Engaging an entire workforce can feel like navigating a challenging maze. HR professionals face the uphill battle to foster collaboration, boost creativity, and strengthen team dynamics. But we all know why it’s worth the work: Engaged workforces see reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, and higher productivity levels.
Now is the time to look for unique, fun ways to improve engagement –– like with improv games! These team-building exercises can be especially beneficial for developing effective communication and team collaboration. They require you to think on your feet, push through creative blocks, come up with quick solutions, and work as a team.
There’s only one real rule in improv: Never say no. Always say ‘yes, and’ to keep the skit going.
So are you ready to roll?
Yes, and so are we! Here are 11 playful games to kickstart creativity in your workplace.
- Two Truths and a Lie
This game is a good warm-up improv activity for your teams as it helps team members get to know each other better. It promotes active listening, observation, and building connections within the group.
To play, each participant shares three statements about themselves: two that are true and one that’s false. The rest of the team guesses which statement is the lie. While the game may not involve improvisation in creating scenes or narratives, it can be an icebreaker for more improvisational activities.
- Yes And...
As mentioned earlier, this is the foundation of improv. This game encourages teams to embrace collaboration. It promotes teamwork, creative problem-solving, and open-mindedness.
Participants build a scene by adding to each other's ideas with the phrase "Yes, and...". For example, the first person says, "Let's go have a picnic," and the second person says, "Yes, and let's bring some sandwiches to eat," and so on.
- Story Circle
This is a collaborative storytelling game that sparks creativity and enhances communication skills. To play this game, participants sit in a circle and take turns adding a sentence or phrase to create a story. The catch is each person can only continue the narrative from the previous statement. For instance, the first player says, "I was at work yesterday, and I saw a frog," and then the next person says, "I tried to catch it, but it hopped away," and so on.
"Story circle" is one of the best improv games to boost adaptability as it requires employees to come up with new ideas on the spot.
- Emotional Mirror
"Emotional mirror" is an improv exercise that helps your team understand each other better and build stronger connections. In this game, participants pair up and take turns leading a simple activity while exaggerating a specific emotion, such as joy, anger, or surprise. The partner mimics and reflects the emotional expression.
This improv game can be particularly useful in team building as it fosters emotional intelligence, enhances non-verbal communication skills, and promotes a supportive and empathetic atmosphere.
- Props Challenge
Unleash your team's creativity with the “Props Challenge.” With this game, you'll set a time limit (e.g., five to ten minutes) for each team to come up with as many innovative and imaginative uses for their given props as possible. After the time is up, your teams will take turns presenting their ideas and demonstrating the different uses for their props.
This game encourages brainstorming, flexibility, and thinking outside the box while fostering teamwork and collaboration.
- Group Mime
Enhance non-verbal communication and teamwork with this game. Participants work together to mime an everyday activity, such as making a sandwich or painting a wall, without using words. One team member starts the mimed activity with gestures and movements to perform an action. The next person adds their own action to the sequence, building upon what the previous person did.
By relying on gestures and body language, teams can improve their coordination, problem-solving, and cohesion.
- Sound Ball
This energetic game encourages team members to use listening skills, quick thinking, and effective communication.
To play, participants stand in a circle. One person starts the game by miming holding an imaginary ball and making a sound to represent the ball being passed. For example, they can make a "whoosh" sound as they mime throwing the ball to the next person. As the ball is passed, each participant should create a unique sound effect to accompany the imaginary ball's movement.
The challenge lies in synchronizing the sounds and responding to each teammate's contribution, which can foster collaboration, focus, and spontaneity.
- Word Association
This game challenges participants to think on their feet and make quick connections. To start, designate a team member to say the first word that will kick off the game. The next person responds with a word or phrase associated with the previous one. For instance, if the first word is "dog," the next person must quickly respond with an associated word like "bark." The chain continues as each participant responds with a word or phrase associated with the previous one.
Word Association encourages participants to think creatively and find unique associations between words and ideas.
- Character Switch
This game is an entertaining exercise that challenges participants to switch roles and embody different characters on the spot. To play, employees pair up with one another and each person takes on a unique character. The pairs engage in a conversation as their characters, but at any given moment, they must seamlessly switch to a different character while continuing the conversation. For example, every 30 seconds, they must take on a different character but keep the same conversation going.
This game enhances adaptability and quick thinking, fostering empathy as participants step into different perspectives.
- Freeze Frame
This game relies on adaptability to sudden changes. It begins with two participants spontaneously creating a brief, dynamic, or interesting scene. At any point during the scene, a third person can shout "Freeze!" to pause the action. The person who called "Freeze!" then taps out one of the participants in the frozen scene and takes their exact physical position, creating a new tableau. The new scene continues until someone else calls, "Freeze!"
This improv game promotes active listening and observation skills as participants must be attentive to the frozen scenes, ready to jump in and create new tableaus.
- Genre Mashup
With "Genre Mashup,” you’ll divide your team into pairs or small groups and have each group pick two or more genres to combine. For instance, "Romantic comedy meets science fiction" or "Horror meets musical." Then each group takes turns performing their scenes, blending the genres, and creating unique and improvised storylines. After each scene, the audience members have to guess which genres were mashed up.
This type of improv game promotes quick thinking and the ability to switch contexts seamlessly.
Cultivating a Culture of Engagement
Improv games can help create an engaging, safe, and inclusive space. This type helps employees explore, connect, and grow through communication and creativity.
But embedding these values into how employees work daily takes more than a one-off activity. Building a culture of engagement requires commitment.
Wellness programs are a great way to encourage engagement day-in and day-out: Companies leveraging effective wellbeing strategies are more than three times as likely to engage their workers.
If you’re ready to give your workforce a wellness boost, connect with a Gympass wellbeing specialist today.
- Gallup. (n.d.). What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It? Gallup. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/285674/improve-employee-engagement-workplace.aspx.
- The Josh Bersin Company (2021, October 26). The Definitive Guide to Wellbeing: The Healthy Organization. JoshBersin.com. Retrieved June 13, 2023, from https://joshbersin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/HW-21_10-DefGuide-The-Healthy-Organization-Defintive-Guide-.pdf
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.