21 Killer Team Building Tips to Make Your Company More Productive

Group gearing up for a team cheer.
Group gearing up for a team cheer.

Anyone in charge of a team has probably heard the phrase, “team building”. It has become a buzzword in the business world and for good reason. Maybe you didn’t already know this, but team building is really important. It can help your team work better together and improve the overall function of your company. We’re not here to teach you WHY team building matters, but instead, we are here to teach you HOW to incorporate team building into your company. Read on to discover 21 team building tips that will make your company more productive.

1. Show your team they are valued

One of the best ways to keep a team engaged and excited about their work is to remind them how much you value the things they do. Even Forbes recognized being valued as one of the top influences in employee retention.

A survey done by the American Psychology Association reveals just how important feeling valued is to employees. Half of the employees that said they do not feel valued at work reported that they intend to find a new job while 93% of those who do feel valued said it encourages them to do their best work. 88% even said feeling valued motivates them to be more engaged at work.

Employees that feel valued are less like to leave.
Employees that feel valued are less like to leave.

Having an intentional conversation with your employees is one way to show them you care about their ideas and value their opinions. Help them to understand the big picture. Explain that you are giving them new responsibilities because of their impressive performance in the past.

It is also important to show your team members that they are valued by people other than management. If a client or coworker praises them, don’t keep it to yourself! Share the recognition with the employee receiving the praise.

The more you value your team, the better they will perform. So get creative and start showing people how much they mean to you and the company!

2. Come up with unique rewards

Another great way to keep your team motivated is to offer rewards to the team members that work the hardest and put forward the best results. Rewards are one of the important elements of building a positive company culture.

Kind words and glowing reviews are great, but they can lose their power after a while. Empty praise does not do a lot of good, so stop telling your employees, “good job,” and start showing them you really appreciate their efforts in more unique and tangible ways.

While raises and promotions are always appreciated, many other rewards are more effective than money. Consider other unique ways of recognizing your employees that won’t cost nearly as much as promotions and bonuses.

One way is to make recognition team-wide by having everyone vote for a weekly winner of whatever award you design. This will make the individual feel important and it will inspire the rest of the team to work harder to achieve recognition.

Another way to creatively recognize an individual is to ask them to represent the company at a public event. When you make someone the face of your company–even for a few hours–it shows that you trust them.

You can also reward the whole team with things like letting them off work early on a Friday, having a cocktail hour, bringing in delicious catered food, replacing the cheap coffee in the kitchen with a gourmet blend, and more. The more you recognize and reward your team, the happier they will be. And you don’t have to break the bank to make this kind of investment.

3. Encourage bonds within your staff

Teams bonding during one of our Hacky Hours.
Teams bonding during one of our Hacky Hours.

Let’s face it, in a lot of offices, employees park themselves in their cubicles, put their nose in their computers, and work silently until the clock strikes 5. It’s not surprising that this method does not work. While employees do not need to be best friends with one another, it is important to cultivate some sort of relationship between your team members.

Employees who like the people they work with tend to have higher job satisfaction and stay at their jobs longer. It also encourages team members to communicate their ideas and work with one another, which leads to greater productivity.

How do you build strong relationships within the office? It all comes back to team building. Bringing your employees together for fun activities allows them to work together in new ways. The more your team gets to know each other the more they will trust each other and the better they will work together in the future.

4. Let conversation flow naturally

Not every team building exercise has to be work-oriented. In fact, it is important to have team building activities that are not directly linked to the task at hand. Sometimes it is good to just forget work for a bit and let your team de-stress.

DoSomething.org has cocktail hours, bake-offs, fooseball tournaments, and more. Unstructured “play” time gives your employees the opportunity to talk about things other than work.

bake offs with dosomething.org
Bake offs with Dosomething.org

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, having your team members bond over things outside of the workplace is incredibly valuable. More and more employees are prioritizing work-life-balance and enjoying their colleagues is part of that.

When you create an environment where your staff feels comfortable opening up, you are teaching your employees to communicate with one another on a person-to-person basis. This will create stronger bonds and better communication between your employees, which leads to greater creativity and productivity.

Provide unstructured time for your team to socialize and allow the conversation to flow naturally, even if it has nothing to do with work.

