It may seem counterintuitive, but the truth is that we get furthest in life by helping and working with others. And we’re not even talking about ‘getting furthest in life’ in some sort of spiritual, meditative way — we’re talking about business success as defined by concrete metrics and heavily bolded dollar $igns.
Studies show that cohesive communication and effective teamwork in the office leads to increased productivity and improved profits. In fact, Forbes reports that highly engaged teams demonstrate as much as 21% greater profitability. To look at it another way, consider that employees are 80% more likely to report emotional wellbeing when engaged in honest feedback, collaboration and mutual respect within teams. And, (according to Harvard Business Review) these ‘happy’ employees are about 31% more productive and may account for as much as 37% more sales.
In other words, if you want your business to grow and your employees to do their best work, you can’t treat them like a bunch of lone-wolf agents. Unfortunately, despite human social nature, team building within companies takes more than a little nudging.
Here, we take a look at team building: What it is, why it’s so important and what activities and ideas you can use to help teamwork make the dream work.
What Is Team Building?
Look, we’re not going to insult you by giving you a dictionary definition of “what is team building” — the answer is right there in the term. Any strategy, protocol, initiative, tool or action designed to bring individuals together to collaborate towards a common goal could fall under the umbrella of team building. But team building takes on even more significance in the business world, where the individuals that will be working together may not always be a natural fit in terms of personality, interest, work styles, etc.
And while you can certainly hire for team cohesion, just staffing your business with social, outgoing people isn’t always the answer. For one thing, some of the best talent may be perfectly content working safely inside of their comfort zone. For another, too many strong personalities in one unit can lead to a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ situation, where everyone is so busy fighting for the stove that dinner never actually gets made.
As such, the most-effective team-building activities for work are those that actively include introverted and extroverted employees in a way that is natural, structured and goal-oriented.
But before we get into how to turn your diverse groups of employees into a workforce to be reckoned with, let’s talk about why you should bother.
Why Is Team Building Important?
Chime in if this sounds familiar: You have a lot of projects, tasks, concerns, etc. on your plate and you have people working under or alongside you that could take some of the burden off of your shoulders. But rather than delegating your overflow and more evenly distributing the work, you buckle down, put on a pot of coffee, and just take care of everything on your own. Why? Well, if you’re being honest with yourself, it’s probably because you know that you’ll do it right and you don’t know if your team would do as good of a job.
It all comes down to trust — or lack thereof.
When there’s a lot at stake (as there so often is in business), you need to know that you can depend on those around you before you can feel confident putting the future of your project in their hands. And in most cases, if there’s a lack of trust it has little or nothing to do with past job performance; it’s simply a matter of not yet having had the opportunity to get to know those who share your objectives. It takes communication, networking and understanding to build the trust necessary for effective teamwork. And that’s what team building activities aim to deliver.
By working together to enjoy activities and accomplish low-stakes tasks, employees learn how individual team members operate. They establish and strengthen lines of communication. They build connections — not only with those they work alongside, but also potentially across departments and management levels. With those connections comes a clearer picture of everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and collaborative ability.
When that information becomes clear, trust is sure to follow. And socializing together is the key.
Interacting in social settings builds communication patterns by as much as 50%. At the same time, when we establish social relationships within our teams, we generate the kind of enthusiasm that directly combats the stress and defensive coping that so often leads to burnout.
But beyond even that, team building is just fun. It demonstrates to your employees that you appreciate them and that you value them enough to set aside work time for them to get to know each other. This helps create a powerful company culture which may do more for attracting and retaining top talent than anything else; Glassdoor reports that 77% of job applicants consider company culture before applying for a position and 56% say that company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction, making it a viable solution for avoiding the Great Resignation.
The bottom line is that team building should be a priority. No matter what business or industry you represent, creating strong team foundations is always worth the effort.
12 Team-Building Activities
Ok. You know what team building means and you know why it’s important, so let’s get to the fun stuff. Here are 12 different team-building activities designed to get even the most introverted team members eagerly participating:
If you’ve got a local team and you’d rather not risk a sunburn (or frostbite, depending on the season and climate), then meeting in the office may be just the thing. Here are several activities you and your team can get into while indoors:
- Shipwreck. Ready to exercise your imagination while collaborating to creatively solve problems? Then consider giving “Shipwreck” a try. Separate into teams and imagine that each group has been shipwrecked on a desert island. Have the groups each identify 10 items from around the office that they would choose to take with them, ranking each in order of importance to survival. Teams will need to discuss their choices and come to a group consensus before making a final decision.
- Two Truths and a Lie. “Two Truths and a Lie” is a low-key team builder that can be dropped into the middle of meetings or used as an icebreaker to enhance employee lunch-time get-togethers. In this game, every participant shares (either verbally or by writing them down) three ‘facts’ about themselves — two of these will be true facts and one will be a complete lie. The other team members then discuss and vote on which of the three facts is untrue. This not only gives less-vocal members a chance to share what makes them unique, it also improves interpersonal awareness in the company.
- Game Tournament. Sometimes getting to know people is all about getting to know how to take them down in friendly competition. Set up a ping pong table, break out the board games, fire up a Nintendo Switch or even just see who’s the best rock-paper-scissors player on the payroll. A game tournament gives team members a chance to focus on something that feels important and high stakes, but without the stress of work. As an added bonus, team-based games (possible between departments) give players a chance to socialize and learn how to rely on one another while facing challenges.
- Office Pinewood Derby. Why should Cub Scouts have all the fun? A pinewood derby (a race where participants build their own miniature cars from wood blocks) can be an amazing opportunity to promote creative problem-solving and collaboration. Divide the employees into small teams and give each group a pinewood derby kit along with some basic tools. They will have two hours to design the fastest car possible. Once those two hours are up, race the cars down a parallel track made from two 20-foot plastic rain gutters. Incentivize your racers with an award for the final bracket winners.
Check out our full list of indoor team building activites.
Why cage yourself together like a bunch of prisoners when the whole wide-open world awaits? For those times when you and your team need some sunshine and fresh air, these outdoor team-building activities offer a fun and healthy way to strengthen professional relationships.
- Wellness Class. Going outside can do wonders for a person's mental well-being. Take advantage of this phenomenon by offering an outdoor wellness class as part of your team-building strategy. Yoga, Zumba, guided meditation — the possibilities are endless and so are the potential benefits. And if you want to encourage improved health and wellness outside of team-building activities, consider initiating an employee wellness program.
- Scavenger Hunt. There are few things more invigorating than a frantic scavenger hunt. Unleash your employees on an unsuspecting world and see which team can be the first to find and photograph all of the items on their scavenger list. Groups will need to delegate and coordinate effectively to stand a chance of finishing first.
- Service. Many employees would like to give more back to the community, but don’t have the time. Help them make time by setting aside a workday for a local service project — a charity walk, tree planting day, park cleanup event or anything else that will improve your community. Performing service allows teams to make a positive difference. And as if that weren’t enough, it also creates strong team bonds as they pool their efforts towards a selfless cause. They say that we learn to value those things we sacrifice for, but we also learn to trust those we sacrifice alongside.
- Egg Drop. Divide your employees into small teams and give each a single egg and some basic construction materials (such as newspaper, tape, straws, toothpicks, toilet paper rolls, paper cups, rubber bands, paperclips, etc.). Each team will have 30 minutes to build a container that will protect the egg from breaking when dropped from a specific height. If more than one egg survives the initial drop, continue to increase the height until you have a winner (or a tie with two broken eggs). Teams will learn how to creatively approach difficult problems and how to work collaboratively.
Is your team spread across the country, working out of the home or telecommuting from parts unknown? That’s no reason to leave them out! Remote activities take a little bit more infrastructure (such as reliable internet connections), but can be just as effective as in-person team building:
- Online Games. We’re currently living in a golden age of engaging, easy-to-play multiplayer online games. Browse co-op games on online game stores or find fun multiplayer mobile games that everyone can participate in. From sports, to battle royals, to puzzles and more, there’s no limit to the kinds of online games your team can try their hands at. And, if your employees are interested in making things a little more interesting, a bracket-style tournament can be an exciting diversion.
- Whose Office Is It, Anyway?. Connect your long-distance employees by allowing them to catch a glimpse of each other's workspaces. In this activity, every team member takes a picture of their home office and shares it anonymously with the rest of the group. Others then attempt to guess which home workspace belongs to whom. This game is a fun ice breaker and a chance to see a more personal side of remote employees. And if members aren’t keen to share their home offices, you can adapt the game to focus on desks, chairs, coffee mugs, etc.
- Virtual Scavenger Hunt. A scavenger hunt may not be too difficult when you’ve got the entire world to search, but what happens when the hunt is limited to the area in front of your webcam? In a virtual scavenger hunt, you give your remote team members a list of items to find and bring into camera range. A moderator keeps track of which items have been found by which teams, declaring a winner when one team has located all of the items on the list. Individual teams will need to collaborate together to determine who will be in charge of locating what items.
- Trivia. Maybe the best part about knowing something is having the opportunity to show it off. Trivia events are fun, low-effort games that provide remote employees with a chance to flex their esoteric knowledge in front of their coworkers. Online quiz tools (like Quizzez or Kahoot!) make it easy to create and share game show-style trivia contests that can be accessed and played remotely in real-time. For added relevance, consider making the trivia company-themed, with questions about leaders, clients, company history and more.
Your business is only as strong as your employees and your employees are only as strong as the bonds they share. Effective team building activities at work helps you promote the kinds of positive interactions that cement strong relationships built on trust. And when that happens, improved productivity, profitability and employee retention are sure to follow.
But team-building events are only the beginning. Are you ready to take your company culture further? Talk to a Gympass wellbeing specialist today and give your most valuable assets the support they need to remain healthy, happy and engaged in improving themselves as they improve your business.
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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.