Team bonding activities can be an effective strategy for building a strong, cohesive workforce. Although working together may give your employees a glimpse into their coworkers’ personalities and work styles, it doesn’t always foster the team dynamic that bonding activities can help you build – company-wide.
But, don’t think that means forcing “trust falls” on your employees. Extreme or embarrassing activities like this have given team building a bad name in some circles.
Done right, however, team bonding activities can encourage your workforce to step out of their normal routines, break down barriers and strengthen relationships among coworkers. Establishing a personal connection is critical for building trust. When employees are engaged, they’re often more productive and are even less likely to quit. So, investing in activities that naturally help your team bond is a smart move.
For team building activities to be successful, follow these three important steps:
It’s essential to include every single member of the team, whenever feasible. Don’t forget remote workers, or sales representatives who are in the office less frequently. Make sure to schedule the event at a convenient time for everyone if possible. Also, give plenty of advance notice if you’re scheduling an event after regular business hours or on the weekend. That way, parents can arrange for childcare, and employees without children can also make changes to their schedules as needed.
Choose fun yet appropriate activities
You want your employees to anticipate your team building activity, not dread it. Keep your team members in mind before making a choice. For example, escape rooms are all the rage right now but might be nerve-wracking for claustrophobic or anxious employees. Similarly, while some team members may feel right at home on an outdoor ropes course, it may terrify those afraid of heights. And it should go without saying, but if someone on your team is a recovering alcoholic, don’t plan a mandatory happy hour. The key is to know your employees and plan appropriately.
Tailor activities to your team bonding goals
What are you trying to get out of the activity? Is having fun your goal, or do you want to foster trust and more effective communication throughout your organization? A team lunch or dinner may be good for general bonding, but a more structured and challenging activity might be better for teams needing to improve how they work together. Choose an activity that matches your expectations.
Ideas for team bonding activities
Drawing a blank on what to do? Concerned that you don’t have the funds for it? Conduct a quick Google search, and you’ll find an overwhelming number of options for team building activities. Here are a few tried-and-true favorites, and some new ideas you might not have considered, that’ll help you get started on any budget.
1. Affirmation game
Instruct each team member to write their name at the top of a piece of paper and pass it to the right. As the piece of paper circulates, everyone writes something they appreciate about that person, for example, “Maria is great at delivering on her promises,” or “David is a terrific speaker.” At the end of the game, everyone gets their piece of paper back filled with affirmations.
Good for: Helping team members appreciate their own talents and the talents of their team members.
2. Cookie decorating party
Have someone bake cookies ahead of time, or buy some plain sugar cookies from your local bakery or grocery store. Supply frosting, piping bags, sprinkles and decorative sugar. Then let your employees decorate to their hearts’ content. To spice it up, award a prize to the employee with the best-decorated cookie. The prize can be something like leaving work early, jeans all week or a gift card. This is a great winter holiday event, but it can be done in any season for a change of pace.
Good for: Giving your employees quality time with each other, and an opportunity to be creative.
3. “Who’s my match?” game
Prepare name tags for each guest at the activity, using the names of famous figures from a well-known partnership or duo, such as “Beyoncé” and “Jay-Z,” or things that go together, like “peanut butter” and “jelly.” Give each employee a random name tag, which they keep secret. They must ask other guests questions to find their match. The other players can only answer “yes” or “no,” and players can’t ask specifically about a character’s name. For example, questions like, “Are you Beyonce?” are not allowed. Instead, you should ask questions like, “Is Houston your hometown?” or “Is your daughter named Blue Ivy?” The game ends when everyone has found a match.
Good for: Breaking the ice for new teams, or teams whose members don’t know each other well.
4. Birthday celebrations or lunches
Schedule monthly events to celebrate office birthdays, or if you’re trying to promote a healthier work environment, plan a regular lunch gathering instead. If you can, hold the lunch outside the office at a favorite restaurant, or make it a picnic or potluck if the weather’s nice.
Good for: A regular opportunity to connect for different events and milestones.
5. Improv theater class
Local theatre companies often offer corporate classes on improvisational acting. Students learn to perform together under pressure, just like the pros.
Good for: Getting employees to work better together; encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones and think on their feet.
6. Entertainment centers
These mini amusement parks offer something for everyone. Activities may include bowling, video games, laser tag, golf and more.
Good for: Employees with a wide range of interests. Offers opportunities for informal bonding and friendly competition.
7. Painting party
Host a painting party at a local paint-and-sip studio (non-alcoholic beverages can be served if you prefer). Everyone in the group can work to contribute to a large painting or work individually, depending on the team’s preference.
Good for: Encouraging collaboration.
8. Cooking class
Work together to prepare and cook savory appetizers, luscious desserts or even a multi-course gourmet meal. Some classes feature food challenges for an added element of competition.
Good for: Learning new skills and working under pressure (while enjoying tasty creations made together).
9. Volunteer projects
Serving others as a team is a great way to bond, and it gives your employees a chance to give back. Volunteering is especially important to millennial employees. In fact, according to members of this generation polled for the 2016 Millennial Impact report, 52% gave money to charity in the previous month and 46% gave their time.
Projects could include serving lunch to the homeless, building homes for a housing charity, sending cards to overseas troops, stocking the pantries of a local food bank or myriad other philanthropic endeavors.
Good for: Opportunities for various departments to work together as a team, and for employees to use hidden skills.
10. Attending a sporting event
There’s nothing like cheering for your hometown team to inspire camaraderie. Most major league sporting teams offer group rates on tickets. If you’re in a smaller town, try attending a minor league, college or even high school game.
Good for: Fostering team spirit through shared experiences and objectives.
11. Renting a suite at a concert or sporting event
Many companies rent out stadium suites to entertain clients. Why not do the same for your employees, if your budget permits? They’ll enjoy the first-class view of the entertainment, savory snacks and the chance to mingle with their coworkers. The memories made will be the fodder of water-cooler chatter for weeks and months to come.
Good for: Showing your employees you appreciate them; opportunities for employees to get to know each other better in a relaxed environment.
12. Offsite retreats
Location, location, location. Getting away from the office can make all the difference to tired teams stuck in a rut. Depending on what you want to accomplish, and your budget, you can book a corporate retreat that is serious and structured (to hash out next year’s business plan), or informal and focused on relaxation (to celebrate record profits). Just choose a location that’s fun and interesting.
Good for: Annual planning and rewarding employees.
Though often maligned, team bonding activities are an important and worthwhile investment for business leaders, especially if you’re putting together a new team, have hired many new employees, or sense dissension in the ranks.
Team building activities get us out of our normal day-to-day routines and help us see each other as humans. That’s important – because we often spend more time with our coworkers than our actual family. When employees genuinely respect each other and enjoy working together, it creates a synergy that inspires everyone to do their best work as a team. And that can lead to greater productivity, increased efficiency and endless innovation for your business.
For more ideas on how to build a unified workforce, download our free magazine, The Insperity Guide to Employee Engagement.