Are your team members looking a little down these days? Is their output lackluster? Are they talking but not truly hearing each other? You may feel all is hopeless. But many successful companies, like Uber and Zappos, found a fix: team building!
In this article, we share the secret to creating harmonious and productive teams. We cover the basics of team building and how to conduct team building activities and games. We also go over some of the most effective and fun team building games, including indoor and outdoor team building activities, quick team building ideas, games for small groups, and free team building activities.
Table of Contents
What is the purpose of team building activities?
Why are team building activities important?
What are the four main types of team building activities?
Team Building Activities:
What are team building activities?
Team building activities are games, exercises, tasks, or events designed to develop cohesion between individual members of a team. They aim to be fun and engaging while simultaneously improving the skills required of a high-performing team.
Various case studies and assessments have shown that team building activities can greatly improve communication, problem-solving, and trust among teammates. They also encourage creativity, enhance collaboration, and boost morale!
These games and activities can take place in just about any setting and at any time of day. They can be simple or complex, lengthy or short, silly or serious — it’s really up to you! Just pick an activity that’s well-constructed and addresses the aspects of teamwork you want to improve.
What is the purpose of team building activities?
Team building activities benefit groups because they improve key aspects of working effectively together on a team.
This is one of the most important elements of great teamwork. A study from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory found that a variety of successful teams all had several traits in common involving communication skills. One shared trait is that team members take breaks together. Another is that they discuss non-work topics. Playing team building games offers team members a break in the day and allows them to chat about things beyond work.
Some of the very best team building activities improve group collaboration, which spells success for your company. A large-scale study reported that companies that encouraged collaboration were 5 times more likely to be high-performing.
Many team building games require the players to get creative. When employees are comfortable thinking in new, out-of-the-box ways, innovation follows. Creative thinkers find solutions that were otherwise not obvious, which improves how your company operates.
Develop Problem Solving Skills
Many team building games center on solving a problem. When your employees face problems or dilemmas in a playful environment, their ability to problem-solve at work increases. Finding solutions to problems quickly lets employees get back to the task at hand.
Some team building activities and games involve trusting others in a low-risk situation. Obstacle courses, for example, present team members with the chance to rely on each other in a non-work context. When faced with a higher-risk situation, like completing a work project, a sense of trust has already been established.
As teammates get to know one another better they learn to appreciate their similarities and differences, recognize each other’s talents and weak spots, and understand how each of them has an important contribution to the team. Strong interpersonal relationships mean that your company is well-equipped to tackle collaborative projects as a team.
Laughter and a general sense of happiness are essential to a positive work environment. Luckily, team building games can be really fun! After completing non-work challenges, teams develop a sense of pride that carries over to work tasks. Team building activities can also show individual members that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
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Why are team building activities important?
Team building activities make employees happier! Some major contributing factors to an employee’s well-being are having positive interactions with colleagues, being comfortable communicating with others, having trust in their teammates, and feeling positive about work.
Also, team building games can help create a relaxed atmosphere which makes for happier employees. “Relaxed” doesn’t mean non-productive. On the contrary, a relaxed workplace can increase productivity. A stressful office environment can prevent employees from focusing, cause worker burnout, and even lead to workplace conflicts.
Happy workers tend to produce their best output and are willing to go that extra mile for their employers. Findings from a study by the London School of Economics were “suggestive of a strong, positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance.”
All in all, regularly conducting team building games can lead to increased productivity, larger profitability, and higher retention rates.
What are the four main types of team building activities?
Good communication is one of the most significant components of an effective team. That’s why so many team building activities demand solid communication between team members. The communication skills learned from team building activities carry over into team relationships.
Team building games encourage employees to practice their problem-solving skills in a low-pressure environment. When faced with a high-stakes problem at work, they’ll be ready!
Creative thinking is one of the most common aspects of team building games and activities. The more you challenge your employees to think creatively, the better they will get at it! Your company then reaps the reward of having an innovative, forward-thinking workforce.
Trust among team members takes time to develop. A large number of team building activities feature trust-building as the main goal. The more opportunities your team has to develop a sense of trust, the sooner they will be able to work smoothly and confidently together.
What are the best team building activities for work?
The best team building activities for work are those that address your team’s weaknesses or enhance their strengths. However, there are simply too many awesome team building activities and games to say which are objectively the best.
