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Best Team Building Activities

37 of the Best Team Building Activities for Your Workplace

The Great Gotham Challenge is a team building event that strives to challenge players' critical thinking, leadership, problem solving, and communication skills, elements that we think are most important to a team building activity of any kind, so of course, we've formed some opinions about just which activities are truly the best at building trust and understanding in the workplace. From quick check ins to all day affairs, this list contains some of what we consider to be the most effective and fun team building activities out there.

What are team building activities?

A group of people sitting at a desk putting their fists together and smiling.

A team building activity builds cohesion and camaraderie among group members. There are many activities, games, and events designed especially for team building, emphasizing communication skills, problem solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills, but a team building event can also just be a place for team members to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

Why should you integrate team building activities into your workday?

Team building outings can serve a variety of purposes depending on the type of activity and how frequently you do them. They can be used to check in on employee and company wellbeing, to strengthen trust and communication between team members, and also just to give employees a chance to relax and have fun with each other. The end result of all of these is a more cohesive, happier, and stress-free workplace.

What makes a good team building activity?

Team building events are not one size fits all. Depending on your group size, the time you have available for an event, and the configuration of your workplace, some activities will suit your team better than others. For small groups that have just been introduced to each other, games with a focus on getting to know and trust each other are ideal, while groups that have been working together for a while will find these sorts of things tiresome and may prefer more involved activities that highlight teamwork, communication skills, and out of the box thinking.

Quick Activities (5-30 minutes)

These are fast, easy to execute activities that can easily be integrated into a normal workday or an onboarding session for new team members. They require minimal effort on the part of the participants but can be very rewarding in the long run.

Group Map

A map of Australia with pushpins in different locations.

Best for virtual teams or teams from varied backgrounds, this activity involves bringing out a map and asking everyone to put a sticker on the place they come from. Once this is done, encourage participants to say one special/unique thing about that place, what it means to them, and, if applicable, what brought them to their current location.

Count to Twenty

As deceptively easy as this activity sounds, it can be hard to pull off without some quick thinking. One person at a time says a number, starting at one and counting up to twenty. If two people say the same number, the count starts over at the beginning. This is a great way to get team members to give each other room to speak and not talk over each other.

Pair Up

Pair Up is a variant on the party game Headbands, wherein players try to guess who or what is written on the card on their forehead using yes or no questions. Pair Up begins with the facilitator writing out several well-known pairs of things on post-it notes, things like salt and pepper, king and queen, or Bert and Ernie. The facilitator will then stick those post-it notes to players’ backs or foreheads, wherever others can see it but not the player. Using only yes or no questions, team members have to figure out what’s on their post-it and find the other half of their pair.

Jenga Questions

A group of people sitting at a table playing Jenga and drinking orange juice.

Jenga is a popular game involving stacking and removing wooden blocks from a tower, but it can also be a clever and fun way to pose icebreaker questions to a group. Write a fun get-to-know-you question on each block using a standard Jenga set and then set up the tower. When a block is pulled, the person who pulled the block must then answer the question.

Crocodile River

Known by a couple of different names and with a couple of different rulesets, this classic team building exercise encourages strategic thinking and creative problem solving. The facilitator must set the stage by demarcating a “river,” usually with ropes, tape, or a length of fabric, and “stepping stones,” using cardboard, wooden planks, or other material that can be stood upon.

The goal of the exercise is to get the entire team from one bank of the river to the other using stepping stones. However, once a stone has been touched, it must continue being touched constantly, or else it will sink and be lost. If a player touches a hand or foot to the river, it is immediately eaten off by crocodiles, and the player must continue without using the limb. In an ideal situation, group members will create a plan before stepping on the first stone, but even then, there will be unexpected challenges to grapple with.

