It’s time for organizations in every industry to recognize and take advantage of team building benefits. We live in a world where teams no longer need to be in the same room to achieve success. In fact, many teams around the world work together without ever seeing each other in person! This is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced millions of workers into remote work.
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Although technology allows teams to work together from anywhere in the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will work well together. It’s crucial that team members feel connected to each other by more than a WiFi signal. With the convenience of digital communication (chatbots, AI assistants, WhatsApp, Slack, social media apps, and so on), it can be all too easy to let genuine, face-to-face connection slip through the cracks.
Team Building Exercises
One of the easiest (not to mention the most fun!) ways to build and strengthen genuine connections within teams is with (in-person) team building exercises and virtual team building activities.
Team building exercises are games and activities designed to get groups of people working together toward a common goal. A few examples of team building exercises include escape rooms, team trivia, murder mystery games, and virtual cooking classes.
Benefits and Advantages
One of the best benefits of team building activities is that – if designed well – your team will start to grow stronger without even realizing it. (They’ll be having that much fun with each other!)
Advantages of team building include better problem-solving skills, increased innovation, improved job satisfaction, increased collaboration, and team camaraderie. There are many other benefits of team building that we’ll dive into later on.
The benefits of team building exercises aren’t exclusive to remote teams–or even professional teams. Many different types of teams can reap the benefits of team building including sports teams, music groups, families, and friends.
In this article, we’ll discuss why team building is important, what the advantages of team building are, the specific benefits of team building exercises, and how you can implement team building activities into your organization.
Why is Team Building Important?
Gallup defines employee engagement as “The involvement and enthusiasm of employees in both their work and workplace.”
Moreover, Gallup states:
“Engaged employees perform better, which differentiates you from your competitors. To drive real change within your teams, and to move the needle on the business metrics that matter, learn more about employee engagement in your organization.”
Research shows that increased employee engagement results in better employee collaboration, communication, morale, motivation, and camaraderie.
The TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report surveyed more than 200,000 employees and found that respect among peers is the top reason why employees strive for better results. An excellent way to build respect is through developing genuine connections.
Unfortunately, the rise in remote work puts organizations at risk of having a disconnected and disengaged workforce. CEO Review stated, “Despite the comfort that working from home can bring, remote workers are susceptible to feeling disconnected and excluded, owing to the lack of face-to-face interaction and the casual ‘water-cooler’ talk that usually breaks up a normal working day and offers brief periods of respite and relaxation to staff.”
Team building exercises give groups of people a low-stakes (and oftentimes, fun) environment to connect and learn about each other’s working styles, strengths, weaknesses, dislikes, likes, thought processes, and methods of problem-solving, all of which contribute to a team’s success.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the advantages of team building in this next section.
What are the Advantages of Team Building?
According to Fast Company, empathy, high engagement, and remarkable communication are among the skills that great leaders possess. Team building activities are an opportunity for employees with these qualities to show their leadership potential!
As a result, your organization has a fresh slate of leaders with proven skills and your hardworking employees have an opportunity to advance in the company. This is a great way for your organization to show that it has a genuine interest in its employees and their success.
We have already touched on a few of the advantages of team building, but we’re now going to take an even closer look at them! We don’t want you to just take our word when we say that team building can benefit your company – we’ll use science and data to back it up.
Consider the following five research-backed benefits of team building:
1. Problem-solving skills
People rarely become successful all on their own. Everyone has to reach out for advice or assistance at some point! To test this, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted a study on complex problem-solving.
“We found that groups of size three, four, and five outperformed the best individuals … [We] attribute this performance to the ability of people to work together to generate and adopt correct responses, reject erroneous responses, and effectively process information.”
Additionally, the study found that groups of two performed just as well as the best individual, meaning partnerships were not as effective as trios. Basically, the test found that three heads, in fact, are better than one!
Getting your team together in a team building environment allows everyone to bounce ideas off of each other in a low-stakes environment. Because the problems they’re solving don’t pertain directly to work, they may be more likely to voice their opinions, ask questions, and offer creative solutions!
According to Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, some of the best innovation occurs when different ideas and people come together.
“Most people think success comes from surrounding yourself with others that are like you,” Johansson writes. “But true success and breakthrough innovation involves discomfort. Discomfort pushes you to grow. This is where differences of experience, opinion, and perspective come in. Diversity is a well-documented pathway to unlocking new opportunities, overcoming new challenges, and gaining new insights.”
A McKinsey & Co. report can confirm. The report found that teams diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, etc. tend to be more creative and produce better results than teams that are lacking in diversity. Diversity allows teams to gain multiple perspectives and, therefore, come up with an array of different, innovative ideas.