5. Have fun

When you are planning a team building activity, fun should be the first thing on the agenda. Whether it is a casual lunch out or a planned hour of skill training, team building should feel like a break, not more work.

Playfulness leads to creativity. When your staff is having fun, they are filled with energy which allows them to start fresh and be more productive when they return to work. It can even inspire them to come up with new solutions to old problems.

Fun is also a great stress reliever. Employees that are less stressed and have more fun at work are more likely to stick around.

Goolge's literal slides
Goolge’s literal slides.

Google is the most famous example of a fun workplace, but you don’t have to have a slide in your office or let people bring their dogs to work to make your company a place your employees like working. Exciting team building activities that make your team smile and laugh can be enough.

Check out this quote from a Google team leader on the importance of scheduling fun into the workweek:

I heard about this group from a Googler on the Creative Lab team, who had recently taken a Museum Hack tour at The Met with her team and RAVED about it. I now understand why. I took my team this week as I felt we were over-indexing on work and under-indexing on fun.

Julie R., Head of Industry at Google, about why she scheduled a Museum Hack tour for her team

 6. Change the environment

One simple way to have a big impact on your team is to get out of the office. Psychologists have shown over and over that a change of environment can influence the way we think. And Team Building is all about community, get to know your neighborhood!

People who sit at the same desk day-in and day-out are bound to get bored with the few square feet that they are constantly staring at. Something as simple as swapping seats can impact the way your team works.

When you are planning a team building event, plan it outside of the office. Field trips are bound to make your team excited. Going somewhere new and interesting will allow your team members to unwind and relax. Then, when you return to the office, they will feel restored and ready to tackle their assignments with renewed vitality.

7. Give everyone a chance to get involved

Naturally, some team members have more responsibility in the office than others. While every employee is an integral part of the team, it is easy for those with less responsibility to feel unimportant. Team building activities are a great place to show people just how needed they are.

When you are designing a team building activity, choose one that necessarily requires every team member to get involved. Otherwise, you are bound to have a few employees hang out on the sidelines.

One easy way to do this is to ask questions. This can be as simple as starting meetings by having everyone share one surprising fact about themselves.

You can also design team building challenges where each team member has to complete a given task in order to advance. However you choose to go about it, try to design your team building activity so that no one is left behind.

Teams that bond together work better together.
Teams that bond together work better together.

8. Highlight each team member’s strengths  

Getting everyone involved in a team building activity gives you an opportunity to emphasize the strengths each individual brings to the team. But just as important as highlighting one another’s strengths is learning to work with each other’s weaknesses. Team building activities inherently bring to the surface your team’s most relevant strengths and weaknesses.

Once your team is aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, they can become a more effective team. You and your staff can divide responsibilities according to what each individual is best at.

Games, challenges, and team building tasks are fun ways to bring out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. A more direct way that is guaranteed to inspire productive and useful conversation is to have your staff complete something like Strengths Finder and discuss their findings.

9. Practice flexibility

Flexibility is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a cohesive, productive, and happy team. According to a survey conducted by World at Work, companies with an established flexibility program report higher rates of employee satisfaction, engagement, and motivation.

While some companies establish an entire program around flexibility, it can be relatively easy to give your employees more flexibility. Grokker, for example, has Work-At-Home Wednesdays.

Giving your employees the freedom to pick their own hours, schedule their own days, and work where and how they want will make them feel in control of their jobs. Employees who feel as though they have a level of control in turn feel more empowered to take initiative and try new things.

The relationship between flexibility and engagement in the workplace.
The relationship between flexibility and engagement in the workplace.

In addition, offering flexible work arrangements to your employees shows you trust them and value their well being. And do we really need to say, again, that a happy employee is a productive employee?

10. Incorporate democratic decision making

This one is another biggie for keeping employees engaged and motivated in the workplace. Giving your team members a say in the decision making process will give them a tangible reason to feel like they have a stake in whatever happens.

Of course there are some decisions that have to be made by those near the top of the workplace hierarchy, but that doesn’t meant your employees don’t deserve to be heard. Whenever a decision needs to be made, allow your team to weigh in and, where possible, let them come to their own conclusion.

Not only will this make your employees feel as though they have a voice in the company, but it can also lead to new ideas and creative solutions you would not have thought of otherwise.

