Team building is arguably the most important thing a company can do to invest in itself. A happy and cohesive team leads to greater employee retention, easier recruiting, improved productivity, and the wealth of benefits that come with increased collaboration. There is literally no downside! If you’re not sure how to start, our team building tips will help you think about the basics – things like including your employees in the decision and giving plenty of notice to respect schedules. If your company has done many team building exercises together, our team building tips will help breathe new life into your bonding events and help you shake things up!
Our team building tips for 2023 are designed specifically for the current work climate, taking into account the ever more common remote and hybrid teams. We also considered workforce morale and concern after recent mass layoffs and the fatigue many employees feel still recovering from the long years of the pandemic. Team building has never been more important!
#1 Hold Regular Team Building Events
This first team building tip hopefully goes without saying – it is at the core of team building basics. If you want a united and engaged team, you need to invest the time, effort and capital needed to achieve it. Hosting regular team bonding activities does not mean that you must hold an extravagant event every month! There are many simple team building events that employees love (see our blog post for ideas). These can be self-hosted and coordinated by a member of your team so that you can save your budget for one-two special events. We suggest nominating a different person to be in charge each month.
Several times a year, be sure to choose special activities that employees will remember. By saving money throughout the year on self-hosted events, you can spend your budget on one or two special events, perhaps one in the spring and one in the fall. It is important that these events are hosted by someone outside of your team so that everyone can participate! For example, in our virtual escape rooms, each team gets a host to guide them through the game. Also, while it is a great idea to empower members of your team to plan simple and fun events, planning elaborate events can be very time consuming. It is best to hire a specialist in the type of event you want to hold.
- Host regular team building events
- Self-host simple events throughout the year
- Hold 1-2 special events hosted by someone outside of the team
#2 Determine Your Vision
The best way to ensure a successful event is to invest a little bit of time upfront envisioning exactly what a successful event looks like to you. Are you accommodating people who can gather in person or those in different geographical locations? Are you prioritizing employee convenience or a wow-factor event? Is the primary goal skills-building or fun? What is your budget?
Every company has different answers to these questions and it usually varies from event to event, but crafting this vision will help you choose the right team building ideas for the event at hand. For example, if employee convenience is your number one goal, you will likely choose a virtual team building event even if employees are in the same location. If a wow-factor event is the priority, you will likely choose an in-person activity with some unique elements.
One of the best team building tips to keep in mind when crafting your vision is that the purpose of team building is ultimately to help coworkers bond. While taking your team to a comedy show or an extravagant production might sound like a great team building idea, it doesn’t provide much of an opportunity for personal interaction. A better idea would be to choose an activity that gets employees talking and connecting – a cooking class or a kickball game or an escape room.
Finally, determine whether your team building goals include skills-building or whether you would simply like to focus on fun. While all team building activities are fun, some do more to promote teamwork and collaboration than others. For example, taking your team to a sporting event is a great way for coworkers to spend some time together and get to know each other better. But setting up a boat-building or car-building contest will help them develop leadership and communication skills as they work together toward a common goal.
Whatever your vision, make sure that you stick to it throughout the planning process to ensure that the final event meets your needs and goals!
- Determine your priorities
- Find activities that allow interaction
- Stick to your vision
#3 Get Input From Your Team
One of the best team building tips is to involve your team in the decision making! Team building events are a fun experience for attendees, but they are most impactful when people actually participate. The best way to ensure employee participation is to make sure your team is excited about the activities you are pursuing.
Start by asking around to find out what team building ideas other employees have and what types of activities coworkers find enjoyable. Then, a poll or vote is a great way to give everyone a voice. This process also builds excitement and anticipation about the event – and can even get everyone in the competitive spirit if your team building event is a contest (we personally believe that all of the best ones are!).
By including the broader employee group to help generate team building ideas, you will not only make the planning easier on yourself, but you will make your team feel valued! This builds good morale even before the team building activity gets started – what more could you ask for?
- Let your team make suggestions
- Poll your team
#4 Allow For Professional Development
Team building is meant to be a way to bond and connect your team. However, it is possible to do this while still incorporating professional development and even training! One of the best team building tips for managers is to use team building hand in hand with other initiatives.