The Game of Possibilities

If you’re looking for an easy team building activity that encourages creative thinking, the Game of Possibilities is a good one to go with. Split your group into teams and assign one team member the role of scribe. Once teams are set, present a common household item to the group. Teams then have a minute to come up with alternate uses for that item, like using chopsticks as knitting needles. The team with the most alternate uses at the end of a minute wins the round. For an additional challenge, add a rule that if teams say the same thing, neither of them gets the point.

Shrinking Iceberg

One way to get your team closer emotionally is to get them closer physically! Start with the entire team standing on a large platform, and tell them that they are standing on an iceberg that is shrinking as it melts. Depending on how you’ve constructed your iceberg, you can either take away pieces or have the whole group move to a different, smaller platform. The goal is to keep everyone standing on the iceberg, even as the space gets smaller and smaller.

The Common Factor

People standing and smiling while holding books.

To begin this team building exercise, divide your group into teams of 3 to 6 people. Teams are given a short amount of time (around two minutes), during which they must find one thing they all have in common. When the group reconvenes, award points to the most unique shared trait. This is a great game for new groups, as it gets people sharing lots of fun facts about themselves in a short amount of time.

Touch Drawing

In this team activity, participants are paired off, with both team members armed with paper and a drawing implement. One team member begins drawing something, either freeform or based on a prompt, using their teammate’s back as a desk/easel. The second person then has to draw out what they think the first person is drawing based on what they can feel and guess what the image is based on that.

Weekend in a Word

An easy activity to integrate into a Monday morning meeting, Weekend in a Word is exactly as simple as it sounds: each team member shares how their weekend went in a word. In addition to being an emotional check-in for employees, this activity also sparks curiosity in colleagues’ lives and encourages conversation afterward. After all, if someone says their weekend was phantasmagorical, you will want to know what happened!

Desert Island

A beach with nice palm trees and the ocean.

What would you bring with you to survive on a desert island? It’s time to put that common question to the test. Have each group member privately list one thing they would bring to a desert island, split the group into teams, and give them a couple of survival tasks they must overcome. Using only the items that each of them has brought, see which team is most fit to actually make it off the island.

Two Truths and a Lie

As far as icebreaker games go, this one is simple and effective, which is what makes it a classic. Each group member shares three things about themselves: two true and one false. The goal for the individual is to obscure which statement is a lie while the rest of the group tries to suss it out. The game is more fun if you throw some extremely wild truths in the mix.

Rose, Bud, Thorn

This exercise is a short and sweet addendum to a team meeting or end of the week check-in. Each team member shares a rose, a bud, and a thorn from the past day or week. A rose is something positive, something they enjoyed or thought went well. A bud is something upcoming that they’re looking forward to or something they’ve put into motion that they want to see paid off. A thorn is a complication or trouble, something that didn’t go the way they hoped it would. This is a great way to gauge general group feelings and also to see where an individual’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

Human Knot

Four arms grabbing onto the one on the left to form a square.

Another classic team building exercise, the Human Knot involves your entire group standing in a circle and reaching out to grab the hands of other people across the circle from them. Once everyone's hands are occupied with two other people's hands, your team must untangle the knot you've made by going over or under the joined hands, never letting go, until you are once again standing in a circle with no overlapping limbs.

Arm's Reach Show and Tell

This team building activity was explicitly designed for virtual teams to encourage team members to share more than just what's in frame during a video call. In it, each team member shares an interesting object that they can reach from their position at their computer. Objects can be anything from family photos to a preferred pen, but no matter the object, this team building game is a fun way to get group remote team members to share what's important to them and make them more than just a face on a screen.

Longer Events (1-4 hours)

These team building activities are best suited to a corporate development day or a quarterly outing, as they're a little more time and labor intensive. Most are events hosted by corporate team building companies, but a few can be DIY-ed if you've got the time and the know-how.

The Great Gotham Challenge

People putting items together on the ground to solve a puzzle.

Available both online and on the streets of New York City, the Great Gotham Challenge is an event that combines all the best parts of escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and trivia games. Each challenge takes between 2 and 4 hours, sending team members across the city and the web and delving into little known corners of history along the way. If you've got a competitive group and are looking to bolster problem solving skills, this is the activity for you.

