When you think of team building, it probably summons up one of two images:
- Awkwardly passing balloons between your legs at school
- Awkwardly falling backwards into to the arms of an awkward colleague
Good news: it doesn’t have to be that way.
At Process Street, we are all about team-building – but definitely not in that cringey, uncomfortable way corporate people do it. Team-building should be fun and believe me – we know how to have fun. So check out some of the cool things we do around the Zoom window:
Remote-friendly team-building ideas
Getting your team on the same page when you aren’t all in the same place can be a challenge. Being fully remote ourselves, we know the struggle.
Fortunately, there are a ton of simple activities you can do via an app, on a video call, or even asynchronously.
Have a look at how we stay connected:
Two Truths and a Lie
Every new hire has to do this during their first team meeting. It’s a great icebreaker, and facilitates asking each other questions that are a little more personalized than “Where are you from?” or “How’s onboarding?” You might even discover someone on your team has eaten a scorpion.
What you do:
- Each person comes up with 3 statements about themselves – 2 that are true and 1 that’s a lie (hence the name).
- Each person shares their 3 statements without giving any hint about which is which.
- The group votes on which statement they think is the lie.
The great thing about this as an icebreaker is that it usually prompts follow-up questions (like, “Why would you ever eat a scorpion?”) and works whether your team is remote or in-person.
Slack bots & #channels
It’s pretty likely that you rely on Slack for most – if not all – of your daily communication. If you’re remote, I’m willing to double down on that bet.
Slack is full of cool features to help teams collaborate but I’m not here to list their features.
At Process Street, we have the usual work-related channels, but we also have a number of social channels for all those non-work conversations.
Some notable ones:
- #announcements: All company birthdays, new hires, anniversaries, and other cool milestones get posted here so everyone can get in on the congratulating activity. It seems like a little thing, but when you can’t have cake in the break room, a slow clap from Jean-Luc Picard is a close second.
- #watercooler-chat: Twice a week, conversation starters get posted here using the donut app from the goofy to the insightful to the awwww. We’ve shared pics of pets, kids, WFH setups, and refrigerators.
- #what-im-reading: Being nerds, there are a lot of books and articles about tech, productivity, and processes, but who doesn’t like having a chat about something cool you just read?
We also use donut for virtual coffee dates, which connects us with other people in the company beyond our immediate teams. It’s not always easy coordinating schedules across time zones, but even if the conversation ends up being just an asynchronous chat, it’s a great way for team members to get a different perspective on their colleagues.
Dive into some games!
Whether your thing is tabletop, board, video, or other playing games together is a great bonding experience*.
If you’re all in the same area, find your local game cafe and drop in for a game or two. If you’re remote, set up your party (Harriet in HR is definitely a mage), host a LAN event, or use a digital version of a classic board game like Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, or Clue.
The content creation team has a weekly game session using Dive (which conveniently integrates with Zoom). We love Draw Party (basically Pictionary), there are loads of different games to play (there’s even Two Truths & 1 Lie) as well as the ability to set up different “rituals” for birthdays, regular meetings, or whatever occasion you want to celebrate.
*Unless someone is crazy competitive and acts like a jerk when they win or lose. That’s no fun. Don’t be a jerk.
Movie night! (Or day or afternoon or…)
You can approach this a few ways – watching a film together or separately – but undeniably watching together is more fun.
In-person teams can set up a screening in the office, at someone’s house, or head down to the local movie theater for the latest release (though watching 1980s B horror is so much better 🧛).
Best part? You don’t have to worry about anyone stealing your popcorn. 🍿
Guilty pleasure song recommendation
There’s nothing like sharing embarrassing information to bring people closer together. Maybe your chill-out playlist is the best of Hootie & the Blowfish. You might know the lyrics to the entirety of NSYNC’s discography. (No judgment.) Any Dave Matthews fans out there?
At Process Street, we’ve taken it one step further and actually made a company playlist. Granted, this isn’t explicitly for our guilty pleasures, but music reveals more about us than we realize. And you never know – maybe it turns out both you and the VP of Sales were both super emo goth kids who share a deep abiding passion for The Cure and Lacuna Coil.
