Teams that bond together and collaborate for real, succeed together. Easier said than done. That’s because, in reality, team building activities are hard to swallow. Some of your colleagues might not feel comfortable getting all too childish, while others might already think about how many things they could get done during this time.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be like this.
If you happen to hold these assumptions as well, remember that:
- Team building activities are not a one-time silly event, but part of an ongoing process. Their aim? To build trust between team members and make sure everybody is heading in the same direction following a shared set of values.
- Success doesn’t depend on the number of hours spent at the office but on the quality of your work. In turn, this stems from your well-being. Dealing with a high workload can cause fatigue and burnout in the long run. Resting has its advantages as it helps you see problems from a different, more creative perspective.
Technology giants and start-ups, in particular, have already adopted this mindset, providing office perks and socializing events in the form of free lunches, ping-pong tables, hackathons, and regular parties.
They realized early on that productivity is linked with a stress-free work environment, one where everybody works happy and gives their best, while also taking time to blow some steam off. After all, adults are grown-up children that need to play in order to engage their creative side of the brain.
Still not convinced? Have a look below at the positive effects of team building initiatives for work.
Benefits of team building activities
- Increased trust – This is the magical ingredient of every high-performing team. Fun team building-activities can be used for the workplace to build trust. People who trust their colleagues, both in character and capability, are more willing to step out of their comfort zone and pursue a common goal. They have each other’s back, which means they don’t need to worry about someone constantly checking their work. Instead, they rely on each of their co-workers’ strengths and build something bigger together than they would have done it alone. In the end, nobody wants to work with semi-strangers whom they’re afraid of. Gary Vee sums it up better when he says that “people work way much better when you deploy honey instead of vinegar”.
- Constructive criticism – Refers to the courage of speaking up your mind without fearing the consequences. This means that you can share information freely even when you’re wrong and pick up someone’s brains effortlessly. Sure, mistakes can and will happen, but it’s better to rely on a supportive team that points you in the right direction instead of one who will keep the score.
- A leaner and faster onboarding – We’re talking about the process of helping new hires adapt to the company culture. The sooner you help them to better understand company roles, procedures, and meet their co-workers in person, the faster they will become ready to work and contribute in meaningful ways. Get this part right and you have higher chances of retaining valuable talent for longer periods of time.
If you still feel clumsy about team bonding activities, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a simple team building group activities list for you to serve as a go-to resource whenever you feel like it’s time to strengthen your team. It contains 21 games divided into five categories, depending on the goal you want to achieve:
Often times we work like cars: we need to be warmed up to properly function. If this is your goal, then use icebreakers to loosen up the atmosphere, set the stage for more complex activities, or introduce new hires to the team.
You’ll need: a whiteboard, sticky notes, markers
Time: 30-45 minutes
Group size: 8-20
Instructions: Jot down between 5-10 work-related words on sticky notes like “First day at work”, “Teamwork”, “Side projects”, or “Celebrations”. Place the sticky notes on one side of the whiteboard so they’re visible to the whole team. Next, gather your colleagues in a circle and ask a volunteer to peel off a word to share an experience about it. Once done, they can post it on the other side of the whiteboard to mark the beginning of a story thread. The others can think of similar stories and come up with their own words. They can stick them on the whiteboard to continue the story thread, or pick a word that already exists if nothing pops up in their minds. The goal is to create a set of interconnected stories that act as the campfire’s archive.
You’ll need: 20-25 index cards
Time: 30 minutes
Group size: Unlimited
Instructions: Who knows most about your office? Find out through a simple team-building activity like trivia. Think of 20-25 questions about the small details of your workplace that can go easily unnoticed. “Which movie is featured on the conference room’s poster?”, “What color does the coffee machine have?”, “How many people with the name ‘Andrew’ work in the company?”, “How many people are using Windows PCs?”, etc. This will test your team’s observation skills and spark off serious laughing sessions. Remember not to ask questions that are too personal and would put a team member into an embarrassing situation, like “Who has the biggest mouth in the office?”.
