Here's the deal—we've read and studied enough about "team building activities" in blogs, textbooks, TEDx talks, and YouTube videos. As they are wrapped as shimmery presents crammed with awkwardness, bottled emotions, snarky remarks, and in some extreme cases, increased resentment—they lose their purpose. So, what's the deal with team building or fun activities at work?

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Team building activities are supposed to make people stick together. According to McKinsey, almost every employee (97%, to be exact) believes that a lack of cohesion negatively impacts a project/task.

Come to think of it, putting several people from different backgrounds in one office space might very well turn out to be a disaster if team-building activities aren't taken seriously.

Having a happy, joyous, healthy, and engaged workforce leads to smoother functioning of an organization. Many positive results can be observed in employee motivation when employers and their workers mutually respect and trust each other.

Good employee relations help reduce workplace conflict, raise staff morale, and increase overall productivity. There are various modes by which a company can improve employee relations and help to make the workplace coherent and constructive.

We often treat team building activities as nothing more than just another fun event. But when you get down to it, they play a central part in creating a stable, productive, cohesive, and goal-oriented team. Take a look at the importance of team building in the workplace and how it holds the key to the success of your business.

Importance of team building in the workplace

While team building helps to build strong employee units, here are five more of team building is in the workplace:

1. Team building creates a culture where everyone feels empowered

Putting on regular team-building activities is essential if you're going to show your team that you value them. By bringing the team together, you can remind everyone why they're there — to make a difference.

2. Team building boosts morale and employee retention

High employee turnover is a serious problem with any business. Not only will you have to invest time and money in recruiting a suitable replacement. You then have to spend considerably more Time getting them up to speed and integrating them into the existing setup.

Regular team building allows you to assess the mood and sentiment of your team, and address any causes for concern. Think of it as taking the health check of your organization so that you know what everyone's thinking. It's a no-brainer to see why the world's most successful businesses invest so much time and money into team-building activities.

3. When your people network with one another they'll come up with new ideas

People are always more likely to approach colleagues they know than those they don't. We can say this about more senior staff members. This doesn't mean you have an especially uncommunicative team. It's just human nature manifesting itself.

Regular team-building activities will open up new channels of communication within your organization. The issues faced by one team are often solved by someone sitting just a couple of desks away. Creating a culture where everyone feels confident enough to approach people they don't speak to often is essential. Think of it as a chance to create a network that connects the smartest people in the business.

4. A bit of friendly competition is a sure-fire way to get more done

If you incentivize your employees and cultivate a little bit of friendly competition, they're bound to get more work done. You don't want to go over the top with this, or perpetually have competitions running. Otherwise, you will create a slightly overbearing culture.

Run something every now and again, however, and you'll be able to breathe fresh air into the typical working week. Your staff will want to go above and beyond. Your managers will be able to extract the extra efforts from employees that they've been looking for. Consequently, your business will grow.

5. People communicate better when they know the other person

Not only does striking up a relationship make it far more likely that people will connect in the first place, but it also means they'll get more out of each exchange.

Team building allows you to get people on the same page by showing other members of the team what makes them tick. As your team ages and gets more experience of working together, this process will happen naturally. But if you want to accelerate, especially during a period of hiring, then team building is always the best way to do it.

Give people a problem to solve that is independent of their experience level in the company. This will put everyone on an equal footing. It also provides your team with the perfect chance to gain some insight into what every member brings to the table. You may even come to know that the quiet new hire has innate problem-solving skills and needs to be fast-tracked!

6. You have the chance to show your team that you value them

The final thing to say about team building is that it's your chance to say thank you for all the hard work. If you can put on activities that show them that you value their input, then your whole business will get better. It'll make it far more likely that people come to you with issues, suggestions, and new ideas. Three things that as the boss, you need to hear about if you're going to have the chance to change things.

What's wrong with fun team building activities?

What starts as a noble attempt to glue people together, strengthen the bond of companionship and inevitably, conquer the organization's objectives, goes wrong in the first step because the team building events are way off the mark.

Here are a few things that go wrong with fun team building activities for employees:

1. We end up calling it a 'team building' activity

Just like the first rule of Fight Club, you don't talk about team building without being subtle. Forcing a group of people to like each other is a wasted gasp of air and calling it a team-building activity shouts it out loud. Something as casual as "let's get a drink after work" or "how about a short break this afternoon?" look good both in email subject lines as well as in real life.

