In the workplace, cooperation and team collaboration is key, and it's hard to get people working together if they just don't know each other. Whether they're large events or small exercises, from nearly ten years of hosting team building events at GGC, we know that unique events can be a great help in making sure your workplace is a good place to be. You can check out what we offer for teams at The Great Gotham Challenge, but we’ve also compiled a list of some unique ideas to encourage team bonding and liven up the conference room.
These activities are great for if you have a large number of new team members, or a large group that has never interacted with each other before. Most require few or no materials, involve minimal set up, and take under an hour to complete, making them easy to integrate into meetings and work days.
A fast way to encourage team members to memorize names in a big group, this team-building exercise starts with all team members sitting in a circle. Every person goes around and says their name once to the entire group. From there, one team member or members must toss a ball to other members of the circle. The passer must say the name of the recipient out loud, and the recipient must respond with the passer’s name. As team members become more familiar with each other’s names, the passing gets faster and faster, and the names become more ingrained in people’s minds.
This team building activity is traditionally done with birthdays, though any linear set of personal information could work, like height or length of time with the company. Participants must organize themselves in a line without speaking or mouthing words, encouraging them to find ways of communicating with and understanding each other through gestures and facial expressions.
A simple team building game that gives participants an opportunity to share interesting facts about themselves, Two Truths and a Lie, as the title suggests, asks each person to share three facts about themself, two being true and one being false. The other group members all guess which of the facts was false before the answer is revealed. If you're playing competitively, the team member who fooled the most people wins.
This team building activity requires the organizer to make up a bingo card beforehand with common or somewhat unusual traits, like "can speak a second language fluently" or "is a middle child". Bingo cards are then handed out to players, who must find another person that trait applies to and get them to write their name on the card, seeking to fill out either a line or the whole card. For more complex versions, make it so a person can only put their name on one square.
If your team is comfortable with being physically close with one another, this is a great way to encourage group problem solving and cooperation. Arrange individuals in a circle, then ask them to reach across and hold another person's hand. With the second hand, reach out to a different person. Once everyone's connected, the knot is complete, and it's time to unravel it. Without letting go of any connections, players must step over or duck under each other's arms until everyone is standing in a circle with no arms crossed. Depending on the group size and the randomness of the pairings, there might be multiple circles instead of one, but you will find out once you've untangled everything.
A combination trust exercise and test of direction-giving ability, this team building activity pairs participants off, with one person being blindfolded and asked to follow the directions of the other to navigate a maze or retrieve an item. The fastest team to complete the challenge wins the game, and most often, this winning team is the team with the best understanding and communication skills between them.
Like a blind maze, this fun team building activity also involves one person following another's directions, though neither person is fully blindfolded. Instead, one half of the pair describes an object only they can see, giving instructions on how to draw it to the other. The other person must then guess what object they are drawing. Points can be given for both speed and the accuracy of the resulting picture.
Another activity that takes away participants' sight, Perfect Square, starts with the group forming a circle while holding a tied rope. Once the group and the rope are acceptably circular, participants are asked to place the rope on the floor, put on a blindfold, and take five big steps back from the circle. They are then tasked with making a perfect square using the rope they just put down. With no ability to see the other members of the group, and usually more than four players, this task is much harder than it sounds!
Building or passing a story is a fun way of getting to know how people think and what kind of creative thinking they can bring. The facilitator begins the story with an opening sentence, and the team builds on one sentence at a time, creating an often meandering and silly tale. There is also a version of this activity that involves multiple stories at once, where each team member writes their starting sentence on a piece of paper, and the papers are passed around.
These team building activities can be integrated easily into the workday, occurring daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the activity and your work environment. They have a low time requirement but gradually build team spirit, cohesion, communication skills, and a sense of community among team members.
This simple reflection exercise can be conducted at the end of a workday or team meeting to check in with the entire team. Each person will offer one rose (a positive thing about their day or week), one bud (something that still needs work or something that they're looking forward to), and one thorn (a stumbling block or something that didn't go as they wanted) to the discussion.
It's ideal not to confine the topics to the workplace, as people tend to speak more freely if they're able to talk about anything that comes to mind. This is a great way to catch recurrent problems in the workplace, as well as find positives to reinforce.
Place a riddle in a common area like a whiteboard or bulletin board, and encourage people to write their answers. This gives the brain a workout that isn't work-related and stretches creative and critical thinking muscles. Prizes can be awarded to the person who solves the most, but the goal of this activity is the process of solving, not the solution.
A monthly or bimonthly book club is an easy way to encourage discussion amongst team members in a casual setting. Having a common book to read ensures that team members have something in common to talk about, but everyone brings their own opinions and experiences to the table.
