Team-building activities can often be met by employees with groans. The thing is, they’re effective and are needed.
Employees are different people and see things in their own unique ways. This can cause conflict when working in teams. The right team-building exercise can bring people together to see things similarly and smooth over any cracks in the foundation.
Signs that indicate a team needs help are a lack of clarity when it comes to team goals, not achieving those goals, and meetings that lack focus and are unproductive.
But there don’t have to be cracks in the foundation to implement team-building activities. Any team can benefit from learning new skills and building on what they learned previously. In fact, it’s better to consistently use team-building activities before you see problems creeping up.
How can you get employees to get on board with team-building activities? And how do you choose the right team-building exercises for your people?
With all the stress the pandemic brought and with the uncertainty of the economy, it’s hard to go wrong with fun-based, team activities. A lot of companies are turning to these types of activities because laughter is the best medicine and it helps improve morale.
Other things to consider when selecting team-building activities are:
- Goals: What do you want to accomplish? Whatever activity you choose, make sure it has a clear purpose.
- Budget: How much money do you have in your budget to put toward these activities?
- Time: How much time can you take out of your day/week/month to do an activity?
12 team-building activities
Here are some fun team-building activities you might want to try:
Escape room activities can be done in person or virtually. As an employee team-building activity, virtual escape rooms are easier because, like a Zoom meeting, they can be done no matter where employees are located. They typically take about an hour and can accommodate any number of employees whether it’s a team of 10 or 120.
If it’s a large group, employees are broken down into smaller groups to solve their own puzzle room. The puzzles are varied and require different skills to solve them. Each player has the chance to figure something out, but it requires working together to solve the puzzles to get out.
It’s a great exercise in group dynamics, and a great activity for self-reflection on teamwork and leadership.
Outdoor adventure activities
On a beautiful weather day, outdoor activities can be a lot of fun. They range from anything like a field day with tug of war contests and relay races, to a glider building competition, to a cornhole tournament, to white water rafting, to hiking, to rock climbing and the list goes on.
When it’s nice out, the sky’s the limit. Any activity where employees can be broken up into teams and work together to win a contest is good. However, employers need to be conscious of people who have physical limitations. Make sure the activities are something they can participate in too, even if it’s being a timer or a judge.
Aside from getting out of the office and enjoying the great outdoors, these activities often provide a lot of laughter, which releases endorphins – “the feel-good hormones.” And when employees feel better, they’re more productive. They also push people out of their comfort zone, reveal hidden talents and common bonds, reduce feelings of isolation and elevate employee morale.
Cooking or baking classes
Whether your employees have culinary skills or not, cooking classes are a great way for employees to bond.
Cooking together allows people to relax and have a little fun, while chopping vegetables, stirring a sauce or setting a table. People can talk and find out more about each other.
Cooking can also go wrong. If the sauce burns or someone drops an essential ingredient on the floor, participants must stop and think about what plan B is and how they’ll solve the problem together and produce a finished, delicious meal.
The benefits include promoting teamwork, boosting team spirit, improving self-confidence, learning something new, problem-solving, getting to know each other better and being creative.
Volunteering/community service projects
Volunteering or doing community service projects allows employees to engage and bond with each other while giving back to a worthwhile cause.
For example, maybe a local park is looking kind of shabby. Departments can take an afternoon off and break up into teams. One team can pick up trash, another can pull weeds and plant flowers, and another can put a fresh coat of paint on things.
There are a lot of ways to volunteer. Make it someone’s job to find local groups that need help and how your employees can help.
While volunteering as a team helps employees interact, engage and bond with each other, it also gives the activity meaning by being able to work together to support a good cause. Doing so gives employees a stronger connection with each other and their employers.
“Ninety-three percent of employees who volunteer through their company report being happy with their employer, and 54% of those who are proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged at work,” found a study by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.
Problem-solving is a vital skill to have no matter where you work. But it would appear that it’s a missing skill among many recent grads.
In fact, 60% of hiring managers in a PayScale study identified “critical thinking/problem-solving as the most commonly lacking soft skill in recent grads.”
Problem-solving activities not only help improve these deductive reasoning skills, but when done as a team activity, they bond team members.
They’re also fun. Take for example the marshmallow spaghetti tower game where employees work in small groups only using pasta, marshmallows, tape and string to build the tallest freestanding tower in 30 minutes.
Another fun puzzle is the reverse pyramid puzzle. Break employees up into teams of 10. Have them stand in the form of a pyramid. Now have them flip the pyramid upside down so four people are at the top and one is at the bottom. The catch is you can only move three people. This promotes problem-solving, collaboration and strategic thinking.
Creative or artistic projects
Creative/artistic team-building activities are events everyone can participate in. Plus, they’re fun.
