20 Team Building Activities For Work That Work
I’ve never scored a goal in my life without getting a pass from someone else. -Abby Wambach
An organisation is its people. And when these people fall out, the company has to incur a lot of challenges. For an organisation to run smoothly, its employees need to work together and be in sync.
A team means a group of people working towards the same goals independently as well as cooperatively. When people bring their diverse skills to the table and work as a team, great things are achieved. In fact, 75% of employers view teamwork and collaboration as very important to their organisation.
Therefore, to help teams strengthen the bond and improve relationships among themselves, I have listed down 20 team building activities for work. Apart from providing your employees a great time, these team building activities for work will also inculcate skills in them that they can use both in their professional as well as personal life.
20 Team Building Activities For Work That Drive Unity
OBJECTIVE: A very popular and effective team building exercise, this activity is good for small groups. It helps develop communication, interpretation and leadership skills.
TOOLS: Pen, paper and pictures. (To save paper, the person describing can have the picture on their phone)
TIME: 10-15 minutes
PARTICIPANTS: Even number of employees. 4,6,8..
HOW TO PLAY: Pair people into groups of two and have them sitting back-to-back. Provide one person with a picture and the other with a paper and pen. Ask the person with the picture to describe it to their partner without actually saying what’s in the picture.
For example- The picture shows “dog eating ice cream.” The person with the picture has to help her partner draw the picture without actually saying “dog eating ice cream.”
RESULT: It helps build leadership skills in the person who is directing the person with the pen and paper to draw the picture. The way she gives direction will result in how well the “artist” understands and draws the picture perfectly. It also depends on the communication between the team members and how clearly do they understand and interpret each other.
Flip It Over
OBJECTIVE: The objective is to help people working in groups acquire skills like problem solving, creativity and robust communication.
TOOLS: A tarp or piece of clothing the size of a tablecloth.
TIME: 20 minutes
HOW TO PLAY: A creative game, here you ask a group of 6-10 people to huddle around and stand on top of a tarp. The challenge is that they have to flip the tarp so they are standing on the other side of the cloth. The only condition is that they can only use their feet! They can’t get off the cloth or let their feet touch the ground.
RESULT: It forces the group to think of creative ways to work as a team and solve the problem without getting off the sheet. This is a great team building game that urges the team members to make sure no one is getting off the sheet. This ensures that in a non-game situation too, they include everyone in the group and make everyone responsible for reaching the ultimate goal of the task.
OBJECTIVE: It urges people to look at things from a positive perspective and turn it into a learning experience.
TOOLS: None required
TIME: 10 minutes
PARTICIPANTS: Even number of employees. 4,6,8..
HOW TO PLAY: Winner/loser is a great ice breaker game too. Divide employees into groups of two. After this, one of the team members shares a negative life experience with their partner. Now, the other team member retells the same story while highlighting the positive aspects of the experience. Partners should switch roles after talking about each issue.
RESULT: By the end of the game, each member will have found the silver lining to their life experiences which they probably did not wish to relive. This will teach them to view at the hardships of life (both professional and personal) from a positive perspective and learn from it.
OBJECTIVE: The objective is to let employees get out of their comfort zone and work as a team. It also helps with working with new team members.
TOOLS: Restaurant/ home
TIME: 1-2 hours
HOW TO PLAY: Conducted exclusively at Hubspot, this fun game is an excellent example of team bonding. What you have to do is that on a single night, you have to invite a group of people from different teams to dinner at a restaurant or at someone’s place. The expenses will be incurred by the company. The mystery is that before the dinner, employees are only informed about the date and time of dinner. Then on the day of the dinner, an email is sent to everyone with the name of the restaurant and who they’ll be going with.
RESULT: It enables people to step out of their comfort zone and meet new people. It helps them to understand about the work with other departments and different teams do. In a workplace scenario, it will prepare employees to work with people from diverse teams whom they haven’t met before.
Also, an evening of free food and laughter, who doesn’t love that?
OBJECTIVE: Builds trust and collaboration among team members. The nature of the game also focuses on developing communication and active listening.
TOOLS: Numerous soft objects without rough edges (cups, balloons, soft toys), few blindfolds.
TIME: 20-30 minutes
HOW TO PLAY: In an open space, place random objects or “mines” across the floor. Divide people into groups of two and put the blindfold on one of them. The other person has to direct his partner to go from one side of the space to the other without stepping on any of the objects. The person directing can only give verbal directions and the one who’s blindfolded isn’t allowed to speak at all.
