The Big List of Employee Activities
Is your team’s esprit de corp starting to flag? It could be time to invest in quality team-building activities. Taking a day to refresh your team’s spirit can improve overall performance, which directly affects corporate results. A single day of fun and frolic might not solve every issue, of course, but it can go a long way toward dismantling barriers, removing distractions, and generally making people on your team feel better about their work.
Worried your employees will roll their eyes at the suggestion of a team-building day? That’s a legitimate fear. Many employees feel like team-building days are a waste of work time and don’t accomplish what they set out to do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose corporate team-building activities that encourage real-life problem-solving skills, promote professional learning, and build new work friendships. With a creative spark and an eye toward outcomes, your team-building day can become the most anticipated eight hours of work in the year.
31 Proven Ideas for Corporate Team-building Activities Your Employees Will Love
1. Team Cook-Off
Cooking is fun, and it doesn’t feel like a corporate rewards stunt. Whether your culinary skills stop at mixing up a batch of cookies or go all the way to treating your housemates to gourmet meals each night, this one is fun for foodies and non-foodies alike. You can structure a team cook-off as a timed, juried, or skill-building competition. Cook-offs can include cuisines from around the world, or they can stick with American staples such as ribs, coleslaw, and barbecue. Allow your team members to show off their creativity and problem-solving skills by handing out the same ingredients to each team. Then have teams draft different menus with illustrations, write-ups, and creative names for the recipes they craft together.
2. Poker Tournament
Poker presents more than an opportunity to rack up chips or show off your card shark skills. You get to see an authentic side of people when they play a hand of cards. Bluffing, tells, and the ability to read people all show up. In a tournament scenario, some staff members might even discover skills they never knew they had.
As with any skilled activity, you’ll want to spend plenty of time learning before the big day. Make sure your more experienced players are spread out across teams to make the event fairer. And, if you really want to spice up your game, take your team to a lively casino for a night out or even a weekend away for practice.
3. Obstacle Course
An obstacle course is a classic team-building exercise, but it doesn’t have to feel stale. Just be creative and innovate on this standby idea. Try putting together a course where the team members have to help each other instead of competing, for instance. Or consider having a human obstacle course alongside a similar one for the well-behaved dogs of your employees.
For a more exciting take on this time-tested activity, take your team on a trip to a complex course at an exotic locale. Options exist in beachy destinations, mountain retreats, and everything in between. You and your team can relax after you complete the course and enjoy each other’s company at the end of the day.
4. Board Game Competition
Despite the popularity of video games, card and board games are making a big comeback. Popular contemporary games include Cosmic Encounter, which bills itself as a game of strategy and hilarity; Splendor, which is a great way to meet new people; and Pandemic Legacy, which is a brilliant introduction to cooperative games.
Start by dividing your team into groups in a fun way, and then explain the rules of the game you’ve chosen. After a few rounds, even any non-gamers in the group will start to get into the spirit of the match. By choosing strategy games or cooperative games, you help promote valuable work skills and perhaps discover new team dynamics.
5. Canoeing Trip
Canoeing and kayaking are great standby ideas for outdoor team-building activities. Teams learn to communicate and work together in order to steer down a river or across a lake. Even the most tentative mariners among the group can enjoy floating downstream. Just make sure you choose a reputable guided canoe company to provide the experience.
Many lodges also offer activity packages that include canoeing or kayaking. If you plan to stay overnight, don’t forget to include some quiet, relaxing indoor events in the evening for people to enjoy after a day on the water.
6. Low Ropes Course
The ultimate camp experience, a low ropes course can get an entire group of otherwise disconnected people putting their brains and bodies to the task of completing a challenge. Locations generally don’t change the layout of their ropes courses often, so try to avoid choosing the same place twice—people will likely find a second round less exciting. Still, it’s hard to beat this classic team-building experience for fun and learning.
7. Office Casino Night
Watch your team members let their hair down when you haul out roulette wheels, craps tables, chips, and play money. Participants can play card and table games without risking any money. Since many people may not already know how to play, everyone can feel comfortable learning something new and fun together. Hire a Vegas-style dealer, and the event is sure to be a hit.
8. Archery Tag
Blending the skill of archery with the intensity of paintball, archery tag may be the only team-building exercise in which your employees actually get to shoot each other with bows and arrows —and live to tell the tale. Team dynamics will naturally form, teaching your staff how to perform in the heat of the moment. And unlike paintball or laser tag, participants must learn to focus under pressure.
With a big enough field or gym space, you could DIY the experience. But if you work with a professional archery tag organization, your team could also learn a variety of medieval warfare tactics to try on one another—and perhaps in a competition at a later date.
Bowling never gets old. Most people know how to bowl—but not well—meaning you don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching the game, but it’s unlikely that a few stellar players will outshine everyone else.
Bowling gives employees a chance to serve on new teams, meet new staff members, and strike up conversations while waiting their turn. A low-cost activity, bowling still gives employees an out-of-office feeling when they hit the local lanes.