A sports team is a great way to get people to have fun and work together if you've got a large or particularly athletic group. Scrimmage where teams compete against your colleagues, or see if a league is looking for teams in the area. The most popular sports are the ones that don't require too much specialized equipment, like kickball, soccer, and softball.
What's the best local pizzeria? Whose pet is the cutest? Which fictional character would win in a fight? If you give your team something to have strong opinions about, they'll probably express themselves and try to win others over to their side. Votes can take place over days or weeks, winnowing down the competition to just a few options and their loyal supporters. The end of the showdown will be built up so that everyone in the office can get excited.
A memory wall is an activity that can be run in one session or more passively over time. The wall starts with a few team members writing down positive, impactful memories of working together. These memories are placed in the center of the wall, and from there, each team member adds memories, feelings, or thoughts that they associate with the memories in the center, connecting them with string to form a memory cloud. When run over a long period of time, new core memories can also be added, allowing the cloud to grow further.
A group playlist can be many things: a way for each individual to contribute and express themselves, a way to bond over shared interests or memories, or a way to characterize your company culture. Playlists can be made by and for specific teams to give them a sense of identity or for big projects to motivate everyone toward the same goal. Whatever the aim of the playlist is, sharing music is a great way to bring people closer together.
It can be hard to know what everyone is working on in larger offices or groups where the work is more individual. A "show and tell" event where people introduce their projects and can highlight their recent achievements is a great way to boost appreciation for everyone's work and learn what things people are proud of. It's also a way to bring in fresh eyes and get suggestions for problem areas.
Like a book club, this is a great way to get people talking by giving them a common topic. It's also a great way to relax and laugh together. This can be hosted in-person or virtually by using online services such as Teleparty to sync videos for the entire group.
These team building activities are great for a corporate work day or team building session, as they usually don't take more than a few minutes to set up and can be done without having to change locations or go over budget. Many require props but not any particular skills or abilities, and nearly all work to highlight communication, collaboration, and friendly competition.
A regular jigsaw puzzle is a good activity that can stay out and be added gradually if you have some space to host it. A team jigsaw, on the other hand, is more of a timed event. In this activity, players are split into two groups and given a jumble of puzzle pieces, some belonging to their puzzle and some to the other team's. In addition to putting together their puzzle, they must sort out the opposing team's pieces and retrieve their own. This team building game requires two puzzles with the same number of pieces to ensure fairness. To increase difficulty, use two puzzles with similar art styles, or hide the boxes so that neither team knows what the final image is supposed to look like.
A few people may groan when they hear about this activity, but as trite as it may seem, it's done time and again because it really does help to lift people up and bring them closer together. Sitting in a circle, each team member goes around and compliments the person sitting to their left. When facilitating, it's helpful to encourage compliments that are specific, detailed, and relevant to the group. Give an example, like "Miranda, I appreciate how clear you are in communicating, and how that helps me know what to prioritize," for other team members to model their compliments after.
A frequent friend of the corporate world, the most well-known personality typing system, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, was created to help women entering the workforce during WW2 identify what jobs were right for them. Nowadays, there are several systems to choose from, a popular one is the Enneagram, and while psychologists say the science behind them is shaky at best, they do still serve as a good set of get-to-know-you-questions, and a jumping-off point to talk about styles of thinking, working, and communication skills.
Scavenger hunts are a classic among team-building games in the office or combined with another outing like a museum tour, as they can encourage creative thinking, friendly competition, and attention to detail. In addition to simple item finding, scavenger hunt prompts can be riddles or puzzles, encouraging creative solutions and out of the box thinking.
Lunch and learns are a great way to introduce new topics and skills to a workplace without disrupting the whole work day. Providing food gets people excited about an event and willing to stay through a talk they might not think they would be interested in. If someone already on the team is an expert in what you'd like to familiarize the group, it also allows them to practice presentation skills and mentoring.
Perfect for a corporate team building day, a trivia game like Jeopardy can work with a variety of topics, from workplace related skills to office trivia to fun facts about team members to general knowledge. This is also a great way to reinforce the knowledge that has just been learned during a training session or to refresh old information that is still relevant.
Taboo is a popular party game that encourages creative thinking and getting into another's mindset. Within the game, players must use verbal clues to get their teammates to guess a word given to them on a card without using said word or five other forbidden words listed on the card. The most words guessed in a certain time limit win the round, and then the player giving the prompts is rotated out. Those with good communication skills do particularly well in this game.
Werewolf, or Mafia, depending on who you ask, is a social deduction game wherein players must determine whom the werewolves/mafia members are amidst their group without being killed in the night. It's a flexible game in that it can be run for a large number of people, and many roles can be added to give players more power and make the game more dynamic.
