Team building doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity and goodwill from the leadership, any company can hold educational and enjoyable team building activities within the workplace without breaking the bank. After all, team building activities are, fundamentally, any social activities that help team members understand each other better, both at a personal and professional level. That means any event that makes people think, solve problems, and collaborate while having fun is a worthwhile team activity.
But then there is a twist: Some activities can be fun and all, but still be divisive and exclusive. For example, physically challenging team building activities can be counterproductive if they end up frustrating members with fitness struggles or underlying health issues. Avoid such activities at all costs. In the same spirit, you must avoid social activities that encourage exclusion and office politics. A good example is where old-timers team up to frustrate newcomers or employees from minority groups (concerning religion, race, or sexuality) get or feel left out.
Bottom line: You don’t want a situation where instead of strengthening your team, the fun activities you choose only succeeds at bringing divisions and mistrust within the group.
With that understanding, we invite you to check out the six awesome team building activities below:
1. Corporate cooking competitions
Before we go any further, do you have a functional kitchen in your office? A modern office should have a kitchen not just for the sake of holding corporate cooking competitions but also because it’d make your office feel relaxing and motivating. If there is a “by-the-way” kitchen, it would be great if you invest in kitchen remodeling to modernize it, make it functional, and inject a little fun and excitement into space.
Corporate cooking competitions create a win-win situation for everybody. There is enough delicious food for the office food lovers, a healthy portion of friendly competition for the competitive ones, and tons of socialization and collaboration opportunities for the entire group. Make the game comfortable for everyone by creating well-balanced teams (cultural diversity and cooking expertise). Allow each team to freely express their creativity, cultural understanding within the team, and expertise. You can hire professional chefs to guide participants, or as judges, but you don’t have to if you are tight on cash. Office food lovers can be the judges for the night.
2. The “Blind Waiter” game
This game helps people to communicate better at work. It is particularly useful when integrating new employees into the team. You will need several groups of 5 participants each. Members in each team then select one person to lead the group, and then the remaining 4 become the blind waiters. They are called blind waiters because they are required to pour a glass of wine for the leader blindfolded. The leader’s hands are tied so that he/she can only give verbal instructions. Everyone is handicapped in a way.
It gets tougher: The wine bottle, glass, and corkscrew are placed at different locations in the room. 3 of the four blindfolded waiters are supposed to fetch the three essential items, and no one should fetch more than one item. They are then supposed to open the wine and give it to the 4th member who then pours the wine for their leader, and helps him/her sip the wine because his/her hands are tied. All this time, the leader is sitting in a chair, far from the action, as he/she guides the waiters through the whole process.
3. The truth and lies game
It is a simple game that can help even the timidest employees to get conversational in the workplace. Each member is supposed to state three facts about their personal life, except that one of the three points isn’t precisely a fact. It is a lie. The rest of the team tries to weed out the lie. By the end of each round, every member will have known at least three personal things from each member. If your team is too large, you can divide it up into multiple groups of 10 employees each, and then everyone can switch groups after every round. Ask team members not to give anything away through unnecessary over explanations, body language, voice changes, or tonal variations. They should also avoid providing apparent lies to make the game exciting and challenging. Team leaders should go first. You can, for example, break the ice with your two truths and a lie:
“Hello, I’m Robert. I didn’t have a girlfriend until after graduating high school. I have a pet named Tiger. And, my sister Chloe is a paramedic.” Any of the statements can be a lie, so only people who know you will get to catch the “correct” lie.
4. Create art together
Group members can draw, paint, or even create sculptures together to enhance their collaboration, creative thinking, observational, and problem-solving skills. Creating art is also very relaxing and rewarding. It inspires creativity, increases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, and boosts focus and concentration. What’s more, this team building activity is not competitive because, as the cliché goes, all answers are correct in art!
Celebrate! Any day can be a celebration day when the bottom line is to have merry in the office and boost social relationships. You can celebrate employees’ birthdays, have a secret Santa for Christmas, allow Halloween costumes for a few hours, have a turkey in the office for Thanksgiving, and celebrate work anniversaries. Any reason to throw a party!
Three types of celebrations can increase employee motivation: Bronze, silver, and gold celebrations.
Bronze: These are celebrations for personal milestones and achievements; things that do not necessarily impact the company or the people associated with it, but that would mean the world to an individual employee. A good example is buying a cake for an employee’s birthday or setting aside every month to celebrate employees born within the same month. Another idea is to celebrate personal achievements outside of the workplace. These achievements include, but are not limited to, when an employee graduates with another diploma, gets engaged, buys their dream home, or gets a new baby. Bronze celebrations do not require too much input or preparation. You need to assemble the team during lunch break or the first thing in the morning and ask them to clap for the employee being celebrated or enjoy a small cake together.
Silver: This celebration celebrates individuals who have done something incredible for the benefit of the company. For example, you can celebrate work anniversaries for each employee after five years (5th anniversary, 10th, 15th etc.). That makes new employees want to stay and achieve the things older employees have achieved. On the other hand, older employees earn the respect of their juniors when their achievements and accolades are advertised and celebrated. Another example of a silver celebration is when you celebrate project achievements. Set aside one afternoon to celebrate the best team members who made a project go smoothly. You can issue gifts if your budget allows it, but the main idea here is to foster team collaboration; to show employees how appreciative you are when they team up to push the company agenda.
Gold: These are celebrations that recognize the milestones reached by the entire company, even if some of the employees may haven’t contributed to the milestone. Think of celebrating the company anniversary, say 10 or 20 years since it was incepted. Another idea would be to celebrate the opening of a new branch or attaining record sales and profits. Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day every first Friday of March is also an excellent way to get the team together and make members feel valued and appreciated for their commitment.
In the right quantity, for the right audience, and through the right channels, playing music in the workplace could be the magic key that unlocks higher productivity in your team. By the right audience, we should choose music that isn’t offensive or disrespectful to anyone in the team. The right quantity means blasting the music when everyone is on break and taking it a notch down when people resume work. Through the right channel means installing speakers on the ceiling to distribute the sound equally around the office. Having the speakers standing on one corner can distract people close to the speaker and inaudible for people in the furthest corner.
Just like food, music has something for everyone. Just play music at full blast and watch as team members clap, dance, sing along, shout, start friendly arguments, and just let loose. It is an excellent idea for slow, boring, and cold afternoons. Furthermore, there is sufficient evidence that music has tons of tangible benefits in the workplace; top on the list is increased concentration, mental health, and positive vibrations. That explains the increase in employee productivity. Playing music is the single activity that you can hold every day, or even have it playing in the background at all times. That makes it way more effective than having expensive corporate dinners at fancy restaurants, and yet it is almost free.
There you have it! There is no reason for you not to reap the benefits of team building and fun activities in the workplace. Be creative while at it, and tweak some of our suggestions to suit your team better.
Guest Submission by John Zoldan. Opinions are of the author.