If you’ve ever had the privilege of managing a team, I’m sure you know the true value of teamwork and collaboration. As managers, it’s up to us to keep our team members on the same page—sometimes by force, sometimes through fun team-building activities.
From an early age, we’ve all been taught to play well with others, to share the load, work together, and to celebrate whenever we accomplish something together as a team.
Surprisingly, there still isn’t much content and training material out there that teaches managers how to make their employees work together as teams.
Culture is one of the top factors tied to employee happiness. And peers? They’re the number one thing people love about their job, all according to our research.
As a result, it's in your best interest to learn how to bridge the gap between the team, other departments, and the organization as a whole.
Team building can range from quick in-office activities to complex half-day courses run by "game engineers" at innovative companies like The Go Game.
The important thing is to make time and space for coworkers to bond.
To that end, I’ve compiled a list of 35+ team-building activities and games—including some ice-breaker activities—that are perfect for both small teams and large groups.
It will pay off. Trust me.
Table of Contents
- Activities That Focus on Pure Team Bonding and Communication Skills
- Team Building Activities that Focus on Problem-Solving
- Team Building Activities That Promote Creative Thinking
- Other Team Building Games and Icebreakers to Try
- The Benefits of Arranging Team Building Games
- Final Thoughts
Activities That Focus on Pure Team Bonding and Communication Skills
Let’s start off with the team building exercises that can work wonders in terms of strengthening the camaraderie and communication among your employees.
While it’s true that the focus of any team-building activity is to improve team chemistry among employees and build a great team, I feel that you can potentially experience much faster results with the following exercises.
1. Scavenger Hunt
Is there a better way to break up the workday?
A scavenger hunt is a great way to get your employees moving and collaborating.
Depending on the available space, you can choose to do this indoors or outdoors.
Split everyone into smaller teams of three to five people. Hide miscellaneous objects around the facility and have the different groups find them.
The first group to find all or at least a certain number of objects wins.
2. Human Knot
Human Knot makes for a fun activity.
First, have your team form a circle. Have everyone put their right hands in the air and grab onto someone’s hand across the circle. Then tell them to link left hands with someone else across the circle.
See if they can untangle themselves without letting go of anyone’s hand. (link)
3. Blind Retriever
The goal of Blind Retriever is to guide a blindfolded person to a certain point or a hidden object.
The game is a great way to test how your employees work together under pressure and how well they respond to instructions.
To play, split your team into small groups, blindfolding one person on each team. The first team that can successfully direct their blindfolded colleague to a hidden object wins. (link)
4. Group Juggle
Ask your team to form a circle.
Then, throw one employee a ball. From there, have them say their name and then throw the ball to the next person, who says their name, and so on.
To make things interesting (and challenging), keep introducing new balls into the circle. (link)
5. Active Listener
Schedule what your entire team thinks is a routine meeting. Deliver a boring speech filled with jargon, but sprinkle random unrelated sentences in every so often.
In the end, quiz your employees to see who was listening.
You can turn this into a team vs. team thing.
6. Group Timeline
Have different teams sort themselves by height, age, how long they’ve been with the company, how many states they’ve been in, and other similar groupings.
The quickest team to do so wins.
The group timeline activity is a great way to test the sorting skills of your employees and how well they know each other.
7. Pair Up
Write a bunch of pairs on different pieces/sheets of paper (e.g., Thelma and Louise, salt and pepper, and Mario and Luigi).
Tape them to your employees’ backs. Have them walk around trying to figure out who they are—and find their complementary colleague.
Not only is this a fun way to get employees bonding, it can also serve as a nice way to break the ice for new hires—or new teams altogether. (link)
8. Perfect Square
Get some rope—at least 5-meters long—and tie the ends together.
Place the rope on the ground and have four to eight people stand in a circle. Then blindfold them and ask them to take five steps back.
After that, tell everyone to turn the rope-loop into a perfect square.
The activity is a great way to see how well team members collaborate. (link)
9. Office Trivia
Nothing beats a good ole session of office trivia.
By hosting office trivia, you can test how well the employees know inside-jokes, random facts about the office, and the history of your company.
The person to give the most number of correct answers, wins. To make things interesting, give the winner a bizarre prize. Random objects such as a stapler or a bag of paper clips work best.
10. Building Blocks
No, this has nothing to do with LEGOs.
Building blocks is a popular team-building card game for work.
It includes 101 questions that focus on forming deeper relationships and improving communication between team members.
Furthermore, the cards are split into six categories, including questions about personal things, the team, education, future decisions, hobbies, and random scenarios. (link)
11. Two Truths, One Lie
Two Truths, One Lie is a great game to bond over with your fellow colleagues.
Take turns telling your coworkers two things about you that are true and one thing that’s false.
Have them guess the lie. (link)
12. Cultural Celebration Parties
There’s nothing more pure and beautiful than celebrating your differences.
