13 Team-Building Exercises Your Staff Will Actually Enjoy

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

Whether your team is in-person, remote, or some combination of the two, team-building exercises are a critical HR technique for creating and maintaining an effective team. 

However, team building sometimes can get a bad rep. The very mention of it may inspire eye-rolling and groans.

So, make sure your team-building efforts are effective and enjoyable for everyone with these tips and activities.


Why Are Team-Building Exercises Important?

According to Gallup, engagement at work is at an all-time low — only 32% of employees are engaged, and 17% are actively disengaged.


One way to help close the engagement gap is with team building. Team-building exercises can help employees get to know each other on a personal level, boosting morale and building camaraderie and trust. Improved communication skills, productivity, and creativity can also come from team building because employees collaborate in more out-of-the-box ways.


13 Enjoyable and Effective Team-Building Exercises

Not all team-building exercises are created equal, and not all will make sense given your team structure, environment, and goals.

Before you choose any of the team-building exercises below, consider your end objective. Are you looking to help team members get to know each other better? Or do you want to encourage creative thinking and cross-departmental communication?


Each of the following team-building exercises is fun, engaging, and serves a purpose.


13. Two Truths and a Lie

In this classic icebreaker, participants share two honest events or facts about themselves and one lie. The other listeners must decide which one is the lie. Employees will learn more about each other and become more comfortable communicating.


In general, icebreakers can help welcome new hires and introduce new team members because they are great for building familiarity and relationships between colleagues.


12. Compliment Circle

There are many ways to execute this morale-boosting exercise. You can spend five minutes having team members compliment each other with whatever comes to mind. For example, “Big shoutout to Sarah for leading that training last week.” Or, you can have each person address the coworker to their right, giving everyone get a chance to be highlighted. This activity is a great way to boost morale and employee recognition.


11. The Marshmallow Challenge

In this activity, small groups are given 20 spaghetti sticks, one marshmallow, and one yard of string and tape with the goal of creating the tallest freestanding structure possible. Colleagues must work together and be inventive to win, so this activity is ideal if you want to foster collaboration and creativity.


10. Show and Tell

Remember when you’d bring something exciting to share with the class in elementary school? Show and Tell is also relevant the workplace. Instead of bragging about your pet rock, you can encourage employees to share what they are working on or if they have learned anything new. Consider having a Friday afternoon Show and Tell where employees can share team updates, industry news or even personal achievements. Allow time for people to ask questions and give feedback so you can maximize the benefits of this morale-boosting activity.

9. Hack Day

Want to foster creative problem-solving and open communication? Consider hosting a Hack Day, or a day where everyone drops their normal workload and spends their time completing a special project that benefits the team or company. You can also create small teams from people across departments to work on different cross-functional projects and think outside the box.


8. Human Knot

This might sound familiar if you attended summer camp as a kid. In this activity, which is ideal for large teams, members join right and left hands with the person opposite them — not the person next to them. When all members have their hands in a knot, the group has to work together and follow the rules to untangle themselves. The results are, once again, communication, trust, following instructions, and some fun!


7. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are great for new hires or helping people get to know each other better. You can create a list of different facts or artifacts and divide employees into groups to see who can find everything the fastest. This can help employees learn more about the company and each other.


Co-workers having fun during a team-building exercise

6. Murder Mystery Game or Escape Room

A murder mystery game or escape room can be a great way to have employees practice clear communication, problem-solving, and collaboration. Employees will have to work together to solve clues in either of these scenarios to determine the murderer or escape. Many companies now offer murder mystery and escape room games online, so virtual teams can get in on the fun.


5. Slideshow

If you’re looking to hone your employees’ presentation and oral communication skills, a slideshow or Lunch and Learn can be a great way of doing so. Splitting employees into groups to present on whatever topic they all decide they are interested in can help them delegate tasks, analyze an issue, improve public speaking skills, and sharpen their ability to work together in new ways.


4. Common Factor

Finding commonalities can help build connections and solidify existing employee relationships. Common Factor helps colleagues find these connections quickly. For this game, employees are asked to move to a designated area of the room if certain statements apply to them. Some questions to ask include:

  • Do you own a pet?
  • Are you a parent?
  • Are you a grandparent?
  • Are you a musician?
  • Do you like country music?
  • Do you like horror movies?
  • Have you visited more than ten countries?
  • Are you a twin or triplet?
  • Have you ever met a celebrity?
  • Are you left-handed?


In a virtual environment, it could be as simple as raising your hand if the question applies to you. As more employees discover what they have in common, they’ll build trust and relationships.


3. Shark Tank

Have you ever watched Shark Tank? In this game, based on the TV show, teams pitch mock products in front of a group of “Sharks” (senior team members) to secure investments. This exercise promotes collaboration, entrepreneurship, teamwork, presentation skills, and unconventional thinking. Participants must develop an imaginary product and create a professional pitch, including the brand name and slogan, business and marketing plan, and financial data.


2. Egg Drop

You may have done this activity in school. Each team has limited time and supplies to construct a carrier to keep an egg safe from a two-story drop. Teams must collaborate and think creatively to win.


1. Memory Wall

Having team members share memories creates team bonding opportunities and fosters morale. In this exercise, write a few work-related topics on a whiteboard or sticky board, such as “work travel” and “my first day.” Gather your team together and have everyone choose one of the topics to share a story about from their time with the company. As people are telling their stories, ask other team members to write down words to add to the wall. As more people share their stories and add words to the wall, the result is a positive memory cloud that everyone will be a part of.


Co-workers participating in a team building exercise.

Tips for Effective Team Building

To ensure your team-building exercises accomplish their intended purpose, follow these tips from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):

  • Remember that team building is a process. It’s not just a singular event — team building takes time and regular implementation. With new employees joining and some employees leaving the team, as well as company updates, team building should be a consistent component of your HR efforts.
  • Be specific about the goal. Team-building exercises should have specific objectives, such as introducing new team members or inspiring creative thinking. Instead of “building a stronger team,” consider a goal like “apply creative problem solving to create a better onboarding process.”
  • Share the desired outcomes with the team. That way, they know the goal of the exercise, and they’ll be more engaged. This can also help fight off the skepticism that sometimes accompanies team building from cynical employees.
  • Incorporate participant preferences and comfort zones. In a post-pandemic era, the Human Knot may not be a feasible or desirable game for all teams. Also, some exercises are more effective in person, while others may be suitable for remote teams.
  • Be realistic about expectations. Not every team-building exercise will appeal to all your employees, and you can’t please everyone.


Team-Building Exercises: Part of Your HR Toolkit

HR plays a key role in fostering employee engagement and growing retention, and team building is an important part of that. Whether you want to enter the HR field or grow in your existing career, USF offers the tools and knowledge busy professionals need to succeed in this demanding profession.


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