Team-building Activities to Engage Your Workforce

Employees participating in outdoor team-building activities and planning their strategy.

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When people think of team-building activities, they often picture cheesy seminars with lots of trust falls, but team building doesn’t have to be awkward or forced. In fact, it’s 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 help you find a team-building exercise that’s best for your workplace, this post lays out several ideas for you to try based on:

  1. how long the team building activities will take, and
  2. how much they’ll cost.

We’ll include a few examples for restaurant and grocery teams, but many of the ideas in this post can be applied in a variety of settings.

How do team-building exercises work?

To select 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. By creating bonds that extend beyond basic workplace roles/duties, these activities can help workers feel more motivated, engaged, and invested in their work.

A team-building activity should also be something that requires people to work together as a team. This allows employees to practice solving problems together while learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It also allows them to improve workplace communication.

Finally, these activities need to be something your team will actually enjoy.

Employees engaged in an indoor team building activity

When choosing activities, always take your workplace culture into account and avoid anything that your team will find overly silly, childish, or pointless. If your employees feel resentful because of forced activities, they will be less likely to get anything out of the exercise.

Instead, 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.

But are team-building activities actually effective?

Yes! Team building can improve communication within the team by more than 50%.

Since communication is one of the most crucial factors in making a great team, it’s safe to say that team-building activities really do help.

Team building activities are also effective at increasing employee retention. Since employee turnover is costly, adding team building to your risk management system is a great investment that can save your business money.

Should team-building activities be mandatory?

Although you can require employees to attend sessions held during regular working hours, you should avoid forcing them to participate in the activities.

Instead, we recommend you motivate them with rewards and the promise of a fun experience.

Making participation mandatory could backfire, reducing employees’ motivation and creating resentment, especially if they feel their time would be better spent doing actual work.

Quick team-building activities to try at work

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.

There are many fun team-building activities that can be done without leaving work. For instance, a power lunch, where the entire team will eat lunch together and engage with each other through conversations about anything.

Just be sure to include these as part of working time instead of forcing employees to take part in them during their breaks.

An activity calendar with "team building weekend" written over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Be mindful of employees’ work-life balance when scheduling team-building activities. Avoid scheduling events outside of regular working hours.

Most of the following exercises can be done in 30 minutes or less:

Would You Rather

This popular party game works well in a work setting because it encourages players to explain their points of view. By sharing the reasons behind their choices, employees get to learn more about each other and their likes/dislikes.

Focus on silly questions to start, as it will help to break the ice, and steer clear of anything too divisive, like politics or family concerns.

Quick Debates

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 disagreements.

To add an element of fun and friendly competition, consider letting employees judge the 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 ugliest holiday sweater.


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.

Bucket List

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 ways of finishing the item.

Employee Lunch

Everyone loves bonding activities that involve good 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 eatery.

Due to COVID-19, there are more concerns these days around hosting a potluck, so you may decide that it’s better to cater or prepare food safely on site.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some employees may feel uncomfortable eating or standing in a crowded space. 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 budget and work culture, you can pick activities that are more on the entertaining side or more productive – or a mixture of each.

Team Karaoke

Four employees doing karaoke together.

Karaoke 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. If you don’t have a karaoke bar in your area, you can rent a machine and host a fun get-together at your workplace.

Idea Pitches

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 encourage employees to become more engaged, feel more invested, and think critically and productively about their workplace. It can help coworkers learn about each other’s likes and dislikes, and it can even streamline your business.

Office Trivia

A few rounds of trivia are always a great option for team-building because they let 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. You could even do multiple rounds and allow winners to compete in a championship.

Community Service

Workers doing volunteer work

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 post on volunteer time off, or VTO for more info and ideas.)

Some business benefits to this include positive press, appealing to millennials and Generation Y employees, and tax write-offs.

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 if COVID-19 is a concern. 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.

Employees spelling the word TRUST in large letters

Team building activities for virtual teams

Because of COVID, more and more workplaces have switched to working remotely or using a hybrid model.

