What are good team building exercises? Do they exist? Why does team building always seem to suck? If you’ve been asking these questions then I hope I can help you find a better way to gather your team for something that’s actually fun and productive.
Maybe you’ve landed here because your team is feeling a bit disconnected. Perhaps you’re trying to fill the time allotted for team building during your annual meeting. Maybe you’re just looking for a fun way to kick start the day that doesn’t involve munching on stale donuts in a conference room while staring blankly into space.
Whatever your motivation for asking, “What are good team building exercises?”, I applaud you for seeking something fun and interesting for your crew.
Shaking up the ordinary and getting outside the proverbial box can be challenging. In order to face that challenge head on, let’s talk through some good exercises that will actually get your employees to buy in and engage.
There are plenty of great options out there to make team building exercises not only painless, but actually enjoyable and meaningful. Before we jump into different ideas for you and your team, let’s talk a bit about why team building is important.
Why Team Building is Important
To consider the importance of quality team building, I’ll ask you to play along with me and imagine for a moment that you’ve joined an adult recreational sports league. If sports aren’t your thing, imagine that you’ve signed up for a weekly trivia team.
You show up to the first game to find that every team member is a stranger or even worse, a person that you actively dislike. Yikes. How motivated do you think you’d be to show up for practice? How likely would the team be to win any games?
Now let’s imagine a more pleasant scenario. You receive your team assignment and are surprised to find that every person on your team is someone you know, like, and respect. You’ve invested time in these relationships and you genuinely enjoy being around these people. In fact, you trust these folks to support you on the field (or trivia table) and to have your back.
As you reflect on these two team scenarios, it becomes clear why having engaged, connected, team members is so important. Co-workers that trust and truly know each other are more likely to share ideas, collaborate, and dare to try out new ideas.
Employees that experience this feeling of trust and inclusion have been shown by various research studies to be more likely to show up for work, display more company loyalty, and generate better quality work.
Good team building exercises will create this sense of buy in and inclusion for your employees. Employees will get to know each other on a deeper level. Trust is built as team members share ideas, get creative, and dare to think outside the box.
During a team program, co-workers get the chance to solve problems together in a collaborative manner outside the context of work. Relationships grow, engagement increases, and communication improves in a fun, low pressure setting.
So yep, team exercises do have value and purpose. With that in mind, here’s a list of ideas you can implement and bring to your workplace.
10 Good Team Building Exercises
Asking someone about their dog or cat can be a surefire way to break the ice and get a big smile going. Many of us love to take out our phones and show off latest pet pics to anyone who will volunteer to look at the cuteness.
You can harness the power of the pet to create connection between your teammates. Start by creating a community picture board where each co-worker can post a photo of their pet with a fun description.
Place a ballot box near the board, where everyone can cast a vote (with the caveat that you can’t vote for your own pet). Make sure there are several categories for voting so several pets can win (i.e cutest, funniest, looks most like owner etc).
On a morning when you want to create a bit of engagement and opportunity for relationship building, bring your team together for a fun pet pageant themed breakfast. Make a production out of counting the votes and awarding the pet winners. If you have a pet friendly office, perhaps the pets in question can even attend the pageant and personally accept their awards.
Your employees will have the opportunity to connect, laugh, and swap adorable pet stories. By the end of the pet pageant, there is sure to be a boost in levels of connection and engagement within the team.
If you have thirty minutes to an hour, a theme and a volunteer to get the storytelling started, then you are in ready for a story slam session.
Ask your group to form a circle either seated or standing so that everyone feels welcome and included. Decide on a theme for the story slam session. Examples of themes could be “a challenge I faced” or “my funniest epic fail”. You can tailor your theme to focus on funny stories or to prompt a more meaningful tone, depending on your goals for the session.
Each team member should be given 5 minutes to tell a story related to the theme. The story can be true or fictional, it’s completely up to the storyteller. Pro Tip: you’ll need to designate a team leader to keep time and make sure that each storyteller stays within the five minute limit.
The story slam encourages your team to share ideas and utilize their voices in a group setting. The exercise also encourages creativity and outside of the box thinking. By the end of the session, everyone will get to know each other a little better and get a bit more comfortable sharing with the group.
The Marshmallow Challenge
This is a great exercise to throw into a lunch program or a break during the work day. If you have thirty minutes to spare, you’ll have plenty of time for set up and fun marshmallow shenanigans with your team.
To set up the marshmallow challenge, you’ll need 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string and one marshmallow for each team. You’ll divide your group into teams of four (groups of 3 or pairs will also work depending on your total group size). Set a timer for 18 minutes and let each team get to work building a structure of their choice out of the provided materials. There is only one rule – by the end of the 18 minutes, the marshmallow needs to be situated at the top of the structure.
Groups will have an opportunity to connect, collaborate and get silly. You can even award a prize to the best crazy marshmallow structure if you want to add a bit of incentive.
