When people think of team building activities, they often picture cheesy seminars with lots of trust falls. However, the reality is that team building does not have to be awkward or forced. It is actually a lot more effective when you create fun activities that naturally encourage coworkers to learn about each other and see the benefits of working together.
To get the most out of your team building exercises, follow these tips. We include a few examples for restaurant and grocery teams, but many of these ideas can be applied in a variety of settings. And don’t worry – we’ve factored COVID into these ideas, as well.
What Makes a Team Building Exercise Work?
To find good exercises for building a team, you need to know how they work. Ideally, a team building exercise is something that will help your employees loosen up a little and get to know each other. Creating bonds that extend beyond basic workplace activities can help workers be more motivated and engaged at work.
A team building activity should also be something that requires people to work together. This gives employees the option to create problem-solving techniques as a team. They get a chance to improve workplace communication and understand effective ways of solving issues with their coworkers.
Finally, these activities need to be something your team will actually enjoy. Take workplace culture into account and avoid anything that your team will find silly, childish, or pointless. When your employees are feeling resentful over forced activities, they are less likely to get anything out of the exercise. Instead, it is better to pick activities your workers will see as an enjoyable break from work. We’ve provided a variety of ideas below so that you can choose what works best for your team and company culture.
Quick Team Building Activities
Team building does not have to be a weeklong seminar packed with activities every single day. If you are short on time, you may find that smaller activities integrated throughout the workday may be just as effective. Just be sure to include these as part of working time instead of forcing employees to take part in them during their breaks.
Two Truths and a Lie
This ice-breaker game requires each employee to share two truths and one lie about themselves. Then, employees get to take turns guessing which of the three statements is the lie. This is a good activity because it helps people learn about their co workers and work together to think logically.
Another nice perk is that it just requires chatting, so you can do it during any downtime. If your team is trying to remain socially distant during COVID, consider getting a blackboard to let everyone write down their truths and lie instead of having to yell to be heard (if you have a large team).
When you want to build team unity, purposefully starting a debate might sound like the worst idea in the world. However, it actually improves communication when you teach employees healthy ways of handling low-stakes disagreement. To add an element of fun and friendly competition, consider letting employees judge debates and hand out points.
Just remember to avoid anything sensitive like politics, religion, or lifestyle matters. Instead, stick to silly topics like the best coffee shop in town or the best print for a COVID face mask.
Take a page out of an elementary school teacher’s lesson plan and host an employee show-and-tell. This can seem a little goofy at first, but it can actually be a very fun opportunity for employees to interact with each other.
By getting employees to bring in and discuss a favorite possession at the beginning of the workday, everyone can get to know each other. Remember that there can be concerns about sanitization during COVID, so allow people to show a picture of the item if desired.
Learn about your team members’ hopes and dreams by asking everyone to fill out a bucket list of things they want to do. Then, ask each person to share an item on their list and encourage employees to brainstorm on ways of finishing the item.
During COVID, a fun twist on this water-cooler team building exercise is to write a bucket list of things to do when the pandemic is over. It can be a nice way for employees to share their frustrations and look toward a brighter future.
Everyone loves bonding activities that involve food. It gives employees a chance to relax and socialize without the stress of handling customers, meeting deadlines, or focusing on tasks. Depending on your company culture, you may find that people enjoy a potluck because it lets them show off their cooking skills. Other groups may appreciate catered food from a local favorite.
Unfortunately, COVID makes hosting a potluck difficult, but you can consider catering and other options in the meantime. Something else to keep in mind during COVID is that it might not be safe to gather every employee in the break room at the same time. Consider assigning people lunch shifts to stagger eating. If possible, put people who do not know each other together so that they get a chance to meet their coworkers.
Team Building Activities for Longer Sessions
When you have a little extra time, it can be a good idea to set aside a full day for team building. Doing lengthier team building sessions gives employees a nice little break from work, so these sessions often have a fun, vacation-like atmosphere. Depending on your preferences, you can pick team building that is entertaining or more productive (or a mix).
Helping those less fortunate can be a great way for team members to bond. Consider letting employees get paid for a few hours spent doing some sort of community service. This team building exercise is helpful for your team, but it also has some perks for your business, too. (Check out our short post on volunteer time off, or VTO, for more ideas.)
To get a bit of positive press and some tax write-offs, you can select a community service related to your company, such as a grocery store delivering bags of food to those in need. With many people struggling during COVID, now is a great time to assist with food, clothing, housing, and other necessities.