10. Go-Kart Racing
Find an amazing track and start your engines. Go-karts are exciting but safe, a great way for your team members to burn off some competitive energy without putting anyone at risk. You can race employees against managers, sales against marketing, or even staff against clients. The important part is to have fun and challenge each other.
Are your employees the type of people who get jazzed at the idea of hanging by a literal thread high above the earth? Then take them zip-lining You can choose anything from small, local zip lines for newbies all the way to gorgeous zip-lining adventures in Guatemala, New Zealand, France, or Alaska. Either make a day of it with the whole team, or just offer an amazing international zip-lining trip as a bonus event for successful sales staff and their families. Not only are the sights unforgettable from the perspective of the lines, but the whole experience elevates the team’s spirit, too.
12. Survival Skills Training and Practice
Push your team to the limit on an unforgettable, wilderness-based adventure. On a survival course, employees learn leadership skills and communication tactics as they bone up on survival knowledge. Trained, hands-on guides work with your group to teach animal tracking, friction fire making, camouflage techniques, primitive shelter building, wild edible foraging, and stone-blade fabrication.
Make it a one-day outing at a spot near you, or turn the event into a week-long challenge for your top team members. You can choose from wilderness locations around the country—or even the globe.
13. Monopoly Treasure Hunt
In this larger-than-life twist on the classic board game Monopoly, team members use a specially created Monopoly board to carefully plan routes to locations around a city, claiming them for their teams. Just like in the game, some locations hold more value than others. Once a team finds a location, the members must solve a specific puzzle in order to claim the spot and earn points.
These are timed events, so the bigger the city, the greater the challenge. Taking your team to a sprawling metropolis such as New York, Chicago, London, or Paris can make the game that much more exciting.
14. Cocktail or Chocolate Making
Put on your hats and aprons for a night of stirring, shaking, and squeezing delicious and heady treats for the team. At the end of the event, your employees will have drinks and delicacies they crafted themselves along with a whole new perspective on one another’s abilities and tastes. You could even incorporate an excursion to a vineyard or a chocolate workshop as part of the experience. Who wouldn’t love a lesson led by a chocolatier or a talented mixologist sharing their passions—and, perhaps, igniting new ones in your team?
15. Corporate School Sports Day
Remember field day at school? You probably played tug-of-war or competed in a three-legged race. Maybe the yearbook photographer captured you carrying an apple on your head or an egg in a spoon in a relay race. Over the years, some games have grown more sophisticated, but many have stayed the same.
You can hire a company or simply get a group of employees together to plan a corporate field day with all the activities you remember from school. Employees can participate in literal team-building as they practice with their sports day teammates to ultimately claim that trophy, medal, or ribbon at the day’s awards ceremony.
16. The Apprentice: Office Edition
For 13 years, the contestants and hosts of the TV show The Apprentice entertained viewers with competitions, prizes, and the heart-stopping phrase “You’re fired!” You can appropriate The Apprentice‘s ideas for your own corporate team-building event.
Divide your employees into teams, and have them complete challenges similar to those on the show. Teams can split up into smaller groups, like design, marketing, and finance. Then, they can plot strategies for a fun company from scratch. Once their time is up, they’ll present their business plans to the Big Boss. Focus on your teams’ successes rather than their faux pas, and watch the competitive spirit and fun of the show translate nicely into a real-life office environment.
17. Stock Car Racing
Let your team members be race car drivers for the day. Racetracks often make packages available to corporate teams whose members want to get behind the wheel. Don’t worry about safety—tracks offer setups perfect for beginners that won’t allow your accountants and sales directors to go much over 50 miles per hour or get a tire more than an inch off the ground. End the day with an awards ceremony.
18. Chartered Yacht Cruise
Who can ever forget the episode of The Office where the World’s Best Boss, Michael Scott, takes his team from Dunder Mifflin on a late-night booze cruise on Lake Erie? You obviously don’t want to totally follow his example, but your team’s event can be more organized and lots more fun if you charter a yacht for a corporate cruise. Team members can even take turns at the helm of the boat to feel what it’s like to be a captain for a while.
19. Sailboat Racing
Sailboat racing is an outdoor physical activity that anyone can do regardless of age, size, skill, or athletic prowess. Sailing teaches skippers and crew members how to successfully communicate with each other, and it enhances strategic planning and problem-solving skills. Team members learn to make smart and timely decisions as they react to wind shifts on the water.
In many ways, sailboat racing is a perfect metaphor for a nimble business facing a challenging environment. Teams may come out of the experience with new ideas on how to tackle complex problems.
20. iPad Movie Making
Let your team become the cast and crew of their own office movie. A little creativity, an iPad, and some editing software are all it takes to turn the office staff into directors, cinematographers, set designers, and actors. In this activity, team members learn about shooting in slow-motion, collecting props, managing costumes, scriptwriting, and acting. The organizational and communication abilities needed to pull off a movie will translate well later into your day-to-day work life.