2. We make it too 'exclusive'

It's one thing to tell your teammates to wear all black at a dinner party, and another to make your teams go "ugh I have to sing at that Karaoke event". While it's crucial to keep the team building activities for corporate fun, don't make it too stringent with the rules and let people vibe with what they feel is okay for them.

A hefty chunk of people want to watch things happen from the touchline, and that's also the right way for them to gel with the others.

Remember: Winning teams don't make excuses, they make plans.

3. We try building team relationships in cabins & breakrooms

Don't make it a two-hour seminar after lunch because that only brings out more groans and sighs from people than positive vibes. The best possible team bonding scenarios should be somewhere away from the workspace and outside the work hours so that the busy ones aren't thinking about fighting their email battles and skipping these fun team building activities in the office for work.

4. We think that a one-off company choir with a vast guest list is a good idea

Team building is an intimate activity, not a fifteen-slide presentation for 200+ people in an auditorium with free food. The best way to get it just right is by segregating your organization's teams into groups and letting them gel together on their own. Real team bonding begins when people from different teams start participating. Picking out the chits would be perfect to get various teams on the same page.

5. We forget to follow up

Sure, there's a lot of following in the breakroom about how the food was and how Mark from Sales sang Radio Gaga like Freddy Mercury's soul dropped into him. Still, real follow-ups come in the form of a survey to see what people thought of the fun team building activities in the office and what more (or less) do they expect from it the next time.

How to plan a team building event like a pro?

We are often stuck with planning a team-building event that will help in employee engagement. Team building events can be a severe investment in both money and resources for leadership. You want to ensure you're getting the best bang for your buck.

Employees' well-planned corporate team building activities can engage them, increase communication, and boost positive energy! It's no wonder 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 companies use gamification to engage their teams.

None of us are as smart as all of us. A team-building event can also help boost employee morale and engagement, especially if your company has just gotten over a particularly rough few months or has had a lot of work coming in recently.

Unless you have hosted a team-building event before, you may find it difficult to orchestrate one that will benefit the team. Pulling off a great team-building day (or week?) is not the easiest of tasks, but here are a few tips to point you in the right direction:

1. Know your budget

Before you make any plans or consider any other aspect, you need to outline a rough budget. What are you or the company willing to comfortably spend on your team building event? The budget you settle on will determine the types of activities you will be able to source or the location you will be able to travel to if that is what you had in mind.

2. Decide your goal

What are you trying to achieve with your team building event? There's no right or wrong answer to this, but it's a good idea to have some goals in mind for it. If you aren't 100% sure, why not ask your team for some unique and unforgettable corporate team building activities ideas?

When you know what you want to achieve from the team building event, you will be able to select an activity or location best suited to it. Letting off some steam in an adventure park is not quite the same as going through an escape room challenge or going on a mystery tour.

Remember: No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.

3. Give it time

Don't plan a team building event, pay for everything, and then suddenly spring it on your employees that it will be taking place next week. It would be best if you allowed plenty of Time to make thorough plans and enable your employees to make any arrangements so they can attend (such as babysitters, etc.). This is especially the case if it involves travel.

4. Decide on a location

This will very much depend on your budget: obviously, the more money you have, the better the location will be. Destination management companies can help you out with the logistical side of things, so you will be spending less Time on the actual planning than you may think.

5. Promote full participation

Encourage the full participation of your employees by notifying them of the team building event early and by promoting it. Some employees will be keener than others, and because you can't force them to go, it is essential to try and persuade as many people as possible to come.

Of course, you will need a rough idea of numbers before you book anything, so the sooner your employees know about it and can RSVP to their invitations, the better.

6. Don't make it corporate

Although there will be some corporate fun activities (that aren't really fun), the overarching feeling should be that it is a fun, relaxing environment where your employees can unwind.

Yes, the company is paying for it, and yes, it is a team-building event, but allow your employees to do what they want. Forcing them to sit through presentations or talk about work will do nothing to help boost engagement.

7. Keep things personal

While the event takes place, everybody who attends should understand the relationship between their actions and teamwork. To be a successful team, each member must adopt any new behaviors and information they have learned during the event.

You should be regularly engaging with your employees and gauge how they feel, what they think, and how they respond to the event.

8. Document it

Hire a photographer or videographer to document the event and post it on your social media pages. You can also use pictures and videos throughout your company's marketing material, digital strategy guides, company-wide bulletins, and newsletters.

