What Is Team Building?
Team building is an activity or series of exercises encouraging employees to develop better working relationships. These can be anything from casual icebreaker games to more structured problem-solving activities designed to develop specific workplace skills.
Whether virtual or in-person, team building games should promote collaboration and help each person understand their individual and collective contribution to the company. It's an ongoing process enabling individuals to trust and appreciate each other over time.
Why Is Team Building Important?
The idea of a team is synonymous with sports, so let's take a second to appreciate how it works on the field. You'd never start a soccer game without knowing what position you were playing, what position everyone else was in, and your line-up's individual strengths and weaknesses. And the same goes for business.
Here are some specific examples of why team building is so effective in the working world:
When team members feel comfortable with each other, they push outside their comfort zones to achieve fantastic results. The makeup of a team can impact even the most highly skilled individuals. This Harvard study reveals that cardiac surgeons work better as part of a team in a familiar environment.
When team members feel secure and supported by their colleagues, this boosts their confidence, motivation, and creativity—all invaluable ingredients in any working environment. This athletic study demonstrates how confidence can fluctuate depending on the partner pairing, highlighting the importance of continuously working on team building.
97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. Team building ensures employees all work together toward a common goal.
Connectedness is under closer scrutiny now that many companies have switched to a remote or hybrid working model. This explains the 2500% investment increase in virtual team building activities since the beginning of the pandemic.
Improves Employee Engagement
Gallup research reveals that employee isolation can reduce productivity by up to 21%, but effective team building fosters critical working relationships. Specifically, female employees with a work bestie are 63% more likely to be engaged than those without one.
This MIT Sloan Management study finds a toxic workplace filled with team conflict is ten times more responsible for resignations than compensation issues are. Team building is the initiative you need to iron out disagreements and increase employee loyalty.
What Makes A Great Team Building Activity?
Here’s the elephant in the room: team building gets a bad rap. If the mere mention of team bonding has your employees rolling their eyes and running for the exit, you’ll know you need to take action to have everyone onboard and enthusiastic.
Perhaps previous team outings haven't been positive, if the activities haven't been the right fit, or if leaders didn't join in. Maybe some employees felt embarrassed or humiliated by the activity or found the entire event cliched and cringeworthy.
So, how do you choose the best team building exercises? Make sure they’re:
- Enjoyable: Employees should look forward to the activity, not dread it.
- Engaging: Fun games for teams should create a sense of unity, have everyone laughing, and encourage full participation.
- Inclusive: Scrap happy hour team events, which may feel uncomfortable or intimidating to people who don't drink alcohol. Similarly, avoid blindfolded games that are designed to enhance trust but may be insensitive to those with disabilities.
- Space-appropriate: Plan your team building around the environment you're working with, whether it's indoor, outdoor, or virtual.
- Attendance: Try to make the event compulsory for everyone, and if it isn't possible, then at least incentivize staff to participate.
- Within budget: Team collaboration can be inexpensive. Keep reading to learn dozens of free team building exercises promoting cooperation and communication.
How Often Should You Hold Team Building Events?
Team building is a work in progress; it must happen regularly to maintain strong relationships. But equally, these activities do take time away from regular deep work that drives your business forward. So, how do you strike the right balance?
The frequency of team building in your company comes down to personal choice. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, a recent Travel Perk Teams Together survey asked a global pool of organizations how often they bring colleagues together for a team event. The results were:
- 25% of organizations held monthly team building events
- 22% opted for team building every three months
- 22% preferred team building every six months
- 11% didn’t have a regular team activity schedule
- 10% chose an annual approach to team building
- 9% committed to weekly team building activities
If you are unsure what your cadence should be, pick a monthly timeframe. Commit to this regular action, and assess in a few months. How does your team feel about the activities? Do they want more? Add more opportunities to bond. If they'd like fewer opportunities, you can scale down from there.
