Corporate team building activities are amazing for bringing people together and improving businesses overall. Many people don’t realize that behind the goofy names and silly antics that are sometimes involved, corporate team building activities are backed by science, have an impact that can be measured, and are easy to incorporate into your business no matter what time or budget constraints you may have. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive into these great corporate team building activities and everything you need to know about them.
Corporate team building 101
Team building activities for corporates are both something you can learn and a skill you can acquire. When managing teams of people, whether they’re in one office or all over the world, there are ways you can help them enjoy the relationships they’ve built in this professional setting. After all, one-third of their lives are spent at work, and studies have proven that team bonding can enhance the experience for everyone.
Why then do most companies put off team building? Or, worse yet, forego it altogether?
Corporate bonding isn’t optional
Corporate culture sets the foundation for a lot of really important things in the business realm. From improved productivity to sales growth to employee retainment, bonding with your colleagues has become the secret ingredient for leading brands like Costco, Google, and T-Mobile. Without it, these multi-billion dollar corporations might not be as successful as they are today.
Corporate team bonding activities might seem like fun ways to pass the time. But they’re actually so much more than that. As Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, once said, “... modern humans have radically changed the way they work and the way they live. Companies need to change the way they manage and lead to match the ways that modern humans actually work and live.”
In order for businesses to future proof themselves, corporate bonding will need to take center stage in management strategies from here on out.
The benefits & ROI of corporate team building
Corporate team building is kind of hard to measure, which is why up until now it’s been cast aside in most managerial realms. However, accurately gauging and analyzing the success of various team building efforts is now possible thanks to modern data reporting. Baseline performance metrics like weekly or monthly profits, absentee rates, and workplace happiness survey responses can be compared side by side with post-team building stats to reveal changes.
Yes, other factors might affect your findings. But once you get in the habit of leading team building activities and comparing data over time, you may find positive patterns emerging.
Other companies that have implemented corporate team building claim they’ve experienced the following benefits:
- Corporate bonding activities facilitate company culture, which 88% of employees believe leads to business success.
- Corporate team building events involving creative challenges often lead to better negotiation and problem-solving skills.
- Team building leads to more engaged employees who then earn 2.5 times more in profits than rival companies with unengaged employees.
- More engaged employees may lead to higher retention rates, which is considered the number one most challenging task in HR by 47% of professionals, who expect to shell out about $15,000 for every former employee they have to help replace.
- Employees who participate in team building activities are said to improve their communication as a team and individually.
To achieve these and many other benefits, you may be wondering how often you should be planning employee bonding activities. Or the best time of year to do them. And should they be a regular practice or only used as needed?
While the answer varies team to team, there are certain telltale signs that your group is overdue for some constructive play.
When is it time to use corporate team building techniques?
Corporate team building events are like a giant reset button, leaving teams more refreshed and on the same page. Done at regular intervals (monthly or quarterly are best), team building activities can help prevent employee burnout, prevent peaks and valleys in year-round job performance, and serve as an effective kickoff before large or complex projects.
If you’re looking to book some bonding events on the calendar, make sure you consider these main dates:
- Slow seasons. If your industry has predictable peaks and valleys, take advantage of them by scheduling activities during this time.
- Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are a good time to touch base as a group through bonding activities that revive and energize everyone to finish the week strong. And Fridays, as we all know, are typically the least productive day of the week, so schedules and workloads will be lighter and more accommodating for low energy team get-togethers.
- Before the winter holidays. As Q4 wraps and budgets start drying up, most employees are facing significant stress both at work and at home thanks to the many tasks associated with holidays, no matter how enjoyable they may be. Help your team take some time to relax and have a little fun while boosting their morale to start the new year right.
You should also consider hosting a corporate team building event before fast-paced quarters and annual employee reviews – or even build mini-games into weekly meetings and check-ins. No matter when you plan to host group bonding sessions, you have a lot of options for how to actually do them.