By keeping the memory of the event alive, your team will be excited for future events, and the people who did not attend the first Time around will start showing up.

15+ Team building activities for employees

Good team building activities are the best investment for a connected workforce and building employee engagement. In the list below, you can find interesting team-building activities, many of them suited for virtual teams too, so your remote teams continue to perform at their best.

We have mentioned the primary purpose with each activity which helps you choose an activity based on your purpose of team building games for employees –including but not limited to introducing new team members, developing better communication in a diverse workforce in terms of age, gender, culture, etc., fostering trust or increasing productivity.

What are some unique, fun corporate team-building activities that won't have your employees rolling their eyes? Let's discuss a few options.

1. The dinner party guestlist

Nah, it's not the actual dinner party (which is a great team-building activity, by the way), but we go around asking people about three guests, dead or alive, who'd make it to their grand dinner party. Watch people bond over their favorite celebrities like no other.

2. In-house kickstarter campaign

Give your employees a chance to own it up. Let them develop a new corporate team-building activities idea related to the organization's business model and allow them to present it. If it has the juice to get real, show them the money and make it happen! It's a great team building activity to spot new teams with productive mindsets that can be think tanks.

3. Your radio show

Pair random people up and get them to come up with a 30-minute radio show/podcast according to their interests. It can be sports fanatics criticizing their teams' transfer windows or a bunch of people reviewing cosmetics, tech gadgets, or just gossiping about the office. Let the fun begin!

4. Scavenger hunt

Leadership can break the employees into small teams. This is an excellent opportunity to set up teams with people who don't often work together to facilitate networking. Give each group a list of activities they need to complete or items they require to gather.

Google & Amazon are knee-deep into scavenger hunts with AI bot-based applications from various sources, and they are a big hit.

Bonus—you could even have a manager serve as a living clue! Once teams complete all the tasks on their list, they meet at the 'finish-line' area where you can determine the winner.

5. The sorting hat

Give your teams simple cues to sort themselves out in groups. How many of them have been on a rollercoaster? Who loves chicken over fish? Would you write in black ink or red? Divide your squad and conduct any follow-up games or let them chat it out. Low-budget team-building activity? Check.

6. Diversity day game (from the office)

The real ones know what Diversity day is, and although our managers might not be as school as Michael Scott, we can surely try out a much less graphic version of Diversity day. Assign demography to each employee, pair them up, and stick a placard on their forehead. Let every employee guess their demography with other cues without actually telling the name. Spills and gags are guaranteed.

7. Office trivia

Who consumes most of the green tea at work? To whom does the Miley Cyrus mug belong? Add up all the questions and inside jokes, along with office facts, and cook up an easy office trivia to strengthen the old bonds and rekindle old companionships.

8. Celebrating cultural diversity

With teams going global and cultures, orientations, and beliefs from all corners gathering under one office roof, it'd be dumb not to embrace and celebrate them. There are actual events that someone at work would be celebrating nearly every month, and nothing shouts team building more than celebrating them.

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Netflix's inclusion and diversity program make sure that team building is done in such a way that it takes everyone in a warm embrace.

9. The business simulator

One can call it a virtual problem solver, but it sparks out solutions that your employees never fancy speaking of in conference room meetings. Gather your teams, divide them into groups, and give them an imaginary business problem/project with a deadline. Let them think out of the boxes and gather solutions to the problem at hand. And for the last time, you can't ask Elon Musk to invest in it.

10. Chopped-style cook-off

These unique, fun corporate team-building activities will only work if you have a suitable kitchen in your office or the leadership is willing to rent out a kitchen space. Local cooking classes or culinary schools can be an excellent option to check out. Have 3–4 contestants be the chefs. Assign a dish they need to prepare, focus on quick and easy-to-make options.

The catch is to include unusual ingredients they must utilize in the dish. Contestants have a set time frame to complete the meal, and everyone else watches—pressure on! You can have the office's self-proclaimed foodies serve as the judging panel to decide who wins.

11. Board game tournament

A day-long board games tournament offers a laid-back and relaxed corporate team-building atmosphere. You can set it up in a conference room at your office. There are many options for running a board game tournament; it depends on how much prep your event organizers can accomplish.

This is another opportunity for the leadership to put together teams that don't usually work together to encourage cross-team networking and corporate team building activities for employees on its own.