You’ll need: an email address for each person on your team
Time: 3 minutes per week
Group size: 3 to 50
Similar to the Office Trivia from before, but online and less time-consuming. QuizBreaker is a weekly quiz delivered by email to get to know your team better. They answer fun icebreaker questions and then have to guess who said what answer. For example, was it Sarah or Rob who said their favorite series of all time is Game of Thrones? To set up your account, just invite each person on your team to your QuizBreaker account and have them answer at least 5 ice breakers. The quiz will then start going out automatically every Friday afternoon or at a time of your choosing.
You’ll need: index cards, markers
Time: 10-15 minutes
Group size: Unlimited
Instructions: Remember baseball or Pokemon trading cards? For this fun team building activity, you’re the one who’s being “traded”. Give out large-scale index cards and markers to each team member. Ask them to create a personal trading card of themselves, with their name, self-portrait, nickname, and one fact about them that everyone is less likely to know about. Then have the cards go from one person to another in no particular order. Participants can hold onto a card if they find the card’s fact interesting and want to know more about it from its owner. The exercise is great because it gives everyone a visual snapshot of each player while triggering conversations on the go.
Penny for Thoughts
You’ll need: pennies or any coins with listed years, box or bucket
Time: 10-15 minutes
Group size: Unlimited
Instructions: It might be difficult to start working on a project without properly knowing your colleagues. To loosen up the atmosphere in a short time, gather coins with listed years on them so that you have one for each member. Then drop them in a box or bucket. Remember to check every coin so that the dates are not older than the youngest team member. Finally, have each team member draw a coin and share a memorable moment from their lives that happened in the year when the coin was minted. This brings a sense of familiarity among them and smoothens out future conversations.
Strategic team building group activities
They might look like icebreakers at a first glance, but don’t be fooled. Their aim is to foster a shared team identity by looking into how your employees perceive the company and what influences their opinions.
All the News
You’ll need: newspapers, a whiteboard, tape, scissors, markers
Time: 60 minutes
Group size: 6-20
Instructions: Have you always wanted to get a quick peek into your employees’ minds to see how they perceive the company? Now’s your chance. To do this group team building activity, divide people into teams of 3 or 6, preferably by department. Give each team a newspaper and ask them to come up with headlines about what they think the company or the department will achieve in the upcoming future. There are no rules in particular. They can either take newspaper clippings and paste them or write the headlines directly on the whiteboard. When the time’s up, teams pin up their work and discuss each idea to see if they’re feasible or not. The exercise is great for spotting hidden opportunities or threats. It also instills a sense of loyalty as each team member feels they’re appreciated and have a stake to play in the company’s development.
Mad Lib Mission Statement
You’ll need: paper, pens
Time: 45 minutes
Group size: 6-20
Instructions: It’s hard to build a brand if the world doesn’t know what you stand for. That’s why you have the mission statement: to convince other people about what your product or service can (and can’t) do and why you matter. Like in the previous activity, divide your team into groups of 3 to 6, then grab a copy of your mission statement for each team so they can replicate it. The team that comes up with the most authentic mission statement wins. It’s also perhaps an opportunity to change your old one or make everyone aware of the values that your company embodies.
You’ll need: index cards
Time: 45-60 minutes
Group size: Unlimited
Instructions: Much like the “Concentration” game from childhood, where you flipped over two cards at the same time to find the matching pairs, this activity demands agility and observation spirit. Create a deck of cards with photos or words about your company. These might be photos of your team, logos, products, or value statements. Face all the cards down, then split the group into teams. Each team has to take turns and lift only two cards at a time to see if they match. The one that finds all the pairs in the shortest time wins. The activity is ideal for new hires who need a fun, yet quick way to learn more about the company. But it isn’t limited only to them. Old hires can brush up their knowledge and stay up to date with the latest organizational changes too.
You’ll need: a pinboard, pins, paper, pens
Time: 60 minutes
Group size: 5-8
Instructions: On the pinboard, draw a blank timeline. Make sure to date it back to the year when your oldest employee was born or when the company was founded. Add years to it, then write down on paper slips the most important company dates (like when it was founded, merged, etc.). Pin them to the corresponding year. Next, ask your team members to think about 3 or 4 events that marked their lives (like graduating college, moving abroad, having a child, etc.) and pin them on the timeline when they occured. The activity brings into perspective the gap between generations. It’s a great starting point for debates that concern the way you collaborate as a team.