If you have a diverse team, you can host annual cultural parties where employees can introduce their culture to their fellow colleagues.
You can even ask employees to wear their cultural dresses and bring special meals/snacks.
13. Circle of Appreciation
Have your employees stand in a circle.
Then, tell every person to share one thing that they appreciate about the person standing to their left.
Once the circle is complete, go the other way by telling everyone to share something that they appreciate about the person to their right.
Team-Building Activities that Focus on Problem-Solving
Let’s take a look at some team-building activities that will force your employees to think and come up with creative solutions to different problems.
14. Egg Drop
You might remember this from your high school days.
Can any of your employees build a device that can keep a raw egg intact when it’s dropped from a few stories up?
The egg drop is a fun way to see which of your employees can come up with practical solutions—even if it’s for a bizarre problem. (link)
15. Barter Puzzle
Here we have jigsaw puzzles—but with a twist.
Divide your staff into multiple groups and give each group a different jigsaw puzzle to solve.
Now, here’s the twist: Each set will have a few puzzle pieces missing, which will be in the possession of opposing teams.
The teams will then have to negotiate to get the remaining pieces of the puzzle from each other by trading pieces, and sometimes, even group members.
16. Board Games
When it comes down to it, you can never go wrong with board games.
They’re great for flexing the resource management, logical thinking, and a whole lot of other mental muscles.
The best part about board games is that they don’t cost much—and you can play them pretty much anywhere.
Monopoly, Codenames, and Pandemic are some of the hottest games for work right now.
17. Business Simulations
A business simulation is exactly what it sounds like—a simulation of a real-life business/work-related problem.
To pull it off, come up with an imaginary business problem (e.g., a task or project) and gather your employees in a conference room. Share the complete details of the activity—the rules, goals, and of course, the deadline—and let them have a crack at it.
Since there are no real risks involved, your employees will be free to think outside-the-box and come up with creative solutions.
This fun game allows the entire group to buckle-together and work as a team, develop the actual skills needed to tackle real-life problems, and perfect their decision-making skills in the process.
18. Boardroom/Meeting Room Escape Room
Escape rooms are great for testing how well you are at managing resources, thinking under pressure, and working together as a team.
However, at times, the budget doesn’t allow companies to plan out a day at the local escape room.
You can, however, transform one of your meeting rooms/boardrooms into one.
Plant clues and small activities throughout the room and let your employees cooperate to earn their way out.
This can also be a complete surprise. Gather your unsuspecting employees for a meeting, and once they’re in, lock the doors and explain the rules.
19. Office Debates
An argument is the last thing that you want in the workplace.
But just hear me out for a second.
Friendly, low-stake arguments are healthy for cooperation and understanding the viewpoints of your team members.
Furthermore, it can help reduce real-life heated situations, and if conflicts do arise, your employees will be better-equipped to handle them.
Considering that, arrange structured debates at work and let employees discuss critical issues (could be political, social, about the economics, or your company/industry, for example).
Let a few lucky employees act as the judges and hand out points.
Team-Building Activities That Promote Creative Thinking
Inspiring creativity among your employees can be challenging.
However, with the following team building activities, you can get those creative juices flowing in no time:
20. Work Jeopardy!
Are you a fan of Jeopardy?
If so, you should consider bringing the classic game show to work.
Come up with five questions for six categories that pertain to your business.
Break the group up into teams, and select one lucky employee to play Alex Trebek.
21. What’s My Name?
What’s My Name is a great game to get your employees interacting and coming up with creative queries to guess the correct answers.
The rules of the game are simple: Have everyone write the names of well-known celebrities on a post-it and stick them to the foreheads (or the backs) of one another.
Then, the participants have to go around the room and ask stereotypical questions about who they are, such as Am I a man or a woman?
The first person to guess the name written on the note stuck to their forehead/back wins.
22. The Dinner Party
No, I’m not saying that you should book a table at your favorite restaurant.
The “dinner party” is a quick and fun way to break the ice with your employees and get to know them better.
It basically involves taking turns asking which three people (dead or alive) your employees would have dinner with, and why.
23. Battle of the Designers
If you’re an agency that offers graphic designing, why not hold a competition to see which of your designers is the best?
Decide on a theme, and have your designers craft something creative (e.g., logos, banners, or posters).
In the end, have everyone vote for their favorite designs and award the winner with an exciting prize.
24. Own it Day
In some tech companies, to promote creative thinking (and occasionally get something out of it), employees, regardless of what they do or which department they belong to, are encouraged to come forward with unique product ideas.
Known as “own it” day, employees are asked to come up with creative ideas for products and present them to the rest of the group.
The person with the best idea gets all the resources and assistance they need to turn it into reality.
25. Idea Workshops
Similar to own it days, the purpose of idea workshops is to provide teams with a platform to present their ideas and solutions, as well as analyze their problem-solving skills.
