Team Building Activities Your Team Will Love

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 30, 2020
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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When you hear the words “team building activity,” you might (understandably) groan a bit. Thoughts of trust falls and other corny office stereotypes might fill your mind. Team building exercises get a bad rap, but if you put a little thought and effort into them, you can transform them into something fun, useful, and effective.

Team building involves working towards common goals, building great working relationships, clarifying team roles, and searching for solutions to problems. They are excellent ways of practicing your own skills and learning to work well with others.

Join us in learning about the value and use of team building, as well as tons of suggestions for amazing team building opportunities.

What Is Team Building?

Team building is a term that refers to many various practices and activities intended to strengthen relationships between colleagues, enhance collaboration and creativity, and define team roles. Team Building activities can help teams better understand and address interpersonal issues while building positive experiences amongst coworkers.

It is related to – but distinctly different from – human resource development activities such as structured training and courses. While human resource development is focused on strategically improving the efficiency and skillset of a workforce, team building activities are looser, more fun ways to create a more closely bonded team.

Team building activities are utilized by organizational groups of all stripes, from schools to sports teams, even to military colleagues. Team building aims to slowly but surely optimize group dynamics and performance, as well as ensure that all team members maintain positive professional relationships and develop great communication skills.

Team building includes special events or activities, but it also includes day-to-day measures that can be taken to help facilitate teams to carry out their responsibilities in the best possible ways. Creating natural, daily team building interactions helps create a great working environment for everyone.

More structured or formal activities are also great ways to push your team out of their comfort zone, learn new skills, and bond over a shared experience. You can even utilize a trained facilitator or team-building company to take your team activities to the next level.

How Team Building Works

When done properly, team building can be one of the most effective strategies for improving organizational performance. It optimizes a team’s performance while at the same time increasing employees’ positive feelings about their workplace and their own abilities.

Team building can be approached from four main areas: goal-setting, clarifying roles, improving interpersonal relationships, and solving problems. Team building has been proven to increase team effectiveness, and it can benefit teams experiencing process issues and interpersonal issues.

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The low-stakes environment allows room for growth and learning, all while improving relational, process, and performance outcomes. Many also find that team building reduces conflict among their staff while enhancing motivation by allowing employees to explore their own goals and aims.

Encouraging employees to participate in problem-solving activities helps create trust in their cognitive abilities while taking ownership of problems. The element of fun helps employees reduce stress and feel valued by their employer, facilitating open communication amongst colleagues.

The effectiveness of team building, however, comes down to how an organization carries it out. Pick activities that fit your company culture and incorporate team objectives.

Most importantly, if you’re creating a hostile work environment day-to-day, don’t expect employees to have much excitement or enjoyment of your fun team building activities.

Examples of Team Building Activities

  • Indoor Team Building Activities

    1. Create a Great Workspace. If team building and colleague relations are a top priority for you, consider how you can structure fun, relaxation, and creativity into your workspace.

      Toxic and draining work environments are one of the top reasons why so many workers end up fleeing to new jobs. Ditch the fluorescent lighting and tiny cubicle spaces that create a cold, unwelcoming environment and make an inviting space that brings out the best in your employees.

      Feel free to get creative here. Decorate with comfy couches and interesting artwork, put a ping pong table in the break room, fill a shelf with stress balls, Rubik’s cubes, and play-doh. Not only does this decrease stress, but it enhances creativity and provides the mental space for solving work problems.

    2. Good Time Journals. This activity comes from the book Designing Your Life, written by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It involves creating a daily log of your activities, along with an “engagement” and “energy” meter that you fill in to correspond with each activity. Each daily activity, along with its meters, is recorded in a journal for one to three weeks.

      “Engagement” refers to how interested, mentally-activated, and absorbed one feels while doing the task. “Energy” refers to whether this task gave you energy or drained you of energy. At the end of each week, review your journal and write some reflections to share with your team.

      This is a powerful activity to assign responsibilities better and help better understand yourself and your fellow coworkers. Tracking energy and engagement around tasks and discussing them with your team is a powerful activity that allows you to better understand and utilize your employees’ talents.

