15 Team Building Activities for the Workplace

By Susan M. Heathfield

Are you interested in holding team buildingevents in your workplace? You don’t have to spend a lot of money nor do they need to be ostentatious or complicated. You just need to create structured opportunities for employees to mingle. You can offer a team building lunch, a team building meeting, or a team building trip just to start.

You can schedule team building activities in the workplace and in your local community for your employees. They are as simple as getting a team together in a room. Here are 15 team building activities that fit the bill.

Team Building Activities

1. Lunch discussion and team building groups: Provide lunch for the whole company, a department or a work team. Assign employees to various work groups of up to ten people to thoughtfully discuss and respond to work-related questions.

One fun way to divide employees, when you don’t care who is in which group, is to put numbers on the bottom of plates. All employees who have a number 1 on their plate take their lunch and meet in the library or conference room B, for example. The team building lunch is a terrific opportunity to help employees get to know each other better. (And, who’s not up for a lunch?)

2. Take an employee to work day: Schedule employees to visit another department for a take an employee to work day. Employees are always curious about what other employees do. Satisfy their interest and introduce the employees to a whole new work group in the process.

The opportunity to observe in another department allows employees to participate in team building that enhances cross-department cooperation and understanding. It also offers employees the chance to explore another career path. Here’s how one company put together their take an employee to work day.

Some organizations emphasize customer service, technical support, and other departments that interface with customers for visitation. In addition to the team building, employees hear insights from the customers and the employees who serve them directly—a big plus.

3. Provide comfortable collaboration spaces with couches, snacks, and beverages. Ask employees to schedule the space as they might reserve a conference room. Require that employees consume all food and beverages from a catered in lunch or break room snacks in the collaboration area in a group experience.

4. Hold read at work book clubs: Employees across the company or in a single department can volunteer to read and discuss a particular book in a work book club. The company purchases the books for the employees who meet weekly to discuss a chapter or two.

In the best book clubs, employees take turns leading the discussion about the chapter. A second employee leads the discussion about the implications of what they are reading for the company. This is how to set up a work book club.

5. Use icebreakers at meetings: Teams that meet frequently may not need an icebreaker, but icebreakers come in handy for team building when you are forming a new team. They also work well when you are re-purposing a team with a new icebreaker help employees know each other and improve their ability to work well together.

These icebreakers are especially good for meetings. Additionally, make sure that every team has established team norms and relationship guidelines if the team will work together for a period of time.

6. Sponsor job shadowing opportunities for employees in a different department. Just as a take an employee to work day fosters team building between departments, so does job shadowing. It provides the opportunity for an employee to explore alternate career paths, too. Job shadowing is easy to put together and costs only the employees’ time. The benefits of job shadowing far outweigh its cost. See take an employee to work day for additional ideas.

7. Provide group mentoring. One-on-one mentoring is important for employees and always recommended when you bring a new employee into your organization. But, group mentoring by a senior manager or manager is another opportunity for team building. Employees learn new skills and approaches while furthering their relationships with coworkers.

A second type of group mentoring involves using an employee who has a particular skill set that other employees want to learn to teach them. The employee can mentor groups of employees to gain the skill or knowledge with the same impact on team building.

8. Hold company sponsored off-site departmental team building lunches: Departmental team building lunches, whether eating at a restaurant or grilling hamburgers at a local park, are excellent team building activities.

There is something about sharing a meal together, outside of the office, that encourages employees to talk and get to know each other. Schedule fun games such as bean bag toss, basketball, baseball, and horseshoes as part of an outdoor activity. Sports participation works well for team building.

9. Provide company sponsorship for sports teams and challenges for charity like half marathons. A mid-sized company sponsors sports teams for employees that include baseball, golf, basketball, bowling, soccer, and more. The company also pays employee registration fees for running and walking events, especially those where proceeds from the event are shared with local charities.

At one 5k run/walk, 36 employees ran/walked together in company T-shirts. This is terrific for team building, for the company’s positive notoriety and community exposure, and for supporting employee causes.

10. Develop and schedule team building lunch and learns for employees. In a lunch and learn or brown bag lunch, an outside speaker or an employee with a hobby, interest, or particular knowledge or skill meets with a group of employees to share information and experience.

The employees bring their own lunches and the speakers are encouraged to make their sessions interactive to encourage team building. The shared interest in the topic encourages team building as does the interaction.

11. With team building fun and fitness in mind, you can schedule fitness sessions in your workplace for employees. Activities such as weekly Weight Watchers meetings, yoga classes at noon, or group exercises in your fitness center also offer team building opportunities for employees.

In one company, an employee has organized a weekly 3-5k run/walk that is scheduled at the end of the work day. Employees run and walk together on a nature trail that runs through the office park. This weekly run/walk formed the basis for many of the external run/walks that employees do together. (See above.)

12. Fun classes and events on-site after work or on the weekend promote employee engagement and team building with employees. You can provide fun classes that employees (and their families) can attend after work or on weekends. They promote both family and employee engagement.

Examples of team building activities that were successfully implemented by companies include cheese making, beer making, cooking classes of all kinds, lock picking,  and product-centered tips and sessions for customers who attend on their own time but without paying any fees. The employees involved in the customer events did serious team building to plan, organize, and attend the events that educated customers.

13. Promote employee hobby clubs. Employees may share an interest in various outside-of-work activities. Provide the space, email lists, and occasional financial support to promote hobby groups meeting at work. Companies have sponsored photography clubs, internet game playing groups at lunch, knitting clubs, and shooting interest groups at work. Team building activities in this space are unlimited.

14. Encourage your employees to volunteer for charity as a group for team building.Whether your employees are running for charity, golfing for the homeless, building homes for poor families, or collecting food for people without food, volunteering as a team is a team building activity that lasts. The camaraderie that employees build when they volunteer together is sustainable and powerful. And, it truly flows over into the workplace.

15. Host activities for employees’ families at work. Any of the above can include the significant others of employees and their children, especially the fun classes and the charitable activities. Additionally, hosting children at work helps employee families develop friendships outside of work which cements the team building in the workplace. Ideas for celebrations at work for families include:

  • hosting trick or treating from office to office and carving pumpkins for children at Halloween
  • holding tailgate parties in the parking lot before football games
  • putting up a big screen in the parking lot to show family movies in the summer
  • inviting employees and their guests to enjoy annual sporting events such as the final game of the World Series and
  • the final four games of the NCAA on big screen TVs
  • holding a Christmas Eve holiday luncheon at work or in a local restaurant as employees scatter to celebrate the holidays.

Team building activities in the workplace stretch your imagination—and are only limited by your imagination and that of your employees. They are remarkable in their ability to foster a sense of community and friendships at work. You need to start offering all of these opportunities to become known as a great workplace.

Low cost, but highly effective team building activities, make your workplace desirable and you an employer of choice.