Why You Should Be Doing More Team-Building Activities (And 13 Things You Can Do)

26 Sep ‘22
3 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Gecontroleerd door Psychologist Ida Dommerholt

If you put eleven people on a soccer pitch, each with their own ball and each trying to score their own goals, the whole thing would quickly descend into chaos. Instead, soccer teams work together to score goals. The same applies to organizations: A group of individuals with individual goals doesn’t make a team. What you need is a group of people working together towards a common goal. But how do you build a strong team? And what role do team-building activities play in all this?


In this article, we’ll explain how team-building activities can help you build a strong team and the best ways to approach this.


Why is team building important?


Building a strong team is about more than just hiring people with the right skills, mindset and personalities. Because it doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re not in an efficient, productive team, chances are that you’re not reaching your full potential.


And that’s where team-building activities come in. Team building is about actively bringing team members together in order to strengthen and deepen their existing relationships. 


As we’ve already stated, team-building activities are an important part of building an effective team because they… 


1. Strengthen trust


Mutual trust is one of the most important basic requirements for an effective team. In fact, one part of our brain is constantly fixated on our desire to belong. When we finally feel at home somewhere, this part of our brain relaxes and we free up space for other things. 


Trust creates a safe environment where employees feel empowered to make their own decisions, dare to make mistakes, proactively pursue their own ideas, and have less difficulty being vulnerable. 


2. Improve communication


Whether you decide to go bowling, hit the karaoke bar or take a workshop, doing fun things together is also a good way to practice communication. It might sound strange, but it’s a great way to get to know each other in an informal manner.


You’ll get to learn other people’s communication styles and you’ll sharpen your own communication skills in the process. 


For example, if someone struggles to get involved in discussions during meetings, team-building activities might help them to open up in an environment where there’s less pressure. 


3. Resolve underlying conflict


During team-building activities, you create space for minor conflicts, competition and other forms of interaction that don’t have a place in a work environment. At work, politeness usually takes precedence, which means that conflicts are repressed, making them bigger than necessary. 


Team-building activities function as “social norming activities”. In a safe and playful way, you can explore as a team which behaviors are acceptable and how to navigate each other’s boundaries. 


4. Make people more approachable


During team building activities, everyone is the same. A manager or somebody with a lot of experience might come across as unapproachable or intimidating in the workplace, but over drinks, at a workshop, or during an activity, that almost always changes and the manager becomes part of the group.


This was a crucial part of Google’s start-up phase: They organized street hockey games for the whole company where everyone went all in. 


5.  Renew energy within the team


A “change of scenery” is the perfect energy boost. When the team heads back to the office after a day of fun, this will have a positive effect on the energy levels in the office. And even afterwards this can carry forward, for example, when the team starts reminiscing about their fond memories. 


6.  Strengthen cooperation


This one may seem obvious, but it’s no less important. If your team members don’t know each other (very well), then it’s harder for them to work together. By doing fun things together, colleagues will learn to understand each other better in a more casual manner. They’ll develop a respect for each other, learn what their colleagues are enthusiastic about and what irritates them. All of this is good for cooperation. 


7.  Help with the hybrid working model


If part of the team isn’t (always) working from the office, this has an impact on social ties. Particularly in these kinds of situations, it’s important to organize regular team activities. Try to get the whole team physically together because just seeing each other through a screen isn’t really enough. 


8.  Improve creativity and innovation


Team-building activities break up your daily routine. Removing a team from their normal work environment is good for their creativity and helps them to develop new ideas. 


In addition, it fuels our imaginations because we are social creatures. This is also good for creativity. 


And finally: By bringing team members, who would usually have little or perfunctory interaction, together in a new way, you increase the likelihood of creative and innovative ideas arising. 


9.  Make for happy team members


A little outing every now and then keeps employees satisfied. It’s a way to express your appreciation as a company for the contributions everybody is making to the success of the business and it encourages them to keep going. 


6 tips for fun and effective team building 


Of course, team building doesn’t have to mean assembling your colleagues and getting them to build a raft with you. Or making a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows. Because most people don’t like doing that stuff. By sticking to the guidelines below, you’ll make sure your team building exercises are both fun and valuable. 


  1.   Don’t place too much emphasis on learning, go for fun. Choose an activity that your employees will actually enjoy. The lessons they learn will be less explicit, but no less valuable.
  2.   Go analogue! Online get-togethers just aren’t as fun as real-life get-togethers and trying to create a personal connection through a screen doesn’t tend to turn out so well. So, organize something offline for your team building event. Make sure that employees who work remotely can also attend.
  3.   Organize the activity during working hours. By organizing your team building activities during the working week, you’re making sure that people can attend and promoting a healthy work-life balance by respecting your employees’ free time.
  4.   Involve everyone. Inclusion in an important part of any team-building activity. Make sure to choose activities that everyone can do.
  5.   Team building activities can last under an hour. Short weekly or monthly team building activities are also worthwhile. For example, during lunch breaks. This way you’ll ensure that team building is a part of everyday work life. After all, we all have a constant need to feel that we belong to something.
  6. Team building is also something you can do on your own. Strong mutual bonds aren’t all you need for a good team. The mental health of individual team members is also important. In collaboration with you, OpenUp will prompt up to 100% of your employees to take care of their mental health and increase their work performance by improving their mental wellbeing


13 activities that teams enjoy


But what should you do then? Obviously, you don’t want to keep repeating yourself or falling back on the standard options. This list will help:


1. Socially responsible activities: Do a day of volunteering or go plastic fishing with Plastic Whale. 


2. (Weekly) pub quiz: For example, on Friday afternoon before after-work drinks. Make sure some of the questions are general, some of them are about the company, and some are about the team. 


3. Talent show: Organize “Holland’s Got Talent”, where individuals or groups can show off their amazing skills for their colleagues. Team members who’d rather not be the center of attention can act as the audience or judges. 


4. Cookery course: Select an exciting global cuisine. Or inspire the team by experimenting with vegetarian or vegan cooking.


5. Dragon’s Den: Organize a Dragon’s Den afternoon. This could be serious – where people pitch a new product or service for the company – or something more trivial. For example, new dishes for the lunch menu.


6. Take your dog to work: When people and animals get together, beautiful things happen. 


7. Team retreat: Remove your team from their usual environment by taking them on a retreat. An interesting place to stay will make the outing extra special. For example, consider a tree house or a yurt. 


8. Escape room: There’s no better way to get to know each other than during a good old escape room session. 


9. Mockumentary: Allow various (sub)teams to make a documentary about their “day at the office”. Make little five-minute movies and then organize a rooftop cinema. 


10. Organize a tasting: From beer- and cheese to wine or even chocolate. Did you know beer and cheese can go very well together?


11. Mixology lessons and (mock)cocktail competition: Making fancy drinks in an informal atmosphere can help to bring people closer together. Your team can create a signature cocktail together (doesn’t have to contain alcohol to be fun). 


12. Team playlist: Create a team playlist on Spotify where everyone can add their own songs. Put it on during your team-building activities. It can be really funny to guess who included which songs. Turns out the sixty-year-old manager is secretly a Billie Eilish fan! 


13. Weekend in a GIF: Kick off Monday morning by getting everyone to post a GIF describing their weekend in the group chat or on Slack. Discuss everyone’s weekend based on this before officially starting the working week.


With these tips, you’ll create a strong team that scores goal after goal. One based on mutual trust, good communication, energy, collaboration, creativity and fun!