Enneagram Personality Test
A big trend in personality testing in recent years has been the Enneagram Assessment. The Enneagram provides a window into human personality by identifying nine basic personality types based on a series of insightful questions. Some examples of the nine Enneagram personality types are “The Reformer”, “The Individualist” and “The Peacemaker.”
All personality types are framed in an empowering, positive manner. Each result provides the test taker the opportunity to consider their strengths and face their challenges more effectively.
Make sure you leave about 20 minutes at the beginning of the session for each team member to take the Enneagram Assessment on their phone or computer. Have your team come together in a circle to discuss their results. Each team member can share their Enneagram type and engage in discussion with the group.
If you have a bit more time on your hands, you can split the team into smaller groups based on their Enneagram type. This session allows your team members to get to know not only their co-workers, but also themselves on a much deeper level. There are many resources that provide the Enneagram Test for free, but for the sake of saving time, you can click through here to a verified Enneagram Test provider.
Trivia Night (or day)
Get your team members together for a fun trivia competition during an afternoon at the office. Cater in some snacks and beverages if you want to make this more of a treat for your team.
Set up an area of your office as the designated trivia arena. Split your employees into small teams to give an opportunity for new relationships and connections to form.
There are plenty of apps that generate great trivia question content. All you need is a designated trivia leader to ask the questions and keep score. As a bonus, you can add in fun prizes for winning teams. You can even make this a regular event that can be built into a tournament.
This is a simple and easy way to get your employees connecting, engaging, and investing in the workplace culture.
Engaging Through Music and Songwriting
Music is my absolute favorite way to get groups engaged and connected. I will admit that I am a bit biased here, as I’ve been working with companies through my Team Building Through Song® program for well over a decade. I’ve seen the power of music to build relationships and create buy in.
For this program you’ll need to bring in an outside facilitator. Your entire company or division can write a song together, or you can break the team into smaller groups to create your own songwriting competition.
When you work with my company, you’ll get an award winning songwriter and skilled facilitator to lead you. By the end of the session, your team will have your very own radio ready anthem about what you do, created end to end. The opportunities for creativity and connection are endless, and everyone gets to collaborate to create something unforgettable.
Bring out your team’s inner child by turning the office into a scavenger hunt arena. You can make this as simple or complex as you’d like. You might have a quick 15 – 30 minute window to get your team running around the office looking for clues, or you might create an epic amazing race that has your team walking or driving around your local neighborhood.
The great thing about the scavenger hunt is you can tailor it to your team, your office, and your time constraints but still make it super fun and engaging. Opportunities for collaboration and relationship building are effortless components of this fun and breezy activity. Scavenger hunts have been around forever, but they’re still popular because they’re inherently good team building exercises.
Lunch and Learn Series
Your team may be full of hidden talents. Whether your accountant is expert at knitting yarn animals for her adorable grandchildren, or your HR rep has a passion for learning romance languages, there is sure to be a wealth of information available to share.
Once a week, host a lunch where one or several of your team members can share a bit about their hobbies and passions. Team members will be able to learn something new, eat a tasty lunch, and get to know their co-workers interests and skills.
If you have an hour or two to spare to take your team offsite for a fun, exciting activity, escape rooms are a great way to go. Your team will have the chance to head out of the office and into a world of fun and adventure. Escape rooms have popped up in cities all over the place, so locating one in your area should be a breeze.
Your team will have the option of various interesting themes to choose from (James Bond, Zombie Apocalypse, Vegas Heist etc.) for the escape room game. Once your team enters the game room, the timer will start at one hour. Your team will work together to solve clues and puzzles that lead to the goal of “escaping” the room within the allotted time frame. Each team member will have to collaborate, communicate, and truly engage to solve each piece of the escape room puzzle.
Build A Board
If you keep up with the Instagram and Tik Tok trends that have been taking off recently, you might be familiar with the growing “build a board” trend that is blowing up on socials channels. The traditional charcuterie board has expanded and evolved to include nacho boards, dessert boards, French fry boards, chili topping boards, and various other versions of the board presentation.
Invite a group of your employees to a special afternoon where each person has a chance to build their ideal centerpiece board for the party. Whether it’s cheeses or chocolates or a weird combo of both, all ideas are welcome.
The nice thing about this concept is that your team gets to enjoy a twist on the potluck meal that does not require any cooking skills whatsoever. From cheeses and chips to meats and nachos, your team members can share their favorite snacks while competing for the best board.
You can offer several different prizes like “best board presentation” and “tastiest board.” Your Gen Z employees will be impressed by your understanding of Tik Tok trends. There will be snacks to please every palate and hunger level. It’s a win win for everyone.
Team Programs Have Real Value
Whether you get musical, host a story slam or share pet pictures, you won’t go wrong with any of these team building exercises. Your team will benefit from the dedicated time spent connecting, collaborating, and sharing their stories with one another.
The return on investment of building these lasting connections within your group will be worth the time spent. When a team has the chance to connect, the positive shift in energy is palpable and powerful.