaging book that highlights one or more diversity themes, some of which include race, gender, sexuality, disability, different cultures, etc.
Give them ample time to complete the book (at least a month), and at the end of that period, host a virtual meeting for the group to discuss their thoughts and any discoveries they might have made.
Pro-tip: To get employees more involved, you can ask them to make suggestions for books or articles to read subsequently.
2. Team picture albums
Pictures are an excellent way for team members to get a glimpse of each others’ lives outside of work. It helps them know more about their colleagues' lifestyles and hobbies, embrace each others’ differences, and even find activities they enjoy in common.
Creating a team photo album allows for an intimate, uniting experience where all team members can get involved and share significant pictures from their lives.
To do this,
- Create a safe, virtual space for employees to put up pictures, e.g., Google Drive.
- Give team members access to upload their photos on the album.
- Motivate them to add their pictures by occasionally including themes like ‘birthdays’, ‘volunteering’, ‘family’, and ‘holidays’.
- Let them know that they can also upload pictures at random so that they don't feel pressured to follow the themes.
3. Attend virtual DEI art galleries
If you have art lovers on your remote team, this diversity team building activity is sure to catch their attention.
You and your team will need to attend a virtual diversity, inclusion, and equity art gallery. Galleries like these display artwork that portray and represent different cultures, religions, races, etc.
For example, the Brigham Young University virtual art gallery shows diverse artwork by different students and includes the stories behind each piece.
Not only is this activity quick and creative, but it also allows team members to discover new art while embracing and celebrating diversity.
4. Picture worth a thousand words
Images are an effective way to start discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this team activity takes advantage of that.
To organize it,
- Divide your team into smaller groups using the breakout feature on your video conferencing platform.
- Ask them to choose an image that depicts diversity, equity, and inclusion, but let them know that this image cannot include any people in it.
- Give them about 10 minutes to find an image online or create one themselves.
- Ask someone from each group to share the image they found with the rest of the team by sharing their screen.
- Team members can then take turns guessing why the group chose that image, and when they’re done, the group representative can share the real reason they chose the image.
This proves to be an interesting yet out-of-the-box approach to comfortably talking about diversity.
5. Host a diversity potluck
To execute this, choose a day for your team to attend a virtual diversity and inclusion lunch.
Tell team members to show up with a dish that is culturally and personally relevant to them.
Each person will then get the chance to share about their chosen food, answering questions like:
- What is the dish, and why did you choose it?
- Is it a popular dish in your country?
- Did you eat this growing up?
- Is the recipe difficult to prepare?
This diversity team building activity is great because it allows team members to learn more about their co-workers, and of course, different cultures and foods. For more ideas like this one, read more about culture team building ideas.
Pro-tip: Create a budget for this activity and divide the set resources equally amongst team members so that they can participate without having to spend out of pocket. Then let everyone know about the potluck in advance to have enough time to prepare.
6. Virtual cooking classes
Still on the food theme, virtual cooking classes are a delicious way for your team to connect while learning about global cultures and their foods.
While this might seem like a complex activity to put together, the good news is that there are many online resources to help you plan it.
For example, The Chef & The Dish and CocuSocial are both dedicated to creating exciting virtual cooking experiences for groups. They offer different classes hosted by professional chefs who teach people how to prepare meals from various countries.
Pro-tip: Ensure beforehand that each team member has the necessary equipment, utensils, and ingredients required to take the class.
Teaching and training
7. Take online DEI classes together
For team members who want to dive into deeper learning on diversity, equity, and inclusion, taking a class together is one of the more educational approaches to DEI team building activities.
Thankfully, many DEI classes are free and available online, making them ideal for remote teams.
You can make arrangements for interested team members to enroll in a one-time class or take an in-depth course that lasts for a few weeks.
8. Invite DEI guest speakers
Diversity, equity, and inclusion guest speakers are professionals who are well versed in DEI-related topics, including cultural awareness, conflict resolution and problem-solving, and minimizing prejudice and stereotyping, all of which are relevant in and outside the workplace.
You can invite one or more online guest speakers, and set aside a few hours in a day for team members to listen, learn, and ask questions. Afterward, you can then arrange for everyone to virtually meet and discuss what they learned.
9. Disability awareness training
There are many unconscious biases surrounding people with disabilities evident in the workplace. For example, studies show that many individuals still view people with disabilities as less productive than non-disabled people.
Biases like this are harmful and make it difficult for employees with disabilities to connect with the rest of their team.
One way to combat this issue is by putting together disability awareness training for all team members to participate in. Training like this helps uncover and put an end to unconscious biases and teaches others how to relate with people with disabilities in an inclusive and welcoming way.
10. Address privilege and allyship
In a diverse workplace, addressing and coming to terms with privilege and allyship is crucial in fostering a cohesive team that is ready to listen to and support each other.
This team activity encourages people to examine their backgrounds and discover ways they might have faced advantages or disadvantages because of their race, financial status, etc. This way, both minority and non-minority groups have a better understanding of each others’ challenges and can work together to create better conditions in and outside the workplace.
To get the conversation started, you can find resources and seminars online, like this article from Harvard Business Review, that explain privilege and allyship and how to promote inclusivity in a non-performative way.
Pro-tip: Ensure you emphasize that they are in a safe, no-judgment zone so that they feel comfortable enough to freely discuss, ask and answer questions, and learn from each other.
Get started by learning about how every member of a team can become an inclusive leader with the video below.
Team sharing and discussions
11. Pair and shares
These diversity, equity, and inclusion team building activities are straightforward and can be carried out often because all it involves is team members talking to each other.
To get it started, either pair employees up or separate them into smaller groups, then create different virtual rooms for each group to meet and discuss.
The goal is for team members to discover qualities, experiences, or interests they have in common, as well as those that are different.
This exercise encourages people to get to know their colleagues better and helps strengthen relationships between team members, which results in better teamwork.
12. The name story
One of the easiest inclusive team building activities that almost everyone can participate in is the name story.
Set up a virtual meeting, then have team members take turns sharing their full names and their backstory.
For example, they could answer questions like:
“Why were you given that name?”
“Were you named after someone special?”
“Does your name have a special meaning in your native language?”
“Do you have any nicknames? And if yes, how did you get it?”
The aim of this activity is to share family and cultural stories, gain insight into each other’s backgrounds, and get to understand each other better. It can also foster conversations and help team members find things in common with each other.
13. Life away from the office
This activity gives team members the chance to get a glimpse of their coworkers’ lives outside of the office.
You can use different prompts to get the discussion started in a group. For example,
“The best part of my weekend is…”
“If you knew me, you’d know…”
“The worst part of this week has been…”
“I enjoy doing…in my free time.”
An exercise like this allows employees to talk about the highs and lows they face in their everyday lives and helps people understand what their coworkers go through before and after office hours. It can also encourage empathy, patience, and better working relationships.
14. Discuss defining moments
Everyone has defining moments that have shaped their lives, and in a team made up of people from different backgrounds, it can be interesting and enlightening to see how everyone got to where they are.
This exercise not only creates awareness but can also help team members bond, be more empathetic towards one another, and strengthen relationships.
To facilitate this,
- Ask team members to write down two or three of their most defining moments (either on paper or on a shared virtual whiteboard for others to see).
- Open the floor for each person to take turns sharing a little bit more about these shaping moments. Let them know that they can share as little or as much as they feel comfortable doing.
- At the end of the exercise, thank everyone for their involvement and encourage them to share what they’ve learned, either about each other or the activity.
Keep in mind that this is one of those diversity team building activities that require transparency and vulnerability, so try to create a safe space where people can open up and feel listened to.
15. I am, but I am not
This team building activity allows employees to confront and pull down misconceptions often associated with their identifying race, religion, gender, etc. The goal of the game is for team members to establish their identities outside of false stereotypes and get to know each other better.
- Have each person take a piece of paper or create an online document with two columns.
- The heading on one column should say ‘I AM’, while the other should be headed with ‘I AM NOT’.
- Team members can then fill the ‘I AM’ column with their common identifiers, and fill the ‘I AM NOT’ column with false stereotypes about that group.
For example, “I AM a woman, but I AM NOT weak.”
Although an exercise like this can be uncomfortable, it effectively clears several misconceptions and stereotypes.
16. First impressions
Have each person give you two or three interesting facts about themselves. Once they’ve all submitted their answers, invite everyone to a virtual meeting.
Start by reading out one fact at a time, and have everyone guess who each fact belongs to using a real-time poll maker. At the end of each vote, the corresponding owner reveals themselves.
This exercise is easy to set up and is a way for people to learn fun facts about each other.
17. Employee resource groups
Employee resource groups are groups of team members who come together based on shared identities and experiences.
These groups offer a safe space for employees to be their most authentic selves, and it helps them improve their communication as they get to know each other better.
More than that, because ERGS are employee-led, it is one of the most effective diversity team building activities.
You can encourage this activity by creating dedicated virtual channels for ERGS to meet regularly, connect with and support one another, answer questions, and share helpful information.
Different ERGS can also take turns hosting virtual events that the entire team can attend, like cultural/identity group celebrations, lectures, or movie hours.
18. Create opportunities for team members to take the lead
Promoting diversity in leadership is still an issue that many workplaces struggle with, which is why this activity is so important. It helps team members build their confidence and allows them to see themselves as worthy and capable of taking up leadership roles.
There are a few ways to go about this activity. One way is by encouraging employee-led meetings, where team members are chosen to lead a few monthly meetings.
You can also have employees take the lead on smaller projects, if possible. By answering questions they have and providing access to guidance, you increase their chances of success in these tasks.
However, know that creating opportunities for leadership doesn’t end with encouraging team members to lead meetings. To take it a step further, your company can make leadership resources, classes, and mentorship available to interested employees. You can also embrace a culture of upward mobility so that employees know that career progression within the company is a possibility.
19. Establish ground rules for meetings
Virtual meetings make it easy for some team members to feel lost in the noise and unable to make any contributions, either because they don’t think their opinions would be acknowledged and valued or because they are more soft-spoken.
Establishing ground rules for meetings can eliminate interruptions and make people feel more included and heard.
For example, a simple ground rule can be making everyone mute themselves and use the raising hand emoji whenever they want to speak. This way, no one can speak unless called upon.
20. Create a list of inclusive language
You can make team members feel more comfortable and included by promoting inclusive language in the workplace.
Get the ball rolling by first explaining the meaning of inclusive terms and why it is important for people to add them to their vocabulary.
You can then give examples of inclusive language, some of which include:
- Gender-neutral terms like ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’ or ‘chairwoman’
- Preferred pronouns like ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’
- Person-first language like ‘person with a disability’ instead of ‘disabled person’
Afterward, you can encourage team members to share the inclusive terms that apply to them and what other terms they think should be added to the list.
To ensure that people become more conscious of their language, you can include a lighthearted consequence like putting a small amount of money in an online money jar every time someone uses a non-inclusive term.
21. Volunteer online
Volunteering as a team building exercise is no longer limited to on-site teams. You can now have your remote team make a real impact by encouraging them to signup to be online volunteers.
Online volunteering will help them step outside their comfort zones and do good for the world. It also presents them with the opportunity to learn more about different countries, communities, and social groups and how they can help them.
Pro-tip: Separate your team into different groups and have each group pick a cause to volunteer for. They can choose to volunteer for as little as an hour to as long as a few weeks. Upon completion, each group can then educate the rest of the team on what they did and what they learned.
22. Ask your team what activities they want to do
Sometimes, the most effective team building activities are the ones team members WANT to participate in, so try asking them what they want to do.
You can separate them into smaller groups and have each group develop a fun activity that still highlights diversity, equity, and inclusion. You might be surprised at what they come up with and how they bond in the process.
Once they’ve come up with ideas, all you have to do is help set it up.
23. Celebrate diverse holidays
If you have team members from different countries, cultures, and identity groups, one of the ways to make them feel seen and valued is by celebrating the holidays that are significant to them.
Celebrating more than the standard holidays can help create awareness, improve team bonding, and is one of the more fun diversity team building activities.
Some diverse holidays to consider observing include:
- Black History Month (February - March)
- Asian Pacific Heritage Month (May)
- Diwali (October/November)
- Hanukkah (November/December)
- International Day of Disabled Persons (December 3rd)
- Kwanzaa (December/January)
Honoring these occasions could involve arranging workshops to learn more about the holiday, planning fun virtual parties or games, or even giving employees a day off to celebrate.
Pro-tip: Alongside personal research, ask the relating team member how they think the holiday can be observed in the workplace.
24. Quote of the day
If you’re looking for an activity that requires minimal effort, Quote of the Day is the way to go. All it involves is choosing a new quote every day to share with your team. Ideally, the quotes should be from well-known figures who are a part of diverse communities.
Quotes can highlight different identities, be motivational, educational, or even funny.
Once you’ve shared one for the day, provide a brief profile of the public figure, and encourage team members also to do their research and share any new information they find.
A simple task like this can introduce employees to new, prominent individuals from diverse backgrounds and prompt them to learn more about different communities.
25. What’s your preference?
Orchestrate a lively game of ‘what’s your preference?’ to encourage team members to let loose and enjoy each others’ differences.
To play this game, create a list of options and separate everyone into smaller groups based on their small personal preferences. Then have opposing groups participate in lighthearted discussions about why they chose their preference over the other.
For example, tea vs. coffee lovers and social media users vs. non-social media users can have fun debates about their choices.
This activity is great because it makes people more comfortable with sharing little things about themselves that otherwise might not have come up.
What are diversity, equity, and inclusion team building activities, and why are they important?
To understand what diversity, equity, and inclusion team building activities are, we must first address the meaning of these terms:
- Diversity: Refers to the different characteristics and identities that make people different from each other. This includes gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, age, etc.
- Equity: Ensuring that everyone is given access to justice, fair treatment, and equal opportunity, regardless of their different identities.
- Inclusion: Creating a culture of respect and support, where everyone feels included, heard, and able to contribute while remaining their most authentic selves.
When you put all these together, DEI team building activities educate on and celebrate differences within your team. They also help all employees feel like integrated, appreciated, and valued members of your company.
Why do such activities matter?
Embracing diversity doesn’t end with hiring diverse people. You need to ensure your employees show up to work every day feeling a sense of belonging. These team building activities help increase their productivity, overall work satisfaction and improve talent retention.
Some other benefits include:
- Teaches employees how to interact with people of different backgrounds in a respectful way
- Helps team members understand and communicate with each other better
- Highlights leadership qualities in employees
- Improves morale and motivation
- Strengthens working relationships
- Minimizes conflict in the workplace
- Breaks down unconscious biases
- Encourages creativity
To establish a culture of inclusivity and equity in the workplace, you need to be proactive in ensuring that your employees feel seen, valued, and included.
You can achieve this by putting together a DEI training program packed with some of these interactive team building activities. These exercises are ideal for remote teams and help team members embrace their differences, learn more about each other, and work cohesively together.
That said, it is important to know that your DEI strategy is a continuous process and can always be improved. You can explore more of our resources, including communication team building activities, in-office team building ideas, and virtual activities that are free to help you stay ahead of the curve.
What is virtual team building?
Virtual team building consists of activities and procedures to help build and sustain a strong bond between remote team members by utilizing virtual communication technologies.
It allows employees to understand and trust each other, and facilitates better working relationships. These activities can help remote teams work together as effectively as in-office teams when implemented correctly. You can choose a team building app to help you do activities with your team.
Why is remote team building important?
Some key benefits of remote team building include increased trust, improved communication, and better conflict resolution between team members. This way, team members work better together and produce high-quality output.
On a more individual level, remote team building helps people feel less lonely by providing opportunities for them to relate with their colleagues. It can also enhance job satisfaction and uncover hidden skills and talents within the team.
What are diversity and inclusion activities?
These refer to a set of activities (including but not limited to games, training sessions, and celebrations) that help employees from different countries, cultures, backgrounds, and identity groups feel like important and integrated members of your team.
Efforts like these help establish a culture of continuous learning, respect, and open and honest communication between team members. They also increase motivation and ensure that diverse team members feel like their voices are valued in the company.
What are some diversity topics?
A few diversity topics to address in your DEI training include race, cultural diversity, disability, microaggression, LGBTQ+, and generational diversity.
It is crucial to properly educate your team on these topics, as it helps unite diverse employees and fosters a positive working environment. You can also highlight the fact that a workplace that thrives embraces diversity and inclusion.
How do you make diversity training fun?
As important as DEI training is, it can also feel tedious if it only consists of lectures and seminars.
To make it a bit more interesting, you can try implementing entertaining yet educational games, celebrating diverse holidays, and hosting activities that include food, art, and books. Also, consider using team building software to help lighten the load for team leads.
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