40 Team Building Ideas Your Team Will Enjoy
If you need inspiration, we've created a comprehensive list of 40 fun team building activities your employees will love. Best of all: you don't need to book an expensive retreat or plan an exhausting physical activity to get started.
1. Tell Two Truths And A Lie
The game aims to make everyone open up and feel comfortable communicating with their teammates. It's an excellent icebreaker and works well with face-to-face and virtual teams.
The premise is simple: Each person takes turns to make three statements about themselves, two of which are true, and one is false. Be prepared for some hilariously outrageous statements as team members become comfortable pushing the boundaries!
The other team members must guess which statement is false. Introduce points to give the game a competitive edge—for example, 1 point for each correct answer and 3 points to anyone who fooled their entire team.
2. Arrange Virtual Or In-Person Coffee Dates
What better way to build connections than over a cup of joe? Set aside time for regular catch-ups with teammates to check in about workloads or what's going on in their personal lives.
Whether over a video call or huddled in an office breakroom, this is an excellent way for a team to connect informally. Coffee dates should be kept short, but if the conversation is running dry, try introducing simple games with an interactive element like "Bingo" or "Guess the Emoji." You could also provide a list of icebreaker questions before the coffee date.
3. Host A Book Club
Encourage your team to listen to each other and learn diverse perspectives by hosting a book club. Start by picking a list of three potential books for your team to vote to read. Next, give everyone a month to find a copy and read it. Last, meet to discuss what everyone thinks.
The topic or genre of the book doesn’t need to be related to business. Simply chatting about a book over snacks is enough to reap the benefits of productive discussion in a psychologically safe space. Some employers pick books based on what's trending, the season they are in, or the genres their employees love.
Your team members will gain confidence in putting across their point of view while sharpening their intelligence.
4. Play Show And Tell
Remember show and tell at school? This classic activity can be an excellent way for your team to get to know each other better. Ask everyone to present something meaningful to them and explain what it is and why it's unique. It could be a physical object like a vacation souvenir or even something emotional like a song or poem they wrote.
This will not only give everyone a chance to talk about themselves and connect but also create an environment of understanding and trust. One thing's for sure: you'll learn a thing or two about your teammates!
5. Host A Hackathon
Hackathons are well-known in the tech and engineering world as a way for teams to come together and focus on a theme or solve a single problem. But they also get creative juices flowing in any work team.
Give your team a set time frame (say 24-72 hours) and a topic they can focus on. It could be anything from improving existing processes in the workplace, overhauling your employee benefits program, or building a new compensation structure.
Break your team into smaller groups and let them brainstorm solutions or ideas together. Once the time is up, ask everyone to pitch their ideas and vote on a winner.
6. Play A Game Of Telephone
A classic game of telephone provokes plenty of laughter and encourages your team to relax. It also effectively demonstrates how easily misunderstandings can escalate into fully-fledged rumors that can damage a team's dynamic.
The game is simple: a sentence is whispered from person to person until it reaches the last teammate in the circle, who will say the final version of the sentence out loud. The meaning tends to change slightly along the line, becoming entirely unrecognizable by the end and leading to hearty chuckles! Let everyone share their version of the sentence, and guess what it was originally.
7. Run A Scavenger Hunt
Transforming your workplace into a treasure-hunting ground will be the perfect way to encourage collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity in a team of any size.
Whether you run your scavenger hunt indoors, outdoors, or virtually, you'll need to prepare a list of items to search for. This could be anything from finding the tallest tree in the office garden to identifying the longest-running employee in the company.
Your team will work together to find each item on the list and complete the hunt successfully. With a bit of friendly competition thrown in, your team will bond and learn something new about each other.
8. Host A Brainstorming Session
Brainstorming or mind mapping ensures everyone's voice is heard. By the end, you'll have a wealth of ideas you can use to solve problems or develop creative innovations.