Problem solving activities
Getting your team to work together in a productive manner is not a walk in the park. To help them get out of their comfort zones and strive for a common goal, decide for problem-solving activities. Some of them require little logistics and time. Others are more elaborate and involve prolonged states of focus.
Web of Wools
You’ll need: yarns
Time: 30 min
Group size: 9-12
Instructions: Break the group into teams of equal numbers. Then have each team form a web of wools, the more intricate the better. Here comes the best part: switch the teams so everyone has a different web than their own. Each team should then blindfold a team member and have them untangle the web following only their verbal instructions. The first team to do it wins. Sounds easy, right? In reality, it’s not. You have to give concise advice and be receptive enough to follow your colleagues and instincts – should you be the blindfolded one.
Murder Mystery on the Train
You’ll need: a smartphone
Time: 90 min
Group size:4-6 (can accommodate up to 250 per session)
Instructions: This murder mystery team building activity combines an engaging challenge with a twist! When the session starts, the Event Manager will brief the group virtually, providing intel about the murder. You’ll virtually travel back in time to the 1920s in order to solve this murder case that’s on the move. Teams then use their smartphones to work their way through the evidence by tapping on the interactive map and objects. Whilst picking up clues, participants must also use video and augmented reality on their smartphones to collect intel and figure out who the killer is. The winning team will be those who find the killer and score the most points.
You’ll need: building materials (like legos, toy bricks, straws, marshmallows, etc.), tape, paper, pens, sheets
Time: 50 minutes
Group size: 8-16
Instructions: Before entering into meetings that require serious brain power, warm up with this game. Split the group into two teams. Then explain how they each have to build half of a bridge with the materials provided. At the end, the bridges should be similar in design and connect. The trick is they can’t see each other, so they’ll have to rely on verbal communication. Remember to set the room up first and place the sheets to divide them. Also, provide the same number of items to each team. In terms of timing, give them 10 minutes to come up with a design, and 30 minutes for building.
The Barter Puzzle
You’ll need: puzzles
Time: 60-90 minutes
Group size: 12-20
Instructions: Not sure how your co-workers reach an agreement when they’re under pressure? Let them negotiate to find out. Divide them into teams of 4 or 5. Then, give each team a different jigsaw puzzle equal in complexity. Explain to them that the puzzles are scrambled, containing parts from the other ones. The goal is to be the first ones to complete their puzzle while engaging in negotiation activities like bartering, exchanging team members, assigning leader roles, etc. Remember that these actions need to be taken by the whole team, not individually. To make things more interesting, you can hand each team a few trading chips with no value assigned to them. Although time-consuming, this activity brings up the best negotiators in each person and gives you a sneak peek into how they strategize decisions.
The Paymo team playing the Barter Puzzle
You’ll need: half pipes, marbles
Time: 45-60 minutes
Group size: 8-15
Instructions: The goal of this exercise is to cross marbles of different sizes from one side of the room to the other, without touching the floor. How? Through short lengths of half pipes. Each team member gets one and has to balance it so that it passes down seamlessly. Here’s the trick. The facilitator, you in this case, can add obstacles between the start and end points to make the activity more challenging. You can even come up with extra rules which require team members to take turns or both feet need to remain on the floor, for example. Break the group into teams, let them come up with a plan, then time how long it took for the marbles to pass down. The team that keeps the marble going for the longest time wins. A small word of advice: try to make the race hard, but not impossible, so that each team member is aware of what they can achieve together.
Communication, balance, and trust – these are the traits of healthy teamwork. The following games and fun team building projects for work will test you and make you realize that a team’s value is greater than the sum of all its team members.
You’ll need: a rope to mark the start line, blindfolds, a “bomb” in the form of a ball
Time: 30 minutes
Group size: 6-12
Instructions: This group team building activity is a great way to see how your team works together in an uncontrolled environment. The objective? To communicate in such a way as to retrieve a fake “bomb” before the other teams. Each team contains 3 to 5 members. There are three key roles to remember:
- Robot (1) – stands blindfolded in front of the start line, facing the bomb and is the only one allowed to move.