Hold the competition between 5-6 teams and the one who reaches the finish line without stepping on any of the “mines” the earliest wins the game.
RESULT: It is a great team building activity to foster trust between your employees. Because one of the members is blind and cannot talk, he/she has to put his entire trust and confidence into his partner. In fact, it is also a great activity for people who are not open to collaboration. It also increases concentration and urges your employees to pay attention.
Sneak a Peek
OBJECTIVE: The main objective of this activity is to understand how individual role plays an essential role in a team’s overall success. Other skills to be developed are problem solving, strategising and sharpening memory.
TOOLS: Building blocks, lego, popsicle sticks.
TIME: 25 - 30 minutes
HOW TO PLAY: Before the activity begins, build a sculpture using blocks and hide it from all the teams. Divide the teams into groups of 2-8 each and provide them with equal but enough building material. Ask one member from each team to come and “sneak a peek” at the sculpture for about 10 seconds. Then they go back to their teams and get 25 seconds to instruct their teams on how to rebuild the exact same sculpture. After 25 seconds, another member from each team is sent to sneak a peek at the sculpture. The process continues until one of the teams successfully builds a replica of the original sculpture.
RESULT: By the end, the team will realise how every team member’s participation is essential to achieve success. That when they work together as a team, new strategies are developed to solve the problem at hand and the role that trust and communication plays in that.
OBJECTIVE: One of the best team building activities for work, human knot urges employees to communicate and cooperate. The objective is to solve the problem in a set time, therefore cultivating skills like problem solving and time management.
TOOLS: No tools required
TIME: 20-30 minutes
HOW TO PLAY: A great exercise for a large group of employees, divide employees into groups of 6-12. Ask them to form a circle facing each other. Tell them to put their right hand in the air and grab someone’s hand from across the circle. Then, ask everyone to put out their left hand and again grab someone’s hand from the circle. Set a timer for them and ask them to untangle the “knot” within the set time. The first one to untangle, wins.
RESULT: The teams work to think of creative ways to complete the activity within a fixed time period. This enables them to organise their work in a way that teaches them to get the work done on time.
OBJECTIVE: A classic example of team building, scavenger hunt is great for team bonding. The objective is to build a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among employees. Other skills that can be acquired are problem solving and strategizing.
TIME: More than 1 hour
TOOLS: Mobile phones, pen and paper.
HOW TO PLAY: Divide employees into groups of 4 or more. Assign groups with a fun list of items with different point values assigned for each task. Set a time limit to complete them. These activities can range from taking selfies with strangers, quiz up questions about the company, preparing a dish with ingredients available in the break room. You can also design a treasure hunt which you can space around the area near your office.
RESULT: Scavenger hunts are a great and effective way to get people to interact and collaborate. It encourages people to think of creative ways and to think “outside the box.”
Birthday Line Up
OBJECTIVE: This simple team building exercise instills qualities like leadership, communication, collaboration and problem solving skills.
TIME: 10-12 minutes
TOOLS: None required
HOW TO PLAY: Pair participants into teams of 8-12 and ask them to stand side-by-side. Now ask them to stand in order of their birthday (month and day). The catch to this simple game is that employees have to complete the entire task without talking to each other. They must use signs and symbols to get into order. The team who is able to get into order successfully the earliest wins.
RESULT: This game is highly effective if you want to foster great communication and interpretation among your employees. Consequently, it also gives every employee to hone their leadership skills while giving out directions to their team members on how to solve the task.
What's My Name
OBJECTIVE: Gets people to interact with colleagues they haven’t met before. The purpose of this game is to make people aware of how they stereotype and categorise people based on characteristics.
TIME: 20-30 minutes
TOOLS: Post it notes/ sticky notes, pen
HOW TO PLAY: Write the names of famous personalities (celebrities), characters (comics, cartoons) or professions (football, swimming, golf) on sticky or post it notes. Place the note on each person’s forehead but don’t tell them who they’ll represent. After this, ask them to go around the room and mingle with people to ask and answer questions. They have to treat each other in the stereotypical way based on the label that they have been tagged with. Once team members figure out who they are, they can exit and let the rest continue.
RESULT: The game highlights on both how people treat us and we treat them based on stereotypes and characteristics. It is also a great ice breaker game for people who haven’t met yet to interact and get to know each other.
OBJECTIVE: Develops a number of skills like strategy, negotiation, problem solving. It also tests your employees’ communication and leadership skills.
