If you’ve been a part of a workplace team, you’ve likely participated in a team building activity. And if you lead a team, you’ve probably spent time figuring out the best way to make your team bond better. For some, the idea of team building activities might conjure up thoughts of ropes courses and trust falls. And it also might conjure up some skepticism...perhaps about ropes courses and trust falls.
But what is team building, actually? The goal of team building is to turn a group of individual employees into a cohesive team working toward the same goal with trust in one another. The level of difficulty in uniting a team varies based on the existing company culture and the individuals on the team, but regular team building is important for all teams, no matter how effectively they work together. As a company that has been running team building events for 20 years, we understand that team building is more than just an activity.
Why is team building so important?
More than ever, as teams continue to work remotely, there is a big shift in the way offices look and function. Simultaneously, some teams who have not been together in person in more than a year are returning to the office. These teams need opportunities to bond together again. Making team building a ritual creates camaraderie, leads to a better work environment, and produces more motivated employees, among many other benefits.
Are team building activities effective?
It depends on the activity. Going out to an after-work happy hour may count as team bonding, but it’s less effective than a more organized, intentional, and facilitated activity. But what is a good team building activity? Many team building activities are rooted in play, and play creates the type of bonds that would take years to build in the workplace. Great team building experiences get your team out of the office and out of their comfort zone to create a stronger company culture. It can be an investment, but it’s an investment that pays off in the short and long term.
What are the advantages of team building?
From increased employee retention to motivation to creating fun, there are plenty of ways team building activities can increase cooperation and productivity long term. Before planning your event, it’s important to identify your goals. Consider, what are the objectives of team building for you? For instance, a scavenger hunt may help a team focus more on collaboration and drive while a wine tasting class with a sommelier may help loosen up a team who is getting to know each other for the first time. Understanding your goals will help you choose the best team building event for your needs.
Still not convinced? We’ve listed some of the many benefits of team building along with some activity ideas. Here are 20 reasons why team building is more than just an activity:
- Increases Employee Retention
Replacing employees is expensive in terms of money and time. In fact, the cost of replacing a salaried employee can be as high as 6 to 9 months of their salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s report on retaining talent. Additional costs include on-boarding, lost productivity, lost engagement, training costs, and cultural impact on the organization. The best option to combat losing employees is to increase employee retention. We believe that a team that plays together stays together. Regular team building activities make employees feel more connected and invested in their company and in their other teammates.
- Creates Shared Experiences
Remember the time that Rob from sales got four strikes in a row when the team went bowling? What about when Maya from marketing did an incredible lip sync performance in a full dinosaur costume? When teams spend time together outside of work, they’re able to create shared experiences to reflect on later. Shared experiences are an important part of the bonding experience as they increase acceptance, belonging, and camaraderie according to studies from Harvard University. Creating shared memories starts by creating a team building experience that everyone can attend and take part in.
- Provides Collaboration Practice
Think of any team building activity as practice. Getting out of an escape room together before the spaceship takes off might not be what everyday at the office looks like... unless you work for NASA. However, working together to solve any obstacle is like a dress rehearsal for when real work problems arise and all hands are needed on deck. And we all know a solid rehearsal leads to a much stronger performance, especially in any time of crisis.
- Builds Trust
Before performers go on stage, many of them say to the rest of the cast, “I’ve got your back.” Team building activities are a great way to build trust and prove that your team has got each other’s backs. (Once you build an entire stable bridge out of toothpicks and marshmallows together, anything is possible.) When it’s time to ask a teammate for help on the job, previous experience (like building that sticky bridge) will help someone feel more confident in their colleagues and transitions them from just being coworkers to having a relationship outside of workplace roles.
- Improves Communication
During a team building activity, people who have never worked together before have a chance to work toward a common goal together. That goal may be as simple as beating another team in dodgeball or creating the best choreography in a dance off. They might communicate for the first time ever while they work on their overhand throw or step back kick together. This makes team building activities a great way to learn each other’s communication styles as you navigate challenges. In these situations, employees are expected to speak up with ideas, concerns, and mistakes. Because of the silly and low-stakes situation that everyone is taking part in, it lessens feelings of embarrassment, rejection or punishment for speaking up.
- Lets People Experience Wins
Great team building activities give every member of each team the opportunity to experience an epic win. Watch your team math whiz show off her skills with a tricky scavenger hunt challenge, and your punny sales guy come up with the wittiest team name. Activities should be skillfully designed to give everyone a moment of triumph and the opportunity to win major points for their team.
- Increases Employee Engagement
A great workplace has employees who do more than clock in at 9:00am and leave at 5:00pm. In between the start and end of the workday, it’s important that employees are engaged. Scheduling regular team building events provides more opportunities for employees to engage at work and ensure they stay engaged for long after. Once teammates feel connected to their colleagues and the company’s mission, engagement becomes a lot easier to maintain.