Paper Phone is a folk game that goes by many other names (including Eat Poop You Cat), wherein participants play a game of visual telephone by writing out a concept or sentence on a piece of paper and having the person next to them draw out that concept. The person who drew then folds over the original prompt and passes the page to the next person, who must describe the drawing in words. They then fold over the drawing and pass it on so that the next person can draw out their description, and so on, until the space on the paper runs out. All players then reveal, one by one, the progression of the concept and how far it got from the original. Telestrations is a commercial version of this game played on whiteboard flipbooks that includes prompt cards to make coming up with ideas easier.
A mainstay of physics and engineering classes everywhere, the rules of an egg drop competition are simple: each team is given construction paper and tape and is asked to create a structure that will prevent an egg from cracking when dropped on it. If any creations pass the first drop (usually from about a meter off the ground), the egg is dropped again from a greater distance until only one team's egg has survived.
Spectrum mapping is an activity that works to organize differing opinions and perspectives into an understandable and usable spectrum. To begin, choose a couple of topics you'd like to explore: things relating to your group, its purpose, and its function. Place one topic on a sticky note in the center of a wall or whiteboard and ask team members to generate preference options relating to the topic on their sticky notes. Once all options have been written, ask each team member to place their notes in a horizontal line on either side of the topic.
Team members must now work together to rearrange the line, grouping like ideas together and determining which ideas are most and least similar to each other. Once everyone has agreed on an order, the result should be a spectrum of reactions to the topic, and discussions can be had about the merits of each option and where they fall on the spectrum as a group, as well as if there are any options that may have been excluded.
How much can you do in 60 seconds? Can you create a foot high card tower? Keep three balloons in the air without using your hands? Inspired by the game show of the same name, there are now hundreds of minute long challenges to be found online that require only simple household items. Let everyone try their hand at a challenge, or give everyone something unique. The aim of the game is fast fun and a sense of accomplishment.
Have you got a brilliant idea for a gadget or an initiative you just need to pitch to the world? Many people do! Organize a few team members to be the investors/judges, and the rest of the team will duke it out to see who's got the million dollar idea. Bonus points if it can be integrated into the workplace or used on an upcoming project.
While this activity tends to be the biggest hit around holidays, any time of year is the perfect time to liven up the office space with some inventive adornments. In addition to showing off creative thinking and arts and crafts skills, this team building idea is also a way to allow people's personalities to shine through and express themselves in a corporate environment.
If you've got a large enough office to fill out a board, it's easy to make your own version of Guess Who using coworkers and staff, either by taping pictures over an existing board or using a deck of playing cards to represent people and display your options. Using real people rather than just generic names and physical attributes makes the game more dynamic (does your person work on the IT team? Does your person like to show off pictures of their dog?) and sometimes trickier.
Another activity that is popular among budding engineers, the aim of this challenge is to build the highest possible tower using only marshmallows and dry spaghetti. Teams must be able to plan and implement their ideas effectively and be able to bounce back from mistakes or accidents (of which there will be more than a few). Building know-how is not the only thing that will be needed to keep the towers standing: cooperation and fast thinking are also key skills.
Classroom delinquents now's your time to shine. If you've got an office that produces paper waste (and many don't nowadays, which is a good step environmentally), give that paper a second life before it heads to the recycling bin. The judging of this contest can be based on distance, with extra points thrown in for aesthetics and any sweet tricks a plane can do, like loops or spins.
If you're looking for something more special than simple team building games, something that would be good for a quarterly special treat, the following team building activities are great ideas for getting everyone out of the office and experiencing something new or special. Some of these activities can be run on your own, but it doesn't hurt to let the professionals handle it.
An immersive team event by the Great Gotham Challenge
A murder mystery-style game with a twist, Murder in the Mighty Metropolis is an experience available to all fortunate enough to live in New York City. This team-building event brings talented improv actors, inventive puzzles, and everything needed for a murder mystery to the venue of your choosing. Players must work together (and against opposing teams!) to discover the clues hidden in plain sight around them and find the murderer in their midst.
Escape rooms are everywhere nowadays, and they're a great way to have fun while also testing your team's collaborative creative problem solving, leadership skills, communication, and ability to work under pressure. Rooms tend to last about ninety minutes, during which time the team members must solve puzzles and explore the world that they've been trapped in. Finally, escaping is the ultimate experience of shared victory and the joy of success.
See who on the team can bring the best chili or apple pie, or party dip to the table, and then enjoy the palatable process of judging the winner. This team building event can be done in a conference room at the office if everything is cooked at home prior to the event, so if you want to do things on your own turf, prioritize foods that can be cooked beforehand and transported somewhat easily.