For example, do a painting portrait activity. Pair employees up and have partners sit across from each other. Then, have them paint their partner’s portrait. But before you start, let them know that all levels of artistic ability are welcomed and all styles of painting are embraced. Encourage partners to chat freely while painting. Then when the paintings are dry, line them up against a wall and listen to the howls of laughter.
On a more serious note, you could paint a mosaic on the side of a building to beautify a neighborhood. Employees can also add beauty to the office by taking canvases, drawing different mosaic patterns on them, painting them and then hanging them on a wall together. This reminds team members about the fun they had and that they’re part of something bigger … the mosaic and the organization.
It’s likely that your team hasn’t been on a scavenger hunt since they were kids. But scavenger hunts are a great way for teams to bond while having fun. Plus, they’re customizable and require employees to use their problem-solving, communication and collaboration skills to solve the clues and find the items.
Scavenger hunts can be held inside the office, around the building or in a town or city – depending on how long you want the activity to run. They’re high-energy activities that’ll help reduce stress and fill the halls with laughter.
You can make items easy to find like a post-it, something with the company logo on it or a Starbucks cup. Or make it a little harder to find, like contact solution, a three-hole punch, etc.
Using riddles as clues make it even more challenging for the team and the creator. Not to mention the fact that working on puzzles/riddles reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed and improves short-term memory.
Sports or fitness activities
Something as simple as playing softball as a company or having group fitness classes, like yoga or Pilates, are great ways for team members to bond and work together while getting some exercise.
Physical activity is also a great way to relieve stress and promote a better work/life balance. It pushes employees out of their comfort zones and to discover new talents all while having a bit of fun. And let’s face it, sometimes it’s just nice to let loose and not think all that hard.
Plus, being on a team and having a bit of friendly competition builds bonds among teammates and teaches people how to lose gracefully.
Board game tournaments
It’s true, some people are uncomfortable with team-building activities. They say it feels forced. But board games are a common pastime in many households. You’d be hard-pressed to find an employee who hasn’t played or enjoyed playing a board game.
That’s why board game tournaments are a great team-building activity – they don’t feel forced. Most people are comfortable playing them, and everyone knows what the purpose of a board game is – to win!
When looking for a good board game, it should accommodate large parties and require teamwork to win the game. Some games that fit this category are Apples to Apples, Telestrations, Scattergories, etc. Some board games for virtual play include Head Up, Pictionary, Who Is This Kid, Boggle, etc.
The benefits of playing board games are employees forget about work for a short time and have fun. They improve cognitive processes, like memory and critical thinking, sharpen teamwork skills and encourage team bonding.
Who doesn’t like trivia? Most people do. Just look at the popularity of Jeopardy.
Hosting a trivia game where teams compete against each other in a variety of categories is a great team bonding activity, especially if you intermix teams from different departments. It’s a fun, lighthearted way for teams to learn more about each other and showcase their knowledge and skills.
It’s also very flexible and can be done virtually or in the office. Not to mention the fact trivia categories can be about anything. Just avoid categories about the company. The activity should allow employees to detach from work and just enjoy their co-workers.
The benefits include improving memory, expanding players’ knowledge base, boosting problem-solving skills and promoting social interaction.
Team lunches or dinners
Team lunches and dinners involve taking the team out for a meal and encouraging them to sit with different people and get to know each other better. People can relax and enjoy their co-workers learning more about each other.
It shows your appreciation, and employees who feel appreciated are happy and productive employees.
However, times are tough and if there’s no money in the budget to go out to eat, you could always do a potluck meal around a theme like Mexican Monday or Favorite Food Friday. Encourage employees to share their recipes. You can also make it a celebration of quarterly birthdays and anniversaries.
Eating together gets people talking – but not about work – and bonding. Believe it or not, groups that eat together perform better together. At least that’s what Kevin Kniffin, who was a visiting assistant professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University, and his colleagues found.
“Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work,” said Kniffin, who is the study’s author. “From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplaces.”
He even goes on to say that organizations “would do better to consider their expenditures on cafeterias as investments in employee performance.”
Most people probably don’t think of a talent show as a team-building activity, but it is. Talent shows encourage employees to showcase their talents with their colleagues. It is a fun and lighthearted way for team members to learn more about each other and have a good time.
Not everyone has to participate – you need an audience to perform for!
Even if some employees don’t participate, they’ll reach out to the participants and say things like “I never knew you could play guitar. You’re really good!” or “I didn’t know you could juggle. That’s amazing!” It’s all about bonding and learning more about the people you work with.
And for those who perform, it’s a chance to let loose and show off their talents a little.
Keys for successful team-building activities
These are all great team-building activities. But to have them be successful it’s important to:
- Clearly communicate the goals and purpose of the activity
- Encourage participation and collaboration from all team members
- Make the activity fun and enjoyable, but also challenging, and
- Follow up on the activity to discuss any lessons learned and how they can be applied in the workplace.
All these activities help teams get closer to each other, and be happier and more comfortable in the workplace so they can produce their best work.