Organized team building activities are a great environment for your team to practice democratic decision making. It will teach them to listen to one another and come up with the best solution, which is an important skill they will be able to use at your company.

11. Invest in training your team

Ever wondered what the best way to invest in the growth of your company is? It all starts with investing in your team.

Your team is more than just the fuel of your company. They are also the wheels, gears, and steering wheel. Without a properly functioning team, your company is not going anywhere.

Team building is an easy way to invest in your team. It shows that you are willing to put time and money into making them happier. Offering training to your employees is one way to invest in your team that demonstrates your commitment to them and also has a direct correlation to the way your company runs.

Having fun with your team is important.
Having fun with your team is important.

Consider holding group team building activities that focus on teaching your employees a new skill that is useful for the work they do. Another option is to provide training opportunities as rewards to employees that go the extra mile.

However you choose to go about incorporating training into your company, know that this is an important investment. It may not have an immediate RUI, but it will come back to you in bigger and better ways.

12. Embrace to power of trainages

After our first trainage at Museum Hack, we were hooked. Not just because they were a ton of fun, but because they were extremely helpful as well. Trainages are a fantastic way to build bonds and have fun with your team.

A trainage usually lasts about two hours and focuses on teaching your team a new skill. At Museum Hack, we have done vocal coaching and improv lessons, but the options are endless. What is important is that you pick something fun and relevant.

We hire vocal coaches for our team.
We hire vocal coaches for our team.

We chose vocal coaching because our team is constantly having to project as they give tours and lead activities in the museums. Find a skill that your employees can benefit from and base a trainage around that.

Trainages are better when you pick active skills that will keep your team moving and engaged. Playful is always better and remember the golden rule: have fun.

13. Call in the professionals

While there are certain things you can do on your own like rewarding your team or asking questions at the beginning of meetings, a professional brings in a whole different set of skills.

Someone who does team building for a living can help you design an activity that is perfect for your company and the people on your team. They have experience creating exciting activities and relating them to your company’s mission and your team members’ goals.

In addition, experts know what it takes to get your team engaged. They can rally everyone around the team building activity and give them the tools to make it a successful endeavor.

Its ok to bring in specialists!
Its ok to bring in specialists!

One way to integrate professionals into your team building approach is via the trainages. Most people who come in to teach your team a new skill will have some sort of training in working with groups and inspiring them to work together.

14. Don’t ignore short-term projects  

Seriously. Never ignore short term projects. Just because a team is only working together for a short period of time does not mean team building loses its value. In fact, it becomes even more important. Team building will help a temporary team bond quickly so they can work seamlessly on the short-term project at hand.

All of the benefits of team building on a grand scale–happiness, engagement, creativity, cohesion, etc–are heightened when you have a team that is working together during a short period of time.

One way to encourage team building with short term projects is to schedule one to two hours of team building at the beginning of every new project. Give your team a creative problem to solve so they can learn how everyone works.

But don’t stop there. Abandoned team building is almost as bad as no team building at all. Continue fostering team spirit with weekly or monthly trainages. On top of that, we recommend that every time the team gets together, you dedicate 10 minutes to doing something fun. An example of this is answering a quick non-work related question or having a massage train.

15. Create space for serendipity

Some of the best ideas come when you least expect them. Having unstructured time in which your team can play and create is a great way to inspire something amazing.

During our museum tours, we constantly see light bulbs flick on as teammates suddenly see things in a new way. The new environment and unplanned interactions are exactly what they needed to think about the problems they were having at work.

It is similar to the shower effect. When you are distracted and your brain is at rest, you are more likely to come up with the million dollar idea. No matter how hard you think, you cannot force insight.

Serendipity can come in many forms. It can be a solution to a problem, a new idea, an insight from a shy employee, etc. Whatever it is, it is definitely worth investing in.

16. Make it irresistible

Most team building activities are optional, but you still want everyone to show up. You can do this by making your team building so much fun that nobody will want to miss it.

Make training sessions fun for the best results.
Make training sessions fun for the best results.

Often, companies choose to hold their activities nearby and during work hours. This makes it easy for everyone to get to and it does not cut into their free time. Plus, it feels like a break from work, which makes it especially enticing.

