Team Building Activities for Work

Karen Y. Larkin
spin a web

You hire employees based on skills and expertise, but then they don't quite fit with the rest of the team. The problem is the team members don't yet know and respect each other on a human level. A variety of shared activities will give them a set of common experiences and familiarity that sets the stage for teamwork and productivity.

Spin a Web

This exercise demonstrates the interconnectivity of the team and highlights the importance of each member participating and cooperating with each other.

You will need a ball of yarn and a space large enough for your team to form a circle. This activity works best with 5 to 25 people and takes about 15 minutes.

  1. Have your team form a circle. Hold one end of the yarn, call out the name of a team member, and toss him the ball of yarn with your other hand.
  2. He will call hold the string of yarn in one hand, call the name of a teammate, and toss her the ball of yarn with the other hand.
  3. Continue around the circle until every teammate has tossed and caught the ball two times.
  4. You should end up with something that looks like a spider web, with each holding two strands of yarn.
  5. While still holding the strands of yarn, have people randomly step slightly forward or back away from the circle. Does that create tension or slack? If someone drops the strands of yarn she is holding, and someone else tugs at the yarn, does that create a tangle?

Discuss with the team how everyone's actions, reactions and participation impacts the overall "product."

Lunch & Learn

This exercise can be done with any number of people. Schedule a brown bag lunch meeting once a month. It provides a forum for teammates to better understand what motivates each other.

Ask one member of the team to prepare a 10 minute presentation about something that matters to him. He can show vacation pictures, talk about fly fishing, share recipes, almost anything goes. Enjoy the remainder of the hour enjoying lunch together, asking questions, and discussing the topic of the presentation.

Two Truths and a Lie

This event is another way for people to learn more about each other, gain familiarity and communicate more easily.

It works well in a staff meeting, with a group of group of 3 to 10, and takes up to 45 minutes, depending on the number of people participating.

Ask each person to write down three statements about himself. Two are true, and one is a lie. Go around the room and ask the others to guess which statement is the lie. Once everyone has guessed, the person reveals the lie. Each person gets a turn to tell two truths and a lie.

Signs

Signs is actually a party game, but it demonstrates the need for discretion within the team, as well as the importance of being willing and able to delegate to each other.

This activity works well with a group of 10 to 20 and takes about an hour if everyone participates. You will need chairs and enough space everyone to sit in a circle facing one another. There shouldn't be any furniture or other items inside the circle.

  1. Each person selects a motion or gesture to serve as his sign. It might be:
    • Turning your ring
    • Tugging your ear
    • Tapping your foot
  2. One person must volunteer to be the "odd man out" and stand inside the circle. She closes her eyes and counts to 12.
  3. Meanwhile, the other teammates select someone at random to "have the sign."
  4. The person in the middle opens her eyes and tries to guess who has the sign. While she is turning to look at others in the circle, the person who has the sign tries to pass it to another teammate. He must flash his own sign, and the sign of the person he wants to pass it to.
  5. The person receiving the sign must flash his sign in order to acknowledge receiving it.
  6. Passing the sign continues around the circle, while the person inside the circle tries to determine who has the sign.
  7. If she guesses correctly, the person who had the sign must take her place in the circle.
  8. If the person inside the circle doesn't guess correctly in three tries, someone else must volunteer to trade places with her.

Peanut Butter and Fluffernutter

This exercise highlights the importance of both giving and receiving instruction to complete assignments.

For this activity, you will need eight people, a square table, four flatware knives, 8 slices of bread, one jar of peanut butter, one jar of Fluffernutter, four blindfolds, and a several moistened towelettes.

  1. Divide the people into teams of two and have each team stand on one side of the table.
  2. In front of each team, place two slices of bread and one knife.
  3. Place the peanut butter and Fluffernutter in the center of the table.
  4. One teammate wears a blindfold and is not allowed to speak. The other teammate can speak, but cannot touch anything.
  5. Using only words, the team member who can speak guides her blindfolded partner through the task of making a peanut butter and Fluffernutter sandwich.

Tip: If the number of people participating is an odd number, assign other tasks like setting up the activity or taking pictures.

Flash Mobbing

This fun activity personifies teamwork, relies on a variety of skills, and requires boldness and creativity. It's also an experience your employees won't soon forget.

You will need a minimum of five people, but numbers could be much larger.

Flash mobbing is when a group of people come together in a public place, do something very much out of the ordinary, and then simply disburse as if nothing had happened. Examples include:

  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Performing a cheer

Put together some type of performance that highlights what your team is all about and "mob" the cafeteria or another team's staff meeting. Here is an example of what one office team did.

Tip: Coordinate with other managers and have competing flash mobs.

Community Jenga

This activity takes little time, but reminds people on an ongoing basis that they are part of a community and have common objectives.

All you need is a Jenga game and a pad of paper, placed on a stable centrally located surface, like a file cabinet.

Set up the game, and write each person's name on the pad of paper. As team members have occasion to pass by, they can remove one of the Jenga pieces and keep a running tally on the pad showing how many pieces they have removed. Soon the whole team will be buzzing about the reigning Jenga champ and vowing to beat her in the next game.

Tip: Managers need to play too.

Invest in Your Team

By nurturing your team members and cultivating interpersonal relationships you help them to bond and feel more comfortable reaching out to each other. If they learn those skills in a low stress, low risk environment, they will be better able to come through for you when the stakes are high.

Team Building Activities for Work