Whether your job is great or not, a lot of employers are interested in creating greater camaraderie and unity among coworkers. And as clichéd as they might seem, team-building exercises are a great way to do it.
But are you sick of the company retreats, the trust games, the honesty circles? This is 2016, and there are completely new, fun and creative ways to build a job culture and community. The end result will be a stronger workplace, a closer-knit team, and fresh, joyful revitalization for your company’s mission and place in the world. Here are eighteen to get the ball rolling. See if they don’t inspire some team-building endeavors in your company.
What better way to create a sense of closeness in a group of employees than to band together to help someone in need? There are all sorts of ways to do this. You can work with Habitat for Humanity, or partner with Right Hand Events, a company that organizes volunteer events for companies wanting to give back to their communities. Bonding while causing community flourishing is an excellent way to go.
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In one of these interactive events, a team will have to work together, playing off each other’s strengths to solve puzzles and riddles to escape a room in which they’ve been locked. Sometimes they’re themed, and some even offer feedback on how the team communicates with each other. Combining learning about each other—and about areas of strength and weakness as a group—with a fun puzzle might be a night to remember.
There are all sorts of interesting things to do in the fall and winter. Take advantage of the unique beauty your region has to offer—go surfing or hiking in the summer, visit a nature preserve in spring, ski or ice skate in winter. These kinds of activities will help to not only create community among your team members, but also increase gratitude and appreciation for the wonderful place where you are.
This brings out each employee’s inner child (who doesn’t love running around in the dark with lasers and a war to win?), and forces them to use logic, strategy and planning to emerge victorious. Losers can buy winners drinks afterward - a further team-building exercise.
A great way to make this even more interesting and fun is to make the prize something everyone will want, but will still have to work together to win—maybe paid vacation time, or Fridays off for a month. If you’re creative you can make the things to be found company-related, maybe tied to its history, or insider jokes only employees would get.
Few things can create camaraderie and delightfully embarrassing memories better than karaoke (with or without alcohol). You might send out a list of carefully-chosen genres and artists to choose from, or think of awards to hand out after (if you want people to be a tad competitive). And throwing in a few songs everyone will know is just nice for the people that might be utterly terrified of getting on stage.
Bowling is an excellent opportunity for people to make total fools of themselves in public for fun (I know; one of my college jobs did this on the last day of the year). The funny shoes, potential lack of hand-eye coordination, and the opportunity to cream your fellow employees at something that only marginally matters in real life is the stuff healthy work environments are made of.
Do you want to explore your team’s artistic side? Groups like Paint Nite coordinate with local artists to host painting classes in bars, where people can learn to paint on canvases, wine glasses, pottery, and other kinds of things. That way, your team members can connect in a low-key environment, unleash their creativity, and have a fun memory to take home after.
Speaking of food, have you thought of planning a food tour around your city? This works best if you work in a metropolitan area with lots of diverse culinary options. Pick a style (Thai, Italian, Greek, Brazilian, etc.), a dish, or whatever, and hunt out the best spots in your city for it. Or, ask knowledgeable people where the best places are, and go out for lunch there once a month.
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For this to work, it has to be somewhere nice—near a mountain, the beach, a ski chalet, something cozy and majestic. It puts a relaxing twist on the whole company retreat motif, and allows team members to bond in a warm, casual environment. Just don’t do any trust games, unless you want the cops to find your body at the bottom of said mountain.
They don’t have to be weekly, but an organized time where everyone can get together outside the office can be a great way to build relationships if done right. It can easily meld with the food tour idea above, or be its own thing. Just be sure to not force it or allow it to become stale. Otherwise it’ll just become another forced, uninteresting event people go to because “the boss said so.”
Some companies do this each week, on a Friday. Whenever you schedule it, it’s important to make it creative, useful, and fruitful. What did they learn that week? How were their strengths manifested? Their weaknesses? How could they have helped someone at work but didn’t? What’s something good (at work or not) that happened that they would like to share with everyone? Those questions and others like them will make the retrospective immensely useful.
Anything involving adrenaline can be an excellent way to get team members to bond and interact in a new and fun way. And, whoever wins gets bragging rights at every company meeting thereafter … at least until the next event.
It’s geeky, it’s uncool, and it’s awesome. Tourism is the thing everyone loves to hate … but secretly loves. And doubtless there are all kinds of touristy events and attractions where you are. Carousel museums? Clown history? Dead poet’s house? Trolley rides to historic parts of town? Pick something and do it, and bond over how deliciously nerdy you’ve all become.
This combines two interesting things into one even better thing, not unlike the cronut. Have you ever tried avoiding getting hit in dodgeball while everyone’s bouncing in the air on trampolines? No? Then you haven’t yet lived, my friend. Strategy, competitiveness, and perhaps even a touch of deception will lead to a bonding experience your staff will never forget.
No, it’s not a murder mystery game (though that should be on this list, too). This is when the company picks a restaurant in your city, foots the bill for everyone, and sends randomly-assigned groups of people to dinner there. The dinner is then hosted by a member of company leadership. It’s a mystery because no one in the group knows anything ahead of time except the date and time; then, later you can tell them where they’re going and with whom so they can carpool if they so choose. Just be sure to pick a fun and interesting place.
Everyone, without exception, loves food. Not everyone likes making it. But hauling everyone to a group cooking class could be a fun way to embrace the art of food preparation, and also give new ideas for company potlucks and annual parties. (You might even inspire the next great chef).
Board game tournament
Do you want to practice healthy competition and team building without having to leave the office? Get playing cards, Monopoly, Jenga, Jumanji, whatever, and have at it. You can have different groups play different games, then have a face-off between the winners of each. Or, if you have a big staff, you could have time slots where people can play the same game in shifts. Have prizes for first, second, and third place, and make sure to have snacks and sodas in abundance.
Sometimes work isn’t fun. We all know that, and we all have to deal with it. But, building real relationships—not just “work friends,” but warm and mutually-enriching friendships—can make the workplace a truly wonderful place, full of camaraderie, joyful endeavor, happiness, and genuine teamwork. We’re built for community, and there are lots of ways to put ourselves in its path. But true community can never be manufactured, only discovered—and hopefully these ideas will spark your own imagination towards a brighter, more interdependent workplace. Now get out there and do something—together!