Team building events inherently promote honest feedback, mutual respect, and openness. Research suggests that happy employees are up to 20% more productive. In addition, well-designed team building exercises break up the workday/week and give employees a chance to have a little bit of fun with each other! We think almost everyone can agree that more fun leads to more happiness!
4. Personal growth
Being a valuable member of a team can help individuals grow professionally and potentially learn new things about themselves!
Dr. Susan McDaniel, a psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center says, “We all have blind spots about our behaviors and strengths that we may be unaware of, and feedback from a team member can expose them.” Recognizing these behaviors and working to strengthen weaknesses can make you a better team member.
5. Less burnout
A study by Gallup asked 7,500 full-time employees how often they experience feelings of burnout (irritability, lack of motivation, exhaustion, depression, detachment, etc.). 23% of participants reported feeling burnt out “very often” or “always” while at work, and 44% reported that they “sometimes” feel burnt out.
Further research by Gallup found that distributing the workload amongst a team can significantly reduce feelings of burnout.
“Team members can provide emotional support to each other because they often understand the demands and stress of completing work even better than managers,” says Ben Wigert, lead researcher for Gallup’s workplace management practice.
What are the Benefits of Team Building Exercises?
In the previous section, we touch on five research-backed team participation benefits. Now, let’s talk about the benefits of team building exercises and how they can create high-performing teams that drive an organization’s success!
1. Employee Collaboration
75% of employers state that collaboration and teamwork are among the things they value most.
One of the great benefits of team building at work is that team members have the chance to focus on collaborating on the same activity and work towards a common goal.
Collaboration is extremely important in the workplace for getting jobs done completely and on time. As we stated previously: three heads are better than one! But those three heads need to not only work together well but effectively.
Just because a group of people gets along, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll do a great job on a project or complete it before the deadline. Each member also has their own schedule and responsibilities. This can make it difficult to get people on the same page when tasks need to get done – especially for teams working from different buildings, cities, or time zones. That’s why team building is so important!
Collaborative teams work together as a group of equals and understand how to delegate tasks to play on each other’s strengths. They know where they can contribute value, when to take a step back, and how to freely exchange ideas. There are no personal agendas and everyone is focused on the best end result!
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2. Employee Communication
Effective communication is essential in every type of relationship whether it’s personal or professional. According to a Holmes report, poor communication practices and communication barriers have cost companies upwards of $37 billion dollars, globally. Organizations that invest in building better communication will have employees who trust each other, speak up when necessary, and aren’t afraid to give and receive feedback. Overall, better communication leads to increased employee engagement…which we already know leads to a better bottom line!
Excellent communication skills among team members are always important, especially so when communicating virtually. A lot can get “lost in translation” over a messaging app that doesn’t allow the recipient to read body language or tone of voice.
A quick phone or video call can help bridge that gap, but that isn’t always a possibility for teams that operate in different time zones. Team members can work together for years without ever having the chance to communicate face-to-face! Therefore, it’s incredibly important that organizations give every team member the opportunity to connect and practice effective communication with team building.
3. Employee Morale
Employees deserve to be treated as valuable members of an organization. Team building exercises are a perfect way to say, “Thank you for all your hard work. Let’s all have some fun together in a low-stakes, high-energy activity!’
According to the American Psychological Association, people who like their jobs are “twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall — reporting strong relationships, effective money management, good health and engagement in their communities — as those who are disengaged and unhappy at work.”
Teams that feel great about sitting down for work with their team are likely to be more creative, engaged, and productive. Organizations can get their employees excited about work by getting excited about their employees! When employers are excited about their teams’ success and satisfaction, employees are more likely to do the same.
Although many people love the work-from-home model, it can be easy for employees to get complacent. Working from home has the potential to have a Groundhog Day effect where every day feels like the last. As a result, employees are likely to experience burnout that looks like a lack of motivation, loneliness, and possibly depression.
One of the best team participation benefits is that it gives everyone something new and fun to look forward to! This can help refresh an individual’s energy, the team’s energy, and the organization’s energy as a whole!
4. Employee Motivation
Morale and motivation go hand in hand. Employees who are excited about their job and feel valued by their organization are more likely to be motivated to do their job well. However, many employees don’t feel engaged in their positions. There are several reasons why this might be true:
- They don’t feel connected to their company
- They aren’t proud to work for their company
- They don’t feel valued
- They don’t align with company values
- They aren’t happy in their position
- They aren’t given the proper tools for success in their position
If employees feel even one of these, they aren’t likely to be motivated to get their jobs done well, on time, or at all. Luckily, the solution can be incredibly simple, and it doesn’t have anything to do with seeking a new job or bringing in a consultant to overhaul an organization. You guessed it: team building!
