The Ultimate Guide to the Best Team Building Activities
Teamwork is a skill that requires regular attention, no matter how strong the work chemistry is among your employees. Just like creating a website is meant to strengthen your online presence, team building activities for work are meant to strengthen your company culture. This includes every component from leadership to problem-solving and decision-making to boosting the overall morale and so much more.
Events can range from a few minutes to an entire day, involving team building games, icebreakers, competitions, and fun days. It’s up to you to decide which will benefit your team the most in the long run. This guide to team building activities will get you started with some creative inspiration, no matter what size your team is or the budget you have to work with.
Purpose: Team-bonding, icebreaker, competition
Description: Trivia is a game where a moderator asks participants a series of questions, allowing them to accumulate or lose points based on their answers. It can be set up with teams or individuals versing each other. Therefore, at least three participants are required. The event usually revolves around a specific theme such as music, sports, or inside jokes from the office, or a mixture of completely unrelated topics.
After choosing your topic, set up a point system for ranking answers and have an end goal to reach, in order to make the game more competitive and fun. Finally, you can provide the winning team with a gift, such as a lunch on the company in order to further provoke bonding. There are several different types of trivia you can play with your team, from setting up an entire event in a nearby pub or common space at work, to a quick ten minutes out of your day to play an online version like Sporcle - personally, one of our office favorites.
Purpose: Team-bonding, icebreaker, competition, communication
Description: If you can think back to childhood sleepovers with friends, this might sound familiar. Charades is a game where one designated player acts out a word or phrase through motions without speaking, while the other players try to guess what it is.
To set it up, have a moderator create a list of words and phrases that everyone in the room is familiar with. These can be office or industry related, or completely random. You’ll need at least three players to begin. Whisper the secret word or phrase to the player acting it out, and then have them carry out their motions while the other players watch and spew out guesses. Set a time limit too, so that it’s a fight against the clock. Also, have a point system to be able to determine a winner based on who guesses your targeted number of words/phrases correctly. Lastly, offer a prize or bragging rights to the top achiever.
03. Community service day
Purpose: Team-bonding, collaboration, community support
Description: Community service is one way to give back and stay inspired at work. It’s the act of doing a good deed to support your local city or region. It can be as simple as cleaning up trash in the city center to volunteering at a homeless shelter or making care packages for hospitals or soldiers abroad.
Maybe your business already regularly donates to and supports a charity foundation? In this case, you can aim your community service efforts there. The point is to bring your company together to do something good, to collaborate, and to help the world become a better place. It doesn’t matter what size you are or how much money you are able to spend on this, any small act can make a big difference.
04. Scavenger hunt
Purpose: Communication, problem-solving, collaboration
Description: This is one of the most fun team building activities, in our opinion. A scavenger hunt begins with a list of items to find, either to collect or take pictures with. These can be anything from ‘find where Bill keeps his secret stash of chocolate’ to ‘take a photo with the new art sculpture downtown.’ Your parameters are up to you and time allowance.
Participants are broken off into teams to work together on checking items off the list in this given time. Therefore, four or more employees should take part - the more people, the more fun. One idea is to do this with just new hires to get them familiar with your business’s history and locating commonly used things. Another option is to involve the whole company to participate and choose random, unrelated items that get them out of the office to refresh and get to know each other better.
05. Office ‘Shark Tank’
Purpose: Research, productivity, competition, collaboration, public speaking
Description: Nothing screams “intense competition and teamwork” like Shark Tank. If you’ve ever watched the show, you’ve seen participants face the judges and pitch their business ideas in a limited span of time. After the timer goes off, judges grill the pitchers with tough questions in order to see if their idea is feasible to invest in. Take this idea to your office by setting your own parameters. You’ll need a theme, either related to work, such as the next project or crafting your company’s mission statement, or just make it pure fun and unrelated to the job. At least one judge and three or more teams are required - so four people at a minimum.
Allow teams to break out, research, and prepare their pitches. Then, when it comes to presenting, only keep the current pitchers in the room so that other teams will have no choice but to present unique findings. After the presentations, have the judges talk over the ideas and choose their favorite. Then, finally, when all is said and done, get everyone back together and announce the winner. Provide a prize at the end that you’ve informed everyone about from the start in to heat up the competition.
06. Two truths and a lie
Purpose: Icebreaker, team-bonding
Description: This is a great game to play with new employees. It will serve as an ‘icebreaker,’ or barrier disruptor between the awkward silence and knowing the team on a personal level. It starts conversations and perks the interest of crowds quite often. Plus, it doesn’t take a lot of time or resources.
To play, you’ll need at least three people, but no props. Have the person speaking list three things about themselves, two of which are true, and one that they completely made up. Everyone in the room then guesses which one is a lie. In the end, the speaker announces their honest answers. It’s as simple and fun as that. This game is best played at a team event such as a lunch or happy hour.
07. Escape room
Purpose: Problem-solving, decision-making, communication, leadership
Description: Picture you and a group of people trapped in one room searching for an escape route. You have one hour to solve a multi-step puzzle to find your way out. Each room has a theme and clues are hidden within the props. For example, if the theme is a New York subway station, you might find clues under the benches, clocks, stairs, or railway. Look everywhere in the room for your first clue, then follow it to many more until you finally unlock the last one and are able to escape.