A 2021 “Friends and Happiness in the Workplace Survey” by Wildgoose found that 22% of employees believe they’re equally or more productive when working alongside friends, and 21% said working with friends makes them more creative. The survey showed that 12% of people state they’re less likely to leave a company if they have a good friend there.
- Boosts Motivation
Switching it up and swapping in a team building activity for a regular meeting can be the motivation needed to help employee burnout. It’s no secret that it's been a tough year (or two) and people are exhausted. To keep people motivated, take a break for a lunchtime yoga class or after work game show.
- Allows People to Show off Their Strengths
Let your team members show off! Did you know that Jen the executive director knows all the words to Forrest Gump? Did you know that your new intern knows every TikTok dance and is ready to teach the team? Doing something outside of everyday work activities lets people show off their skills in a new way. It’s a great way to find new strengths in your team that don’t necessarily fit into a job description.
- Allows People to Work on Their Weaknesses
On the other hand, a team building activity is a safe space for someone to recognize and work on their weaknesses. Maybe they notice they end up speaking over everyone else trying to solve the clues in an escape room. Or perhaps they know their writing skills are not strong but still want to join the company writer’s group. Use team building exercises as a way to help people tackle obstacles and further develop their professional skills.
- Serves as a First Meeting
If your company is brand new, a team building event is a great way to introduce the team for the first time. Maybe you’re experiencing significant growth and doing mass hiring. (Congratulations, by the way!) Perhaps your remote team is meeting in person for the first time when the team from Mumbai is coming to Chicago. Instead of hours of potentially awkward office handshakes, plan a team building event to allow everyone to meet and quickly bond.
- Changes The Mood
If sales have been low or there have been big layoffs, the mood at work might be tough and tense. Use a team building activity to change the mood at the office. Take people out of the setting they’re usually in together and do something totally different. If you bring everyone kayaking on a lake together on a sunny day with a big picnic, the mood will be brighter than another day looking at spreadsheets.
- Creates a Level Playing Field
Team building activities can help disrupt the usual workplace hierarchy. A change of setting and activity can help break down hierarchical barriers to make people much more comfortable. When you put the office assistant, the CMO, and the accountant in the same cocktail making class, they’re going to relate much differently. (They might even end up bonding over a shared love of whiskey!)
- Proves That You Work Hard and Play Hard
A strong company culture is one of the most important things your company can provide. With so many options of working in-person, hybrid, or remotely, people have increased choice of how and where they want to work. While you don’t need to turn all of your conference rooms into ball pits to make the office more fun (though that would be), it’s important to showcase that your team values work and fun. Providing regular team building activities shows prospective employees and the current team that you value work-life balance.
- Shows Appreciation
Providing team building activities is a great way to show appreciation for hard work. Plan a team dinner and give out employee awards to recognize those excelling in front of the entire company. Plus, appreciation is a strong preventive measure to loss of talent. Gratitude helps keep morale high, which leads to happier employees, which leads to stronger retention. (And it’s just always nice to say “thank you.”)
- Offers Learning Moments
Invested employees are invested in continuous learning. Team building activities offer an opportunity to learn something new and provide a place where employees can safely take risks. Plan something like a cooking class where everyone learns to make the same dish from a chef, a paint party to develop art skills, or even a language class to learn the basics of a country that houses some of your remote team. This is another way to put people on the same level and offer a safe space for learning.
- Stimulates Creativity
Thinking outside the office often helps teams think outside the box. Whether you’re cracking a code to get to the next step of a puzzle or playing a game of Pictionary, solving different kinds of problems allows your team to think differently. This could lead to new ways of thinking and working together back in the office, too.
- Promotes Inclusivity
Not every meeting can be open to all employees and not everyone is invited to every out-of-office event. Creating a team building experience that is inclusive helps cement the culture of inclusivity at your workplace. Successful team building activities appeal to introverts and extroverts and people from different backgrounds and cultures. Make sure everyone is considered and comfortable for your event so that work culture mirrors the same expectation.
- Makes Hiring Easier
Before someone even joins your team, you can make sure they’re a good fit by using team building during hiring. We’ve used game shows for group hiring events to interview multiple people at once and gauge how they interact. Interviewing someone in a more relaxed, collaborative setting is a great way to get more of an unscripted look at how they may fit into your company culture. We’ve used the same format to onboard employees and make the process more smooth and fun.
- It’s Fun
Here’s your reminder: It’s okay just to do something because it’s fun. A company beach day, a themed casino night, and a ski retreat are all fun ways to bond a team. Team building activities are fun, despite their sometimes marred reputation. Remember that your employees are real people who have separate interests from their job. Show them that you’re human too by planning a day of fun. (Of course all those other benefits of engagement and retention will come along with that fun.)How do you make a team huddle fun? Add in some play time. Start using these games and more virtual team building activities to engage your team, boost morale, and strengthen your company culture.
Ready to start planning? Get started and book a team building activity to engage your team, improve morale, and strengthen your company culture. Learn more about virtual team building activities at weve.co or book a demo now