9 Team-building activities that actually boost morale and productivity

Read why team-building activities are essential for driving successful teams. Also, find out how to choose the right exercises for your team and pick from nine quick team-building activities!

Team building exercises are essential activities designed to get the team to learn about each other, cooperate and work together. It helps develop mutual trust and improves bonding amongst colleagues that spend a large amount of the day together.

However, in today's day and age when time is of the essence for projects and deliverables, team-building activities are often side-lined by organizations. Besides thinking of them as time suckers, these exercises are considered boring and unnecessary. The middle ground HR teams and managements usually come up with is conducting team-building activities once a year during annual retreats or breaks.

Smaller teams often have a better idea when it comes to team-building activities. They work in closer quarters with smaller teams, occasionally have work staycations and generally rely more on each other. And therefore tend to show better reliance on each other when it comes to projects and tasks. For larger companies, finding and integrating activities that are right for your team, on a regular basis, could be a challenge. But it's necessary to do so in the course of the normal work-week, rather than as a one-off activity. Let's find out why team-building activities are a great way to build a harmonious team:

Why team-building activities are essential for creating successful teams?

With a team that works seamlessly together, no goal is too lofty. A team that can count on collective strengths will race through a lot of obstacles, and have each other's backs. Here are a few reasons why pre-meditated team-building activities are important:

Builds trust

Trust is essential for your team to feel safe with each other, and even take risks. A team that has little to no trust in itself will find tackling high-risk tasks daunting. Instilling a sense of trust within your team will also ensure that everyone—on a personal level—believes in the collective core competency of their colleagues. They understand that the people around them have the same aptitude and ideas that they too believe in. This can be a source of great confidence in times of crisis and will allow teammates to fall back on each other for help when required.

Improves productivity

By engaging in team-building exercises for work, co-workers are able to understand each other's strengths, thought processes, and working patterns better. And this makes team collaboration smoother while encouraging a positive work culture! Once your team has a rapport that they can rely on, it tends to have a ripple effect on enhancing individual productivity and motivation. Further, a well-integrated team has a laser focus on work tasks and output, as opposed to workplace politics, or any other misdirected anxieties. Proper coordination helps to resolve conflicts and misunderstandings faster, leading to quick decision-making.

Helps to attract and retain talent

Along with competitive pay and other benefits, potential candidates also look out for teams that are well-integrated and organizations that offer a friendly work environment. These are pointers important for when you're trying to attract top talent to your team. Besides newer entrants to your team, colleagues already inside the official system need to feel like a part of your ecosystem. Oftentimes, there's a fear that teammates may feel fragmented from the larger team, especially if they're remote workers or new to the organization. Team-building activities foster a collaborative work culture where everyone can work towards achieving their individual and collective goals better, for the longer run.

How to choose the right team-building activity for your team?

So, you've decided to embrace exercises that will help develop a better culture within your team. What's next? Ensuring that everyone gets involved. Let's be real. If employers usually think of team-building activities as a time drain, so do most employees. The common thought is that these activities are a drain on the work clock and unnecessary in the larger scheme of things. Therefore, in order to ensure everyone has the right positive attitude towards team-building exercises, it's important to choose them with care.

Here, it's helpful if you already understand the needs of your team. Are they well-introduced to each other? Do they work together regularly, and are they familiar and open among themselves? This checklist will help you recognize which areas of team-building you need to work on first.

While choosing these activities, you should also be fully cognizant of time and space constraints. Are there any urgent deadlines that need to be met first, which may be adding to the stress that the team's feeling? Are you scheduling these activities too close to the festive season when most of the team may be unavailable? Is your team mostly remote and may need a different set of team-building activities than the colleagues that work with you in person?

Not all activities are accessible to everyone. Being mindful of these restrictions can save a lot of time and frustration while trying to execute your plans.

Lastly, it's a good idea to gain your team's support over the kind of team-building activities they would prefer. Not only does having a say in this matter an important boost for their morale, but it is also pertinent to have your colleagues be fully engaged in said activities.

Nine quick team-building activities that will keep your employees engaged

We've spoken a bit about the why, where and how of team-building activity basics. It's now time to get our hands dirty with some fun team-building exercises. Let's look at a total of nine activities, broken down into three categories each:

  • Three ice-breaker activities; to be done before any group activities,
  • Three in-person activities for your team; and lastly,
  • Three virtual team activities.

Let's get cracking!

An illustration of four teammates dressed casually. There are two women and two men in this team. They're standing together with arms around each other. A word cloud around them reads, host fun quizzes, sponsor a dance party, craft storytelling sessions
Ice-breaker activities bring your team together from word go

3 Ice-breaker activities

Host fun quizzes

Let's face it: We've all been in online meetings with people where there's been an initial hesitation to share our ideas. One big reason for this is usually the fear that either one won't get a chance to speak or their ideas will not be well-appreciated. A good way to reduce and even kill this hesitation is to introduce an ice-breaker activity that allows all teammates an equal opportunity to speak up.

For this, you can start off a meeting with a lightning round, where all teammates are given an opportunity to speak for 30 seconds on a suitable prompt. This is a great idea to ensure everyone gets to talk, pump up everyone in the room and ensure fostering of a collaborative spirit. Here are a few prompts that are sure to get the energy flowing, but you can absolutely customize them to suit your work environment better.

  • What TV show or movie has caught your interest lately?
  • What's your favorite dish or cuisine?
  • Who do you look up to?
  • What is a book you keep going back to?
  • What is your most used emoji?
  • Tell us about your last vacation.

Hearing all your teammates speak and share their ideas—even before work begins—is a great way to ensure that they are engaged in the conversation!