3 Main ways to facilitate team bonding
The best approach to solving any problem is to look at the issue from all angles and implement both short and long term tactics. For team building, that means working these philosophies into the fabric of your company through daily, ongoing practices like these:
- Create the right environment. Co-working spaces facilitate networking, productivity, and comfort. Traditional business structures can take a page from the freelancer’s book by using workplace design elements like communal desks, kickback lounges, and refreshing natural elements (namely natural light and plant life).
- Make team bonding a habit. If finding new ways to help bring people together and create healthier, happier relationships is embedded into your managerial style, you’ll definitely become the office rockstar. You can also encourage this habit in others.
- Use corporate team building activities. Like we already mentioned, you can schedule entire days dedicated to group bonding or merely spend five minutes every morning checking in with the team. Either way, a combination of recurring and circumstantial team building activities is the way to go.
Once you’ve set up your employees for success through an upgraded office and regular team bonding practices, you’ll need to figure out which of the many team building activities are right for your unique group. Luckily for you, science is here to help answer that question.
The best corporate team building activities, according to psychology
There are lots of terrific resources available for employee bonding inspiration. But the real question is: How are you supposed to choose the right one for your team? Simply put, it all depends on your team and what you’re trying to achieve. As these psychological theories and studies show, there are some easy ways to separate a good team building activity from a great one.
Generally speaking, the best corporate team building activities all tend to:
- Help people get to know one another on a personal level. It’s been proven time and time again. From heart surgeons to astronauts, the sum is greater than its parts and team bonding that helps people figure one another out will prime the whole group for success later on.
- Involve departments that wouldn’t normally work together. The American Psychology Association says that cross-disciplinary team bonding activities often create higher output levels while also extending professional reach more than individuals normally would do on their own. So get the whole gang involved if you really want your team bonding activity to pack a punch.
- Take into account what level of bonding your group may have already achieved. In the psychology of the teamwork lifecycle, there are clearly defined levels of relationship-building activities, ranging from forming (the very beginning, when individuals first feel each other out) to transforming (the ultimate goal: a total and complete cohesion of the group chemistry that completes with the finishing of a project or achievement of a deadline). Knowing which stage your team is in will inform what kind of activities you do.
In some extreme cases, groups of strangers are often tasked with coming together on short notice to assist others in life-threatening situations. These high-stakes scenarios rely on fast and efficient team building activities to get everyone on the same page. In the following Ted Talk, Professor Amy Edmunson reveals her findings on teams like these and how managers can facilitate problem-solving in foreign, urgent, and/or unusual situations.
- Determine group sizes based on their end goal. If you want to avoid complacency or groupthink, you’ll want to keep your groups small (no more than 8 at a time). Smaller groups are great for working together to come up with original ideas, solving mentally stimulating challenges, and maintaining creativity when faced with logical issues. Larger groups, on the other hand, are great for boosting overall morale, completing straightforward assignments, and performing tasks individually in service of the big picture. So it really just depends on what you’re trying to do.
- Start by getting everyone on the same page. Surveys, polling, and roundtable discussions are a good starting point for your team bonding event planning. Taking the pulse of your community on topics related to collaboration or a specific upcoming project will help guide your decision making. You might even be pleasantly surprised to find that everyone’s work styles or expectations are mostly aligned already.
- Shine a spotlight on team leaders. Actions speak louder than words. The psychology of teams notes that those who are natural leaders will gravitate more towards parts of the experience that promote group welfare, require positive attitudes or language, and rely on self-control under pressure. Giving individuals this opportunity to stand out if they so choose will help determine project assignments in the future. You’ll also get a chance to see how others react to these leaders in a low stakes environment.
- Create opportunities for healthy conflict. The science of teamwork says that conflict (whether it’s within the group or between the group and a challenge of some sort) is a key ingredient for effectively functioning teams. Clashing opinions, ideas, and cultures naturally occur in thoughtful, open-minded problem-solving scenarios. How your group works through it will be very telling. And, because healthy conflict is a useful learning opportunity, they may even find new ways of communicating with each other by the end.