If you are not having your team building activity during work hours, make sure it is still a convenient time for everyone. Pro tip: Saturday evening is not a convenient time. Choose an accessible location to maximize attendance.

Plan a fun activity, at a convenient time, in a location everyone can get to, and chances are the majority of your team will be there. When more people show up, it is better for morale and gives the whole team the chance to bond.

17. Keep it relevant

While having a vocal coach was perfect for our team, it might not make a lot of sense if you are working with a tech team.

Motive-free activities like going to an event, eating out, or enjoying happy hour do not have to be directly related to your company. But when it comes to trainages or skill-based team building activities, it is a good idea to pick at least semi-relevant skills.

On the other hand, you do not want to be too relevant. A talk about fundraising might be great if you work at a non-profit organization, but it is not team building. Team building is about having fun, relaxing, and working together.

Improv may not seem to relate to what our company does, but our team constantly has to think on their feet and react to whatever is happening in the moment. Spending a few hours learning improv is a great way to teach a team these skills while also creating a ton of laughter.

When it comes to picking your topic, something that is good for the well being of your team is just as important in making your team members happier and more productive employees.

18. Put people first

We cannot stress this one enough. You might measure your results with data, but there is a person behind every statistic.

Whenever you plan a team building activity, every question should start with your people. “What does my team need?” “Will my team members enjoy this?” “How will this benefit my team?”

Do not hesitate to ask! This whole guide has been about communicating with and trusting your team members, so why not trust them to help you pick a team building activity? Ask them what kind of skills they would like to learn or what you can do to make their work day more enjoyable. Creating an environment of trust is vital to any team, and it starts by listening to your employees.

Employees who trust their employer are more likely to stay.
Employees who trust their employer are more likely to stay.

By putting your people first, you are also showing them that you prioritize their needs and that you are willing to listen to their suggestions.

For a reminder at just how important your team’s well being is, read this quote from The New Yorker about their team building tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Thank you for an absolutely exquisite morning on yesterday’s Museum Hack tour. Everyone really enjoyed it and it was all we could talk about afterwards. It was a truly joyful, inspiring, enlightening and FUN experience. Thanks so very much.
– Team Leader at The New Yorker, after coming on a Museum Hack team building tour

19. Don’t let it be a one time thing

There is no such thing as too much team building, but there is such a thing as not enough. If you plan a team building event one week and never follow through, your employees will feel that they have been shorted. It will look like a superficial attempt at getting results without actually investing in your team.

Maintaining the team building spirit does not mean you have to have regular, organized team building activities (though it definitely helps). There are many ways to integrate team building into your daily work environment.

Consider some of the above tactics like asking your team questions at the beginning of meetings, offering rewards to those who perform well, and giving your team more responsibility and a louder voice in the office.

These simple and free ways of empowering your team will help create an environment full of satisfied employees eager to put forth their best work.

20. Stress and worry is okay

After all this talk about creating happier, more satisfied employees, there is one thing we feel we must say — stress and worry are okay.

There are going to be times when your team members are stressed about a big problem facing them at work. Sometimes you will have employees worrying about budget, workload, feasibility of a task, etc. It is inevitable.

Top reasons employees feel stressed.
Top reasons employees feel stressed.

While team building is a great way to destress and unwind, it is also important to recognize your team’s stress.

Do not be afraid to have these tough conversations. When something difficult is facing any of your employees, be it an individual or the whole team, address that issue.

Even if you do not have an immediate solution, your employees will feel better knowing they have been heard. Opening the door to conversation might even help you and your team find a solution you never realized was there.

21. Consider a trip to the museum

Bringing your team to the museum is a great stress reliever.
Bringing your team to the museum is a great stress reliever.

By now, we have undoubtedly convinced you that team building is a worthy investment and a necessary element of any functioning team.

The next question is, what is the best way to go about team building?

Hopefully the tips above will help you achieve a happy, healthy, productive workplace, but we do have one more tip.

Plan a tour with Museum Hack.

Sure, it might be a little bit biased, but the reviews speak for themselves. People love our tours and we love working with companies to help them be the best they can be. A museum tour is a unique way to bring your team together for a fun-filled day that will teach them how to communicate and work together.

However you choose to approach team building, the most important thing of all is to do it. Dive head first and start investing in the number one way to make your company all-around better.

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