One way to do this is to use team building events as a follow-up to training and learning events. For example, we can customize our virtual trivia games with categories relevant to what employees have just learned. This tests employees on their knowledge in way that is fun and allows them to showcase their knowledge.
Team building is also a great way to reinforce softer skills such as leadership, communication, and compromise. Any team building event that is a game offers employees the opportunity to put such skills into practice. In fact, the reason our team building tips are so focused on games is that they include more of this type of engagement than dinners, drinks, comedy shows and the like. Our online escape rooms require teams to lead, listen, and communicate effectively to solve the puzzles. With a game like this, employees can develop these skills in an environment where they are also bonding and having fun!
- Combine fun with professional development
- Choose a game to reinforce skills
#5 Try Out New Team Building Ideas
The best way to ensure a good turnout at your team building event is by planning an event that will be a fun, memorable experience for your employees. Hosting a new team building idea that your company has not yet experienced (or an event with a new twist) is our third team building tip!
Coworkers love the opportunity to try something new. When we launched our virtual escape rooms in 2020, we couldn’t believe the excitement. We heard from so many companies and employees who had always wanted to try an escape room but never had the opportunity – they were so excited to finally be able to play! Even companies who had done escape rooms in person told us that the new virtual twist made the games even more fun because they weren’t locked in a dark room.
If you have tried all of the in-person team building ideas in your area, the new genre of virtual team building born from covid opens up a world of new opportunities. If your location doesn’t offer a murder mystery event, try a virtual murder mystery instead. Want to know what it’s like to be on a quiz show? Try a virtual trivia event. The team building world is literally now your oyster! And take it from us, one great virtual team building tip is to break the teams up randomly so that everyone gets to mix and mingle with someone new.
- Try something fresh and new
- Go virtual for more options
#6 Schedule Your Activities In Advance
Team building activities are a great way to boost company morale, but they are most effective when everyone can attend. Planning your activity during the work day makes it more likely that employees will be available but it does not guarantee it! Thus, our next team building tip is to schedule activities with enough advance notice that employees can block their calendars. For an in-person team building activity like our Amazing Escape Race we recommend a month if possible, as coworkers will need to plan a larger block of time. For a virtual activity, two weeks’ notice is ideal and considerate.
Confirming a date well in advance will not only lead to a higher attendance rate, but it will also help you get an accurate headcount. Scheduling in advance also shows your employees that you respect their time. Showing employees respect for their time and their lives while still offering them the opportunity to participate in a fun activity will go a long way toward creating a positive company culture and increasing employee loyalty.
- Schedule in advance to respect employee time
- Schedule in advance to encourage attendance
- Schedule in advance to get an accurate headcount
#7 Get Everyone Involved
Without a doubt, there are benefits to holding team building activities with your immediate team. But including multiple divisions or the broader company in a team building activity augments networking and improves morale on a larger scale. This is why team building tip #5 is to get everyone involved! When coworkers get to mix and mingle with employees from other departments or other teams, they forge connections they might not otherwise come across and get a broader perspective of the company as a whole.
In most companies, coworkers are all in charge of different tasks. Although they may intersect with other departments, they don’t work together regularly enough to get to know the strong suits of each team member. Getting everyone involved in team building ideas that highlight the strengths of employees from other departments helps teammates rely on one another and helps the company function more effectively as a unit. In turn, exposing the weaknesses of other team members helps coworkers come together to improve upon one another’s abilities. The team building activity can spark connections that create long term cohesion which in turn leads to higher productivity.
If you’re asking yourself, “Do team building activities really work?” the answer is yes, and they are most effective when participation spans the entire team or company. When every team member feels as though they are bringing something to the table and is able to see the positive contributions of other teammates, the benefits are exponential.
- Include multiple teams to enhance networking
- Include the whole company to highlight strengths across departments
#8 Explore Prizes and Rewards
One of the best tips for effective team building is to make the team building activity a friendly competition. We see it over and over in our virtual team building games – nothing gets employees engaged like trying to win! It bonds the small teams together in pursuit of a mutual goal and also bonds the entire group together in the broader competition. Expect a little friendly trash talking afterward!