The ideas presented could be about anything, such as a problem that the company is facing.
All departments should be welcome to present their solutions, and the rest of the team should be allowed to evaluate them and provide feedback.
With the help of this team-building activity, not only can you bring your teams together, you can also come up with practical solutions to real problems.
26. Office Pictionary
Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a game of Pictionary.
In case you’ve never played this classic game before, the rules are simple.
Split your employees into teams of two or more. Write down the names of day-to-day items, popular movies, celebrities, and events on cards.
Taking turns, a person from every team will draw a card without revealing to their team members what it says. Then, they’ll proceed to draw that object/person/phenomenon on a whiteboard, and their team members will attempt to guess what it is.
Of course, there is a time limit to do the drawing and the guessing (usually 60 seconds).
The team to guess the most correct answers wins.
Other Team-Building Games and Icebreakers to Try
Here are a few more fun team building activities to get your employees bonding:
27. Battle of the Airbands
Move over karaoke. It’s battle of the airbands time!
First, split your team into groups of four. Have them pick a song and do their best impression of performing it with air instruments and lip-syncing.
You can also get props and costumes to make things even more exciting.
Though it's super fun, frequently carrying out such activities is one way of helping employees be okay with being out of their comfort zone.
Let your employees show off their cooking skills—or at least their skills at tracking down delicious food.
Schedule an afternoon potluck once a quarter. Yum.
29. Water Balloon Toss
On a warm day, fill up a bunch of water balloons.
Split your team into pairs and have them throw balloons back and forth to each other, taking a step back with each successful exchange.
The “driest” team standing wins.
30. Show & Tell
It was awesome in elementary school.
Now that we’re all adults, and we have cooler things, it should be even more interesting.
Have your workers bring in a prized possession and let them tell a story.
31. Community Service
No matter where your office is, there are undoubtedly people in your community who are less fortunate.
Pick a deserving cause, rally the troops, and give back to the community whenever time allows for it. Team building, and for a good cause.
You could volunteer at a local kitchen, offer your services at an old folks’ home for a day, or raise funds for a charity that your employees care about.
32. Team Lunches
Everyone needs to eat.
So, what’s the easiest team-building activity?
Taking your team out to lunch and picking up the tab.
If you’re not sure which place to try, run a quick survey and let your employees vote.
33. 18 and Under
We all have accomplished something in our lives that’s worth sharing.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get the opportunity to share it.
Ask your employees to share their biggest accomplishment that occurred before they turned 18.
Have everyone show their support and appreciation to make fellow colleagues feel nice and warm.
34. No Smiling
You know what’s harder than hitting your annual sales target?
Not smiling or laughing when you’re specifically told not to.
Before you start a meeting, tell your employees they’re not allowed to smile.
See who can last the longest.
35. Go Kart Racing
Tired of playing Mario Kart?
Maybe it’s time to take the rivalry between your team members to an actual circuit.
You can make an entire day out of it and order custom trophies for the winners.
36. Karaoke Night
Do your employees have a knack for singing?
Bring out the microphones and find out.
A karaoke night is a great way to make your team members bond over their favorite songs.
37. Ask your employees for fresh ideas
Not sure if any of the above activities are for your team? Why not ask them about it and go with the most voted one!
A while ago, we sent out a pulse survey asking about the top three favorite summer activities. Now, we have a beautiful hike scheduled for August as the word cloud says "Hiking."
Get real-time feedback on team-building activities and major company initiatives so you have actionable data to guide the next steps.
The Benefits of Arranging Team-Building Games
Still skeptical about the effectiveness of team-building activities?
Here are some compelling reasons that could change your mind.
1. They Can Boost Employee Engagement
First and foremost, arranging team-building activities can send employee engagement levels through the roof.
One of the primary purposes of team-building exercises is to foster close friendships among employees, and it has been known to boost engagement by 50% (according to a Gallup research).
2. Team-Building Exercises Can Improve Communication Skills
A Salesforce study found that about 86% of respondents cited a lack of collaboration and communication to be the major culprits behind workplace-related failures.
Luckily, with the help of various team-building activities, you can improve the communication between your employees.
3. They Can Help Develop and Identify Leadership Skills
Certain team-building activities present an opportunity to take charge and lead small groups of people towards a common goal.
You’d be surprised to find the top leadership qualities in your team members, which may otherwise remain hidden forever.
4. These Activities Can Reinforce the Company Culture
Last, but not least, team-building activities can help you reinforce your core values, bring employees closer to one another, and strengthen the company culture in the process.
Remember, at the end of the day, it’s your company culture that rallies your employees together and plays a crucial role in boosting engagement levels.
Building a strong team can’t happen without effort.
Sure, you can have a team that meshes organically. But in order to cultivate a team that supports each other through and through, you’ll need to reinforce relationships with effective team-building activities. And that’s where all of these ideas come into play.
Here’s to a happier and healthier team!