Team-building has a bit of an unfortunate reputation in the corporate world, and there are a lot of negative associations linked to it. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Used effectively, team-building exercises can make your office a better place to work, improving both social interaction and workplace culture. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about team-building?
If you’re like most people, it probably conjures up an image of an out-of-touch manager trying to force social interaction upon their employees. Of mandatory events that create more frustration than fun. Of sports outings and paid-for activities that achieve the opposite of their intent.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Most of the negative associations we’ve got with team-building are the result of incompetence and poor implementation. They’re arguably an essential element of creating a good corporate culture – a pillar of a positive workplace.
Properly-implemented, team-building activities foster trust. They create friendships and encourage social interaction between people who might otherwise never meet. And ultimately, they make your office a better, more enjoyable place to work.
Here are a few you should consider as a starting point.
People play games because they’re fun, sure. But they also play games for the social element. Gaming together, whether as part of a team or in a friendly competition, is among the best ways to build new friendships between co-workers. That’s true whether you’re hosting a trivia nights, running an inter-office video game tournament, playing board games, or inviting everyone to an escape room.
Ask around and see what sort of games and activities your staff might be interested in doing, then plan based on that.
This one’s a personal favorite of mine, as it puts initiative and control squarely in the hands of your employees. Sit down and have a chat with staff about their hobbies. What does everyone enjoy doing in their downtime?
Maybe someone really enjoys tabletop games and wants to introduce their co-workers via a board game club. Maybe fitness is on everyone’s mind, and they want to start running together. Maybe everyone’s itching to get some reading done and starting a book club would be right up their alley.
Propose the idea to them, and provide them with both a framework for founding a club and space where they can host meetings. Having employees pursue shared interests together is a great way to cement their relationships with one another. And everyone will appreciate that you’re willing to nurture them in the things they truly enjoy doing.
Off-Site Lunches (And Dinners)
More and more, employees are eating lunch at their desks. They’re skipping the cafeteria in the interest of productivity. That’s all well and good, but it also runs the risk of increased workplace isolation – of everybody retreating into their own personal bubble and no longer interacting with one another.
Change that. Invite everyone out for lunch or dinner (your treat). Do a bit of reading on some of your city’s best restaurants and coolest neighborhoods and encourage everyone to step away from their desks and spend some time actually getting to know one another.
Not only will this give everyone an opportunity to get to know each other, providing your staff with a free meal every now and then will work wonders for retention and job satisfaction.
Remember: You Can’t Force Team-Building
I’ll leave off with some critical advice that way too many HR professionals seem to neglect. The words “mandatory team-building exercise” should never be spoken in any context. You can’t force employees to be social, nor can you demand that they show up to an event and have fun.
It’s your job to create fun activities that people want to do – if you aren’t able to do that, find someone who is.
Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.