Remote and hybrid work arrangements have become a central aspect of many workplaces. Certainly, some organizations are eager to have everyone back in the office and would like to pretend that the pandemic-related remote work experiment never happened. Others feel they have no choice but to offer flexible work arrangements to keep and attract talent. Still others actively embrace hybrid models, recognizing the advantages of letting employees engage in periods of highly focused work at home and enabling them to create a better work-life balance.
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Yet there is no way around the fact that in-person gatherings are crucial for building trust among team members. The money companies save on office space is well-spent on travel and hotel accommodation for occasional in-person team get-togethers.
How do you ensure you make the most of the precious time of having everyone in one place?
The Importance of Team-Building Activities
Team-building activities can take many forms. They can be infused into the workday or take place outside the office. Team-building activities allow people to get to know each other better – as whole persons and not just as the “social media wiz” or the “excel specialist.” You will learn to appreciate other people’s sense of humor and communication style – two aspects that often lead to misunderstandings among team members communicating remotely. Doing something together in person reminds people that they are a team – and not isolated individuals slugging along at home in their sweatpants. Most importantly, team-building activities build trust – an absolute prerequisite for team members to get along.
Team-Building Activities at the Office
Office-based team-building activities help team members get to know each other better, build trust and promote team spirit. You will want to choose different activities depending on what you want to focus on. Here are a few examples:
Goal: Getting to know each other
- Organize a “show and tell”-type activity and have team members share a little more about themselves.
- Buy a Jenga set and stick questions on each block. Build the structure and then have team members take turns removing blocks without compromising the structure and answer the question on the label.
- Have each team member prepare a 5-minute presentation about something they are passionate about and give a mini-TED talk to the group.
- Pick a getAbstract summary, draw up some questions have a book club-type group discussion. Encourage everyone to share their ideas, stories and different perspectives on the topic.
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Goal: Fostering appreciation for each other
- Have each team member complete a personality test and group similar personalities together. Have them discuss how their traits manifest in the workplace and share their insights with the other groups.
- Have team members take turns to express appreciation for another team member. People may highlight a personality strength, a recent gesture of goodwill or an accomplishment at work.
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Goal: Working as a team
- Break people into smaller teams and have them solve a puzzle (a physical puzzle can be an option) or brain teaser. Afterward, have the groups share their experience and explain their strategy to the other team.
- Working well as a team requires people to be tuned in to each other and get a feel for group dynamics. A great way to practice these skills is to have team members take turns counting from one to 20. Anyone can jump in, but whenever two people speak at the same time, the count starts over. The chair game is another option: Team members sit on chairs spread around the room, leaving one chair empty. One person gets up and walks toward the empty chair, while team members must work together (without speaking) to prevent the person from sitting down by having someone take a seat before the team member arrives.
- Host a brainstorming session to address a bigger team goal or company challenge. Examples could be designing a new marketing campaign, coming up with new product ideas or coming up with an ideal onboarding process for new team members.
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Team-Building Activities Outside the Office
Engaging in a joint activity outside the office is a great way to foster camaraderie among team members – yet choosing an appropriate activity can be tricky. For one, you don’t want anyone to feel left out. John is not into sports and may not share his teammates’ enthusiasm for climbing a mountain. Marlene, who can barely swim, will be terrified of joining a wild water rafting adventure. Chris, who is afraid of heights, won’t benefit from the team-building value of hanging on the same rope together. Kathleen, who doesn’t drink alcohol, will feel left out on a wine tasting expedition, while Rob, who cooks for his three kids after work every day, won’t care much about preparing a meal together with his coworkers.
Since people will only bond constructively over an activity they genuinely enjoy, your best bet may be to offer people a choice – and then have your team gather afterward to exchange experiences. Other options you might explore include:
- Volunteering: A beach clean-up, doing a shift in a soup kitchen or volunteering for a cause that is directly connected to your organizational purpose generates positive energy and doesn’t require special skills. Engaging in a volunteering activity can be a great way for team members to bond over an activity they feel good about.
- Improv: Improv activities are highly interactive and teach valuable workplace skills – including listening, being tuned in with each other and overcoming challenges as a team. While improv will push many out of their comfort zone, it also guarantees a good laugh with your colleagues –provided people feel safe to be themselves.
- Solving a mystery: Team-building activities that can accommodate virtually everybody include activities that involve solving a mystery together. These include scavenger hunts and escape-the-room challenges – activities requiring people to work together on something far removed from their day-to-day work.
Remember, though, to leave some unstructured time as well. After long spells of working from home, people will be thrilled to simply enjoy each other’s company!