The tournament can be laissez-faire, with stations of games set up and teams choosing which they want to play. If setting up a board game tournament seems like too much, you can go in the same direction but outsource again. Hire a company to run a trivia tournament at your office for a similar game-style corporate team-building competition.

12. Escape rooms

If you want a simple event where you can show up at a location for fun corporate team building without hassling the leadership, look no further than escape rooms. These live-action games lock participants in a themed room, where players need to work through a series of problems and puzzles to get out.

Usually, there is a set time frame. Some escape room facilities offer multiple rooms where groups can compete against one another to see who can finish first. Coca-Cola's escape room team building activity received laurels worldwide and became a big hit. The best part? Employees were taken by surprise.

13. A day of volunteering

Volunteering might not offer brainteasers or an adrenaline-pumping activity, but it does have multiple other benefits. You can choose a cause similar to your company's core values and beliefs while giving back to your community.

Many volunteer opportunities will get your team members outside, where they can still enjoy time together and work towards a common goal. While you don't want to exploit charitable activities, volunteering will provide a good photo op for your organization that you can post on your company's social media page or blog for positive PR.

14. Be a tourist in your city

Even if employees have been lifelong residents where your company is headquartered, you'd be surprised how many people don't partake in typical tourist activities of their hometown. Research activities and places your city is known for, even touring landmarks for the day could be fun. Send out a survey to see which sites people have not yet visited.

Don't let them know that it's for a future corporate team building outing. Otherwise, the results might be slightly skewed. You could even opt for a local sporting event. Many stadiums and venues offer corporate boxes or suites. If you use employee rewards and recognition systems, you can check out the experience partners contracted by the system.

Check out how SimpliLearn took their team spirit a notch higher and up the thrill quotient with these exclusive Xoxoday team outing group experiences and explore the unexplored!

15. Guess the fact

This game doesn't cost anything, can be played remotely and in-office, and offers a great way to learn about various team members' areas of interest outside work. It is best suited for small teams of 6 to 10. It is a half an hour to one-hour activity and will lead to laughter and camaraderie at the end of the game.

In this game, one team member plays the role of a coordinator who asks all the other team members, including the manager(s), to share two personal lesser-known facts about them.

The responses are collected over a simple online form. These facts are put on a presentation, and next to each fact, an empty column is put, where each employee guesses the team member that the fact belongs to. While playing in the office, the answers by employees are collected beforehand, and the answer key is displayed when everyone gets together in the conference room.

In remote teams, teammates get on a video call. The facilitator opens a sheet on a digital whiteboard on their computer and shares their screen while employees guess the answers via live voting. The facilitator follows along when each answer is guessed and enters answers in the empty column.

This activity allows team members to learn more about each other personally. This game especially helps introduce new members to the teams and connect teammates who have a greater age difference.

You can play this game across geographies, across genders, and with participants of any age group.

16. We were all kids

Another zero-cost team-building game for employees that needs a little homework but will surely leave the teammates bursting with laughter. This team activity is suited for an all-hands meet or a monthly team meeting either virtually or in-office. The facilitator can contact family members of all heads of various teams to share a childhood/ adolescent picture of the respective heads without their knowledge.

Towards the end of the meeting, after the work discussions for the day are done, one by one, pictures of various department heads appear on the screen. Team members guess, and the heads are asked to share their memory behind the photos.

When people share a part of their personal lives with members from the workplace, it makes the work environment healthy, open to more discussions, and improves communication. This activity also gives a chance for the leadership team to be seen as colleagues rather than as bosses and adds to employee morale.

This activity can be carried out across geographies, with senior management and the rest of the company, and across genders.‍

17. Taste a tea

This game offers an exotic tea tasting experience with real beverages. You need to incur the cost of session booking with tea-tasting companies. When done remotely, one week before the session, they mail each of your team members a package that includes four unique specialty teas/infusions and a snack with a message "do not open".

You can send an email to your team members to log on to a virtual cafe where the barista guides the preparation for everyone to follow alongside at home to brew a perfect cup for them. The barista also leads a tasting session filled with stories and fun facts. This activity allows people to learn something new while virtually sharing cups of tea.

Team members can share their tea moments from the past with friends and family while sipping on delectable teas. This activity offers a great end of the week/start of the week's virtual engagement. It is well suited for both small to large teams and is well suited for teams in different time zones. After all, a cup of tea can be enjoyed anytime-- even as a team-building activity for work.

