All work and no play makes… okay, okay I’ll stop!
Team building activities are crucial for building team morale and recognizing a team’s hard work. When done right, they leave people feeling engaged and satisfied with their workplace. But most of the time, employees dread team activities.Why?
Flock CRO Sam Mallikarjunan thinks:
“Maybe it’s because, even though the outcome is desirable, most team activities pretty much suck. They’re either tired and boring or just plain awkward, leading participants to feel awkward, too.”
I wonder what Sam really thinks about team activities! As a business leader, Sam recognizes that employees who love their company culture and feel engaged at work are less likely to leave. It’s in everyone’s best interest to schedule team meetings that don’t suck.
We’ve gathered the 21 best team building activities to help make sure your next event is amazing. Many of our specific examples are located in Boston, but the activities should be available in most regions around the world.
Before you schedule your next event, remember these best practices for setting up team building activities so that they are as inclusive as possible:
Best Practices for Scheduling Team Building Activities
- Poll your team: Get a feel for the type of activity they’re comfortable with and if there are any physical or dietary restrictions. You can even set up an anonymous poll in your team channel so everyone feels good about sharing their true feelings.
- Offer multiple dates: Planning without consulting your team's calendar can lead to FOMO or even resentment. Give multiple dates as options to ensure the majority of the group can attend. Make sure you give options during the workday for parents, caretakers, or commuters who live far from the activity location.
- Balance fun with work: Remember that your planned team building activities shouldn't interfere with a tight deadline or a demanding client—and vice versa. Plan accordingly so your team can have an enjoyable outing without stressing over work.
Our favorite team building activities
We’ve divided our list of team building activities into specific categories to cater for different team profiles: physical activities, learning activities, activities that encourage communication, charitable activities, and low cost activities.
Team building activities for physically active groups
- Escape rooms
I’m a certified non-active person, so when I was dragged to Boda Borg, a Swedish import that offers many mini-escape rooms, I was not happy. Luckily, Boda Borg has rooms that caters to very active people (think swinging ropes and climbing walls) as well as those who weren’t (trivia and brainteaser rooms). By the end of the event, my group of non-active teammates were so hyped up that we attempted to scale a wall and Googled relentlessly for the answer to a puzzle room we could not solve. I later heard other teams went back two or three times because they were so hooked. Lessons learned: don’t knock it until you try it and make sure there are activities for all types of people.
- Kayaking or boating
- Laser tag
- Karting or racing
- Obstacle courses or group workouts
Team building activities for learning
- Wine tasting or cocktail making course
Check if everyone in your group drinks alcohol before booking. Cocktail courses can cater to non-drinkers by offering mocktail recipes.
- Cooking classes
Many local restaurants offer cooking courses during off-hours. Stores like Sur La Table and community centers also often offer cooking courses.
- Pottery making or painting classes
- Museum scavenger hunts
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where Flock is based, offers a scavenger hunt for teams to find (and learn!) about the various pieces of art on display at the museum. The other visitors probably didn’t appreciate us running from room to room, but I had a blast learning and competing at the same time.
Team building activities for giving back
- Visit a homeless shelter or pantry
- Volunteer at a food bank
Just remember this could require some physical activity—once we packed watermelons!
- Park or trail clean up
- Volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club or other similar groups
- Volunteer to walk dogs at shelters
Non-dog people can hang out with shelter cats and provide some much-needed love to animals who deserve it. Check with your local shelters to see if you can volunteer.
Team building activities for communication
- Team dinners/mystery dinners
Sometimes, a good meal and conversation off the clock is just what a team needs. Mystery dinners, made famous by HubSpot, are random table assignments that encourage people from different teams or departments to interact.
- Speed ‘dating’
It may seem silly, but providing conversation prompts and a time limit for employees can be a fun and novel way for people to get to know each other. This can be a tricky one to execute, so put some thought into it first!
Team building activities for groups on a budget
- Potluck meal
- Picnic in a park
- Movie viewing in the office
- Watch a Ted Talk or other recorded professional development event in the office and hold a group conversation
- Recurring team lunches
Never underestimate the power of conversation over a meal. It may seem simple, but eating lunch as a team on a regular basis can be as effective in building rapport as a fully planned one-off event. Have folks bring their own lunch and encourage conversation on topics outside of work. It also eases FOMO (fear of missing out) for folks who may have conflicts because they know the lunch will regularly happen.