This is an excellent activity for encouraging shy team members to come out of their shell, but remember that these sorts of games can be intimidating for some. Consider drafting a schedule that lets some outgoing yet untalented singers go first. Once everyone is goofing around and having fun, more people are likely to let loose.
Karaoke does more than just give a team a chance to unwind. It also involves team members supporting each other, so it is a great way of helping everyone feel appreciated. Most karaoke bars are closed during COVID, but you can rent a machine and host a fun get-together at your workplace.
Ask each employee to come up with an idea that would improve their workplace environment. Then, encourage people to create pitches and share them with employees. Depending on the ideas employees have, you can get everyone to vote for their favorite idea, or you can pick one yourself.
Then, you can enact this idea in your workplace. With this activity, you give employees a chance to get engaged and think critically. It can help coworkers learn about others’ likes and dislikes, and it can even streamline your business.
A few rounds of trivia is always a great team building option because it lets employees create teams and work together. Trivia can be a great way for people to exercise their communication skills and learn about their coworkers’ strengths and weaknesses. When choosing a trivia game, there are all sorts of options.
Some companies like to do standard pub trivia, turning team building into a happy hour activity. Others like to do a trivia game themed around their workplace history and inside jokes. Since the full team might not be present during COVID, consider hosting trivia in multiple rounds and allowing winners to compete in a championship.
Workplace Scavenger Hunt
Nothing bonds people together as quickly as the thrill of competition. A scavenger hunt is an ideal team building game because it requires people to talk through clues and solve puzzles together. At the end of the scavenger hunt, offer winners an impressive prize like paid time off, gift cards, or other fun gifts.
Depending on your workplace, you may be able to do the scavenger hunt inside the building. Outdoor scavenger hunts are another great idea, especially during COVID. When the weather is great, employees will enjoy the chance to walk around as they solve the hunt.
This simple party game is an excellent team building exercise because it focuses on communication, problem solving, and critical thinking. People start with a prompt, draw the prompt, and then have their team guess the prompt. For a fun spin on the game, select work-related prompts like “shopping cart” or “time clock.” Make sure that the winning team gets some sort of fun prize as an incentive.
A great perk of team building with Pictionary is that it can be done with minimal supplies. Just some pens, paper (or a whiteboard), and a few prompts can be enough to entertain everyone for quite a while. During COVID, you can even have people play through their phones to minimize contact between coworkers.
Team Building Activities for Virtual Teams
During COVID, more and more workplaces have switched to working remotely. While this may not be possible for all staff, especially in a grocery or restaurant setting, you may find that at least some administrative and office workers are working from home now. Make sure that remote workers are not left out of team building. These ideas can be used to encourage team building in a virtual environment.
Games encourage everyone to focus on working together as a team to complete an objective. There are also options that allow employees to compete, solve a problem, or build something together. Try to find something that works with your company culture and make sure it is free to play. Here are some free games that are excellent for virtual team building:
- Among Us
Virtual House Tours
Create your own version of “MTV Cribs” by getting team members to provide a virtual tour. Encourage each member to walk around their home or office space with a camera, chatting about their space and answering questions. Just remember that some employees like their privacy, so be understanding of those who want to stick to a single space.
In addition to helping employees socialize, this activity also helps them understand each other’s working situation. This can help people feel a little more empathetic toward each other during the pandemic, as working from home can be challenging at times, especially if you have kids.
Guess That Emoji
This game is a fun option for virtual teams that spend a lot of time in a text chat. Create a list of employees and then ask people to guess each employee’s most-used emoji. After all the answers are submitted, wait until the end of the day. Tally up each employee’s emoji usage and see who has the most correct guesses. Consider giving a small prize to the winner.
Virtual Book Club
Book clubs can be a great way to bond virtually because people can discuss a book anywhere. After reading the book, remote employees can hold a conference call or video chat to discuss the book. The shared experience makes it easy for employees to connect, and the critical thinking helps employees learn effective ways of interacting with each other.
Just be sure to pick books that are inspirational and which focus on the industry or the qualities you want to promote. Avoid books that are politically charged or likely to put people off.
Help Your Team Stay United
Even the best team building activities cannot keep your employees united for months at a time by themselves. Good team building is all about fostering a company culture of respect, engagement, and communication.
At TimeForge, we provide the platform you need to unify and engage your team. With employee scheduling, human resources, and team communication tools all integrated into a single platform, building a strong team is easier than ever. We also have many helpful POS and payroll integrations that assist you with growing and managing your business – seamlessly.