    3. Board Game Marathon. Team building doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive, or cutting edge to be effective. Good old fashioned board games are great at bringing people together, sharpening your strategizing skills, and promoting teamwork.

      Ask your team about some of their favorite board games, and turn their suggestions into an office board gaming session. Old, simple classics work just as well as newer, more involved board games.

      Board games offer a form of low stakes competition that can help your team build leadership skills, all while having some tried and true fun.

    4. Creativity Power Session. This is a quick, simple creativity-generating activity that can be used regularly to help generate ideas and take the pressure off always having the “right” answer

      Have each team member write five random words on five slips of paper. Once each employee has contributed their words, have them draw four random words out of the container.

      Then, take an issue faced at your office, a project you are working on, or any problem (it could also be a fun made-up one), and have each employee write a short solution, thought-provoking comment, questions, or other commentary that progresses this problem forward. However, whatever they write has to somehow incorporate the four random words they drew.

      This activity generates innovation by allowing a free-for-all brainstorm around an issue. Employees can make new connections they would have never made otherwise and are permitted to be a little bit silly.

    5. Question & Empathy Game. This card game allows you to get to know your team on a deep, personal level. Understanding your team’s motivations and values is one of the most important ways to build mutual trust and respect in a working environment.

      The cards are divided into seven “empathic archetypes” with varying questions about your values, motivation, experiences, and life. Each person simply draws a card from the archetype they most identify with and answers the question honestly for the group.

      There are no “winners” and “losers,” and the game can be played for as short or as long a time as you want. This is a fantastic game if you are trying to foster an environment of compassion and vulnerability within your organization.

    6. Daily Question. This is a quick and easy daily ice breaker that can help you get to know your team a bit better. Every day at a specific time (top of the day/morning meetings work great), or every week on a specific day, have a new team member present a question to be answered by the whole team.

      Every team member gets their chance to answer during the session, and in time, each team member gets their chance to ask any thought-provoking question to their team.

      By getting to know your team’s minds and offering them a space to have their thoughts heard, you’ll have better collaboration and trust in your organization.

    7. Day of Learning. This is similar to a “hack day” but accessible to all departments and people (not just developers). Dedicate a day to employees pursuing and independently learning about any subject that interests them.

      Then, at the end of the day, invite each employee to give a short (around 60 seconds) presentation on what they learned. This is a cheap, easy, and low-pressure way to help your employees build skills that matter to them. It also offers an excellent opportunity to improve presentation skills in a low-stakes way.

    8. Office “Ted Talks.” If you’d like to approach your educational team building in a more formal, structured way, consider inviting a speaker to your office. This could be an expert, researcher, trained facilitator, or anyone with great presentation skills who can help your team learn something valuable.

      Get some team feedback about the kind of speakers they’d like to hear, and measure that against whatever you think your team may benefit from learning about. This can also be a great networking opportunity depending on who you invite.

    9. Appreciation Circle. This is a communication and empathy-building exercise that helps your team gain a new appreciation for their coworkers. The activity begins by sitting in a circle and going around that circle, inviting each person to say something they appreciate about the person to their right.

      Then, after each person has gone, you reverse the circle, and everyone says something they appreciate about the person to their left. This is an excellent activity for teams experiencing interpersonal problems, as it allows each employee to feel both appreciation and gratitude.

    10. Snack Kart. Everybody loves a snack. If you’re looking for a fun, simple way to improve your office morale, bring a snack kart through in the middle of the day with a fun food like ice cream or soft pretzels.

      Your team will get the chance to bond while enjoying their snacks, and it’s a fun surprise that helps change up the energy in a room.

  • Outdoor Team Building Activities

    1. Scavenger Hunt. A classic scavenger hunt adventure is a great way to bring your team together while exploring the local area. Simply create a scavenger hunt list based on your locale, divide up teams, and let the exploration begin.

      If you’d like, you can offer prizes for who can find the most items on the list, or you could just keep it fun and casual. It’s all about building teamwork amongst coworkers and having a good bit of fun.

