Team building is more than just a corporate obligation; it's a way to take a small amount of time away from work to build relationships between staff, foster new avenues for creativity and innovation, and have fun.

But the idea of team bonding activities will send a shiver down the spine of some people. It can all turn a bit David Brent if you’re not careful. It doesn’t have to be a cringeworthy drama-fest, though – in fact, it can make a really positive difference to everyone involved.

In 2023 and beyond, social distancing and pandemic concerns aren’t getting in the way as much as they used to. While warmer months bring more opportunity for outdoor team building getaways, you’re just as likely to do them in the office or over a Teams call. So we’ve collected a variety below.

We’ll take a look at the benefits of it all and how you can reduce the cringe factor. Then we’ll look at some of the best team building exercises out there.

Why team building is so important at work

There’s an abundance of benefits of doing all this team building.

It’s an important thing to do every now and then because it can increase staff productivity and efficiency.

By easing the flow of communication between employees and fostering healthy competition, you can help them develop a bunch of useful abilities:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Decision-making capabilities
  • Communication
  • Creative thinking
  • Leadership skills

Even when people have different roles (team captains or not, etc.), the entire team can benefit from getting involved.

By engaging in fun, no-stress team building, you can learn about your colleagues' working styles and strengths, which can be applied in more serious situations later on. The bonds and relationships built during these sessions might event help to resolve conflicts at work and promote truly collaborative working.

And if anything else, they can just be a right laugh.

How to make your team-building activities less cringeworthy

There’s always the possibility for awkwardness when you bring a group of people together that don’t have much in common. But there are a few key factors that can help make team building games more enjoyable for everyone.

  • Focus on relevance: Choose activities that are relevant to your team's goals, work environment, or industry. This can help folks see the value in the exercise so it’s better for employee engagement.
  • Consider individual preferences: Take into account the different personalities, interests, and abilities of your team members. Offering a variety of activities that cater to different preferences can help ensure that everyone feels comfortable and included. (More on this below)
  • Collaboration beats competition: Team building games that emphasise collaboration and problem-solving, rather than competition or embarrassment, can foster a more positive and inclusive atmosphere.
  • Make it voluntary: Allowing team members to opt-in to activities can help create a more relaxed environment, reducing the chances of anyone feeling pressured or uncomfortable.

You do have to maintain a good understanding your team's dynamics and preferences and be thoughtful in your selection.

Keeping your team building activities inclusive

When it comes to planning team building exercises, it's essential to make sure everyone feels included and able to participate. To create a truly inclusive atmosphere, have a good natter with your team members to get a sense of their interests, needs, and any potential barriers to participation.

Keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable with physical activities or over-the-top icebreakers, so try to mix things up with a range of activities that cater to different skill sets and comfort levels.

Accessibility is also key, so be mindful of any physical or cognitive differences within your group. While it’s good to get group members to step out of their comfort zone, you don’t want to make it painful. The introverts of the group shouldn’t be forced to get up in front of everyone and give a speech; a game of charades might sound fun to you, but could be a nightmare for others.

And remember the goal is to bring people together comfortably in a fun way, so respect everyone’s boundaries and you’ll have a good time.

Top in-person team building activities

There are tons of fun team building activities you can get your staff involved in. For your next team building event, it’s time to get creative. Some unique team building games and activities you could try are:

  • Whiteboard Pictionary: Small teams compete in a fun game of Pictionary using a whiteboard, encouraging teamwork and non-verbal communication.
  • Blindfolded Lego challenge: In small groups, one person is blindfolded and must build a Lego structure based on the rest of the team's instructions.
  • Quick team trivia: The entire group is divided into small teams, and they compete in a trivia contest with a time limit, testing their collective knowledge.
  • Barter puzzle swap: Small groups work together to complete a jigsaw puzzle, but must barter puzzle pieces with other teams, promoting negotiation and teamwork.
  • Marshmallow skyscrapers: Teams race against the clock to build the tallest structure using marshmallows and toothpicks or spaghetti sticks.
  • Silent brainstorm: The entire group participates in a brainstorm session using only post-it notes for non-verbal communication and idea sharing.
  • Human knot: New team members engage in a classic icebreaker game, working together to untangle themselves from a human knot, building trust and rapport.
  • Blind drawing back-to-back: Team members sit back-to-back, one describing a random object and the other drawing it on a sheet of paper, focusing on communication and listening skills.
  • Improv board games: The whole group plays a series of quick team board games, integrating improv elements to challenge their adaptability and creativity.
  • Perfect square challenge: Teams are blindfolded and must use a piece of rope to create a perfect square, relying on communication skills to get through.
  • Minefield obstacle course: Participants navigate an obstacle course wearing a blindfold, guided by the rest of the group's instructions, promoting trust and communication.
  • Helium stick challenge: The entire group works together to lower a helium stick to the ground using only their index fingers. (It doesn’t really contain helium, it’s just a metal rod. It makes sense - honest!)
  • Egg drop race: Small teams design and construct a protective casing for an egg using limited materials and then race to the finish line without smashing it.
  • Haka. Have a professional Haka instructor teach your staff in the art of haka, or the Maori ceremonial war dance, and watch your team come together for a group performance at the end of the day.
  • Escape rooms. Many escape rooms across the UK are great team building destinations.  They're a great way to push your team to think outside the box in pursuit of a common goal: winning!

There are also plenty of ways to incorporate team building into your company's daily culture. If staff are in the office, why not initiate a monthly bake-off to foster healthy competition among the team, or start up a physical fitness challenge where each of your employees can set their own goal and record their progress - with a prize for the winner each month?

Virtual team building activities

Maintaining a cohesive company culture remotely is no mean feat. With many teams working far apart, it's harder than ever to build friendships, cooperation and camaraderie amongst your team.

For this reason, it's important to make sure your repertoire features team building games that can be played virtually over apps like Zoom or Teams. These activities are perfect for including freelancers, contractors, or work-from-home staff.

Here are some of our favourite virtual team building activities, all of which are easy to organise yourself:

  • MTV workspace 'Cribs'. If you've ever seen Cribs on MTV, imagine that but with more desks and houseplants. Encourage your team to pimp their workspaces and show them off over Zoom, with a vote for best workspace at the end of the activity.
  • Remote scavenger hunt: Remote teams participate in a timed scavenger hunt, finding items around their homes and sharing with the entire group.
  • Group games like Mafia or Werewolf. There are a few of these games about, but they all work similarly: each member of the team is allocated a role, with some roles kept secret from the group. The game plays nicely via video call, with players relying only on bluffing, wits, and chatter to figure out who's who and win the game.
  • Personality quizzes. Send out a simple personality quiz in advance and ask your team to fill it in, and encourage everyone to share their results in a Zoom team building session. You could even get a personality expert on the call to talk everyone through their personality types. This is a great activity for encouraging your staff to think about their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Virtual dance party. OK, this one's not for everyone, but if your office is down for it then there's no reason not to encourage your staff to blow off some steam and bust out their best moves over Skype. You could even combine it with a Happy Hour - Friday afternoon drinks and banter over video call - for that real end-of-the-week atmosphere. It might make for a viral video on TikTok, you never know.