TIME: 45 minutes-1 hour
TOOLS: Jigsaw puzzles
HOW TO PLAY: Split people into groups of four or less. Give every group a different jigsaw puzzle with the same difficulty level. The catch of this game is that some pieces of the puzzle will be mixed at random with puzzles of other groups. Their task is to complete their puzzle by negotiating, trading or bartering team members or puzzle pieces with other teams. However they do it, the group must arrive at a consensus before making any decisions. The team who completes their puzzle first, wins this team building activity.
RESULT: This game will focus mainly on how well do teams work together. Because there has to complete agreement before making every decision, this activity will give room to robust communication, discussions and diverse strategies. This will ensure communication and cooperation. In addition, barter puzzle will advance your employees’ negotiation and as a result, communication skills.
Two Truths And A Lie
OBJECTIVE: To challenge preconceived judgements, help introverts mingle with others and just get to know each other.
TIME: 15-30 minutes
TOOLS: None required
HOW TO PLAY: To make the game interesting, conduct the game with at least 8-10 people. Sit them around in a circle facing each other. Ask everyone to state three facts about themselves out of which one has to be a lie. The rest of the people have to figure out which one is the lie and which two the true facts.
RESULT: This game has no winner or loser. It’s just a fun activity to make people realise how their judgement of someone can be completely wrong. It shows employees who they shouldn’t judge peers based on what they think about them or what they may have heard about them. Moreover, it also gives introverts a platform to share their stories and meet new people.
OBJECTIVE: Tests leadership, communication and tries to build trust between team members.
TIME: 45 minutes
TOOLS: An outdoor place is best for this activity. Others materials required are thick cardboard boxes or two-man tents, tape, staplers and blindfolds.
HOW TO PLAY: A situation-based game, divide people into groups of 4-5. Explain to them that they are explorers lost in the Arctic ocean and need to build a shelter to survive. However, the team leader is suffering from frostbite and can’t move physically to help build the shelter. The rest of the team has also been struck by snow blindness and therefore, must be blindfolded.
The challenge is that teams must build the shelter while keeping their blindfold on. The team leader can’t participate physically but needs to direct the team verbally in helping to build the tent.
The first one to build the shelter successfully, wins.
RESULT: The team that wins will only be able to do that if they have complete faith in their team leader. In a workplace scenario, teams must learn to trust and carry out their leader’s judgement. For the person in charge of leading, it helps him/her to direct members with authority. They can only do that when they can earn their teams’ trust and confidence.
Moreover, since this game relies heavily on communication, the leader will also learn to direct the teams with clarity and precision.
OBJECTIVE: A great team building exercise which aims to enhance teamwork and communication among mid sized groups.
TIME: 15-20 minutes
TOOLS: A light-weight bamboo or plastic cane
HOW TO PLAY: This game can be conducted with 8-10 people. Ask the team to split into two groups and stand facing each other. Ask them to hold their arms out in front of them and point their index fingers. Lay the cane down on their fingers. The stick has to be horizontal and everybody’s index fingers must be touching the cane at all times.
The challenge is to lower the stick to the ground without dropping it and touching it only with the index finger. Teams will be disqualified if any team member tries to hold it with any other finger or removes their index finger.
RESULT: This task can be accomplished only if teams have complete cooperation among themselves. Other outcomes that can be achieved are problem solving in a group, communication and leadership.
OBJECTIVE: This game is meant to make everyone feel appreciated and recognised.
TIME: 60-90 minutes
TOOLS: Sheets of paper, tape and markers/pens.
HOW TO PLAY: Provide everyone with a sheet of paper and pens/markers. Give them 20 minutes to survey the room and list down positive memories they have with the people present in the room. These can be shared experiences, a project they worked on together or a learning experience.
Once they have listed down the memories, give them new sheets of paper. Ask them to make drawings of the memories they have listed down. They can team up with the person they have shared the memory with to recreate this images. Give them 30 minutes to complete this task.
After this, members have to tape their memories to the wall. Ask them to come forward and share the memory with the rest of the group.
RESULT: It’ll bring back positive and happy memories your teams might have shared in the past. The “visual” memory wall will improve camaraderie and reestablish positive relationships between employees.
OBJECTIVE: To get employees to focus on teamwork, problem solving and listen to each other’s opinions.
TIME: 20 minutes
TOOLS: Shoe laces, cloth strips or zip ties.
