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10 Team Building Activities That Beat Cringe-Worthy Icebreakers

in Managing People Succeeding At Work

by Talmundo
July 6, 2017

Skip the Human Knot icebreaker—someone always has sweaty hands anyway. These 10 team building activities are ideal for organizations or groups that are looking to improve their team mojo, sans those awkward icebreakers.

Whether you’ve recently added a new employee or are just trying to keep up engagement, these exercises can help. Best of all? No sweaty hands necessary.

1. Obstacle course

A high-energy team building activity, navigating obstacle courses helps groups bond through physical activity. Find a ropes course in your area, which uses elements like walls, rope ladders, and heights, or try a fun run like The Color Run or Spartan Race. Just make sure that everyone feels comfortable participating, and that obstacle courses and challenges are adapted for any physical limitations and disabilities.

2. Chat on day 1

Nothing crazy here. Simply setting aside some time for colleagues to welcome a new team member on his or her first day, and for the new employee to get to know coworkers, is essential to building rapport. Plan lunch or a casual coffee break and let the words flow!

3. Beach Ball

Looking for a way to bridge the communication gap between senior leadership, middle management, and entry-level employees? Purchase a large inflatable beach ball and cover the ball in workplace-appropriate questions. Here are a few examples:

  • What is your pet peeve?
  • What is the best job you’ve ever had?
  • What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What is your favorite hobby?
  • What’s your favorite thing about your current job?
  • If you could keep your 35-year-old body or your 35-year-old mind for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?

Gather everyone into a big circle, toss the ball around, and have catchers answer the question closest to their righthand pinky finger.

4. Create a culture book or internal e-magazine

If lower-energy team building activities are more your pace, consider creating a company culture book or internal magazine. Online shoe and clothing company Zappos describes their culture book as “a collage of unedited submissions from employees within the Zappos Family of companies sharing what the Zappos culture means to them.” Design a PDF-only version to save money and the environment.

5. Fun personality tests

In addition to traditional personality tests like the DISC or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the internet is full of entertaining personality quizzes like Buzzfeed’s “What Kind of Cookie Are You?” Not only is it just fun to see whether your colleague is a snickerdoodle or Oreo, but each question presents an opportunity for discussion and differences of opinion.

6. 2 Truths and a Lie

Time to find out who has the best poker face. Go around the circle and have each team member say three statements, two of which are true and one which is false. It’s up to the rest of the group to decide which declaration is false.

7. Company-wide scavenger hunt

Who knew that one of our favorite childhood activities could make a reappearance in the workplace? Scavenger hunts are a perfect way to combine fun, friendly competition, and even a bit of company culture if you’re feeling ambitious. The best thing is that there’s really no participant limit, meaning that small teams or large companies—and everything in between—can enjoy scavenger hunts.

Break your team or organization into small groups of 2-7 and send them off to accomplish various objectives, such as finding someone in the office who has visited at least 12 countries or gathering 10 different colored paper clips. (Side note: this is also a great opportunity to familiarize new employees with where office supplies and team members are located!) Bonus points for integrating company culture into the mix, like taking a team photo in front of the organization’s logo as a scavenger challenge.

8. Volunteer for a good cause

Nothing brings people together like helping others in need. Spend a day or volunteering for a cause that resonates with your team members, and ask everyone to share their thoughts about the team building activity afterward.

9. Office Olympics

Wastepaper basketball, blindfolded pin the tail on the company mascot—these are all part of Office Olympics. Or they could be, if you decide to inject a little faux athletic flair into the workplace. Check out what you have at your disposal and create 5 mini games for teams or pairs to compete in. Even something as simple as a typing competition or tongue twister speed rounds can lighten the mood and get everyone feeling like a cohesive team.

10. Get everyone involved in onboarding

Onboarding doesn’t mean sticking the newbie in front of a computer for their whole first day. New employees—from entry-level professionals to C-suite executives—are much more successful and engaged when onboarding is a group effort.

Pair up newer team members with more experienced ones for beneficial mentor-mentee relationships, or have each of your team members be the new employee’s sidekick for one day during their first week.

Psst! Don't forget to download our Onboarding Milestones Checklist to keep new hires on track throughout the first year!