Team building activities to avoid (and 7 activities to do instead)

by Liam Martin
team building activities

Interested in learning about some engaging team building activities?

Sure, team building activities are a great way to boost morale, increase collaboration and create a group of tightly-knit coworkers. However, team building activities are only useful if they are informative and enjoyable at the same time.

Unfortunately, your average team-building activity doesn’t live up to this. Most team building games are embarrassing, awkward, and a waste of time!  

In this article, we’ll highlight 3 team building activities to avoid and 7 fun activities to do instead. And don’t worry, we’ve covered activities for both in-office and virtual teams. 

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Let’s begin!

3 team building activities to stay away from

Google the term “team building activities,” and you’ll come across things like escape rooms, different jigsaw puzzles, board games, minefields, and more.

However, not all team building activities are useful

Most of them don’t engage your team, leading to limited team bonding.

That’s why, when planning team building activities, avoid activities that make your employees feel like they are wasting time. 

And this isn’t just limited to in-person team building activities. 

Remote work is increasingly popular, and most remote employees may feel isolated from their fellow team members. Just like in-house employees, remote team members also need to feel motivated and effective teamwork training is essential for this. 

And to make sure you’re not wasting your team’s time, here are 3 activities that your team should stay away from:

1. Never have I ever

What’s it?

Everyone sits in a circle facing each other, and participants take turns asking someone about things they haven’t done before. Those who have done it take a sip from their drinks – which should ideally be non-alcoholic. This can also be done virtually, with everyone getting on a video call.

Why doesn’t it work?

Revealing details of your personal life isn’t one of the safest choices in an office. Additionally, this team building activity can become intrusive and inappropriate when personal questions are asked. 

On top of everything, you don’t want to come back to the office the next day and see people discuss the choices and actions you took during the activity. 

2. Virtual coffee break on Zoom

What’s it?

In this remote team building activity, you engage in a virtual coffee break over a video calling tool, like Zoom. The idea is to have a virtual happy hour to relax and chill with your colleagues with a coffee in one hand. 

Zoom coffee break

Why doesn’t it work?

In most cases, the activity simply becomes an excuse to conduct another business meeting. Sure, you might start with informal discussions, but you’ll eventually be talking about status updates!

Even if it doesn’t turn into a business meeting, there’s no guarantee that everyone will interact with each other. In most cases, it’ll merely be an awkward video call where everyone’s just sipping coffee and barely interacting — which is especially true for new teams.  

3. An inside peek into each other’s homes 

What’s it?

In this virtual team building activity, you take your team on a virtual home tour. You record a video of your comfort zone in the house or capture your workspace and share it with your remote team. 

Why doesn’t it work?

While it’s an easy way to get to know each coworker, it may not be comfortable for everyone. And that’s precisely why this activity should be avoided. 

For example, people might feel embarrassed to show everyone their childhood pictures hanging on the wall. Or there’s the concern of being judged for your tastes in interior decoration. 

Inappropriate questions may be asked, privacy issues could pop-up — the list is endless!

3 in-person team building activities you should conduct 

Here are three enjoyable in-person activities that you could conduct as part of your corporate team building activities:

1. Shark Tank

What’s it? 

Shark Tank is a popular business reality show where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and innovations to potential investors (the sharks). 

While being in front of Mark Cuban and the other sharks can be intimidating, presenting a product pitch to a mock Shark Tank setup will be fun.

The objective of the entire activity is to promote team bonding, healthy competition, and strategic thinking. 

Participant limit: For a large group of people, around 25–30 participants can join per round, with them being split into 5–6 teams. For a smaller team, choose a minimum of 4 participants/round. 

Activity duration: 90 minutes. 

Activity rules:

Each team should come up with an innovative product pitch covering details like:

A certain time limit will be provided to each team to present their ideas. 

Select a few employees to be the sharks (judges) and encourage them to ask questions to assess the product pitch of each team. 

They can invest with their mock money to the pitches they like the most. At the end of this team building game, the team with the biggest investment wins.

How does it help? 

It brings out the entrepreneurial spirit within every employee and helps team members boost their decision-making skill. It’s also a fun way to improve team bonding, which leads to a stronger team spirit.

2. Scavenger Hunt

What’s it? 

Suitable for any group size (small group or large group), Scavenger Hunt is an excellent team building activity that’s also super easy to conduct. In fact, it’s a go-to team building event to boost employee engagement and create a positive company culture.

In Scavenger Hunt, participants work together to achieve a common goal of finding a set of items. You give them the first clue, and once they’ve found the first item, they can locate the next one with the help of another clue. 

Team Building Game

Participant limit: 10–20 people.

Activity duration: Can be spread over an entire workday or 2–3hrs.

Activity rules:

  • Clearly define the purpose of the team-building exercise. 
  • Either conduct the hunt for the entire group in the office or just set it up for a specific team, like the sales team, to help them collaborate. 
  • Pair up new team members with experienced employees to help them open up to each other. 
  • Frame activities according to the hunt’s purpose. To have a fun and engaging session, pick less competitive activities. 
  • If a particular team or two different teams or departments need to work together, curate team-focused activities. 
  • Divide the participants into equal-sized teams.
  • At the end of the activity, the first team to find all items wins.

How does it help? 

Employees can learn the positive effects of teamwork, communication, leadership skills, and enhance their creative problem-solving skills — all while having fun. It’s one of the easiest ways to forge strong team building.  

Too busy to create your own scavenger hunt? Check out Outback Team Building & Training’s most popular team building activity: The Wild Goose Chase Scavenger Hunt!

They also offer 4 more highly engaging corporate scavenger hunt activities.