This is an activity that can be carried out across geographies, genders, and participants of all ages.

18. The minefield

This is an outdoor pairing game. It requires an open space like a park, blindfold, and a few objects which can act as hurdles like bottles, balls, cones, tents, chairs, toys, a small table, etc., and a few charts of paper.

You can place objects randomly in the marked open space and pair the team members. This game is best suited for teams of sizes 4-12. Try to pair members from different groups who daily have lesser interaction with each other. Ask one person from each team to put on a blindfold.

The other person leads their teammate from the starting point to the endpoint, taking any route through placed objects with only verbal instructions, the blindfolded person can't speak, can't step on pieces of chart papers(mines), and has to pick up the objects.

A foul in any of the instructions disqualify the team. You can change the starting and ending points when a different pair comes to play.

To add difficulty, you can define the route beforehand or can get multiple teams started from different start and endpoints in the same space. In this case, if two blindfolded members from different groups collide, both disqualify. Follow the activity with a great team lunch. It is a highly engaging activity and does wonders in building trust, communication, and effective listening.

You'll have to be present to participate in this game physically. Great for the younger members of the team (25 - 35) and mid-management (35 - 45) to play to get to know each other better. Participants can also be across any gender.

19. Five finger show

Last but not least, this game is amongst the top team bonding activities, especially for remote teams, and can be played with any number of players. You need a host with a list of quirky things everyone does while working from home.

Some examples are: wearing pajamas/shorts in a video call, speaking while still on mute, sending an emoji to a colleague in the last 5 hours, having a pet walk in, crashing a meeting, a half-dressed kid in the background, etc. The host mentions the items from a list, while all participants have held one hand with five fingers extended. With each yes, participants put each finger down.

The one whose five fingers go down first does some fun activity for the team. Through this game, people relate to each other more. This game is perfect for teammates who live with family or pets since they can laugh off at their funny moments during team meets.

Besides, this game also helps foster a better understanding of situations amongst all members. It allows employees, especially bosses, to empathize with their employees and their situations at home.

This activity can be carried out across geographies, genders, and team members of all ages. This is a very easy team-building activity for remote employees.

Virtual team building: Tips to make it more effective

A Buffer report states if they could, 99% of people would choose to work remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers. So why wait for teams to go on a day-long offsite to have a sense of togetherness when we can weave team-building into the fabric of their daily work.

Here are our few tips to up the game of your virtual team-building exercises:

  • Including introverts: While avoiding participation is difficult in a physical office, remote working may enable introverts to avoid being a big part of online events. Include them with ice-breaking questions and pair them with an enthusiastic team member in activities.
  • Follow the 2.5X rule: Since virtually connected teams cannot have small discussions around water-coolers or say hi to each other in elevators, it is important to do as many as 2.5x virtual team building activities for work as you would in a typical office setting. You may dial down the duration and budget but always increase engagement.
  • Make virtual team-building exercise a weekly ritual: Subscription to quick online games with leaderboards for your teams or getting together and carrying out some of the activities listed above should be done weekly or once in two weeks to keep the teams motivated and connected.
  • Send packages via mail: It makes for absolute delight to send some office goodies like cups, tees, badges, thank you letters to spouses, etc. which can be displayed in team meetings to employees.

We recommend that you take a group photo of team members at the end of any team activity. For virtual meetings, take a screenshot! This keeps the memory alive and motivates other teammates who missed the event to be a part of it in the future.

Ready to plan your next corporate team building event

Emails with the subject line: 'You're Invited to our Next Corporate Team Building Event!' might cause employees to quickly RSVP no on the invite. Think outside the box for corporate team building and avoid the typical office lunches or picnics. Plan fun and captivating events that everyone in your organization (including the leadership) will enjoy!

Focus on unique activities that will engage your staff, promote cross-team collaboration, and get employees out of their workspace and having fun!

We can never overstate the value of team building. Many people see it as a cliched exercise where you just go through the motions. View it as a chance to get the most out of your most valuable resource (people). Soon, you'll see why it's so important to the success of your business.

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Syed Maaz

Syed Maaz LinkedIn

Maaz is a writer by heart and by deeds. Since he discovered the wrath of words on people's minds and hearts, he's made it his quest to match people's thoughts to intricate topics by demystifying them.