Choose a theme like "new ways to engage employees." Then, give everyone 5-10 minutes to write down their ideas before sharing them. Always stress that there are no wrong answers here; all input and perspectives are valuable.
Give everyone an equal opportunity to speak and share their thoughts, no matter how small, and you'll build trust and confidence throughout your team.
9. Learn Company Trivia
If you'd like your team to be more aligned with your company's values and mission, try hosting a trivia session. Divide your team into groups and have each group answer questions about the company, such as "What's our company motto?" or "Which charities do we support?"
Keep it light and fun with photo rounds and silly multiple-choice answers to ensure high engagement. At the end of the session, your team will better understand what your company stands for and how it works.
10. Create A Compliment Circle
What better way to boost team morale than by giving compliments? There are a couple of ways to run this fun activity.
Method one: Ask your team to write a few words of appreciation for their colleagues. You might say: "I love the way Amy is always willing to help when I'm stuck," or "Sajid made me feel really welcome when I joined the team, and I settled in so quickly thanks to his support."
Once everyone has written down their compliments, form a circle and let each person read what they have written. Reduce bias in this activity by ensuring everyone receives an equal number of compliments, so it's not just the usual stars receiving praise.
Method two: Ask everyone to write down a compliment about the person sitting to the left of them or their position in a Zoom grid on a video call.
Either way, this activity will create an environment of mutual respect and appreciation for each other. People will feel more connected and valued when they receive compliments from their peers. It could even become an ongoing team practice!
11. Play A Game Of Celebrity
This activity will test your team's ability to think quickly and come up with creative solutions. It might also bring out some competitive streaks, which can be great for team building!
Divide your team into pairs and set a timer. Player one must pull a celebrity name out of a hat and give clues to explain why that celebrity is famous without saying their name. For example, you might say, "She used to be in a band called Destiny's Child and now she's married to a man with 99 Problems." Player two must correctly guess that you've described Beyonce.
Once the time limit is up, add up how many your team guessed correctly, then sit back and watch another team play.
12. Host A Lunch And Learn
Each of your employees brings an assortment of rich experiences to their respective teams. Perhaps a team member has experience in a particular coding language that could benefit the group, or maybe someone else lived abroad for a year and would love to give a beginners' language lesson. Hosting a "lunch and learn" allows each individual to share their knowledge and skills with the group.
These activities will help team members learn more about each other while building relationships and providing valuable knowledge to use in the future. Plus, everyone will get to enjoy a delicious meal together!
13. Hold A Themed Contest
From Easter to Halloween and everything in between, there are numerous occasions to get creative and hold themed contests. To determine a winner, you can have an impartial judge from an adjacent department score the results.
Whether you opt for a desk-decorating competition or a cookie bake-off, you're sure to get your team involved and engaged. Not only will it break up the day-to-day routine, but it might be the source of some great memes and team bonding opportunities!
14. Compete In An Airband Battle
If you're familiar with Lip Sync Battle, this team game will be a cinch. Split your team into groups and ask them to stage a performance set to a rock band classic. Costumes and props will only add to the fun!
Your teams get to show off their performance skills (or lack of), and it's also an entertaining way for everyone to get involved and express themselves. Watching your colleagues perform Bohemian Rhapsody will bring a few laughs and provide fantastic bonding opportunities.
15. Build A Memory Wall
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that brings a team together. Ask everyone to bring a photo or item from their time at the company to build a memory wall together. For example, you might contribute an image from your first day with the team or share a thank-you gift you received from a client.
It's a way to use sentimentality to reflect on the memories and accomplishments you've made as a team and can be a real morale booster during tough times.
16. Create Your Company Coat Of Arms
It's time to unleash your team’s creative side and design a symbolic representation of the company using A1 sheets of paper and marker pens.
Playing around with your organization's various colors, symbols, and values to create a coat of arms is super fun and shows leaders how their teams view the company. For example, if you want to be seen as a sustainable company, but your teams haven't incorporated this message into your coat of arms, it might be time to re-evaluate your mission statement.