Be warned! Some team building games might seem downright silly but make no mistake, these are team building games for adults, all of which have the chance to develop your team!
Team Building Games for the Office
1. Office Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are a fun, active game to get your team moving. The best part is you can do a small version right in the office! A scavenger hunt works best when your group is split into teams. This fosters collaboration as teams work together to locate a list of objects by solving clues. The first team to complete the task wins!
Office scavenger hunts are one of many excellent team building games for work. You can hold a scavenger hunt for new employees as a way for them to get to know the office and other newbies! If your company has changed locations, a scavenger hunt can familiarize employees with the new landscape.
2. Share Your Personality
This activity is a way for your employees to understand each other a little more. Have your group members fill out a team building personality test. Afterward, try grouping people with similar personalities together to discuss how their shared traits help or hurt them in the office. Members may have advice for each other on how to overcome any traits that do interfere with their performance at work.
Alternatively, you can group team members with different personality types and give them the chance to understand those who think differently. The team can learn to communicate in a way that’s best received by the listener, adjust work styles, or perhaps even shift roles based on whose personality is best suited to a task. Overall this increases the empathy and understanding on your team.
3. Shark Tank-Style Competition
Split your group into teams and challenge them to come up with an innovative product. Give them 60 minutes to develop their product, create a business plan, devise a marketing plan, and create financial data such as predicted profit margins.
Once teams have finished, they pitch their product to a judge (this could be someone from management or a staff employee). One prize could be to gift the team a free lunch. This activity promotes collaboration and communication, encourages out-of-the-box thinking, and develops leadership skills!
4. The Barter Puzzle
Break your group into four people or less. Give each group a different jigsaw puzzle of the same difficulty level. Tell the groups that they will have a set amount of time to complete their puzzle. The twist to this game is that some pieces from each of the puzzles have been swapped randomly!
To complete the task, teams must convince each other to hand over the pieces to their own puzzle. Teams can barter, exchange or even donate the needed pieces. Whatever method they choose, teams must choose them by consensus. The first team to complete their puzzle wins!
This game brings into play several team building benefits. Problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and creative thinking. Even some healthy competition arises!
Outdoor Team Building Activities and Games
5. Ropes Course
If you can set aside several hours out of the workday, going to a ropes course is a great team building idea. Ropes courses consist of various physical obstacles that team members must work together to overcome. You can locate nearby options via Google search. Chances are there’ll be a few close by since this is an increasingly popular activity!
Some of the challenges your team faces are balancing all the team members on a seesaw or fitting the whole team onto a small square block. Ropes courses can improve your team’s collaboration skills, its ability to achieve goals, and develop a sense of trust among team members.
Ropes courses are also one of the best leadership team building activities. One study, Challenge Course Effectiveness: The Impact on Leadership Efficacy and Work Efficacy among College Students, discusses how ropes course challenges can be effectively completed when a team leader is present.
During a ropes course challenge, a team member may intentionally, or unwittingly, step up into a leadership role to help the team choose a plan and implement it. The same study shows how ropes courses significantly “increase participants’ levels of leadership and work efficacy” and that the results are “long-lasting”.
Paintballing may be less about team building and more about the fun times to be had outside of the office. But that’s ok! Just being outdoors and out of the office with colleagues has some benefits. It lets team members loosen up a bit more when they’re away from their desks, feel invigorated with the fresh air, and get re-energized as a group in this high-adrenaline activity.
Try switching up the paintball teams to allow group members to interact with people they don’t normally have the chance to at the office!
7. Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a game where teams or individuals race the clock to find objects from a list. Items on the list can be everyday objects or, for a bit of a twist, include unusual and harder-to-find items.
Scavenger hunts encourage collaboration among team members. Because teams compete against each other, this activity can promote healthy competition motivating team members to strive harder to achieve their goals. You can certainly create your own scavenger hunt but that will take several hours just preparing for the event. Doing a scavenger hunt with an outside company may be best if you are short on time.
Indoor Team Building Games and Activities
First, create an obstacle course using office chairs, garbage pails, cardboard boxes, or any other large objects available to you. Next, divide group members into teams and select a leader for each group.
Before starting the game, blindfold all game participants except team leaders. Then have team leaders verbally instruct each team member through the obstacles. The team that gets all its members through the obstacle course wins the game!
As this game requires designated team leaders, this is an awesome game if you are looking for leadership team building activities.