Dance party

Hear us out! Letting your hair down while busting some moves really makes you connect with people like nothing else does. You do it in social settings, so why not in order to connect with your teammates? Playing some fun songs and encouraging your team to join in can be a great stress-busting activity. What's more, moving your body helps release endorphins and keeps nervousness and inhibitions at bay. This is an amazing way to get your team energized and engaged.

It's said that all it takes to get a dance party going is one enthusiastic member to get the party started. So, you should sign up for this role. To make things more interesting, you can ask your team to choose songs using a straw poll, and ensure everyone has a great time. A fun dance party is also something your colleagues will remember for a long time to come. An absolute win-win.

Crafting a story together

This one is a fun improv exercise to get everyone's creative juices flowing. When your team's gathered together, get this activity going by simply starting a story with a great prompt like, “Abraham woke up super-excited for his date in the evening”, and let the team take over! Turn by turn, every member can add to the narrative and craft an interesting story.

The best part about this activity is all teammates engage in listening to what the others have to say and build upon it. This activity is not just fun but also helps to foster creative thinking and collaboration.

A remote team can even create an interesting story by collaborating on a shared document or a whiteboard on a platform like Sketchnote! Not all the fun should be reserved for in-person team meetings, right?

An illustration of three teammates wearing labcoats jumping in joy. There are two women and one man in this illustration. A word cloud around them reads, Volunteer together, play board games, take a class together
In-person activities boost a sense of togetherness with your team

3 in-person activities for your team

Volunteer together

Volunteering, as an activity has numerous benefits including a sense of purpose it infuses in you. Besides, you're actually going out and making a difference in the world! It's even known to have positive effects on depression in certain groups. Basically, volunteering is positive in every way possible.

And when done with your team, this activity can serve to provide a common goal that the entire team can work together with, selflessly. Devoting a few hours every month to a shared cause is one of the better ways to make your team come together, and even boost interdepartmental cooperation.

Additionally, a higher sense of social responsibility is an alluring prospect for your Gen-Z workforce, who derive job satisfaction by making a difference to the world around them. Your company must communicate its commitment to social causes—and follow up on them—on a regular basis. Volunteering as a team is a great way to live by the values your organization stands for.

Playing board games

Board games have been a crowd favorite for centuries! No, we're not kidding. The oldest playable board game in the world actually goes back 4,600 years ago to ancient Mesopotamia. It's safe to say there's a board game to appeal to everyone in every age group in today's day and age. Everyone enjoys huddling around and playing board games. It's the ultimate symbol of teamwork during multiplayer sessions, and tactical brain teasers when playing solo.

Obviously then, board games have multiple benefits when it comes to fostering team-building. It helps to improve problem-solving and decision-making skills as a team while playing within the constraints of the game's rules. Playing board games is also a cost-effective way to get your entire team together. And for your remote workers, this global lockdown has spawned a number of online games that everyone can be a part of—geography no bar!

So next time you are having a slow or uninspired day at work, don't hesitate to bring out the board games from the cabinet and onto the coffee table. You will get a more energized and engaged team at the end of it!

Take a class together

Getting together with your team to learn a new skill can be super exciting. Having a stimulating hobby can help your team unwind from the stress of their routine and apply themselves differently. For example, a teammate could also volunteer to teach others a skill they are proficient in. Besides hobbies, you could have colleagues teach the basics of their departments and disciplines to one another. At the end of it, you could get multidisciplinary workers, who understand your product on a more holistic level.

Similarly, the team could learn to play a musical instrument together, sign up for a cooking class, or take a lesson in Sketchnote's Academy section. You can pick from entrepreneurship lessons across eight categories on Sketchnote and learn about the world of startups a little better!

3 virtual team activities

Virtual workouts

Signing the team up for a week-long workout challenge is a great remote team-building activity. Many of these exercise challenges don't even require any equipment or a personal trainer. All that is needed is for the team to coordinate their schedule to come together for the workout session—and a yoga mat. This can be easily achieved by allocating time for it in their daily standup.

Workouts have a world of benefits on physical and mental levels. By including it in the work routine, you can help the team inculcate healthy habits in their daily life. The only thing that must be kept in mind is that the chosen workout must be accessible to all teammates, and suitable for their body type because you want these activities to be as inclusive as possible.

Team whiteboard

Using a shared virtual whiteboard as an online scrapbook is an interesting and fun way for colleagues to share their interests with their teammates. Your team can play with this whiteboard by adding a pat on the back for others, scribbling inspirational quotes, jokes, and even links to their favorite songs! This also enables remote employees to get to know each other better beyond work and fosters a sense of belongingness. An activity of this sort also makes it easier for teammates to strike up non-work-related conversations with each other. Think of it as a virtual water cooler, where your team can just be themselves!

Virtual show-and-tell

Fostering a personal connection for remote employees is quite a bit of a challenge, unique to the current times. To bring a personal touch to your bonding, you can create virtual show-and-tell sessions that can give the team a small peek into each others' lives. During this activity, each teammate participating can choose an item in their home, special to them, and talk about it. It can be something as simple as a drawing made by their child, an award they won, or a memento they picked up on their last vacation—anything goes! For larger teams, this could be organized as a separate virtual event, or a series of virtual events.

Remember, team-building activities require a more top-down approach; you can't expect your employees to kickstart these. However, during the course of these activities, it's everyone's responsibility to ensure a more inclusive space for their colleagues. Fostering a safe space where everyone gets a chance to be heard equally is very important. Communicating and reminding the idea to your colleagues is critical for really building a well-integrated team!

You've successfully subscribed to Sketchnote
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Error! Could not sign up. invalid link.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Error! Could not sign in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.