17. Guess “Whose Is It?"
This superb photo guessing game allows employees to share a little about their personal lives using smartphone pics. Create a list of categories, such as pets, coffee cups, fridge content, and front doors. Then have your teammates guess which picture belongs to who.
This is a quick game and a simple way to foster team relationships and learn more about each other in an interactive setting. It's perfect for a Friday afternoon catch-up before breaking for the weekend.
18. Chat Around A Campfire
The traditional version of this activity is to take your team outdoors and host a campfire night where everyone can roast marshmallows, tell stories, and learn more about each other in an informal setting. But this activity can be equally effective around a conference table or on a video call if that's a better fit.
Create a list of prompts on sticky notes with trigger words like "first day," "business trip," "work bestie," or "favorite project." Then, pass the prompts around and have teammates tell a story about the prompt. It's personable and a fast way to establish common experiences.
19. Design A Magazine Cover
This creative, future-facing activity aims to create a magazine cover reflecting what your company could look like five years from now. It helps teams to focus on how their daily work fits into the bigger picture of driving the business forward.
Divide your participants into teams and give everyone a role—for example, one person could be assigned to photography, another to layout, copywriting, interviewing, etc. Each small group will present their completed magazine cover to the rest of the team and vote on a winner.
20. Find The Silver Lining
If your company wants to build resilience, this activity will help employees to reframe negative thinking. The idea is to reflect on an experience and find the positive silver lining in the situation. For example, think about the skills you learned from a failed project instead of dwelling on it.
Let everyone share their experiences and encourage each other to look on the bright side. It's a meaningful way to understand different perspectives of memory, foster team empathy, and strengthen mindsets.
21. Reveal Bucket Lists
A bucket list is a list of life experiences and goals a person wants to achieve. Ask everyone to share their bucket list items with the team and explain their choices if they feel comfortable. For example, one team member might want to take an Antarctic cruise, while another might like to learn a new language.
The activity will help team members connect on a personal level and give leaders insights into the ambitions and aspirations of their team. It's also an opportunity to celebrate each other's successes as they check items off their bucket list!
22. Tell A Story
Build your team's active listening skills with this storytelling exercise. First, assemble your team, online or in person, and give everyone a number. Then, explain that they'll contribute to the storyline when it's their turn.
The first person will begin with an incomplete sentence such as "Frida was excited because today was her first day meeting with a new client, and she..."
The second person will listen intently and then end the sentence before beginning the following incomplete sentence for the third person to finish. For example, “....wanted to share her new presentation on how pet owners can help their dogs express themselves. But when she went to meet the client…..”
After everyone has completed their turn, you'll have a coherent story and an improved set of listening skills.
23. Guess Baby Photos
Baby photos break down barriers to show we're all human beings. Even the strictest leader was once a bouncing baby in diapers sporting a questionable onesie. Get started by asking everyone to send a photo of themselves as a baby and compile the images into an album.
Then, give everyone a few minutes to browse the album and try to guess who's who using only their pictures. This activity will help teammates learn more about each other, cement interpersonal relationships, and add a lighthearted vibe to the mix.
24. Play Virtual Charades
Charades online can be just as entertaining as in person. Give everyone time to pick a movie, TV show, book, or song with the help of their teammates if needed.
Then, take turns silently acting out your charade. Teams must guess correctly before they get another turn. An alternative is to play Heads Up!, which is available through the Zoom app marketplace.
25. Make Your Own Wordle
If you're unfamiliar with Wordle, it's a web-based word puzzle where you guess a five-letter word in six attempts or less. Although Wordle is usually a solo exercise, we're here to tell you it makes a great team game too.
Use Make Your Own Wordle and choose a word for your team to guess. Everyone will brush up their reasoning and collaboration skills to crack the puzzle.