The Newlywork Game

You may have heard of the Newlywed Game before; this is the workplace version. An activity best hosted for more established groups or groups that just completed other get-to-know-you type exercises, this group's coworkers into pairs and asks them to anticipate the other's answer to a question. Both team members write down their answers and reveal them at the same time, with points going to those pairs who know each other well enough to predict each other's responses.

PowerPoint Party

A PowerPoint Party (Or Google Slides Party, or whatever other presentation software you're using) is a relatively new phenomenon, only gaining popularity in 2018, but already it's gained a number of variations. The goal of the original version of the event is to share interests and niche areas of expertise among friends. Each person gives a short presentation on a topic of their choice, with kudos given for enthusiasm and the quality of the lecture.

Another version strives for humor rather than education. Like before, each participant makes a presentation about a topic of their choosing, but when it's time to present, everyone is made to present another person's presentation without notes. It's a test of improvisational skills, but it's also just a good way to have a few laughs.

Escape Room

Escape Rooms are now a standard in the corporate team building world and for a good reason. With a variety of themes and difficulty levels, it's easy to find a room that's suited to your group, and once the escape begins, it takes communication, creative problem solving, and the ability to work under pressure to make it out again. Leadership skills also frequently come in handy, as well as the ability to coordinate coworkers and organize priorities, and it's known that working together under time pressure is one of the best ways to ensure effective team bonding.

Team Picnic

Now that spring has been well established, and summer is tangibly close, it's a great time to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. A team picnic can be a fun, casual way to encourage camaraderie in the workplace while also giving your group some (probably very much needed) fresh air. Throw in some lawn games like cornhole or frisbee, and you've got the recipe for a relaxed and enjoyable gathering.

Volunteer Day

A table with people handing out drinks to another group of people with one in a wheel chair.

Not only is nurturing company culture in your workplace important but so is nurturing your community. A day of service with a local nonprofit or charitable organization can be a way to encourage that while also giving team members the opportunity to work together on things like building a bicycle or making up care bags, which can require a different sort of cooperation than the kind they’re used to back at the office.

Craft/Paint Night

Many wine and paint establishments have hosted corporate team building events, but this type of outing need not be restricted to just painting or wine. An increasing number of businesses and co-op spaces offer other kinds of crafts, like wood carving and leather working, that can be learned as a group with a specialty cocktail in hand. If you’re ambitious, a craft night is also something you can DIY, either by providing material for everyone to work on a project or by encouraging attendees to bring in and share their own projects and hobbies.

Team Yoga

Sometimes, what a workplace needs is not challenging, thought provoking team bonding exercises that push group members to new levels of achievement. Sometimes what a workplace really needs is just a chance to relax. A group yoga session is a chance to do just that, and with any luck, it will impart relaxation and regulation techniques that you can carry back with you to the office.

Themed Happy Hour

If happy hour is already a staple at your workplace, it’s easy to bump things up a notch and introduce themed happy hours to your routine. A theme could be as simple as “tropical island,” encouraging team members to wear Hawaiian shirts and drink tropical drinks, or you could mix in a whole murder mystery party. The goal is to keep things interesting so that your team never gets bored and will continue looking forward to your events.

Pub Trivia

Making your own trivia game is great for a one-off event, but if you’ve got a bunch of brainiacs on your team, and want an easy way to drum up some friendly competition, find a bar or pub trivia event near you. Trivia nights are usually held on weekday nights (Monday through Thursday) to drum up attendance for less busy days at eating or drinking establishments, so it’s an easy activity to head to right after the workday finishes up.

It's said that one of the best ways to become close to someone is to share a meal with them. By making a cooking class your next team building event, you build on that camaraderie that comes with food and help your entire group build valuable new skills. Working together in a kitchen also emphasizes communication and planning skills, which are needed to avoid the dreaded "too many cooks" situation.

