Feeling connected to your team has never felt more challenging. You haven’t seen your work bestie in person for over a year, and there are new colleagues on your team you haven’t ever seen outside of a Zoom screen!
If your office is planning to keep you remote for the foreseeable future, you are likely craving that human-to-human interaction and/or want to begin to build a friendship with a new colleague. On the other hand, if you are returning to the office, you may want to introduce yourself to new colleagues and/or rekindle your previous work friendships.
But how do you go about doing that?
What makes our office feel like a home are the people. Without friendships, our workplace satisfaction declines, and we start to just go through the motions to get through the day.
One of the easiest ways you can begin to cultivate these crucial relationships is through team-building exercises.
Essentially, these are short and sweet activities to get your team loosened up so they stop seeing their colleague as “the guy who helps with my data” and begin to see him as “the guy who also shares a love for Schitt’s Creek.”
Team building exercises are great additions before you dive into a meeting agenda, to wrap up a meeting with, or just to randomly add to your team’s calendar.
You may love icebreakers, or you may hate them if you’ve previously been a part of some awkward team building games. The thing with icebreakers is that there are so many formats to choose from so whatever you’re looking for, we have you covered.
Not sure where to begin? Or, not sure what will stick with your team?
Well, here are 15 team building exercises that you can implement no matter what your office atmosphere is, either virtually or in-person.
Team Building Exercises
1. Office Trivia
This team building game will require a little more prep work on the part of the “trivia master.”
You’ll want to design questions that are a mix of fun facts, randomness, and company focused. The more specific questions, the better.
Ask things like “How many coffee mugs were left behind in the office kitchen?” or “What color is the wall in Conference Room B” or even, “Who was the President of the company 10 years ago?” Each team will discuss the answers before reporting out.
Every team will get to know each other on a more competitive level and see who has the largest repertoire of random knowledge!
2. 10 Things in Common
You can do this icebreaker for team building with groups of two or even groups of 10+ (depending on your department size).
The goal is simple: find 10 things you have in common with your partner or everyone in your group.
Advise your team to stay away from the obvious things such as they are both human, both have blonde hair or brown eyes, or both work for the same company. You can also encourage everyone to go beyond 10 things if they can and have the group that discovers the most commonalities win a prize.
At the end of the team building exercise, everyone will announce their list of similarities and you may find something you didn’t know before, like a shocking number of people on your team have seen the Northern Lights in person!
3. Baby Photos
To do this icebreaker for team building, you’ll need to gather baby photos from each team member ahead of time.
If you’re doing this as a virtual team-building activity, everyone can email this over to you. If in-person, everyone can either bring it in to give to you or snap a photo of a photo to send to you.
Once you have all the photos, put them on display with a number by each photo. Your team’s job is to then guess what baby is what colleague and whoever guesses the most correct, wins!
4. Guess Who
Team building exercises like this involves sending a questionnaire to your team asking them a series of open-ended questions.
The questions can be anything – like what your first job was, what your last Google search was, what was the name of your first pet, or even what was the most bizarre fashion trend you’ve ever participated in? The sky is the limit here!
You might even leave the last question as just a place for them to share any other random facts about themselves that they want to!
Once everyone has completed the survey, share the responses of the questions to the entire team and let everyone guess what fact belongs to what colleague!
5. “End of Workday” Happy Hour
There’s nothing better than when you have permission from your boss to end the workday early.
Put a hold on your team’s calendar and encourage everyone to participate in a happy hour with their drink of choice – whether that is beer, wine, water, a cocktail, soda, or seltzer water.
This allows for your team to learn more about each other outside the parameters of the office.
6. Two Truths and a Lie
This team building icebreaker is straightforward. Everyone on your team comes up with two things that are true about themselves, and one thing that is a lie.
Each person then reads their list to the team and everyone tries to guess which fact is a lie together as a group.
This turns into an enjoyable team-wide conversation about stories from everyone’s past!
7. Would You Rather
We all know this game, but we never think of using it in team building exercises to loosen up before a big meeting. This is a quick activity that won’t take up much time during the start of your virtual, or in-person, team meeting.
Before the meeting, compile a list of 5-10 “Would You Rather?” scenarios that consist of two choices.