Giving back to your community is a great way to bond with members of your team while also making the world a better place and feeling good about yourself. Some large organizations like Habitat for Humanity have set programs for corporate team building events, but it's easy and simple to reach out and organize an event with more local organizations as well.
Physical and verbal coordination are both needed for this team building activity. In addition to rope bridges and balance beams, many ropes course venues have dedicated team building sections, where team members must work together to get everyone over a net or across a teetering bridge. In addition to building physical agility, ropes courses are team building exercises that also build trust and cooperation and encourage team bonding.
For end of year festivities, a little gift giving is a great way to liven up the workplace and encourage team bonding. Have individuals draw names out of a hat beforehand for a traditional Secret Santa swap, or have everyone bring in a gift and dole the gifts out white elephant style, with the option to either unwrap a new gift or steal an already revealed one.
Corporate Castaways is a corporate team building event inspired by the TV show Survivor, where team members split into tribes to tackle physical and mental challenges while also working to build alliances and bring down the other teams' tribes. Though this activity works best outside, events are held year round in any kind of weather.
Get creative together, teach each other new skills, and have fun with a crafting night. If you're ambitious, you can DIY a project for everyone to work on, such as a cross stitch sampler or a collage project, but if not, there's many a wine and paint locales out there to provide materials, tools, instruction, and beverages aplenty.
While many of the ideas listed above can be adapted to suit virtual workplaces, it can also be good to have team building activities for work, that are tailored to a remote team or remote groups. The following activities take into account some of the quirks and limitations of digital work, as well as some of the unique benefits.
Part scavenger hunt, part escape room, and 100% healthy competition, the Great Gotham Challenge was born on the streets of NYC, but since then has expanded to include a number of online-only offerings, as well as some games where physical props are mailed to the players. It's an opportunity to discover other employees the out-of-the box thinking, improve communication and teamwork skills, and create memories that boost employee engagement.
In the NYC-based events, players and team members run in small groups from venue to venue, unlocking hidden locations and having secret interactions with regular New Yorkers in order to arrive at the finish line first.
The Great Gotham Challenge sends players all over the web to solve clues and piece together puzzles, while teaching you things along the way. This is a great option for remote teams with a competitive spirit, and those who want a unique experience for their next team building event-building event.
Lightning scavenger hunts test not only who has a sharp eye for finding things but who can find it the fastest. Unlike a typical scavenger hunt, the items in question are more commonplace– a red kitchen implement or something with an animal drawn on it, for example. From the moment the time is announced, players must race to find that thing, and the first person able to hold it to the camera wins the round.
A more nuanced take on the classic game Pictionary, Skribbl is a free online drawing and guessing game where one player chooses a word to draw, and everyone else tries to guess, with points being awarded based on speed. It serves as a good way to get into other people's heads and see what they're thinking and how they think about it. You can play with a premade list of words or add your own options to the mix.
Even with video calls, the perspective you can get of your remote coworker's office spaces is limited and often curated. This activity breaks down those walls a little and asks each team member to take pictures of the parts of their workspace that aren't normally seen on video to see if their coworkers can guess, based on how well they know each other and whose office that is.
Another fun game that involves your team's remote workspaces, arms reach show and tell has team members sharing the most interesting item they can find in the vicinity of their desk, explaining a little bit about its history and why they have it near them. This is a fun game for showing off interesting tidbits, sentimental stories, and cool collections. Minimalists beware: you may end up explaining in depth the merits of your favorite pen.
Great Gotham Challenge Recommends: Our Top 25 Favorite Team Building Activities- NYCTeam Building Activities
"We had high expectations and they were far exceeded. The challenges were difficult, extremely creative, and completely customized to our group. Suffice it to say our group couldn't have possibly had more fun. Thank you for making me look great!"
"I'm always very skeptical of these "team-building" events, but this one was over the top. They successfully handled our 120-person team, with puzzles that were really challenging. The whole experience couldn't have been more engaging!"
"One of our directors told me it was one of the best organized online challenges they've done."
"[The challenge] shattered any expectations I had. For a fully remote event, I expected a bit of cheesy fun, but the production quality is unbelievable. I absolutely recommend everyone to try it."
"To quote one of my teammates: "This [challenge] was mean and hard, and resultantly perfect." Thank you for the stellar experience, service, and fun."
Great Gotham Challenge is like nothing your team has ever experienced. It's challenging, takes mental grit to complete, and starts at $2000 for our most basic, 2-hour in-person experience. If you are looking for something short, simple, and inexpensive, this may not be for you. However, if this sounds intriguing, we can't wait to hear from you via the contact form below.