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The idea of team-building sounds great, in a vacuum. What could be wrong with having some fun, getting to better know your coworkers, and even getting a bit of time off the job? Unfortunately, this simple concept has been routinely misused for years, with organizations implementing mandatory fun — an oxymoron if there ever was one — in the form of events and activities that somehow make hitting the grindstone look appealing by comparison.
If this is the reality at your company — or you fear it soon will be — you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out the two simple keys behind effective team-building activities and two dozen great team-building activities to try out.
The two keys to team-building activities that don’t make employees groan
Companies often miss the simple truth that play must be voluntary. When you’re forced to do something — even an activity you otherwise enjoy — the fun is diminished, if not absent entirely. So let employees choose whether to participate in activities that aren’t related to their core duties, whether that be a company-sponsored getaway or a virtual happy hour for a departing colleague. This ensures that those who participate are fully engaged, and it keeps your company from actively disengaging those who aren’t interested.
You might be concerned about employees isolating themselves by skipping out on team-building activities. That’s where the second key comes in: offering a wide variety of team-building options, so every type of team member can find something that appeals to them. This doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming — after all, it doesn’t take much more effort to set up both a book club and a restaurant trip than it does to tackle one or the other. And you’ll get a significantly higher participation rate by presenting multiple options.
If there are still employees who choose to never participate, you may have an employee engagement problem. That’s on your company to fix by collecting feedback on the root causes and quickly acting to address them.
10 team-building activities to suit every taste
If you’re ready to get some team-building activities going at your workplace, try a few of those below that you think will suit team members at your organization. Or, better yet, take the time to ask them with a quick pulse survey, then come back and see what items on the list align with their interests.
Getting out into the community, strengthening your organization’s brand, doing some good, and building camaraderie — what’s not to like about volunteering? This requires you to take some time to find out what causes your team members care about, but the payoff is well worth it. You should also connect with various charitable organizations in your area to see what opportunities are available. If you can align your team’s volunteering efforts with your company’s vision and core values, you’ve truly got an exceptional team-building activity on your hands.
2. Mutual recognition
Exchanging a few simple messages of recognition is one of the most powerful ways to build close relationships among your team members. This activity could take the form of everything from a compliment circle — although, as always, participation in this should be voluntary — to a company-wide occasion dedicated to recognizing employees — preferably on Employee Appreciation Day, which takes place on the first Friday of March each year. You can turn this type of activity into a year-round, everyday practice with an employee recognition and reward platform that makes showing appreciation easy and engaging.
3. Book club
Not everyone enjoys playing games, going out, or attending a happy hour. For these employees and others who have a passion for literature — or simply need motivation to get through their ever-growing “to-read” list — a book club is the perfect team-building activity. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, in-person or virtual, an opportunity to discuss interesting material everyone is familiar with is a valuable thing. Ensure that everyone who’s participating in the book club has a chance to provide input on what to read, and if someone doesn’t get their choice at first, ensure they get a bite at the apple the next time around.
4. Fun group games
Whether your workforce is in-office, remote, or hybrid, there are plenty of classic games that are perfect for team-building. Charades, Mafia, and all types of trivia are popular choices that are easy to play, and each has a variety of online versions available only a few keystrokes away. There are fun online games that employees of all ages can enjoy, from loading up a crowd-pleaser like Among Us on Google Play or Steam to playing a simple game like Hangman or Pictionary in a browser. Team members might end up having such a good time that they keep playing with each other on a regular basis, keeping the team-building goodness going.
5. Learning together
Developing your organization’s existing talent should always be a priority, and it also offers many opportunities for strengthening the bonds between team members. A lunch and learn might be the classic example of this type of team-building activity, but you should look beyond traditional professional development practices and lean into the new possibilities offered by today’s online learning platforms and courses. Some training apps offer built-in social spaces where your employees can connect and assist each other with the material. And consider organization learning activities that don’t relate to work, like attending a cooking class, improv workshop, or even an archery range.
6. Exploring your city
Sometimes the simplest activities are the best, especially when they involve new sights and experiences. Museums, restaurants, parks, landmarks — the only limits on office field trips are time and, for some excursions, cost. As usual, get a feel for what employees want to do, or let them vote on a destination. If there are expenses involved, have the company cover them, and at the very least, provide transportation to and from the location.
7. Group exercise
Exercise is a core part of physical and emotional health, so setting up a company- or team-wide time to move around is a great way to tackle both team-building and employee wellness. If your company’s office building includes a workout room, or if there’s a gym or park nearby, finding one or more activities a group of employees are interested in should be easy. If several employees are into a certain sport, a rec league or intramural competition is a great option as well. Even if your workforce is partially or fully remote, collectively following an exercise routine or video, whether synchronously or asynchronously, is a nice way to bridge the remote gap and help keep each other accountable.
8. Meditation and mindfulness
Mental wellness is just as important as physical fitness, and it holds just as many possibilities for team-building. Meditation is a low-cost, effective way to encourage collective mindfulness and get a group of people together in a gentle, healing space, whether physical or virtual. You can double down on this team-building activity with other mindfulness practices and take serious steps towards building an environment of acceptance and calm.
9. Share some music
Music is the universal language, so what better way to help bridge the gap between team members than encouraging everyone to share some of their favorite tunes? This is something almost any team member can participate in, and it’s an excellent way to reveal shared tastes and expose employees to your organization’s diversity. Building a playlist together, setting aside a specific time or day where employees can choose what to play in the office (or in a dedicated virtual space), or simply putting a few links to Spotify or YouTube in a shared chat are all good ideas for getting the music flowing.
10. Brainstorm together
Employees have many insights into how to improve their company across the board, from changing culture for the better to boosting performance, but this resource often goes untapped. Holding an official hack day or a team meeting dedicated to sharing feedback are both solid ideas that bring employees together and get their minds humming. Like recognition, this is a team building exercise you can easily turn into an everyday practice with an employee engagement platform that includes always-on channels for anonymous feedback on everything from potential process improvements to ideas for managerial training, together with guidance on how to quickly act on these insights.
Connect your entire team with Achievers
Effective team-building activities require understanding what team members want — and that means asking them. But employees are unlikely to be completely honest in direct conversations, whether the discussion is about team-building or what they think of their manager. That’s why adopting an employee engagement solution that features easy-to-use ways for employees to make their voices heard is so important.
Enter Achievers Listen, an integrated, flexible platform that makes capturing employee feedback in real time simple with pools, quizzes, surveys and forms. With an always-on digital channel where employees can share their thoughts anytime, anywhere, and guidance on how to turn insights into action on a huge range of common issues, alignment between your company and its workforce is within reach.
Better yet, it’s just one part of the Achievers Employee Experience Platform, a science-backed toolset designed to meet the unique needs of every team member. Together with Achievers Recognize, your ticket to effective team-building through fun, engaging recognition and rewards, you’ll have everything you need to turn group activities into the highlight of each employee’s day.