    2. Brew Tour. If you’d like to explore the city and bond with your team in a less-competitive way, try a city brew tour. Many cities have brew tour buses that take you to the best breweries in town (and ensure that your team sticks together for some safe fun).

      While on the surface, it may not seem very business-like, casual hangouts like this are the best way to get to know people in a real, honest way. Bars are often hotbeds for networking, and getting a chance to practice their professional schmoozing skills will go a long way.

    3. Museum Tour. Similar to a brew tour, but a bit more traditionally educational and less boozy. Curate a museum tour based on your crew’s specific needs and interests, and have a fun day of museum exploration.

    4. Escape Room. Escape rooms are a fun, new real-life puzzle experience. They are locked rooms set up with small clues that a group of people must use to figure out how to escape. Take your team to an escape room and figure out how they work under pressure while having some fun getting to know each other.

      Escape rooms are a great way to see how your team naturally interacts to solve problems. It can be a great way of developing leadership skills, as eventually, one person or a group of people must rise up and make executive decisions.

    5. Go-Kart, Laser Tag, or Mini Golf Day. Take your team for a fun, active, low-stakes competitive activity like go-kart, laser tag, or mini-golf (bonus points if you can find a place that offers all three).

      It’s just plain fun, but it also allows you to see the roles and strategies your team members take on in competitive situations.

    6. Kickball League. Another way to incorporate fun, low-stakes competition into your work environment is to start an office kickball league. Have the team meet regularly once a week or once a month for some active, outdoor bonding time.

    7. Hiking Adventure. If you and your coworkers are the outdoorsy types, or if your office is near some incredible scenery, go on an office hiking trip. Hikes are great ways to get the creative juices going and are great spaces for conversation to flow.

    8. Sports Outing. Another great idea for a team outing is to offer tickets to a sports game. Promote your local sports team by getting out there with coworkers for a fun day. This helps your team kick back and relax, and you’ll even have a chance to talk strategy while you watch the game.

  • Remote Team Building Activities

    1. Online Team Building Games. If you’d like some great remote team building activities made easy, there are tons of options that cater specifically to this need. Teambuilding.com, letsroam.com, and quizbreaker.com all offer different, fun options for remote team building games.

      From quizzes to trivia to customized team building games, you’re sure to find something that suits your team’s needs. If you’d like something a bit more adventurous, you can even try an online escape room and test your team’s strategizing and problem-solving skills.

    2. Online Gaming Sessions. If you’d rather have a less office-focused gaming session while still encouraging teamwork and good strategizing skills, opt for a more traditional gaming experience. There are plenty of online video games available for your team to have their very own gaming marathon.

      Ask your team for suggestions on some of their favorite online games and pick the most popular suggestion. This could be anything from a casual phone game like Among Us to a complex and involved strategy game.

    3. Coffee and Chat. This is a great morning routine for your remote workers to check in with each other and set their objectives for the day. Set a morning meeting for your team and invite them to cozy up with their favorite morning beverage, like coffee or tea.

      During these sessions, each team member says what they are planning on doing that day. This is a great chance to ask follow-up questions and get everyone on the same page to create a smooth workday.

    4. Two Truths and a Lie. This is a fun ice breaker game that helps your team get to know each other a bit better in a fun and easy way. Each person makes three statements about themselves, two are the truth, and one is a lie. It’s up to the other team members to decide which statement is the lie.

      This is great for a newer team or a team with some new editions. It’s a pressure-free “get to know me” activity that most people are already familiar with in other contexts (thus, less explaining on your behalf).

    5. Find the Silver Lining. This is a powerful empathy and communication activity that also helps your team build creative thinking skills. Each person tells an unfortunate story from their life – a horrible first date, a bad vacation, or any other mishap that sticks in their memory.

      The other participants in the game will then try and point out the “silver linings,” the moments or details that could be seen as positives or good things in this story. This is a great way to get your team to feel like a team. It encourages working together and supporting one another.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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