17 Team Building Activities & Games Your Team Will Love
Every great manager knows that teamwork is the key to success. This doesn’t just mean hiring qualified people and putting them in the right positions. It means ensuring that all your team members are on the same page. Part of this is classic management – establishing standard procedures and ensuring people stick to them. But part of it is more personal – letting your team members have fun together.
At first glance, corporate team-building might seem like a waste of time and resources. But people like to feel like they’re part of a community. This doesn’t happen when your only contact is work-related, inside of working hours. It means playing games or working together to tackle challenges. With fun, effective team building, you can stop collaboration problems before they begin.
This is true not just for individual teams, but for different teams in different departments. Take, for example, a sales department and a service department at an auto dealership. They’re different lines of business, but they also have to collaborate with each other on an ongoing basis. As a manager, it’s your job to make sure those departments work together smoothly.
Team building events can take many forms. They can be something you do in a few minutes over your lunch break, or they can be a day-long event. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve, and how ambitious you want to get.
Here are 17 great activities for your next team-building event. For convenience, we’ve divided them into games for large and small groups. There’s some overlap here, and some of these games are great for large or small groups.
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
Games for Small Groups
1. Find Your Pair
Take several sheets of paper, and write the names of famous pairs together. These can be cultural, logical, or other types of pairs. For example, Mario and Luigi, or Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Now, tape them to your employees’ backs.
Without anyone telling anyone else directly which character is on their back, the employees have to figure out who they are. The goal is for everyone to find their pair. This is a great way for new team members to get on board, or as an icebreaker for a longer event.
2. Rope Square
Rope square is a simple, physical game for smaller teams to learn how to work together. First, take a rope, at least 16 feet long, and tie the ends so it forms a loop. Have the team stand in a circle around it. Then, the team leader blindfolds them and asks them to take five steps back.
The goal is for the team to form the rope loop into a square, without taking off their blindfolds. This will help improve communication skills as the team has to figure out their spacing. The game works best for between four and eight players.
3. Office Trivia
If you’ve always wanted to be Alex Trebek, now is your chance. With office trivia, you come up with a series of trivia questions and answers about the company. This can be serious information, like last year’s sales numbers. It can also be more lighthearted, such as inside office jokes.
Now, play your very own trivia game! Don’t forget to give a prize to whoever gets the most answers right. This is a great game for remote teams, since remote employees can play via Zoom.
4. Egg Drop
Egg drop is one of the most popular team building games in existence. If you’ve been to summer camp, there’s a good chance you’ve already played.
The goal is simple. There’s a raw egg, and someone is holding it high in the air. It helps if there’s a window or high platform they can use to get some elevation. The entire team needs to come up with a way to save the egg. This requires unconventional thinking, and the ability to work together towards a common goal. It’s a fun activity that will make even the most serious people laugh.
Needless to say, you’ll want to keep a few extra eggs on hand.
5. Group Lunches
We all need to eat, so why not make it a group activity? Get out of the office setting and get your creative juices flowing by going to lunch together. You could even take a vote as a team to determine where to eat. Make it fun, make it social, and may be surprised at the results. Not only that but paying for lunch is a great way to show your appreciation.
Another related idea is the office potluck. Pick a day every month, and have everyone bring a dish to share. Don’t worry about there being too much food. You’ll find that some people love to show off their cooking, while others prefer to participate passively.
6. Water Balloon Challenge
This is a fun game that’s suitable for groups of any size. Fill up a bucket load of water balloons, and divide your team into pairs. Pairs then have to pass their balloon back and forth. However, with each successful toss, they have to take a step back. Eventually, their balloon will break.
The water balloon challenge is ideal for hot days since everyone’s going to get wet. The driest team wins, but everyone gets to have fun and cool off in the heat.
7. Story Time
Choose a set of trigger words, and write them down on sticky notes. These words can be anything work-related, from “business trip” to “ first day.” Divide a whiteboard in half, and put all the sticky notes on one side.
Now, ask for a volunteer to tell a short, personal story based on one of the sticky notes. For example, maybe they got delayed on a business trip and ended up making a new friend. They could tell that story, then move the sticky note to the other half of the whiteboard.
As each person tells their story, everyone else should be thinking of words that remind them of similar stories. Have them write these down on a piece of paper during the story, then add them to sticky notes afterwards. Add those notes to the whiteboard, and ask for another volunteer.
There’s no winner or loser to this game. There’s just the opportunity to share personal, work-related stories, and maybe pass on some knowledge. This is also one of the better icebreaker games since it gives team members a way to get to know each other.
8. Shark Tank
If you’re familiar with the Shark Tank TV series, you’ve already sussed out the basics to this one. Team members come up with an idea and deliver a pitch. Then, a trio of “Sharks,” (investors) will decide on whether or not to invest in their idea.
This exercise is meant to promote creative thinking since team members will need to think like an inventor. They’ll also need to brush up on their communication skills to deliver a solid pitch.