If virtual, you can call on people to answer, or initiate a poll where you can then ask a few people to share their responses to the group.
The questions could be anything and it’s best to have a mix of fun, random, and difficult scenarios to get people thinking and talking. For example:
- Would you rather have the power to fly or to teleport?
- Would you rather never listen to music again or never be able to watch TV?
- Would you rather have a pet pigeon or a pet bat?
- Would you rather travel to the moon, or the deepest part of the ocean?
Need more question ideas for this team building game? Check out this giant list of suggestions on Conversation Starters World.
8. Scavenger Hunt
This icebreaker for team building requires coming up with a list of scavenger hunt items ahead of time.
If at home, this can be items (or obscure things that would be funny to have your colleagues run around their home looking for), and if at the office, it can be items from shared spaces.
Items that you ask for can be random like a cracked coffee cup, an inflatable pool, a fanny pack or a jumper cable.
If your doing team building exercises at the office, the hunt can involve “riddles” they need to solve that describe an office location they can snap a picture of them at.
The team that gets the most photos or finds the most items in the designated amount of time wins! This will get your team talking and working together to get the most points!
9. Riddle Icebreakers
If you like putting your brain to the test, then riddle icebreakers are the way to go.
You’ll want to give each group a list of the same riddles and brain teasers that are challenging, but solvable.
If virtual, you’ll need to vocally acknowledge that everyone is playing by the honor system so if anyone is tempted to Google the answers, they won’t.
Everyone will need to work together to solve each riddle and these skills of teamwork will be applicable in so many other office settings!
10. Coffee Breaks
The best way to build friendships is to encourage your team to have one-on-one time with one another.
Especially when you’re remote, the mid-day coffee breaks we used to enjoy have fallen through the cracks. As a leader, you’ll want to lead by example and practice what you preach.
Invite two team members for coffee (whether virtually or in-person). You can also provide a list of possible questions to answer during the coffee break if anyone on your team is shy!
11. Escape Room
This is one of the more elaborate team building exercises, so it’s best if incorporated as part of a retreat.
While we know and love Escape Rooms in-person, the pandemic has given us a reason to enjoy these virtually! There are so many great virtual companies you can use.
What is great about these is that your team is forced to work together, and you’ll learn about the strengths and weaknesses of teammates, and you’ll see who steps up as a leader and showcases their ability for emotional intelligence.
12. Show and Tell
This one is just what it sounds like: show an item and tell others about it.
If virtual, ask each employee to show up with something (or someone/a pet) to share with their co-workers. If in-person, let your employees know ahead of time to bring something in.
It’s a great way to learn more about your team on a more personal level.
13. Health and Wellness Challenge
So many of us respond well to competition, and challenges bring people together as they work towards a common goal. So host a fitness challenge for your team!
For example, you could have a week-long step count challenge, or set a team fitness goal for a set period.
Allow your team to track their progress online and utilize a shared channel for everyone to share updates on progress, motivational tidbits, and celebrate accomplishments!
These last two activities are specific for when you have your team together, in-person:
This one is like “guess who,” but with a slightly different spin.
Have everyone write down something bizarre or interesting that they have done (i.e. been to all 50 states, have been scuba diving in the Caribbean, have competed in a hot dog eating competition and won) – the more random, the better!
Once everyone writes down their fact, put all of the papers in a hat, shake it up, and each person will draw a paper, read it aloud, and then the reader will try to guess “whodunit!”
15. The Marshmallow Challenge
For the last of our recommended team building exercises, you’ll need to break up your team into groups of four.
Each group will get 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string, and one marshmallow.
The rules are easy: build the tallest freestanding structure that they can with their given supplies.
Your job is then to just sit back and watch all the collaboration (or chaos) unfold.
How team-building helps you as a leader
The best way to lead your team is to lead by example and by taking an active role in these team building activities at the office.
Team building exercises aren’t just for your team to benefit from. When you participate, you are also developing more as a leader – especially your emotional intelligence, which is a crucial ability to develop.
If you get stuck in to the team building games alongside your team members, you can get to know them better, and more importantly, they can get to you better. That’s one of the key difference between managers and leaders.
If you want to further develop your leadership skills, check out our curation of online leadership courses from institutions like Cornell, Harvard, Skillshare and more.