Improv Class

Just like food is a catalyst for closeness, so too is laughter. An improv comedy class is guaranteed to get your team chuckling together, and improvisational skills can be very useful to further develop your quick thinking muscles and general adaptability that will come in handy in other areas of life.

Potluck Dinner

If your team is already a bunch of gourmands or simply wants something more low-key than a cooking class, another way to bring people together around a meal is to host a potluck dinner. With each person bringing in their signature dish, you can show off your workplace's talents and encourage team bonding in a fulfilling, tasty way.

Scavenger Hunt

If you haven't already read our article on scavenger hunt creation, you might not know how much a scavenger hunt can do as a team building event. More than just checking things off a list, scavenger hunts are a great way to get people to look at their surroundings in a new light, consider elements of their environment that they haven't given much thought to, and encourage them to consider different perspectives. Around the office or as its own event, a scavenger hunt is a great team building activity for all.

Long Term and Recurring Activities

Though these activities and events may take some effort to set up, once they're in motion, they can be a great way to integrate regular and consistent team building into the workplace. Despite the lack of surprise that comes with many of these activities, their regularity can increase their efficacy in encouraging team bonding and getting to know one another.

Department Raffle

Whatever you're putting up to win, whether it's as small as some desk supplies or as coveted as extra PTO, a raffle is sure to get team members excited and anticipatory. This event can be part of a larger gathering or celebration, or it can be a goal to work towards– a monthly bonus or a reward for finishing a big project.

Book Club

Closeup of people holding and reading books.

Hosting a regular book club group is a great way to always have something in common to chat about with your coworkers. Even team members with vastly different interests and backgrounds will be able to connect while discussing a new novel, and those very different people may find they have some similarities in their opinions and literary taste.

Weekly Riddle

How far can you walk into a forest? What goes up but never comes down? Having a riddle or brain teaser posted in a common area for people to ponder can be a great way to exercise some creative thinking muscles and get people talking to each other about out-of-the-box solutions. Posing a riddle on a Monday and revealing the answer on Friday is also a way to build anticipation for the eventual reveal and ensure that everyone has a chance to participate.

Bracket Competition

If you’ve got a discursive or particularly opinionated group of people, one way to encourage friendly competition in a low-stakes setting is to host bracket tournaments, pitting things like local restaurants or TV shows against each other in progressive matchups until one emerges as the ultimate winner. Depending on the size of the initial pool, this can also be an activity that lasts a long time with minimal effort needed to sustain it.

Intramural Sports

A group of excited people wearing different colored shirts holding their hands in the air and laughing.

Even if you don’t have a large or particularly athletic workplace, you can still organize an intramural sports team to play classic, low-intensity sports like softball or dodgeball. Many metropolitan areas have established sports leagues for corporate teams, and sports can be a great way to encourage bonding and teamwork in groups of all skill levels.

Lunch and Learn Series

If you’re looking to make the most of your workday or trying to find a fun way to introduce more skills to your workplace, a lunch and learn is an inviting way to teach a variety of topics. By offering food, you make people more likely to attend in the first place and also more likely to stay engaged throughout the session.

Secret Santa/ White Elephant Gift Exchange

A woman wearing a Christmas hair band excited about opening a present.

For end of year festivities, there's nothing more classic than a gift exchange. If you have a particularly close workplace, a Secret Santa-type event will show off how well your team members know each other by personalizing each gift. On the other hand, a White Elephant-style exchange will cater to a wide audience without needing to get into the heads of your coworkers.

Team Playlist

Creating a playlist to represent your small team or larger overall group can be done during a one-time event or something that can be added consistently over time. In addition to giving group members a chance to share their favorite tunes, which in turn opens the floor to bonding over shared interests, a group playlist can also create a more cohesive sense of community by giving individuals a chance to characterize and synthesize how they feel about their workplace.

For more exciting team building activities and fun games, Check out the Great Gotham Challenge's offerings here.

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