9. Escape Rooms
Escape room games are an excellent team building activity and very engaging! Team members must work together to decipher clues and solve puzzles in a limited amount of time to escape the room! Escape room games address many team skills like collaboration, problem-solving, creative thinking, and communication. Working with a remote team? Try a virtual escape room game to bring your coworkers together!
10. Take an Improv Class
This activity will have your group laughing while enhancing the skills needed to be a strong team. Performing improv is not easy. For some, it feels awkward and even a little embarrassing. Individuals must step out of their comfort zone but doing so in front of their team builds trust and a sense of camaraderie!
11. Marshmallow Challenge
This team building game is straightforward: teams have 18 minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure with only 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow! While the instructions are relatively simple, the task is anything but! This game facilitates communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving.
If you want to tie this into professional development or make it feel more like a corporate team building activity, watch and discuss the Marshmallow Challenge Ted Talk afterward!
Free Team Building Games and Activities
12. Group Juggle
This free and easy team building game is perfect for getting new employees to learn each other’s names. All you need for this game is a crumpled piece of paper! Tell everyone that they’ll be taking turns throwing the paper ball around the group.
The twist is that before tossing the ball to someone, the person in possession of the ball must say the name of the person they’re planning to toss it to. The recipient has to say “Thank you, ___” and the name of the person who threw them the ball. After the paper ball has been tossed around the group several times, most if not all team members likely know each other’s names!
13. Magazine Story
In this activity, ask teams to create an imaginary magazine cover story about one of their successful projects or team achievements. The actual magazine story doesn’t need to be fully written out. It’s all about the cover in this activity!
Encourage the team to get creative as they design images, headlines, quotes, and sidebars. You don’t need to get fancy either. All you need is a pen and paper!
14. Penny for Your Thoughts
Though this game is free, it will require you to have some loose change! This game is an opportunity for your team to get to know something personal about each other. Gather enough pennies so that each participant can have one.
The pennies must be dated within the last 15 years. Go around the group and have each person share a memorable or important event that happened to them during the year stamped on their penny.
15. Two Truths and a Lie
This is a great team building activity for small groups. Have your group gather in a circle. Ask everyone to come up with three facts about themselves, one of which is a lie. Then, one at a time, have each member state their three facts and the rest of the group guess which one is the fib!
Since this game is meant to be light and playful, team members don’t need to share anything super personal. The more silly and random the facts, the better!
Quick Team Building Games and Activities
Short on time but in need of a release from the monotony of the workday? Here are some quick team building activities that won’t take up too much time, but are still impactful!
16. Ice Breakers
Ice breakers are short activities and games designed to “break the ice” between individuals who don’t know each other at social or professional gatherings. They’re also a quick and fun way to get the creative juices flowing at team meetings. If you don’t have time for a game or activity, asking engaging questions works too!
Questions can be creative like “What would your personal theme song be?” or obscure, like “Would you visit Mars even if the round trip took a year?”. Questions like “Do you talk to your pets as if they are people?” will likely get people laughing. If you want to play it safe, you can stick with some basic questions such as “Where did you grow up?” and “Do you prefer coffee or tea?”.
No matter what you ask, ice breaker questions are a fantastic way for team members to learn more about each other while sharing good times!
17. Tell a Story in 60 Seconds or Less
Choose a common topic and have each member of your group tell a story that relates to the topic. The challenge is that they have only 60 seconds to tell their story! This game allows for team members to learn a little something about each other and also forces members to be very efficient with their words!
18. Desert Island Survival
Tell the group that they are each going to be stranded on a desert island. Ask them to choose just one thing they would bring with them. Go around the group and have everyone say what object they would bring and why they chose it. This very short game requires creative thinking and also lets members gain a tidbit of insight into how others problem-solve.
19. Paper Tower Building
Split your group into teams and give them each a stack of newspapers and rolls of tape. Tell them that using only the supplies provided that they have three minutes to build a tower able to stand on its own for at least ten seconds. The team with the tallest tower wins! But really everyone wins because this fun team building game will get people thinking creatively, collaborating, and best of all laughing!
According to a recent survey, 73% of employees wish their company devoted more time and money to team building. With that level of demand for team building in the workforce, it’s time to jump in and get the ball rolling! Make use of some of these team building activities and make your team stronger, happier, and more united than ever before.