Use team-building activities to cultivate organizational success

Many people spend at least one-third of every weekday working. Though exactly how and where work happens day-to-day differs across industries, there’s one constant regardless of the workplace: Teams who feel a sense of connection and ownership enjoy their work more and tend to perform better overall.

Team-building activities are an effective tool in helping leaders create that mood and engagement-boosting feeling employees need to do their best work. In this guide, we’ll look at the many benefits of team-building activities, factors for leaders to consider when planning activities, and 101 ideas you can use to engage your team members and boost team performance, starting today.

What Your Team Gains From Team Building Activities

Working for the same company, within the same department, or on a collaborative project every day inevitably leads to a degree of team connection. However, a deeper sense of trust and camaraderie is necessary to encourage a larger emotional investment in the long-term success of the project, team, and company. Team-building activities strengthen bonds between team members that inspire them to invest in each other and, ultimately, in the organization’s success.

Taking the initiative to develop a healthy, productive team through structured activity offers several significant personal and professional benefits, including the following:

Team members feel understood and valued. Research shows that being heard and understood by our work peers increases productivity, employee morale, and creativity. Better understanding between team members also enables people to identify and highlight each member’s skills and knowledge, which can lead to cohesive collaboration.

More effective communication. In a recent workplace communication survey, business leaders estimated that their teams lose 7.47 hours each week due to poor communication. That’s almost an entire eight-hour workday! Team-building activities allow employees to develop and improve their communication skills in a variety of settings, strengthening their ability to collaborate effectively with others throughout the company.

Increased inspiration, creative thinking, and innovative solutions. Team-building activities encourage people to think differently than they would in their traditional daily work. Leaders who go a step further and implement team-building across different departments or project teams can help boost creativity and innovation, potentially leading to solutions that wouldn’t have been explored in a traditional brainstorming session.

A positive team culture. Considering that 32% of new hires leave a company within the first 90 days due to poor culture fit (and 86% of women won’t even apply to companies with a poor reputation), it’s essential to create a safe, healthy, positive culture for long-term growth and retention.

Deciding Which Team-Building Activities Are Right for Your Team

Many team-building activities exist for nearly every work team scenario, from elaborate, multi-day events to virtual get-togethers to quick in-office meetings. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing team-building activities:

Objective. Without goals, no one knows what they’re working toward or if they’ve met their objective. The same goes for team-building activities! Determine your ideal outcome to help ensure that your chosen activity meets your requirements.

Budget. Team-building activities can accommodate a wide range of budgets. Teams can have enlightening, practical experiences with just a few pens and sheets of paper at the office or a multi-day retreat with guidance from a workshop facilitator. Consider your immediate resources to narrow the list of activities to fit your budget.

Team interests. It might feel challenging to find an activity that everyone is excited about, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t find something that appeals to at least most of the group. Consider what you already know about your team members when planning the event to give yourself the best chance of team-wide engagement.

Team size. Will your activity be limited to a single project team or department, or are you planning a company-wide session? Many team-building activities can be adapted to accommodate groups of all sizes, though some might be harder to scale if they require a large amount of space or multiple pieces of equipment.

Location of your team. Organizations with fully remote or hybrid teams have another area of consideration when arranging team-building events. Certain activities are more accessible to implement virtually than others, and some organizations might wait to have everyone present for an annual gathering before planning team-building activities.

Effort. Do time, space, and resources constrain you? Depending on the scale, do you need a team to help plan or run the activity? How much time do you have to devote to planning the event? Honestly assess what you and your team can reasonably handle to help find the best fit.

101 Activities to Get You Started

Team-building activities can be used year-round to strengthen different aspects of your organization and working relationships. Look through the following 101 ideas to inspire your team's development.

Workplace Culture

1. Time Capsule: Team members contribute small items that reflect the current spirit of the workplace to a box, then review those items a year later to reflect on how the team has changed or what they’ve accomplished in that time.

2. Leadership Envelopes

3. Silver Lining: Teammates help each other see the positive outcomes from seemingly negative project situations.

4. My Favorite Manager

5. Favorite Teammate Feature: This activity aims to help colleagues identify and appreciate each other’s strengths.

6. Leadership Pizza

7. Heard, Seen, Respected: Build empathy and trust with this short exercise.

8. Glow and Grow

9. Whodunit?: Get to know each other by sharing personal fun facts in this interactive game.

10. Birthday Lineup

11. Jigsaw Puzzles: Divide co-workers into groups, assigning similar puzzles to each team. Set the puzzles in a shared space and see which team completes the puzzle the fastest, limiting puzzle time to designated breaks throughout the day.

Team Values

12. Explore Your Values

13. Team Purpose & Culture: Gain clarity on a team’s purpose through individual and group work.

14. Leadership Coat of Arms

15. Stick to the Values: See how well team members embody an assigned team-building principle while learning more about team expectations.

16. Values Ranking

Team Building

17. Marshmallow Challenge

18. Literal Team Building: Team members will need plenty of craft supplies, creative thinking skills, and a spirit of collaboration to recreate objects from various resources.

19. Crocodile River

20. Lost at Sea: The scene: a deserted island. The task: getting the group to agree on the six essential items needed to survive.

21. Human Knot

22. Did You Know?: In this activity, team members go beyond guessing which fun fact matches the right person — they also have to provide reasoning for their guess.

23. Egg Drop

24. Longest Shadow: Multiple groups compete to create the longest shadow, using their shadows to create a massive, unified shadow.

25. Dragon's Tower

Better Communication

26. Active Listening: Effective communication starts with listening skills.

27. Silent Meetings

28. Trust Battery: Learn the level of trust each participant has toward their co-workers and how they can “charge” that up.