Build your own economy
Imagine you’re starting a new civilization on a distant island (or planet!) away from the influence of any government. The setting has everything you’ll need — food, water, raw materials, and everything to support life.
All that’s left is an economy. In groups, each group must come up with a set of economical principles the new society will follow. A chance for all the Marxists to come out of the woodwork and create a utopian society?
Company book club
If you’re a team of bookworms, why not get together and hold a weekly or monthly book club? It gives everyone the chance to participate in a regularly held event to chat about books and recommend reads for the group. Unlike the two activities above, the books should probably not be terrible.
Everyone loves some friendly competition. Here on the content team, we held tournaments to see who could write the most clickable newsletter headline. Whatever department you’re in, though, it’s so easy to turn it into a contest. Who can close the most deals? Who can complete the most help tickets? Who can say “modern business process management platform” the most times without messing up?
Activities for face-to-face teams
A few of these activities could potentially be adapted for remote work by a creative team leader, but for the most part, they work best in-person and face-to-face.
All of these activities can take place in the office so you don’t have to worry about coordinating transport or renting venues.
Activities should ideally be scheduled during work hours. If an out-of-hours event is unavoidable, make sure your team is compensated for their time. Sure, the idea is to have fun, but they’d probably rather be having fun with friends or family than coworkers.
Even fun work is work so don’t expect your team to do it for free.
Quick! You’re about to be stranded on a desert island forever and you can only take 10 items with you. Grab 10 items from the office and justify, in groups, why you chose what you did. Argue why on Earth a desk chair would be any use to you on an island and challenge the choices of other groups!
Fundraising & volunteering
A whole team coming together in favor of a worthy cause is a powerful thing. It strengthens team ties because the group feels as if they’re working for something that matters.
Whether you’re hosting your own fun run or running a charity BBQ, this is a great excuse to run a company event where the proceeds go to a good cause.
A few ideas:
- 5K run
- Talent show
- Spend the night in a haunted house
- Fashion show
- Viral video challenge
Take part in the great English tradition and have a pub quiz! Whether this means getting the pints in at the office or actually renting out a pub for the job, it doesn’t matter — this is a fantastic way to foster teamwork in an easy-going environment.
For a huge list of pub quiz questions, see here.
Who am I?
You might remember Who am I? from school or maybe a family event. You’ll need a pack of sticky notes and a pen for this low-cost classic.
Write one famous person’s name (dead or living) on a sticky note for every member of the team. Stick the notes to team members’ foreheads and have everyone mingle.
Each person asks questions to try to figure out who they are. Remember: All questions should be answered with only yes or no. The idea is to pick celebrities that aren’t obscure but also aren’t easy to guess.
Ideas on who the team members can be:
Common area book
A common book is a blank notebook left in a common area for team members to write whatever they want in. It can be silly drawings, lyrics, general thoughts — basically anything that can be committed to paper. It will be fun to see how the book evolves over time and gives anyone an open forum to express themselves.
Build the tallest tower
Using whatever’s provided (spaghetti, tape and marshmallows are a classic), teams must build the tallest free-standing structure that survives without support for 6 seconds or longer. Find the hidden architect in your company and those who would be better off suited working as demolitionists. Allow a time of 30 minutes per group. To make this more of a challenge, see which can withstand an ‘earthquake’.
Casual Friday is a cliche for a reason. If you don’t already wear what you want to work, it’s an opportunity for the team to express their individuality. No one likes feeling like they’re defined by the shirt and tie. And Fridays are often a lost cause anyway, so why not make it fun?
Buy one 150-piece puzzle for each team, but mix all of the pieces together. Give each team 150 random pieces, and get them to trade and barter for the pieces amongst themselves in a race to be the first team to successfully complete their puzzles. The most complete puzzle after 30 minutes wins!
Unless you happen to work at a paintball venue or a bowling alley, the following activities will require a little more planning to pull off.