Even if you’re in the food service industry, you may find that some administrative and office staff sometimes work from home now. Make sure that remote workers are not left out of team building.

Online Games

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 – or at the very least affordable.

For instance, you can choose one of these trivia games, which would be free and engaging options for your team.

Here are some other free games that are excellent for virtual team building:

  • Among Us
  • Codenames
  • QuizUp
  • Uno!

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 critical thinking helps employees learn effective ways of interacting with each other.

Just be sure to pick books that are inspirational and that focus on the industry or the qualities you want to promote. Avoid books that are politically charged or likely to put people off.

What TEAM stands for

How much do team building activities cost?

The average cost of hosting a team-building activity is between $35 to $75 per person. The cost can vary depending on the activity chosen, the resources required, and where the activity takes place.

To decide whether a team-building activity is worth the investment, you’ll need to calculate not only the equipment you need to use but also the food, transportation, rent or location fees, and other expenses. So it’s best to plan ahead.

However, you’ll find that some organizations offer team-building planning. These organizations often have insurance added, making it easier for you to calculate the total expenses.

The cost will largely depend on the activities you want. Some activities are more expensive than others because they require special equipment or need to be held in a specific place.

The number of attendees will also affect the price.

Are virtual team-building activities cheaper?

You may be wondering about the cost of virtual exercises. Virtual team-building activities are gaining popularity, especially among small businesses and remote workers.

Many organizations are choosing a virtual team-building event because of its cost-effectiveness. They don’t need many resources, unlike traditional activities. All they usually need is a phone or computer.

If you’re looking for a way to host a team-building exercise but have a limited budget, doing it virtually is a great option.

Team-building activities by price range

Below are some additional ideas that your business can try. The ideas are divided into three categories based on the price per person:

Free to $25 Per Person

Here are some great, very low-cost team-building activities:

  • Two Truths and a Lie. Each employee shares two truths and one lie about themselves. Then, they get to take turns guessing which of the three statements is the lie.
  • Game Show Extravaganza. Do you want to see your team’s knowledge about certain subjects? This activity is perfect! You can also include your organization’s policy and products. The best part is that it can be done virtually.
  • Wild Goose Chase. An exciting activity that they have to accomplish by going out into the city.

None of these activities is completely free, as you will still be paying employees for their time, but they can be done at a very low cost to your organization.

$25 to $100 Per Person

If you’re looking for an activity with a moderate budget, here are great ideas you can try:

  • Laser Tag. Split your team into two groups and let them compete in a laser battle. The winning team can get a prize.
  • Minute to Win It. This one is based on the famous TV show where they need to finish a task in just a minute, building engagement and collaboration.
  • Bowling. It’s a cost-effective activity where people are going to have a good time. They can cheer for each other, making the team stronger.

Over $100 Per Person

If your organization has funds to have an extravagant team-building activity, this list is perfect for you:

  • Corporate Retreats. This will give the team a complete getaway from their workstations. The team can talk about the business (what’s happening and what will happen) in a different setting, making them feel more relaxed and focused.
  • Premium Hosted Events. Premium events can cost between $100 and $300 per person. The activities vary. Teams can attend Charity Bike Buildathon, Wheelchairs for Charity, and more.
  • Hiring a Motivational Speaker. Nowadays, you can also do this virtually as a lot of speakers offer online talks. This will boost your team’s professional growth while giving them something to discuss in breakout sessions afterward.

Is the investment worth it?

As mentioned above, team building can be costly depending on the activities you want to hold.

However, when you’re starting a business, solidifying the team is essential; spending money for it is worth it – you just need to decide on activities that make sense for your budget, workplace, and company culture.

A more productive team generates more revenue, allowing your business to grow. Your employees will also feel more satisfied with the working environment, especially if they’re allowed to offer feedback and suggest improvements. This means better employee retention and less turnover.

Help your workers become an effective team

Employees celebrating a victory at the end of a team-building exercise.

Even the best team-building activities can’t keep your employees on the same page 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.

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