Team Building Activities: 5 Fun and Effective Ways to Build Trust and Improve Collaboration
If the phrase “team building activities” sends a shiver down your spine, you’re not alone. Often activities planned to build trust and collaboration are at best unaffected and at worst down-right awkward. But these types of activities can build trust and help improve communication. You just have to choose the right one for your company or team.
Working on a team without trust is a lot like working at a job without training. You don’t have anything to fall back on when things are challenging, and it can lead to communication collapse when projects run awry. While establishing trust to enhance collaboration does take work, well-designed activities can make it more enjoyable.
The right type of activities will depend on the type of people on your team and how your organization works.
Team Building ActivitiesThat Works
Everyone has experienced some painful icebreaker questions or sat through “get to know you” activities that don’t leave you feeling any closer to your team. So how do you get these types of exercises to actually have an impact and help your team work well together?
What makes these activities beneficial comes down to what your team needs and what they will respond to. You don’t want to plan an activity for six people when you have a team of ten. You also don’t want to try activities that work better in person when your team is remote.
Consider your limitation and what you want to achieve. Think about the people on your team and where work needs to begin before the dynamics can improve. These exercises can help your team build trust, communication, and collaboration skills. But it won’t work well if everyone isn’t on board or can’t get on before the activity ends.
Keep In Mind
When planning team building activities, there are several crucial things to keep in mind. The more you plan ahead and plan for your specific team, the better team-building. Not all of these activities will work for your organization, so consider your goals and what is feasible for your group.
Before diving into designing different activities, consider who’s a part of your team. Do you have a large group of employees who need to get to know one another? Or do you have a smaller team that needs to work on communication skills? Are there some people who tend to be more shy and soft-spoken? If so, you will want to plan activities that work well for those individuals, not just the loudest ones in the room.
Planning the logistics of all the team building activities you want is essential. These types of employee exercises can easily devolve into people standing around waiting for things to be set up, feeling bored, and wasting work hours. Iron out the details ahead of time so that you can get started right away.
How many resources do you have available to develop activities? Will this take up work hours, or are you asking employees to give up their lunch for this? And do you need to run your plans by anyone before you start initiating things? Having these questions answered at the start will help you better plan how to proceed with which activities.
When and Where
Is there a good time to run your activities that won’t take away from the day? You want to plan these types of exercises so that everyone can participate and not need to rearrange their entire schedule. Do you have a regular staff meeting every week or month? That could be an ideal time to introduce a simple activity to see how things go. If things run smoothly, you could add an hour to the next staff meeting to provide more time.
Build Better Team Building Activities
Remember that the entire point of planning these kinds of activities is to help your team. That includes helping them with communication, teamwork, or simply getting to know one another better. A team that has good rapport outside the workplace can more easily communicate in it. Not all of these tasks have to focus on work, though they certainly can. Finding a combination of work-related and play-focused activities could provide a good balance for your team to improve and have fun.
- Home Hobbies
Work isn’t all that makes a person; learning about others can be the best foundation for trust and collaboration. An easy activity or conversation starter is to ask about everyone’s out-of-work hobbies to initiate more congenial work relationships. What pet projects do they look forward to working on at home and outside the workplace?
Depending on the projects, this could be more of a show-and-tell activity. Maybe some people like to cook, so they bring in a favorite dish they know how to make. Or someone loves hiking, sharing some of their favorite trails, and showing pictures and stories from treks. This can be as thorough or quick as you want it to be, and it will help employees learn about each other.
Talking about passions is a great way to get people talking, and a format allowing everyone to share and join in will help include quieter employees. You can also do this activity in any work set-up, whether fully remote or in person.
- Desert Island
This is a very common activity most people are familiar with. While it may seem overly simple, it can help employees work together and discuss different ideas in a completely neutral setting. If you have a big team, break groups into four or five people each. Then provide a list of around twenty objects you may want on a desert island. You can do this by printing pictures or simply offering a written list. Each group must order the list from the items they most want to be with them if they were stranded on a desert island to the least.
Employees must discuss as a team to determine their preferred order, requiring collaboration, negotiation, and compromise. While this promotes conversation and teamwork, it is not really a game in that no one is the winner. That makes it very low stakes and helps employees feel less pressure to win so they can focus on working together and surviving (in a fictional scenario).
- Game Day
You might think that playing games isn’t effective for building things like trust and teamwork. Though some games may feel juvenile, playing together helps people learn more about one another and can teach you how to communicate and practice listening.
Try some low-stakes games like Codenames or Apple to Apple to help employees get to know one another and encourage conversation. You could also play simple games like Candyland or another basic board game. These can be fun due to nostalgia and helps employees not take the competitive aspect seriously while still engaging with one another.
You can also incorporate specific games about trust and communication into this activity time. Instead of basic board games, try a game like Trust Walk or the Human Knot.
Trust walk involves creating a path with plenty of turns and twists so it cannot be memorized. You can do this by laying out post-its or paper or using chalk outside. Then, divided into teams, some members must walk the path blindfolded while others guide them using instructions.
The human knot is a straightforward game that several people can play. Groups of five to eight work well. Have the group stand in a circle facing in, and then they will reach out and hold the right hands with someone else. Then they will hold someone’s left hand as well. Next, the team must try to untangle themselves without letting go. This requires communication and teamwork and requires no additional materials.
Many of these games do have to be played in person. However, if you want to engage your employees with games but work remotely, there are plenty of online game platforms that you can use to help people enjoy themselves and work on communication while they play.
Food is a great way to bring people together. Organizing a potluck can be a good activity for a lunchtime and promotes more socialization. You can also plan this activity in different ways. You can make it more of a cooking class activity or ask everyone to bring their favorites to share, along with some conversation points or questions to get people talking.
Trust is built within positive relationships; you’ll never establish good trust if your staff doesn’t know one another. This is an excellent early activity to do with new employees or within a new company when people may be looking for connections but need a place to start. It’s also easy and does not require a lot of planning or overhead.
- Book Club Bonding
Consider a book club if you want to incorporate learning and work into your team building activities. Employees could take turns selecting books that pertain to work and self-improvement or fun fiction choices to engage a more creative part of the brain. Then give a timeline for reading and meet at the end to discuss.
This kind of activity is best with smaller teams that are committed to growth or would engage well in this type of bonding. It is also a good choice for virtual or hybrid teams since everyone can participate, and all that is needed is the reading material.
Building Trust From The Bottom Up
You cannot expect trust to develop immediately among staff. Developing into a dedicated team takes time and effort, and you must work to get that started. There are tons of great team building activities that can help your employees, including the five mentioned above. Remember to consider who you have on staff before planning and picking trust exercises.
When you establish solid trust among staff, people are more willing to share new ideas or try different things. This can lead to innovative solutions and more creative problem-solving. Self-conscious staff won’t speak up when they have something different in mind, but if you build trust and help staff feel more comfortable, your company will be better for it. If you want some strategies to improve your company culture and provide employees with more, check out this webinar with Chris Dyer, a company culture expert, author, and speaker.