26. Play Pictionary
Do you have any budding artists on your team? Unleash their inner Monet with a game of Pictionary. Playing in person is great, but you can still have fun drawing and guessing online by using virtual whiteboards or just scribbling on a piece of paper and holding it up to your desktop camera.
This activity inspires positive energy and laughter while encouraging creative thinking. It's also an excellent way to test your team's communication skills and quick thinking.
27. Throw A Cultural Celebration Party
Embracing different cultures and customs promotes understanding and respect. Get your team together and hold a virtual cultural celebration party complete with stories, music, and food from around the world.
The goal is for everyone to learn more about each other's culture, exchange ideas, and enjoy some delicious treats. It could be an opportunity to share an event or story from your childhood, practice a few languages and pick up some new recipes.
28. Encourage A Healthy Office Debate
While there's no place for toxic conflict in a positive work environment, a structured office debate can be healthy. It's interesting to challenge each other, listen to opposing viewpoints, cultivate creative solutions, and help your team develop more effective communication skills.
Choose two opposing topics for the debate, such as 'Paper vs. Digital' or 'Traditional vs. Agile,' and select two teams to defend each side. Allow 20-30 minutes of research, jot down notes on a sheet of paper, then leave ample time for the debate. An impartial judge can be appointed to keep the discussion civil and provide feedback for each team.
29. Enjoy A Pub Quiz
Put your team's knowledge to the test with a few pub quiz rounds. Quick note: you don't need to host this in a pub or with alcohol.
Prepare a few rounds of general knowledge questions and divide your team into small groups or pairs. Once everyone is ready, call out the categories one by one and let everyone battle it out until you've crowned your winners. You could even make it more fun by offering prizes for the champions.
30. Go For A Virtual Walk
Walking meetings were made famous by the TV show The West Wing, where characters often walked around the White House grounds chatting about high-level political issues. But now, distributed teams can also take advantage of a change of scenery and a chance to shoot the breeze with colleagues. Apps like Feeting enable you to have meaningful conversations with your team on the go.
So, grab your trainers and join your team on a virtual walk through a park or downtown area near you. Chat about work topics, solve problems together, take your dog out, and share your local scenery with your team.
31. Share Good News
Encourage your colleagues to provide insights about their personal life by sharing their week's highlights. For example, maybe someone has finally potty-trained their toddler, accepted an offer on their house, or booked a trip to Paris with their partner.
Bringing a little cheer and positivity into the workplace can help boost morale and remind everyone of the bigger picture when it comes to our home lives.
32. Draw A Social Network
How well do your teammates know each other? Are there some who've been there for years, or do you have a lot of new starters?
This activity breaks down who knows who and how, so you can identify any weak spots in how team members interact. Provide colorful post-it notes and ask everyone to draw out their social networks in the workplace. For example, Stella might share that she worked on a project with Bill, is regular lunch buddies with Angela, and mentors Juan.
Once everyone has had a turn, look for pairs who don't know each other yet, and connect them for a Slack or coffee chat. Supply prompts and icebreakers to help everyone get to know each other better.
33. Take A Virtual Workshop
Building connections can be challenging in remote work and even isolating for team members who live alone. Encourage team interaction by hosting virtual workshops such as cooking classes, group yoga, or even a virtual escape room.
These fun, meaningful team activities support relationship building and bring everyone closer together. Plus, it's something everyone can do from the comfort of their own home!
34. Host A Team Dinner
Breaking bread together builds camaraderie and encourages team bonding. Whether you opt for takeout or to cook something special from scratch, there's nothing like a nourishing meal to spark conversation and connect with your colleagues.
For office-based teams, you might book a restaurant or host a summer BBQ at your house. Remote employees can adapt this by arranging a virtual dinner and making it extra special by dressing up, dimming the lights, and playing music in the background.
You can chat about the projects you're working on, lighten the mood with a few funny stories, or even play a game or two. An after-dinner quiz or some team charades might be just what your team needs for a midweek pick-me-up.