Increased motivation is one of the greatest advantages of team building. When an organization takes the time, money, and effort to plan a team building activity that their employees are going to be genuinely interested in, those employees are more likely to feel that the organization cares about their happiness, success, and general well being. Therefore, they’re motivated to perform at their highest potential.
5. Team Camaraderie
Forbes says that work friendships are keys to team camaraderie:
“Whether your work friends are like family or you just have one buddy who has made an otherwise toxic workplace tolerable, for most of us work is where we connect with someone who lifts our spirits and makes the day much more enjoyable. While work friendships boost morale and our overall well-being, they also play a critical role in enhancing team effectiveness.”
Building camaraderie can be difficult, but it’s necessary for any successful team. Teams with camaraderie have a personal (yet still professional) connection with one another. They trust each other, communicate well, hang out during lunch or break time, and have inside jokes with one another. Team building exercises give everybody the chance to leave their work on their desk, put on some comfy shoes, maybe have a cup of coffee, and create lasting memories together.
Of course, it’s important to keep work and personal relationships separate, but that doesn’t mean co-workers can’t enjoy each other’s company. When people genuinely enjoy being around one another, they are more likely to enjoy the work they do together. This can result in increased productivity, morale, and overall happiness.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of the benefits of team building exercises, let’s talk about what makes a great team building exercise.
How to Plan the Perfect Team Building Exercise
In order for participants to experience the benefits of team building, the activity should be structured properly. The best team building exercises are planned with the following attributes:
The activity should be easy for everyone to participate in so no one feels excluded or ostracized. This might mean you’ll have to stick to remote events, events that don’t require much physical activity, or events that are within walking distance to your office (or in-office). Additionally, your team-building exercises should encourage everyone to participate – especially people who tend to be shy or soft-spoken.
Everyone should be clear on why you’re holding the event and how it’s going to go down before it takes place. This will eliminate the “why are we doing this?” and “I don’t understand what this is all about” chatter. Instead, everyone can get excited about the event and walk in with a clear understanding of what they’re going to do.
3. Focus on team issues
You don’t have to make things uncomfortable by sending out an email that says, “We’re hosting a trust-building event because of X recent issue!” But the team building activity you choose should at least be relevant to your team’s goals and have a focus on success in certain areas.
4. Have a singular goal
It’s important that everyone is working toward the same thing, even if broken up into teams. A singular goal helps create cohesion amongst the group(s) and will allow you to compare/contrast results at the end.
5. Encourage openness and vulnerability
Encouraging openness and vulnerability typically leads to better understanding, deeper connections, and increased trust between coworkers – three characteristics of a successful team!
6. Establish ground rules
How will teams settle disagreements? How long will the event run? Is there a dress code? Can family members join in? Establishing the ground rules ahead of time will help the event run as smoothly as possible.
7. Foster trust
It’s not difficult to incorporate trust-building into a team building activity, but it is absolutely necessary. When team members trust one another to perform well during low-stakes team building activities, that trust will translate to high-stakes work tasks.
8. Vulnerable leaders
If the leaders aren’t willing to join the fun, get silly, and be a little vulnerable, why should any other employee want to? Leaders have to be the example that everyone is excited to follow!
9. Facilitate activities that play to team members’ strengths
There are so many different team building activities out there, but they aren’t all created equally. Finding the best team building activity for your team will give every member a chance to shine! When choosing your activity, be mindful of who you’re planning the event for, what they’re good (and bad) at, and how the activity will work for them.
10. Create structure
You won’t be able to experience the benefits of team building at work without structure. Frankly, a team building event without structure is just a work party! The activity you choose should have clear objectives, defined roles, and a singular goal.
11. Participate as leaders
We mentioned that leaders should be vulnerable, but in order to be vulnerable, they have to participate! A great leader is never “too busy” or “unavailable” when it comes to their team’s success. If a team feels like their leader isn’t invested in their development, they may feel like their efforts are pointless.
12. Have no personal agenda
Team building events aren’t designed to pin employees against one another or give someone an opportunity for “payback.” They’re also not an opportunity for anyone to show off! Team building exercises are intended to unify and strengthen a team.
13. Host a meaningful post-activity meeting
The best team building activities have an intentional conversation at the end that allows participants to come to their own conclusions about their performance – what they did well and what could be changed next time. These conversations will help translate the lessons learned in the activity to everyday work tasks.
Get Help From Team Building Hub
If you’re looking for a team-building activity and want help from experts who have done it for companies of all sizes, we would love to help! You can check out our activities page to learn more and reach out to hear from a dedicated event planner.
Team building activities are a super fun and simple way to create dynamic and effective teams that love their job and appreciate their co-workers. With all of the above benefits to team building (and many more!) it’s impossible to deny that your team needs a little team building, no matter how effective it already might be. Just imagine how much more effective you could be after a few team building exercises!