In addition, the Shark Tank game can also have practical benefits. If someone “pitches” a good idea, you can actually incorporate that idea into your business.
9. Office Pub Crawl
A pub crawl is a great way to take your team building session out of the office and into the real world. Most cities have at least one service that offers a pub crawl service, to take your team from one spot to another. On a pub crawl, your entire team will relate to each other on a more human level. This promotes team bonding and better communication.
If you want, you can pair a pub crawl with another activity. For example, you could stop to watch a football game or go out for karaoke. The point is for everyone to spend time in the real world, having fun with each other. These kinds of fun experiences make it easier for people to work together later, during challenging times.
10. Escape Room
In an escape room, a small team needs to work together towards a shared ultimate goal: escape. You start “locked in,” and have to follow clues throughout the room to locate a hidden key. Critical thinking is essential, and communication skills are essential to your success. You’ll need to work on clues together to figure out the next step.
In addition to traditional escape rooms, many companies are now creating virtual escape rooms. This makes them ideal virtual team building games for remote employees.
Games for Large Groups
11. Scavenger Hunt
On a scavenger hunt, you divide your large group into smaller teams. Each team leader receives a list of items to be retrieved. Oftentimes, there will be a clue with each item in order to stimulate creative thinking. Teams will have to study the clues and try to deduce the locations of the hidden objects.
Scavenger hunts appeal to our innate sense of adventure. There’s nothing like setting off across a state park, or around a shopping mall, to find hidden treasure. Be aware, there are usually one or two teams that take a while to finish. For this reason, it’s wise to institute a time limit for your scavenger hunt.
12. Blind Retriever
Blind retriever is a team-building exercise where you divide a large group into smaller teams. The goal is for each team to guide one of their members to a designated spot. Sounds simple, right? The trick is, the person they’re guiding is blindfolded.
The game is simple. Each team chooses someone to be blindfolded. They spin that person around and try to direct them to their goal. The first team to reach the goal wins the game. You’ll need good team collaboration, or everyone will be shouting over each other.
13. Puzzle Barter
Puzzle Barter is simple on its face. You divide the participants into teams. Each team starts with a jigsaw puzzle, and they need to solve it together. This alone is great for bonding and creative thinking. However, each puzzle has a few pieces missing.
The team will then have to go around to other teams, and negotiate to get back each missing puzzle piece. They can trade away other pieces in their possession, or even trade group members. Whichever team collects all their pieces – and completes their puzzle – first is the winner.
14. Social Networking
No, we’re not talking about Facebook or the famous bluebird. We’re talking about old-fashioned networking. Gather your team in a room, and have each of them draw an avatar on a piece of paper. If you have a very large group, you may want to use index cards instead. If you want, you can have everyone answer a few icebreaker questions on their card. Everyone tapes their avatar to the whiteboard.
Now, each participant takes a marker, and draws a line to everyone on the board they already know. The point of this game is less to promote critical thinking, and more to help employees find a common thread that connects them.
15. The Back of the Napkin
“Back of the napkin” refers to finding a quick solution to a problem. In this game, you divide participants into teams, and give each team a napkin. On your own napkin, you write a business problem for everyone to solve. Now, the clock is ticking. Each team will need to use creative thinking to come up with their own solution to the problem. Then, they present you with the solutions, and you choose a winner.
The goal is to encourage team members to think like entrepreneurs. Instead of doing a repetitive job, they have to use unconventional thinking and invent a better mousetrap. This is one of the better virtual team building activities since remote teams can still participate.
16. Ball Drop Challenge
The ball drop challenge is an outdoor team building activity for larger groups. The goal is to take a tarp with a hole in it, and keep a tennis ball from falling through the hole. Unless you want the game to last for hours, make sure to cut a large hole, or cut several holes to increase the challenge.
Now, divide the participants into teams. Each team will take turns supporting the ball for as long as possible. Whoever holds onto the ball for the longest wins the game.
There are a number of benefits to this game. It requires people to cooperate and to communicate verbally when under time pressure. Not only that, but it’s good fun for all involved.
Shipwreck is a role-playing game to help teams work on time management and prioritization. The premise is simple. Each team has been involved in a shipwreck. The ship is sinking, and they have 30 minutes to gather whatever supplies they can. The key is to provide your players with plenty of options. Do they bring more food, which they can eat right away? Or do they bring weapons, so they can go hunting?
Because they’re working under pressure, successful teams will need to focus on communication. The faster they decide what to gather, the more they’ll be able to collect. In many ways, this simulates the everyday experience of workplace distractions.
An added benefit of this game is that you can get creative with the supplies themselves. You can use props, index cards, illustrations, or any other type of prop. Use your imagination, and have fun!
As you can see, there are a number of fun team building activities to keep your employees active and engaged. You can stimulate creative thinking and boost employee motivation, all with a simple game.
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