Mention the two words “team building” at work, and chances are people will sigh. They’ll roll their eyes. They’ll come up with excuses why they can’t make it that day. That’s because anyone who’s worked in a corporate environment knows that team building exercises are often synonymous with forced, awkward fun. They have a bad rap.
And yet, research shows that team building is actually a smart investment for leaders and employees alike, as they:
- Solve communication issues: poor communication between employees is estimated to cost billions of dollars per year. Team building helps employees feel more comfortable with each other – and therefore more open to better communication.
- Increase engagement: companies where employees are engaged earn 2.5 more than those with disengaged staff. It’s no coincidence, and it’s absolutely something team building helps with.
- Reduce conflict: a direct consequence of all the above. Stronger teams are better at mitigating tensions and solving problems by themselves, which can help with employee retention in the long term.
But here’s the thing: not all team building activities are created equal. If you want something that truly makes an impact, you’ll have to think beyond the old company picnic.
So without further ado, here are some of our favourite team building exercises, starting with those you can do right in your office (or coworking space) and more adventurous tips for those looking to step out of their desks.
And if these are not still enough to get you out of your picnic plans, we’ve also added in our top picks for Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen.
1. Team Building Activities for The Office
Office Trivia Quiz
Essentially, it’s about seeing who knows the most about your office space. You create a bunch of index cards, each containing a question about your environment. It can be simple (what is the coffee machine brand) or requiring some serious recalling (how many drawers are there in total?). It’s guarantee to get people talking, debating, and ideally, sharing a good laugh about something neutral, yet engaging.
- Group size: no limit
- Duration: around 30 mins should be good
- Best for: breaking up a long day, introducing new employees to the office
- Materials: pens, index cards
This one actually has a very strategic goal, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Essentially it’s about imagining what each department (or the company as a whole) could make headlines for in the future. It’s a great way to engage employees and help them feel part of something that could make an impact in the long term.
It’s a super flexible activity, because you can do it in groups or let individuals come up with their newspaper headlines. You can get people to cut the words from actual newspapers for a more craftsy DIY affair too.
- Group size: 5 – 15
- Duration: 30 mins
- Best for: getting employees engaged, thinking creatively about future challenges
- Materials: pens, paper, newspapers, scissors
Timelines are a great visualization tool, and they can also turn into a cool collaborative exercise. Here’s how it works: you draw a long horizontal line on a whiteboard or pinboard, and let people mark important dates for them and their relation with the company.
It can include the day they were hired, their first success at the company, or what they’d like to see happen in the future. Putting time in perspective will highlight different generations, and spark conversation about people’s relationship with the startup.
- Group size: 2 – 10
- Duration: 60 mins
- Best for: sharing personal stories, building employee engagement
- Materials: pinboard, whiteboard, pins, marker pens
You’ll need a few spools of wool for this one. It works great as a team activity, but you can also turn it into a game with a winner if you want to bring out everyone’s competitive side. First, divide your teams, and give them a spool of wool each. They have to tie some knots and tangle them in complex fashions.
Then, it’s swapping time! Each team ends up with another one’s ball of knots, and the untangler has to work blindfolded, following their teammate’s instructions. A great way to test team communication.
- Group size: 6 – 20
- Duration: 45 mins
- Best for: improving team communication
- Materials: blindfolds, spools of wool
2. More Adventurous / Complex / Outdoors Activities
One of the latest crazes in the world of corporate events, escape rooms force you to gather clues, combine ideas, and work solutions out as a team. You’ll find a lot of them have dedicated team building rooms, which are specifically designed to improve team communication and collaboration.
- Group size: 5-15
- Duration: 60 mins minimum, plus travel
- Best for: collaborating on problem solving
This one might take some serious planning, but it’s a great way to take a day out while boosting company morale at the same time. You’ll need to create a list of things to do, and they all have to be measurable. For instance, taking a selfie with a complete stranger, or guessing clues that lead you to a certain monument.
Note: there might already be a few companies offering corporate scavenger hunts in your area, worth a quick search if you want to let the pros do the organizing.
- Group size: 3-10
- Duration: half day or whole day
- Best for: boosting morale, improving employee relationship, discovering the city
The game of Kubb will be familiar to most Swedish readers, but it’s gaining popularity worldwide for a number of reasons: it’s easy to learn, insanely fun, and perfect to play on a sunny day in the park .
You’ll need to source pieces to play this game of “Viking chess”, but it’s increasingly easy to order them online. After that all you need is some space, two willing teams, and a bit of a competitive spirit, plus maybe 30 mins to explain the rules to everyone.
- Group size: two teams of 4 – 8
- Duration: 2 – 4 hours
- Best for: fun employee day out, relaxing, ice breakers
Turn the company dinner into a fun challenge by dividing your staff into two teams. Give them a list of ingredients, and see who can create the best culinary creation. You can choose someone to be the judge, or even create a series of blindfolded tests to determine the winning team.
The beauty of this activity is that everyone wants to do well (nobody wants to eat rubbish food) and it’s a great way to get people talking about their preferences through an engaging, competitive cooking game. Note that it might require a dedicated space, because you’ll need a good amount of kitchen utensils.
- Group size: 3-10
- Duration: half day or whole day
- Best for: bonding, team communication, promoting diversity through people’s tastes
3. Bonus Round: Team Building Activities in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki
If the weather is good, why not try to turn your team into bonafide sailors? You can rent a boat with GoBoat and navigate the waters of the super trendy harbour. You’ll have to take turns manning the boat, which creates a real social experience.
Speaking of social experiences, is there a better way to get to know each other than around great food? Make the most of the fantastic Copenhagen street food by strolling around places like Reffen for a super casual company dinner.
You might think VR is all about solo players, but it can actually be a real social occasion – especially with group experiences like the ones you find at Mission IX. There’s a 25 minute multiplayer session or a 50 mins group experience that goes through the whole gaming library.
And if you want something a bit different, there’s the fantastic 100 Point Challenge, designed to let you navigate, explore and discover the city while solving clues and completing challenges. There’s a specific company team building challenge that gives you 2 hours of adrenaline-fuelled creative thinking, problem solving and collaboration.
No Norwegian startup team will be new to skiing, and the great news is that you can all do it together without travelling all the way to the Vinterpark. A mere 40 train ride will take you to the nearest Ski Simulator where you can collectively experience the thrills of the sport for a few hours before heading back to the office.
Renting a sauna boat is also a fantastic group activity you can do right next to the city center. There’s no focus on competition or collaboration here, so it’s really about relaxing, sharing stories, and getting to know each other.
Who could mention Helsinki group activities without talking about karaoke? Considered one of the best in town, Wallis Karaoke Bar is a great place to relish this Finnish obsession or to share it with newcomers to the city.
There is also no shortage of saunas in Helsinki, but you won’t find another one like the one in the Skywheel. There’s even a VIP champagne special to sweat, sip and socialize in style – just make sure you don’t go on a Monday morning!