21. CSI: Office Edition
There’s been a murder! And it’s up to your team to solve the crime. Traditional murder mystery dinner theater shows typically rely on Agatha Christie-style tropes, but not this corporate team-building event. It employs the latest crime-busting technology such as chromatography, fiber identification, fingerprint analysis, and ultraviolet lights to help participants analyze the evidence to discover whodunit.
Team members have to rely on both data and intuition to make their best judgments to win the game, skills which translate well into an office environment. To make the event even more fun, let your team get kitted out in coveralls, face masks, and gloves like real crime scene investigators.
22. Stocks & Shares
Whether you work in finance or not, it’s easy to become enticed by the lure of Wall Street’s bustling trade floor. This activity invites your team members to join in on the excitement by creating a fictional investment company, nominating a broker, and making decisions based on a script consisting of incoming financial news, unanticipated corporate events, and price fluctuations.
This exciting role-playing game invites teams to think outside the box and work together to develop the highest-value portfolio at the end of the session. Your staff members will likely be talking about it long after it’s over.
Offer a masterclass on any topic your employees find interesting, valuable, and fun. DJing, pastry making, magic, or fitness can all find a fit with your group. You can also offer masterclasses on different areas of your company—teaching the basics of accounting to the marketing team, for example, or educating your research and development folks about how to write a winning article for your corporate blog. Cross-disciplinary learning promotes greater empathy and cohesiveness within your team.
24. Office Trivia Quiz Show
Trivia quiz shows make for great evergreen entertainment. Jeopardy!, after all, has been a staple of American television since 1964. Instead of finding out what your team members know about general information, however, this game focuses on how much your team members know about your company.
You can include trivia about your corporate history, your clients, the C-suite staff members, or your industry in general. Your team will walk away from this event with a much richer knowledge of your corporate identity and culture.
25. Karaoke Night
Have a team of high performers who love to grab their moment in the spotlight? Let them! Karaoke nights can be lots of fun. Set up something simple in the office, or travel to a club. You can even charter a karaoke bus and drive around town, singing between stops. You may discover hidden musical talents within your ranks—or some with so much courage that skill doesn’t matter. And there’s nothing like laughter to bond people together for a common cause.
26. Ax Throwing
Can your team hit its target? Take your staff members to an ax-throwing venue to find out! This 100% safe and super-fun activity provides the perfect segue to a discussion about targets, energy, focus, and what it takes to hit the bull’s eye. Ax throwing lanes are opening up all across America. As the sport is gaining attention, you can probably find a spot near you—or, you can include the activity as part of a multi-night wilderness retreat.
27. Shark Tank: Office Edition
Nearly 40,000 companies each year vie for the chance to submit their entrepreneurial concepts to a team of “sharks” led by billionaire investor Mark Cuban. Why not let your team have a chance to do the same? Only instead of having Mark Cuban and his peers to show up, bring in your own set of sharks from outside the four walls of your office. Teams will compete to draft proposals for products and services that will entice your sharks to bite.
As team members work together on their ideas, they learn communication skills, entrepreneurship, unconventional thinking, and cooperativeness.
28. Online Gaming Competition
Do some of your team members work remotely? Are you a multi-site operation? If you can’t bring your team together in person, try hosting an online gaming competition. You could either use an online board game such as Words With Friends, establish a private server for a popular shooter, or set up an inter-office role-playing game, perhaps through Slack. Stream gameplay on a platform like Twitch so that even those who aren’t actively playing can still watch and talk about the game.
29. Video Game Party
Video games are such a big part of the culture these days that even non-gamers dig the basic stuff. Try a collaborative party game such as Block Party, Super Mario Party, Drawful, or Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. These games require little in the way of gaming skill, but lots of communication ability, so everyone will have a chance to join in and learn something. Alternatively, you could try something like Super Smash Bros. for some tournament-style competitive fun.
30. Wild Safari
Tap into your employees’ natural instincts by bringing them to the source. In this version of the classic scavenger hunt, you give teams a list of animals they must “capture” (i.e., photograph) and facts they must learn on their safari. Allow them a bit of planning time to strategize before setting them loose on a local zoo. A more exciting twist on this activity brings teams directly into the animals’ habitats by taking them into the forest or jungle with a knowledgeable guide to spot creatures.
- 31. Tour of Homes
Either take a tour of beautiful homes in your city or travel to a mansion that welcomes guests. Some large homes such as Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC provide hospitality services, accommodation, and rooms for multi-night corporate retreats. As an alternative, the executives at your company could open their homes for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and desserts in a progressive night out during the holiday season. That can be a great way for employees to see the leadership team in a real-life setting.
Whether you choose a multi-day, out-of-town event or a single day of games in the office, make sure to select activities that support your overall goals of team bonding, professional development—and, most of all, having fun.