3. Office pictionary 

What’s it? 

Office Pictionary is a popular team activity where you draw an item on a whiteboard, and your team members guess what you’ve drawn.. 

It’s usually conducted as a fun activity in the conference room, between an intense training session or just at the start of a long event to make people feel more relaxed. 

Participant limit: 5–20 people

Activity duration: 1–2 hours.

Activity rules:

The rules of Pictionary are very simple:

  • Split the participants into teams of two or more.
  • Jot down names of random objects, shapes, movies or anything else on post its or sheets of paper.
  • A participant from each team will choose a card and, without revealing it to their team members, draw it on a whiteboard.
  • The group members will have to guess the drawing within a time limit of 2 minutes.
  • The next person from the other team will continue the game in the same manner.
  • The team with the most number of guesses wins.

How does it help? 

This quick team building activity is a fun way to improve communication skills, creative thinking, and collaboration skills within the team. However, ensure that everyone knows that this isn’t a drawing contest. Nobody’s going to be judging you for not drawing a perfect square or diagram!

4 virtual team building activities you should conduct

Here are four virtual team building activities that’ll bring remote workers closer:

1. Remote true lies

What’s it? 

Remote True Lies (also known as two truths and one lie) is a simple game where a participant makes three statements — of which one is a false statement. Other team members should guess which one is the lie. 

Participant limit: 4–25 people.

Activity duration: 1 hour.  

Activity rules:

Host a team video call where each member takes a turn to make three statements.

Out of these three statements, two will be true, and one will be something made up. The rest of the group must guess which one is the lie. The person with the most correct guesses wins.  

How does it help?

Remote True Lies can be an ice breaker that helps build relationships within a team. Members of a remote team get to know each other, and they’ll also be able to let go of their inhibitions. 

2. Share your bucket list

What’s it? 

Ideal for diverse remote teams, each participant shares their bucket list with the entire team, along with why they want to check each activity off the list. 

Participant limit: 4–25 people. 

Activity duration: 1 hour, but can vary depending on the number of participants. 

Activity rules:

  • Gather your team members over a Zoom or Skype call.
  • Ask each participant to share 5–10 goals they want to achieve in life — like places to visit, things to experience, or activities they want to do.
  • After sharing the list, team members may find similar activities on their lists.
  • Everyone can then discuss their ideas to achieve these goals.

How does it help?

This team-building activity is a great ice breaker, helping members get to know each other. The main objective of the activity is to enhance team bonding.

3. Virtual Bingo

What’s it? 

Bingo is a game of luck and numbers. Participants are given a chart (or a piece of paper) with numbers, and as the host calls out a number, they need to cross it off their charts. 

Virtual Bingo

Participant limit: less than 10.

Activity duration: each round should take about 10–15 minutes, and the entire activity can take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Activity rules:

The rules of Virtual Bingo are a little different from the normal version.  

Before starting the activity, send the bingo cards over email. 

Then, during the video call, call out the numbers, and the players will cross them off of their cards. The player who gets three in a row first and then the full house wins that round.  

How does it help?

Virtual Bingo will break the monotony and give everyone a break from their daily work activities keyboard. The objective of the activity is to promote team bonding in a fun environment. 

4. Remote Office Trivia

What’s it?

For Remote Office Trivia, all you need is a quirky set of questions related to the workplace or general knowledge. Then, the team leader asks the team questions, and the person with the most correct answers wins.

Participant limit: This fun team building activity can be played in small teams or large teams (around 4–20 participants).

Activity duration: 1.5 hours. 

Activity rules:

  • Get everyone on a video call.
  • Team members will have to guess the answer to the question.
  • The person with the maximum number of correct guesses wins.

How does it help?

This team activity will help as an icebreaker and can create cohesiveness between team members. Participants also develop a competitive spirit in order to score more points.

Want your team to experience a truly engaging and visually immersive trivia experience from their home offices? Check out these popular options:

  • Virtual Jeoparty Social – A Jeopardy-style activity with 3-4 rounds of Jeopardy trivia and social activities between each round
  • Virtual Trivia Time Machine – Take a trip through time as teams compete to solve pop-culture trivia over the last 5 decades
  • Virtual Happy Hour Trivia – Step into Hamish McDuff’s virtual pub and compete in his legendary happy hour trivia competition.

If you want more options, check out our article here: Virtual Team Building Activities Your Remote Team Will Love

Some tips to help you conduct effective team building activities

When planning team building activities, there are tons of things you need to pay attention to.

For example, most managers or HR teams fail to take their team’s feedback into account when devising these games. This often results in activities that nobody enjoys! 

To avoid that, here are some tips to help you plan effective team building activities to enhance teamwork skills:

  • Team building activities should be centered around the interests of the employee.
  • To get the most out of your team building activity, split up employee groups, and encourage people to interact with coworkers they wouldn’t usually interact with.
  • Use an ice breaker, like Remote True Lies, to introduce newbies to the rest of the team during their first days.  
  • For any team building exercise, consider the skills and abilities of the team members before you conduct it. This also ensures that no one is left out. 
  • Team building activities should be evenly spread multiple times across the year to boost employee morale and have engaged employees.

Once all of these are taken care of, you’ll be able to hold an effective team building activity — whether it’s an in-person or virtual team building activity!

Wrapping up

Great team building activities are one of the best ways to build camaraderie between team members. However, it’s important to note that as every team member has unique ideas and thought processes, not every team building activity will be useful. 

An ideal team building activity needs to be curated carefully — with the objective, outcome, and interests of the team at the forefront. Once you’ve established these building blocks, you should have no trouble carrying off a successful team activity.

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