You may not want to go all-out on one of these on a regular basis, but they will give your company retreats more pizazz than trust circles and talking sticks. (They also keep you safely out of the area of cultural appropriation which is obviously a “do not do”.)
Holding a scavenger hunt can be a great way to introduce teams to a fun problem-solving situation. You can be as creative as you like, but the general premise is to hide objects (in and out of the office), and either present a set of clues or just let everyone go off and hunt for these objects. Provide a list of the items you’ve hidden, and a time limit. Split everyone into teams of 4 or 5, and get hunting.
A great twist – and one that could be adapted for a remote or hybrid team – is to hold a camera phone scavenger hunt.
It’s just like a normal scavenger hunt, but instead of items teams must get photographs of certain situations.
Before suggesting a physical activity like sports, it’s best to make sure your team is for it. Keep in mind that not everyone will be able (or want) to participate so if you’re going for a team sport, get the team’s input first.
That said, team sports can offer an opportunity for stress relief, interaction, collaboration, and just the pure joy of getting out of the office.
Some team sports to try:
- Red Rover
- Three-Legged Race
- Ultimate Frisbee
- Capture the Flag
Geocache Treasure Hunt
Using a Geocaching app to find a cache, now invent a series of riddles to lead teams there!
An example of a riddle you might use to hint that the first step is to find a tree, is:
With clothes of green,
And bark of a dog,
Search me for the goods,
Sleep like a log.
Use some suggested riddles or, better yet, make your own. You can even turn the tables and make this extra creative by having one team write the riddles and find the cache while the others hunt for it based on the clues.
Good old bowling. There’s most likely a bowling alley near every office on earth, so there’s no excuse to not make an afternoon of it sometime. It’s a great icebreaker, and, when not taken too seriously, is fun for everyone (not just pro bowlers).
For teams with no shame. It’s time to get up on the ‘stage’ (desk?) and put on a show. Grab your ‘guitar’ (mop) and ‘microphone’ (stapler), and perform the most convincing lip-sync you can, alone or with a band of your teammates.
When it’s over, the winning band will be decided with the cheer-o-meter.
You can make an escape room out of the conference room, or just buy time in one that already exists. The general idea, however, is the same. Teams are given a time limit to find the clues they need that lead to key to exit the room. The time limit is often the amount of time it takes a zombie to break free, so if you’re doing it in the office, you probably need to use someone as the zombie, or maybe that could be you!
Check out this guide on making your own escape room for more details.
There’s no better way to break the ice with your superiors than by shooting them where it hurts. It’s like being in the army and strategizing with your team, but no one actually ends up dead which is a bonus.
Check out Groupon’s offers on paintball near you.
When we do get together for meet-ups, we like to enjoy the great outdoors. Well, some more than others. A casual group hike overlooking some picturesque scenery is sometimes just the thing to unwind after a long day of seminars.
(Unless your team is entirely made up of expert hikers, you’ll want to pick a family-friendly trail so everyone can come along. Plus, if everyone’s focused on not dying, team-building isn’t going to be a huge priority.)
Camping in the woods
For those who don’t mind roughing it for the night, camping can be an extremely fun and enlightening experience and a chance to forge lasting relationships with your team in a non-office environment. Think marshmallows, campfire songs, and cooking up breakfast the next day.
Same warning goes here as the team sports: Make sure your team is cool with bungee jumping or white water rafting before you sign them up. Team-building activities only work if everyone is having a good time and wants to be there.
Some ideas for the super adventurous team:
- Bungee jumping
- Rock climbing
- Scuba diving
Don’t know which team-building activity to choose?
This is a lot to take in, I know. But if you don’t know which to choose, why not pick a few from the relevant category (icebreakers for new teams, of course) and let them decide?
It also depends on how much time you have. If you’re on your way to a retreat or have a few days to spare, then a road trip/pub quiz/bungee jump sounds awesome! If not, why not just share a few facts about yourselves?
Got any team-building activities you’ve tried that you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!