How to improve teamwork with team building games

By Julia Dupuis on Sep 23
Team building

Does the phrase “team building activities” make your team members roll their eyes?

While they might have a bad rap — picture a mandatory event put on by HR where everybody looks miserable — the right team building activities can be genuinely enjoyable. More than that, they can provide a significant boost in workplace morale, communication, and productivity.

For any project to be successful, teamwork is an absolute must. But how do you get to the point where a team can work together seamlessly?

Team building games are used by businesses of all sizes to help teams work more effectively. Whether it’s to smooth out communication issues, identify strengths and weaknesses, or just bring people closer together, these activities can help bring out the best in your employees.

Before you start investing your time in organizing activities, there are some finer details you need to know in order to plan them effectively. Let’s explore the basics of team building activities and how to execute them the right way.

What are team building games and why are they so important?

A strong work culture and organized project management start at the roots — your team. A happy and comfortable team is a more productive team.

Team building games

But workplaces are a space where people from all different backgrounds and working styles come together. It can be awkward at times trying to mesh with your coworkers socially, let alone managing a complex project.

That’s where team building games come in. Team building games are activities and exercises that require a team to collaborate on a shared goal, discuss the process constructively, and find better ways of working together. To succeed in these challenges, your team will have to communicate, collaborate, and hone their people skills.

At their core, these games are designed to meaningfully bring people together, challenge them, and allow them to see themselves as part of a larger whole. It creates deeper connections between coworkers and can help align your workforce for months and even years to come.

Tips for implementing team building games

The statistics show that team building exercises are worth your while. According to a study from the University of Central Florida, team building has a positive effect on outcomes across the board.

But that doesn’t mean you can just sit your team down in a circle and ask them to play basic games. Employees have had enough of forced and painfully unhelpful bonding activities. To make a real impact, you need to have the right strategy in place.

Here are some tips for implementing team building activities the right way.

1. Schedule during work hours

Team building schedule

No matter how fun your activities are, nobody wants to put in extra time after work or on the weekends for a mandatory work event. If you can find the time, schedule it during work hours. You can always host the activity over lunch or breakfast with food provided.

This shows your employees that you value their time. Team building is important enough to you — and the whole workplace — to put on the clock.

2. Collaboration, not competition

Team building collaboration

If people are too focused on “winning” the competition, they won’t get a chance to learn from the experience. And pitting workers against each other can have the opposite effect. Instead of helping your team work together to solve a problem, it can lead to a competitive atmosphere that breeds resentment among coworkers.

3. Be clear with your expectations

Team building expectations

There’s a reason why some employees dread team building games. If you try to disguise your intention with the cover of a fun and playful game, it might come across as condescending.

You don’t need to give away all your secrets, but it can help to be up front and clear about why you’re scheduling these activities. Do you want to create more seamless communication between coworkers? Integrate new hires into the company culture? The employees are much more likely to be on board with your efforts if they know why they’re there — and why this is so important.

4. Keep up the momentum

Team building momentum

Organizing one team building activity per year isn’t going to have the impact you need for your staff. While you don’t need to be doing things every week, it can help to create a regular schedule for team building games to keep the momentum going. It can also help reinforce lessons learned while you expand your activities to challenge your team in new ways.

5. Get feedback

Team building feedback

At the end of the day, these activities aren’t for you. They’re for your employees. To get the most out of team building games, you need to be taking their feedback on board.

After each event, get in touch with the participants and thank them for their time. Offer a way to provide constructive feedback so you can cater your next event to your employees’ wants and needs.

Picking the right team building games

The kind of team building game you choose can depend on many factors: The industry, your workplace, and your individual team. While some teams might be able to benefit from a hands-on, outdoor problem solving experience, others might benefit more from a low-key creative brainstorming activity.

To pick the right games and activities for your workplace, think carefully about the outcomes you’re looking for. Each activity should be tailored to the outcome you want for every member of your team. Do you want them to recognize their individual strengths? Learn to trust each other? Find value in each other’s ideas?

If you're out of ideas, the best place to start is with your employees themselves. What are they looking for in a bonding teamwork activity? Working out their comfort level, interests, and preferences can be a great way to start out team building games on the right foot with your whole team.

Bringing teamwork from the game to the office

Team building bottom line

Team building games can be an effective way to help your team mesh together. By learning how to communicate effectively while applying their individual strengths to a challenge, you can lay the foundation for a more efficient workplace moving forward.

But it’s important to make sure that the teamwork goes beyond the games and activities. Ask yourself: How can I sustain this level of teamwork in the office?

With every team building game, you should be creating an action plan to make it a part of your work. When designing an activity, make sure it applies to what your employees will be doing on a day to day basis, so they can bring the learning home at the end of the day.

Through staff meetings, individual check-ins, and followup sessions, you can revisit the lessons learned in team building games. It’s not just about helping your team work together more effectively — you want that improved teamwork to stick around for the long term.

The bottom line

Instead of relying on cheesy games and mandatory bonding, it’s time to apply the power of team building the right way. Team building games can help workers connect on a deeper level, improve their teamwork, and get started on building a high-performing team for any project.

No matter what team building game you choose for your workplace, the most important part is implementing it correctly. With these tips, you can take your team building activities to the next level.