- Communicator (2) – stands behind the line and doesn’t face the activity area, nor the robot.
- Observer (3) – stands in front of the communicator facing the activity area, but is not allowed to talk.
The team game begins with the observer who can use any other communication channel to signal the direction to the communicator. The communicator in return has to interpret those signals and give instructions to the robot to retrieve the bomb. As a facilitator, your goal is to observe how each one is communicating both in a verbal and nonverbal way. Pay special attention to the robots when it comes to active listening. This is one of the team activities that are great for people who want to better understand the Scrum mechanics. Robots might represent the Scrum team who carries out the sprints. The communicator is the Scrum Master who acts as a servant-leader for the Scrum team. Meanwhile, the observer resembles the Product Owner who prioritizes product specifications and coordinates the Scrum team.
Magic Cane or Helium Stick
You’ll need: a light stick or cane
Time: 20 minutes
Group size: 8-12
Instructions: A simple, yet frustrating activity, Magic Cane or Helium Stick requires teams to lower a lightweight stick to the ground using only their index fingers. To start with, the group forms two lines and face each other. They then hold their arms out with their index fingers in front with the cane placed on top of them. Advise the group to balance their finger heights until the cane stands horizontally, then lower it down. They’ll probably raise and drop it first, but they’ll get the knack out of it. Don’t forget that all feet have to remain on the ground. Pinching or grabbing the stick is not allowed. The activity encourages co-workers to recognize that each one of them is needed for the team to succeed.
Blind Formation/The Perfect Square
You’ll need: a long rope, blindfolds
Time: 20-25 minutes
Group size: 4-8
Instructions: Bring your team in a circle and have them sit down. Next, blindfold them and hand each one a long rope tied at each end. Their task is to form a perfect square together. Once they’re done, they can take off their blindfolds and see what they’ve accomplished. If the results are sloppy and there’s enough time, give them a second chance to do it better. You can also increase the difficulty by muting a random participant or changing the shape (a star or a square for example). The challenge demands increased level of collaboration and trust since the person who is muted has to rely on something else other than sight and verbal communication to perform their job.
M&M Arm Wrestle
You’ll need: a bag of M&Ms
Time: 15 minutes
Group size: 4-20
Instructions: Ask the participants to pair up and assume an arm wrestling position. They can either stand on the floor or at a table. Whenever they pin down their partner’s arm, they win a point. The goal is to earn as many points as possible before the time goes out – usually 10 seconds. What you’ll notice is that people will focus more on competition and wrestle arms with each other (Win-Lose situation), rather than work together and win points for both sides (Win-Win situation). Give them a couple of extra rounds so they can figure it out for themselves. The bottom line is that winning at all costs, even at your co-worker’s stake, is counterproductive. But wait, where do M&Ms come into play? For each point earned, the participants will get an M&M candy. A great incentive for both kids and adults alike. And you can use them during all activities for team building.
You can also play this team activity using Skittles instead of M&Ms, just like our clients at Flourish Marketing did.
Donna and Jena from Flourish Marketing playing arm wrestle
Creative teamwork activities
Quite often, the creator in each one of us lies dormant and undisturbed. To wake this spirit up, try the following team builder activities that rely on improvisation and dealing with things as they come.
You’ll need: any random desk object
Time: 60 minutes
Group size: 6-12
Instructions: This team building game is all about improvisation. Each colleague should grab a random object from their desk and bring it to the conference room. This is their product now and they need to improvise a sales pitch around it. Let them come up with a name, logo, and motto for it to make the drill more realistic. Have them deliver a two minutes presentation to convince the others to buy it. Instruct the participants who want to buy any product to raise their hands and keep score of them. At the end, discuss which were the top sold products and why. This simple team activity is great for reframing the status-quo and seeing things from a different perspective.