- Help the group form a cohesive identity. By the end of the activity, the group should establish key identity markers like nicknames, taglines, and inside jokes. The best way to facilitate this is to provide activities that naturally lead to humor or friendly competition (think comedic improv classes or a softball game).
- Encourage teammates to share knowledge with one another. Interactive team cognition refers to the idea that individuals can only possess a finite amount of knowledge or skills. But when those individuals share that knowledge or skill with team members they benefit the group by enhancing the group’s overall cognitive processing. So if someone shares a key piece of information, the way the group communicates and completes tasks improves exponentially from the discovery. That means activities that get people to speak up and share ideas now will help facilitate stronger project work in the future.
- Test compatibility. Just because two people have the same education, training, and skillset doesn’t mean they’re going to work well together. As the Harvard Business Review astutely points out, if that’s all it took then Donald Trump would hire Bernie Sanders to work in his administration. However, at this point in time, it is not likely that the pair would work well together. Seeing employees step outside their comfort zones will allow their personalities to show through. And once they’re fully being themselves, you’ll be able to see who clicks and who doesn’t. It’s a vital piece of information that can help managers break up tasks, assign roles, and keep the team as highly functional as possible, regardless of whether or not they can be best friends outside of work.
As you can see, team bonding activities are a lot more complex than they first appear. But if you keep these proven ideas in mind, you’ll be moving in the right direction. In the following section, we’ll cover the next steps for how to plan a corporate team building activity as well as some ideas you’re welcome to try for yourself!
Corporate team building activities
Now that you have a keen eye for effective team bonding games, it’s time to start getting specific about how to actually prepare and execute them.
How to choose corporate team building ideas
The reason why there are so many articles online filled with corporate team building ideas is because there’s no silver bullet. Just as every activity is unique, so are the teams that do them. For example, a lunchtime karaoke battle might be a dream come true to some and hell on earth to others. And, for the managers that run them, choosing between thousands of suggestions can get overwhelming very quickly.
So when you’re looking for corporate team building ideas, make sure you start with your budget. As we’ve already explained, there are plenty of options out there regardless of what you’re interested in spending. But you should also take a look at your time budget. A multi-day team camping trip might not be in the cards for your group right now, but you might be able to squeeze in some time this coming Friday after lunch.
Once those details are squared away you should consider the following:
- Does the activity fit most of the qualifications listed in the above section about the psychology of team bonding? If so, give it a check.
- Will the activity help accomplish your main goal? Remember, improving group communication can look very different from just trying to break the ice between strangers.
- Will my team actually enjoy the activity? When in doubt, choose the option you think will be the most fun!
Okay, so now you have your activities list narrowed down to only the best possible options. You’ve set a date and invited the group – now what? Here’s what you’ll need to know in order to pull it all off without a hitch.
How to run corporate team building events
Corporate team building activities involve the same event planning steps as any other gathering. You need to secure a location, figure out transportation, decide on food and/or beverages (for longer events), and get everything ready for the actual activity. You can go alone or assign a team to help you.
Once all the logistics are taken care of, you’ll need to prepare yourself or a volunteer to lead the activity. Sometimes events will take place in venues that provide activity leaders – like rock climbing or escape rooms. But if your event will be entirely DIY, you’ll need to keep the following points in mind:
- Stay positive. Even if the group becomes bored or argumentative, it’ll be up to you or the activity leader to get the train back on its tracks. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go exactly as planned because they rarely do. Instead, have a backup plan or script prepared for any anticipated setbacks.
- Set the tone. Your attitude will act as a cue for your group as a whole. If you’re excited, they’ll be excited. If you’re confused, they’ll be confused too. Regardless of whether or not you participate in the actual activity, as the organizer you’ll be the one responsible for creating the atmosphere.
- Leave wiggle room. Take breaks in between activities and make sure meals are taken when they’re normally scheduled. Also, leave a buffer of 15 to 20 minutes between agenda items just in case activities take longer for some people or teams to complete.
- Consider physical limitations. You don’t want your activities to leave anyone out, so be realistic about anything involving movement. When in doubt, opt for the least strenuous option, just in case.
- Don’t overschedule. It’s great to be enthusiastic and plan out an entire day just for your team. But remember, activities like these can be tiring emotionally, mentally, and physically. So keep the event focused on one big activity or two to three small activities and you should be good to go.
Advanced planning is key to successfully executing team bonding activities So if you’re looking ahead to fall and winter (or just prefer the comfort of air conditioning), we’ve got some great ideas to share with you.
Indoor corporate team building activities
We’ve already covered some great outdoor corporate team building activities in our article about team building games. But there are plenty of great indoor versions we know you’ll love. Combine the two on nice weather days or use them in your day-to-day work routine to mix things up a little.
- Birthday Scramble. In a set amount of time (5 or 10 minutes) your group must silently arrange themselves in a line in order by birthday. Nonverbal communication skills are tested here. Plus, people can have fun learning everyone else’s astrological signs, if that’s something they’re into.
- Office Treasure Hunt. Play pirates for an afternoon and follow treasure maps and riddles to uncover the grand prize. Raise the stakes by pitting one or more teams against each other. If you really want to get wild, hold a costume contest while you’re at it.
- Escape Room. These can be set up at your office or you can go to an actual facility that hosts them. The nice thing about doing a pre-organized activity like this one is that you can read reviews about it ahead of time, and you already know your team will bond over this famously fun activity.
- Virtual Pizza Party. For teams that work remotely, consider scheduling a video chat meeting with everyone. Order individual pizzas to be delivered to each person’s home office space at the same time. It will help people put some faces to names while also treating them for jobs well done.
- Two Successes and a Goal. A version of the game Two Truths and a Lie, this quick game is good if you have a few minutes to spare. At the beginning of a meeting, go around the table and have everyone say two things they’ve accomplished in the last week and one thing they hope to accomplish in the coming week (phrased as if they already completed it). It can be small (replied to an email I was putting off) or big (completed a half marathon over the weekend). Team members can work to figure out what great things their coworkers are up to while also learning more about them.
So we’ve already talked about team bonding events, but what about team building activities you can do at other types of corporate events? We’re so glad you asked.
Team building activities for corporate events
As we’ve already demonstrated, corporate team building activities can have a life of their own. But are there ways to facilitate bonding and teamwork at other, regularly scheduled events and programming? Of course! Here are some ways to incorporate team building activities into most corporate events.
- Show gratitude. Whether it’s a sit-down dinner or an offsite meeting, taking time to list two things you're grateful for individually and as a group is a quick way to help connect over shared values and get in a positive mood.
- Offer pre- and post-event volunteer opportunities. If you’re hosting the event, chances are you’ll need help setting it up and taking it down. Assigning teams helps everyone creatively problem-solve this necessary task.
- Have an after-party. The real VIPs of your event are your team, so treat them with a great post-event activity with more team bonding games.
- Complete a secret task. Choose a silly objective that must be completed by the end of the event. For example, have everyone find a way to give your unsuspecting boss a spoon by the end of the gala. Whether they slip it next to their table setting or find a clever way to get them to hold on to it for you, your team will enjoy completing some sort of funny task together.
- Create subcommittees. If you’d rather hire event staff to help with set up and take down at your event but still want to find ways to have people bond, create event subcommittees. Let your team work together to make the event playlist, bake cupcakes, or do anything else that’s needed.
No matter what you choose to do, the important thing is that you look for activities that everyone can enjoy, require people to work together, and allow teammates to get to know each other more.
The big picture: corporate team building
Corporate team activities are, by far, some of the most fun and effective ways you can get a group of employees to bond. With a little help from the latest research, alongside the ins and outs of corporate team building, you’re well on your way to creating a happier, more productive work culture.