HOW TO PLAY: Make all the participants stand in a circle facing inwards. Ask them to hold out their hands to their sides and tie it with their neighbour’s hand. Alternatively, you can also tie ankles. Once everyone is tied up together, present them tasks that they must complete in a set time.
Here are some ideas-
- Wrap a present
- Build a bridge
- Pour a cup of water for everyone in the room
- Group walk (if the ankles are tied together)
- Build a lego structure
RESULT: Some outcomes of this activity will be goal setting, leadership, collaboration, active listening and problem solving.
OBJECTIVE: The objective is to practice leadership and arriving at decisions with a consensus.
TIME: 15 minutes
TOOLS: Blindfolds and rope.
HOW TO PLAY: Everyone needs to stand in a circle with the rope in their hands. Once the circle is formed, ask them to put the rope on the floor. Then they must put their blindfolds on and take 5 steps backwards. The activity is to form a square with this rope while keeping their blindfolds on. In the end, participants can take their blindfolds off and check the result. cue laughter for disastrous squares
To make the challenge harder, you can ask them to make shapes other than squares.
RESULT: Teams that win will definitely possess skills like communication, planning and great leadership.
OBJECTIVE: To get team members to think on their feet when new developments or problems suddenly arise in a project.
TIME: 25-30 minutes
TOOLS: None required
PARTICIPANTS: 5 and above
HOW TO PLAY: Ask everyone to gather in a circle. Start off the game by narrating the first three lines of any story. After the three sentences, you have to say “suddenly” and the person sitting next to you has to continue. He/she will make up another three sentences of the story on the spot and pass it on to the next person.
RESULT: It will get everyone thinking and getting creative. Some wacky and great versions to stories might come out.
Lost At Sea
OBJECTIVE: This game tests whether teams can share resources equally, arrive at a consensus at the most stressful situations.
TIME: 30-45 minutes
TOOLS: ‘Lost at sea’ charts and pens.
PARTICIPANTS: Minimum 5
HOW TO PLAY: Give them the backstory to the challenge first. Explain to them that they are 5 friends lost at sea (Antarctic or similar) with only one lifeboat. Most of their resources have drowned but they have somehow managed to save 15 items. These 15 items are vital for their survival.
The challenge is for them to rank these 15 items in order of importance. They must place rank 1 to the most important item, 2 to the next most important item and so on.
Now, provide each member with a ‘lost at sea’ chart. The facilitator can divide this chart into six columns.
The 1st column will be a listing of the items in a random order.
The 2nd column will have spaces against each item for the participant to give his/her personal ranking.
The 3rd column will again have empty spaces for teams to provide their rankings. The 4th column will have the correct rankings (provided by the US coast guard). The 5th column will be to calculate the difference between the individual and the correct score.
The final column will calculate the difference between the team rankings and the correct rankings.
In the end, there will be two separate rows to calculate the individual and the team’s total score.
The team with the lowest total score wins the game.
Provide 10 minutes to individual members to rank the items. The next 10 minutes will be given to teams to confer and decide on the order of importance of items. Teams then must compare the teams score with everybody’s individual score. They must discuss with team members the reason for the difference in scores.
RESULT: This is a game that relies heavily on communication and active listening. Sometimes, an individual’s perspective can be more correct than the group’s collective approach. Therefore, the most important learning of this team building activity is to ensure that every individual’s opinion is heard.
OBJECTIVE: To build trust, active communication and collaboration among team members.
TIME: 30-45 minutes
TOOLS: A basket, blindfolds and blunt objects like paper cups, water bottles, id cards, shoes, etc.
HOW TO PLAY: In an outdoor or medium sized indoor space, place the objects. Outline the space inside which the objects have been placed. Put a basket in the centre of the space and spread out the objects around it.
Divide participants into two groups of equal members. Take note that the number of objects is always twice the number of members in a team.
Make both teams stand on opposite sides of the area. Ask them to choose one volunteer from each team to be blindfolded for the game. Put the blindfolds on both the volunteers. After the blindfolds have been put, teams need to call out objects for their teams. Then the game begins.
The volunteer for each team has to pick up the objects called out by their team and put it in the basket in the centre. Fix a time limit for this challenge (2-3 minutes). However, team members cannot call out objects by its name. They have to describe the object to their volunteer.
For example- a water bottle can’t be called by its name but described as a container, must have drink in summer and so on.
The team that first gets all of its objects into the basket wins.
RESULT: It paves the way for employees to be more creative, think on their feet and forces them to work together. It focuses on building clear and precise communication among teams.