Grab Bag Skits
You’ll need: paper bags, random objects
Time: 45-60 minutes
Group size: 12-20
Instructions: To loosen up the tension in a fun and energizing way, play grab bag skits. Teams of 3 to 6 get a paper bag which is filled with random objects – from the office or pre-purchased ones. Their task? To create a 4-5 minutes skit using those objects. The gist is that nobody knows what’s in the bags. This encourages the use of common objects as replacements for different terms (a pair of glasses can act as a bicycle, for example). Remember that each team member needs to be the speaker at least once. At first, this will frighten the introverts, but at the same time will give them the opportunity to get more casual and bond with their colleagues.
You’ll need: flipchart, paper, pens
Time: 60-90 minutes
Group size: 6-24
Instructions: Ever wanted to invest side-by-side with Mark Cuban or present your idea in front of a jury? Now’s your chance. This team building activity a spin-off of the popular TV show Shark Tank.
Divide the group into teams of 2 to 6 and have them come up with a business idea that needs to be pitched in only 10 minutes. It can be anything from a brick-and-mortar shop to an e-commerce website – even an additional feature or service that can be part of your product. To keep the atmosphere professional, ask them to draft a business plan that includes data about their target market, pricing strategy, financial forecasts, and unique selling proposition. Next, choose 4 sharks to form the jury and give them fake money to invest in the ideas. Encourage them to really put themselves into the investors’ shoes by asking detailed questions about the business models. The team who gets the most funding wins. The office will bubble up with an entrepreneurial spirit and creative thinking, traits which are necessary to succeed in a competitive market.
You’ll need: paper, pens, markers
Time: 30-45 minutes
Group size: 3-12
Instructions: Split a group into smaller teams, preferably by department to focus on the group’s shared identity. Distribute paper, pens, markers, and crayons to each one and tell them they need to draw a company emblem or company shield. This can reflect the company’s values, past and present achievements, as well as its future direction. At the end, you’ll notice the different visions of each department. Debrief the session by allowing all teams to comment and ask questions about the meaning of each emblem. This will build trust among team-members and remind them once again that they’re in this together.
Into other team building games for the office?
These are only a few fun team building activities that you might want to try out. You could also go for the “classical” ones too: board games, table football, ping-pong, or even arcade consoles, like our clients at Thankium do:
Want to get out of the office altogether? Try out some outdoor team building activities like building a real campfire, going rafting, or doing a scavenger hunt activity – depending on how adventurous your team feels. You could even pair these with a social cause, the same way our clients at MECLABS participated in a beach cleanup with their families.
The MECLABS team participating in a beach cleanup
Or, you could try Guinness World Records, like the US-based retailer Aaron’s Inc. did when they formed the largest human mattress dominoes with 1200 participants at its national manager meeting as a physical team building activity.
The bottom line is to socialize and get to know your co-workers outside of work, in a fun, entertaining environment. As the saying goes, you can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation.
Virtual team building activities
But what if you’re working from home, can you still build your company culture from miles away? Of course you can, although not as easy as before. Non-verbal cues are basically inexistent and technical difficulties might happen too often. But it’s even more imperative under these conditions to proactively engage your team as an antidote to the inherent loneliness of remote work – which unaddressed, can cause a drop in motivation and overall productivity.
Here’s a bunch of virtual team building activities to help you out. BONUS! You can also download a bingo card to make things more fun at your next video call.
Remote Work Bingo à la Paymo
It’s your turn now
Too many teamwork activities to digest, right? There’s nothing to worry about. How you use them depends largely on your purpose, team size, and available time. The majority can be played indoors, in your office, so logistics are kept at a minimum.
Again, the whole point behind these activities is to make sure that the whole team heads united in the same direction and works happily at the same time. No overtime or excruciating projects to rob off your life.
That’s exactly what our mission at Paymo is: to help you work in a more harmonious way from the moment you sign a contract, all the way to planning, collaboration, and that final invoice. This way you have time to focus on what matters the most to you, both at work and after in your personal life.
Start your free Paymo trial to try our own way of working
Additional Team Building Activities Resources
Venture Team Building – A collection of 60+ activities for team building from top trainers, with tips on how to set-up the atmosphere and suggested learning outcomes
Gamestorming (the book) – A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers