Virtual Team Building Activities: How to Tie a Shoelace

A whole new world

Technology has changed the way we live, work, and play. Employers have virtual workers scattered throughout the globe. In the traditional workplace, managers had the ability to connect with employees throughout the day. Team building occurred naturally as the workers communicated with one another over the course of the day. But with the modern workplace often consisting of workers in home offices or satellite offices across the country, it takes creativity to motivate and empower workers. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 379 HR professionals from its membership, and found that 66 percent of multinational companies were more than twice as likely to have virtual teams. By contrast, only 28 percent of U.S. based companies used virtual teams.

What is a virtual team?

A virtual team, as defined by SHRM, consists of workers who mostly interact electronically with the organization, and “who work across space, time and organizational boundaries.” The challenges managers face when leading teams who are separated by time zones, culture, language, and distance can be overcome by strategically designing an empowered team. Team building exercises and activities help a manager connect on multiple levels with his or her employees. Here is a simple team building exercise that can be modified by the manager as needed.

How to tie a shoelace exercise

This exercise is appropriate for people of any age or ability. Divide workers into teams or pairs. Managers can decide what is most effective. The object is for teams to write clear process instructions. Team members who are separated by time and space can communicate with one another via telephone, email, or instant messaging. The idea is for the members to brainstorm together and collaborate on the finished presentation.
To make the exercise more challenging, the manager can add other criteria such:

  • Type of audience – choose from people who don’t speak English as their native language; people with learning disabilities; or young people
  • Type of shoe – running shoe, work boot, etc

Evaluate the collaborations by judging if the teams adhered to some of the following:

  • Process – what type, if any process was used. Numbered or bulleted lists are best.
  • Clarity – are the words or language simple to understand? Is it easy to read?
  • Pictures or diagrams – did anyone use drawings, pictures, etc?
  • Creativity – did the team think outside of the box and make a video?
  • Use of elements – the word ‘aglet” is the thin plastic tube on the end of the lace. Did anyone use this term? Not necessary, but shows detail-oriented thinking.

It is important for virtual team members to feel connected with other members and management. Simple actions such as weekly conference calls, team chats, group emails, or shared work folders are common ways to keep everyone connected. Team building is not impossible with virtual teams, but it does require creativity and commitment on the part of the manager.

Learn how virtual teams use Lessonly’s training software to stay on the same page here.

Image source: Giphy. Exercise originally found on

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