Each room usually comes with instructions and all of the features included. All your team needs to do is show up with energy, curiosity, and a will to work together to beat the clock. Let the adventures begin!
08. Offsite ‘fun day’
Purpose: Morale improvement, team-bonding
Description: Getting your employees out of the office for a day to put their work aside is one of the best choices you can make. It will help you with retaining your workers as well as attracting new ones. It’s also a simple refresher that will improve overall morale and productivity.
So have a beach day with a catered meal, do a cooking or painting class together, or go to laser tag - get creative and think of something everyone will enjoy. You can surprise the team or take a survey to gage interests for the day’s events. Surely, everyone will be happy at the least to get away from their inboxes and routines for a day.
Purpose: Morale improvement, team-bonding
Description: Here’s an easy, low-budget way to bring the team together. Have a potluck meal during lunch one day at work, or on Friday afternoon right before the weekend. At a potluck, each coworker is required to bring one dish or beverage to share with the group. This will allow them to get creative or show off a family recipe or traditional cultural cuisine if they like.
You can have everyone bring a dish of their choosing or assign food and drinks to each person. The point is to bring everyone together, and food has a magical way of doing that.
10. Field day
Purpose: Problem-solving, decision-making, competition, communication
Description: As you might remember from your grade school days, field days are quite the adventure. They are filled with a series of competitive, challenging courses - from tug-a-war to a sack race to limbo and more. Set up a few different teamwork building events like these and get a field or large space to have room for all of them.
You will also want to have a large number of people, at least two teams of three to play. Allow the teams to spend a set number of time competing in each station, and then moving on to the next. Keep a tally of number of wins per team for the end. When the day is over, announce the winner and offer a prize.
11. Human knot
Purpose: Problem-solving, communication, decision-making
Description: This is exactly what you’d think it’d be by the title: Everyone forms one giant knot together with their arms and has to find a way to untangle it without breaking any bind. To begin, start in a circle with all participants facing inward. Have players grab the hands of others in the circle who are not next to them. At this point everyone should be holding hands with two other people - which ends up creating the ‘human knot.’
Now, the goal is to have all players work together to untangle the knots and form one big perfect circle, holding hands with the people on both the left and right of them. While it might seem like a difficult task, it’s certainly possible through communication and teamwork. A group of ten or more is best for this kind of activity.
12. Ropes course
Purpose: Personal development, team-building, communication, problem-solving, leadership
Description: A ropes course is a fun, offsite activity that’s physically demanding, strategy-building, and teamwork-focused. It consists of a mixture of on-the-ground and in-the-air elements, such as ladders to climb through and ropes to balance on. It’s usually done outdoors using trees and grass to hoist the ropes and other elements.
Of course, straddles and other safety gear are provided by the ropes course place, and an instructor is there to guide everyone through each activity. All you have to do is show up ready to accept the challenges and work together with your team. Doing so will actually help you determine different employee personality types and learn how to work with their strengths and weaknesses. A medium-sized group of around 5-15 people is best for this event.
13. Top chef cooking competition
Purpose: Leadership, decision-making, time-management, teamwork
Description: This is another television show based team building activity, which certainly means it’s going to be entertaining. The point is to create the tastiest, most attractive dish. Each individual or team is given a few ingredients and an allotted amount of time. Once the clock starts ticking they must start cooking. Sometimes, a chef comes around to give tips and advice, as most employees are probably not experienced cooks. When the timer goes off, a group of judges view and taste the final results. Then, they announce the winner and offer a prize. May the best chef win!
In order to properly execute this team building activity, you’ll need access to a big kitchen with kitchenware and utensils, chosen cooking ingredients, and a timer. This game is best played with at least three employees and two or more judges.
14. Oversized jenga
Purpose: Morale booster, team-bonding, decision-making, strategy-building
Description: Here’s one way to take a quick break and destress while you’re at work. Jenga is a strategic game consisting of a tower of wooden blocks stacked three blocks wide by 18 blocks tall, with each layer placed in alternating directions. Once the tower is built, individuals take turns picking out one block at a time, then stacking that block on top.
The goal is to not be the one that causes the tower to crumble and fall. It’s a fun, tactical game that requires careful focus and a light touch. It’s great to keep around the office for long breaks and happy hours. You can either buy one or create your own. If you plan on doing the latter, you’ll want to use 54 giant, 2X4 wooden blocks. At least two players are required.
15. Paper plane toss game
Purpose: Competition, strategy-building
Description: Paper planes are closely dated back to study halls and detentions, where the ‘bad kids’ threw them when the teacher wasn’t looking. But they don’t need to have a bad rep anymore when it comes to team building activities. This is a super simple game that will give your team a much-needed break from a long day in the office.
Have each participant craft their own paper airplane using an A4 piece of paper. The chosen building strategy of their plane is up to them. Then, have participants line up behind a marked line. One-by-one, each of them will toss their plane to see how far it can fly. Measure the results of every plane to compare the distances and determine the winner. You can also follow this up with a prize. At least two players are required.
By Jennifer Kaplan
Small Business Expert & Writer