29. Debate

30. Feedback: Start, Stop, Continue: Use this exercise for teams working together for a long time.

31. Drawing Communication

32. Team Reflection: This activity is an excellent way to check in with each other throughout a project’s duration.

33. Alternate Words

34. Egg Toss: Team building activities don’t need to be complicated to be effective, as evidenced by organizing an egg toss.

Decision Making

35. One-Sentence Instruction

36. Dotmocracy: This activity can be used to facilitate decision-making in a variety of scenarios.

37. Best Leadership Scenario

38. Impact and Effort Matrix: Creating a visual representation helps team members prioritize tasks and align on responsibilities.

39. Level of Influence

40. Ducks in a Row: Groups develop different techniques for addressing workplace challenges before reuniting as a larger team to refine their strategy.

Team Collaboration

41. Magic Carpet

42. Circles of Influence: This exercise helps group members determine which tasks should be handled individually vs. as a team.

43. Company “Shark Tank”: Divide team members into small groups and have them develop a product and a short pitch to present to the other teams. Vote to determine which product wins, then discuss the characteristics that made their pitch compelling.

44. Team of Two

45. Group Mind Mapping: Think brainstorming on a bigger scale.

46. What I Need From You

47. Werewolf: Looking for a multi-player activity that can be done in person or virtually? Werewolf is a fun, collaborative game that requires some strategy.

48. Team Canvas

49. Pipeline: Pipeline combines strategy, team collaboration, and creative thinking.

Conflict Resolution

50. What, So What, Now What?: Take a progressive problem-solving approach to minimize disagreements and promote cohesive solutions.

51. Conflict Responses

52. One Member, Three Leaders: Using hypothetical workplace challenges, assign three team members different leadership traits to see how they resolve the situation.

53. The Art of Effective Feedback Workshop

54. Bright, Blurry, Blind: Issues that appear evident to one team might be less apparent to another department. This activity highlights those differences and provides insight into how people interpret workplace issues differently.

Inspiring Others

55. Advice From Your Role Model

56. Living Core Values: Conversations showcasing how team members live the company’s core values help solidify team beliefs while strengthening bonds.

57. Campfire

58. Team Fundraiser: Create fundraising groups and require each team to develop its fundraising strategy.

Personal Development

59. Personality Potion

60. Roles in a Meeting: Assigning roles in team meetings encourages participants to try new skills and assume different responsibilities.

61. Alignment & Autonomy

62. 15% Solutions: We all have our part to play on a work team, and this activity highlights the importance of individual contributions.

63. The GROW Coaching Model

64. Leadership Book Club: Forming a book club is a great way to spark conversation, share new insights, and gain exposure to new ways of thinking. (Here are a few book ideas to get you started.)

Leadership Development

65. Blind Square Rope Game

66. Leadership Race: This activity combines leadership skills, self-assessment, and awareness of what makes a great workplace leader.

67. Tower of Power

68. Observation Challenge: Successful teams pay attention to details and observe their surroundings discerningly. Observation Challenge puts those skills to the test.

69. Minefield

70. Leader for A Day: The person appointed to be the leader is evaluated on their ability to accomplish tasks, while the rest of the team is tasked with adapting to new leadership styles.

71. Frostbite

72. Leader Interviews: Accessing leaders from different industries or levels of your organization allows your team to learn about different leadership styles, challenges, and ongoing skill development.

Quick Activities

73. Speed Texting

74. Icebreaker Trivia: Mix up the traditional icebreaker games by quizzing team members on each other’s responses.

75. 30-Seconds Experience

76. Find the Missing Item: An easy and fun memorization game.

77. Two Truths and a Lie

78. Slice and Dice: Line up two groups of people, have them face each other, and get ready to move out of the way.

79. Name Impulse: Check out the video tutorial to get started.

80. Salt and Pepper

81. Count to 20

Creativity Boosters

82. Back-to-back Drawing

83. Emoji Storytelling: Participants randomly select emojis to craft a coherent story. Teams will need creativity, collaboration, and storytelling skills to make their story shine.

84. Balloon Animal Challenge

85. Classify This: Teams are presented with various craft supplies, office items, or general knick-knacks and must determine the connective thread that unites all items into one classification.

86. Blind Art Auction

87. Mad Lib Mission Statement

Get Outside

88. Night Trail: This activity requires access to ample outdoor space and high trust between teammates.

89. Running Free

90. Field Day: Just like many of us did in school, organize a field day (or afternoon) with relay races, water balloon tosses, and other schoolyard activities for a fun team-building day.

Off-Site Activities

91. Leadership Retreat: Whether the retreat is for current leaders or for team members who exhibit leadership qualities, an off-site series of activities and workshops is a great way to foster team building and trust while relying on leadership skills.

92. Local Trivia Night

93. City-wide Scavenger Hunt: Create your own scavenger hunt or research local organizations in your area offering this type of event.

94. Build for Charity: Volunteer as a team at a Habitat for Humanity or similar charity organization.

95. Virtual Game Night

96. Ropes/Obstacle Course: Take on unique outdoor challenges in a scenic setting. Search for “ropes course near me” or “obstacle course near me” to find local options.

97. Escape Room: Problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and competition — an ideal team-building exercise.

98. Dining Club

99. Topgolf: You don’t need to be a serious golfer to enjoy Topgolf.

100. Charcuterie Workshop: Take part in this culinary trend and exercise creativity.

101. Sporting Event: Taking the team to a ball game (or some other athletic competition) allows people to socialize in a relaxed environment.

Team-building activities help foster trust and improve communication between team members. Teams that trust each other tend to perform better, are more skilled at conflict resolution, and help create and sustain a positive workplace culture. Use any combination of these ideas to boost morale, build trust between teammates, and set the tone for an open and honest workplace.

Written by

Megan Snyder
Megan Snyder

Senior Editor | CEO.com

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