Guest post by Adrienne Erin
In today’s modern world, where the 40-hour work week consumes the better part of our lives, it seems somehow strange that so many of us can work for years in relative anonymity alongside our coworkers.
Those companies who remain closed to the idea of team-building exercises and the prospect of developing a close family unit in the workplace typically tend to experience higher rates of staff turnover. As time passes, we may find ourselves looking back with regret for not making the journey more enjoyable.
The Importance of Practicing Teamwork
It is estimated that four out of ten employees are disengaged globally. Here in the U.S., the situation is worse, with more than 70% of all employees disengaged and disillusioned with their jobs, according to the most recent State of the American Workplace report.
Why is it that so many departments are structured in ways that separate people from one another when it has been proven that isolation does not promote strong working relationships? A place of business doesn’t have to be a place devoid of fun and frivolity.
Luckily, managers around the country and across the globe are beginning to realize that building trust among a team of peers improves overall productivity within the office. The following list of exercises can be done in a relatively short amount of time – 30 minutes or less – and are great ways to inject some enjoyment into the working environment.
1. The Survival Simulation
Tell your staff that their plane crashed into the ocean en route to a convention within sight of a desert island. The only remaining lifeboat is big enough to carry each person and 10 items they’ll need in order to survive. Instruct the teams to choose which items to take with them and to rank them in order of importance.
This game is always a crowd-pleaser and forces groups of people who may not necessarily work together to communicate in order to survive. Feel free to experiment with different simulations or mix and match different scenarios to create your own.
2. Competitive Cartooning
Most of us don’t consider ourselves artists by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s part of what makes an activity like this so fun. Split your group into teams to play pictionary; you can even consider theming the cues after internal jargon or industry specific phrases.
If pictionary isn’t your thing, give everyone a sketchbook and ask them to create caricatures of others at the company. Pin them up on the wall and challenge onlookers to guess who or what is being portrayed. No hard feelings, it’s just a caricature!
3. Wacky Tacky Tie Day
This is a variant of the ugly sweater contest infamous at office Christmas parties and one which encourages employees to wear an item of clothing – it doesn’t have to be a tie – of an especially garish nature. Introducing a bit of color can go a long way in getting employees to interact with each other as they go about their day, even if that interaction is as small as cracking a smile in the break room.
Many businesses find this is a good place to start as it has a proven track record. The next time you call for an important monthly meeting, consider making this your first item of business.
4. Name the Baby
Some of us retain our baby face our entire lives; some of us change dramatically. See how your coworkers have changed (or stayed the same!) with a game of Name the Baby. Ask each employee to bring in a photo of themselves as a baby. Number them and throw them up on a posterboard or corkboard. Print out numbered sheets of paper and challenge your coworkers to correctly name as many of their coworkers by their baby face as possible!
This activity is great for a quick challenge at a work party or for a longer-term setup in the break room over the course of a month. Don’t forget to offer a small prize to the person with the most correct answers!
5. Giving as a Group
Nothing binds a team together quite like a common cause or a charitable endeavor. Marketing agency WebpageFX established #FXBuilds in 2014, a program designed to give back to those less fortunate. The aim is to raise more than $400,000 to help build a school for children in Guatemala and improve the lives of more than 5,000 people worldwide by 2024.
Even if your office doesn’t have the resources to make this kind of donation, you can still pick a fundraiser to support together, or designate charitable outings where your employees can volunteer together during work hours. Nothing beats that fuzzy feeling of doing good for those who need it most.
Finding What Works and Working at It
While this list is by no means conclusive, every exercise is constructed to promote growth and trust through personal interactions that wouldn’t otherwise arise in the day to day.
Team-building is not a science, nor is it an art (unless you’re engaging in some competitive cartooning!). It’s simply a matter of starting and seeing what works for you and your team. Get it right, and you’ll find everyone getting more done and having fun doing it.
Adrienne Erin is a writer and designer. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work.