35. Play Quick Lists
Short on time but need to re-establish team connections? Try a fast-paced game like Quick Lists. Divide your department into groups and give them a list of categories, like:
- US states
- Famous paintings with flowers in them
- Fast food restaurants
- Countries beginning with the letter G
- Competitor companies
Each group has to list as many items in the category as possible, and the team with the most correct answers wins.
36. Solve A Murder Mystery
Gather your team and ask them to put on their detective hats. Split the group into teams and assign them a murder mystery to solve (either buy a simple box puzzle or create your own!) With clues hidden away in virtual treasure hunts, videos, and puzzles, each team has to work together to crack the case.
Your employees must use their best critical thinking and communication skills to work together and hunt down the perpetrator.
37. Host A Movie Night
It's time for a night-in with the team. Grab your favorite popcorn, order some pizza, and cue up Netflix. Let everyone pick their favorite movie and vote on it, or agree on a classic like Jaws. You could also host a night out by renting a room at a local movie theater.
Round up your remote team members with a conference call, and use a video streaming platform like TeleParty to watch the film together. Don't forget to chat between scenes, share your thoughts, and enjoy bonding with your colleagues. The only prop you'll need is snacks!
38. Imagine A Desert Island Challenge
Imagine you and your coworkers are stranded on a desert island. What items would you bring? This fun team building activity is all about nurturing creativity and problem-solving skills. Give each team a deadline to devise a list of their essential items and decide who will be responsible for what.
The items can range from practical (a first aid kit) to whimsical (an ice cream machine). Encourage your teams to think big and prepare for lively debates.
39. Show Off Your Moves In A Dance Party
Sometimes all your team needs to reboot is a little dance break. Get up and move with some fun, upbeat tunes. Or make it into a game by playing Just Dance on a gaming console of your choice. It's sure to get your heart pumping and relieve stress while having some laughs with your colleagues.
If you're working remotely, host a virtual dance session with your favorite tunes and prepare to break it down wherever you are. You'll get out of your work headspace and have fun, no matter how your dance moves manifest!
40. Learn Names In A Group Juggle
Do you know the name of every team member? You will by the end of this game! Gather everyone in a circle, then throw a tennis ball to a teammate as you say their name out loud. Keep passing the ball and saying each other's names until you build your team's confidence in identifying names.
As the group becomes more confident and faster with their response times, include more tennis balls to increase the difficulty.
Grab Our Free Team Building Notion Dashboard
Team building doesn't need to be daunting, nor should it be something you put off. But we understand it can feel overwhelming to put an action plan together. So, we've created our handy free team building Notion dashboard. It includes:
- 40 team building activities divided by estimated time.
- Budgeting spreadsheet to keep up with team building costs.
- Feedback survey questions to help you quantify the value of your team building program.
- Team building resources so you have the tools you need to run a successful program.
How To Use Nectar When Investing In Team Building
At Nectar, we help companies use employee recognition to build company culture. We have a variety of tools that can help organizations that are investing in team building.
Our recognition feature helps employees stay connected within their department and the entire organization while evangelizing your company's core values. Even if you aren't involved in the day-to-day, you can still encourage other workers by commenting or adding points to a shoutout someone else gave.
If you want to push workers to attend team building events, our challenges feature can help you do that. Why not send points (that can be redeemed for fantastic rewards) to anyone who attends your big team building event this month?
Start Building A Thriving Team Today
Team building isn't a one-and-done kind of thing. It needs to become part of your team's culture over time to promote team cohesion. This means ensuring everyone feels heard, valued, and appreciated throughout your team building sessions and beyond. Leaders should strive for regular open communication and collaboration, and never take it for granted.
The first step is to download our free team building Notion template, and the second is to book a demo of Nectar. We'll show you how easy it is to say goodbye to departmental silos and focus on building community and camaraderie in the work environment.