Verbal appreciation is a great way to show praise, but one of the best team building tips is to explore tangible prizes and rewards! These up the ante and keep everyone engaged and committed throughout the activity. It also increases participation rates and motivation.
There are many prizes you can consider to augment your team building game. Employees always appreciate gift cards and financial rewards. We have even seen cash bonuses given as prizes! If you are considering a themed event, it can be fun to provide a gift basket as a prize that matches the theme. For example, when companies play our virtual escape room Destination Unknown they sometimes provide a spy-themed gift basket with drink shakers, martini kits, passport covers, and more. Another idea that is always a hit is bonus vacation time or PTO. It can even be as simple as letting an employee leave early on a Friday or a catered lunch for the winning team. The options are endless.
- Add a competitive element to increase bonding
- Provide a prize to up the ante
#9 Consider Doing Volunteer Work
Giving back brings people a natural high. What better way to team build than to get your team together in a way that allows everyone to feel good about helping others? This team building tip for leaders is to make sure your team gives back to the community in some way at least once per year – and some teams make it a monthly tradition!
Volunteer work can take many forms. For some companies, they might consider fundraising for a cause important to everyone. Other companies might choose hands-on activities that allow everyone to participate in making a difference. Check local food banks, homeless shelters, youth centers, pet rescues, and environmental clean-up organizations for their volunteer schedules. Most organizations have pre-arranged shifts that your company can attend.
It is also a good idea to get employees involved in choosing the causes! Let everyone suggest causes important to them so that the team as a whole feels invested in what you are doing. Here at Escapely, we all discuss our quarterly causes and choose them as a team. On our retreat, we do hands-on volunteering together so that we bond while doing something to help one of the communities we serve.
- Let employees help choose the causes
- Give back to the community together
#10 Encourage Conversations and Communication
When employees don’t feel connected to one another, they sometimes have a “come to work, get the job done, and go home” attitude. While this may work for some positions, communication is a crucial key to a company’s success. The best team building activities for work encourage conversations and communication to deepen relationships long after the activity is over.
To encourage communication, choose team building activities that get employees working together. Instead of watching a comedy show or performance, which do not give coworkers a chance to work together and connect, choose an interactive activity such as a murder mystery or a virtual escape room. These types of activities force participants to communicate in order to complete the challenge which in turn encourages bonding and conversations in a way that does not feel forced. After communicating during the team building game, your team will feel more comfortable communicating and socializing with one another in a work setting.
When companies create an environment conducive to communication, employees are happier and more productive. They feel bonded to their colleagues and even look forward to coming to work to see them!
- Choose activities that encourage conversation
- Help employees practice communication in the context of a team building game
#11 Have Fun
Why do team building activities always include something exciting or engaging? Because the most important component to any team building event is that it is FUN! Of all of our tips for team building, this is probably the most important. When your employees are having fun, they bond and connect with each other in new ways. Their brains will remember the fun they had with their coworkers and they will actually look forward to coming to work!
Fun is also important because when employees get a mental break they are able to return to work refreshed and more productive. Giving your employees an outlet to relieve stress and take a break makes them feel like their contributions are understood, valued, and appreciated. When a company incorporates fun into the workday, it doesn’t feel like a chore to show up for work!
Escapely offers several activities that are fun and engaging for coworkers. Our virtual escape room is one of our most popular activities. It’s a great way to connect your team because participants work together in small groups to problem solve and try to escape first. Everyone gets into the competition! We also offer a virtual murder mystery in which participants get to play the part of the investigator. They will interrogate suspects, review evidence, and try to crack the case. We also offer virtual trivia, bingo, and more. Set up a free demo to learn more!
For teams looking for an in-person experience, our Amazing Escape Race is an incredible adventure in which teams race to locate checkpoints, solve puzzles, and complete challenges. We can set it up anywhere of your choosing – office headquarters, a retreat resort venue, or a conference center. It is a blast!
- The most important team building tip is to make sure employees are having fun together!
- Fun helps reset the energy and give employees a needed break
- When employees associate their coworkers with fun experiences, working together doesn’t feel like a chore