Employee Engagement

15 team building activities for work to boost morale

Employee engagement rates in the U.S. have dropped for the first time in a decade—which isn’t all that surprising when you think about all the challenges people are navigating right now. 

Employees are emotionally exhausted, mentally drained, and edging closer and closer to burnout (if they’re not there already). Their cups are nearing empty.

A natural consequence of this is that people have lost their sense of connection to the work they do and the people they do it with. We found this to be true in our own research, with 38% of employees saying they’re struggling to build authentic relationships with coworkers and managers.

So how can we help our people feel “normal” again? And rediscover the joy of connecting with other human beings?

That’s where experiences come in. At Blueboard, we’ve seen the impact of employees sharing experiences—whether that’s in the form of team-building activities, gatherings, or common interests. And we believe shared experiences are what will help people rebuild engagement and connection in the workplace.

In this article, we’ll  share what we’ve learned as an experiences-focused company—from best practices to ideas for your next team event. 

Best practices to keep in mind for your team-building activities.

1. Clarify the purpose behind the activity.

Team-building exercises aren’t just about getting people in the same “room”—whether that’s in-person or virtual.

Having experiences as a group also has the power to break down walls between individuals, teams, and departments. To give every employee a chance to be seen, and to feel like they truly belong.

But to achieve these benefits, team-building experiences need to be approached with intention

Too many companies forget that these activities serve a purpose and, instead, turn to tired tactics like Zoom happy hours (a COVID phrase your employees never want to hear again) because that’s the easiest thing within reach.

Every time you gather your employees, there should be a clear purpose, whether that’s to: 

  • Drive connection between coworkers
  • Learn something new and grow as a team 
  • Improve collaboration
  • Help employees relax and unwind 

In the next section, we’ll share ideas for remote and in-person team-building activities that align with these various goals.

2. Make inclusivity a priority.

Not every team-building activity will work for every individual, and that’s to be expected. But it’s important that you make inclusion a top priority when planning these types of activities; it’s not team-building if it only appeals to some folks on your team. Here are a few tips:. 

  • Survey your employees. This will help you understand which types of activities your employees enjoy, what their comfort levels are, and more. While you won’t be able to accommodate everyone’s preferences with every activity, you can at least make more objective decisions—rather than letting your own biases dictate the team-building activities.
  • Offer a variety of team-building activities throughout the year. And make sure they’re varied in theme, type, remote and in-person, effort level, etc. to allow any employee,  regardless of their circumstances and preferences, to find at least one activity that they want to participate in. And do your best to remove cost as a barrier (opt for affordable or free activities or sponsor the activities so there’s no financial burden on employees).
  • Make team-building events optional. It’s great to occasionally stretch comfort zones. But it’s also important to acknowledge that some employees may feel anxious in certain environments, and you don’t want them to feel pressured to participate in activities they won’t enjoy. When folks do opt out of an activity, make sure to support them, rather than shaming or dismissing them.

3. Share ownership of team building activities.

The responsibility of team-building activities tends to fall on HR teams and managers. But you should consider ways to empower individual employees and employee-led groups to own team-building. For one, this takes the burden off of your already overloaded managers and HR folks. Plus, it usually results in way more varied and diverse types of activities.

At Blueboard, we rotate ownership of team events. Employees or groups take turns volunteering to host a team-building activity, and they’re encouraged to choose something that aligns to our mission: To help people challenge their comfort zones, indulge in their passions, or try something new. 

For example, our ACES (Asian-American Community, Empowerment, and Support) employee resource group recently hosted a virtual dumpling making session that was all about teaching, sharing cultural knowledge, and enjoying a delicious meal together. Our ERGs, along with our central JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) council, own a central events calendar geared toward different types of gatherings throughout the year that promote justice, education, community, and more.

4. Choose activities that align with your company values.  

Team-building activities present an opportunity to remind employees of your company values

At Blueboard, one of our core values is dance a little different. We encourage people to be unequivocally themselves. But these aren’t just words on the wall. Team events give our employees the opportunity to bring that value to life.

Through shared ownership, and setting the tone that “different is better,”  our team-building experiences are wonderfully varied. Activities range from drag queen bingo to jet skiing to going to concerts, to arts and crafts. All of these activities are a reflection of the individuals who make up our team and, therefore, who we are as a company.

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15 remote and in-person team-building activities for work.

Remote team building activities.

You likely relied on virtual experiences during the pandemic. As employees return to the office, you may be tempted to leave them behind.

But we’d argue that remote team-building activities have a time and a place. They’re great if you want more flexibility, have a distributed workforce, or have to accommodate a larger group—plus, they give you access to experiences that might be challenging to have in person.

The challenge is breaking out of the same old events you’ve been using for these past two years. Here are some new ideas to try out instead:

1. Eat around the world.

Intent: Learn something new
Ideal group size:
Up to 10 people

Get your team together and explore different cuisines. Learn how to put together the perfect bowl of bibimbap. Whip up a savory batch of jollof. Bake the perfect kouign amann. Cooking is a fantastic way to share a part of one’s culture, stretch your team’s taste buds, and pick up new skills in the kitchen. Plus, learning something new benefits the brain.

2. Tackle themed team trivia.

Intent: Improve team collaboration
Ideal group size:
Up to 40 people

Instead of generic trivia, liven up the game with fun themes. Have a round that’s dedicated solely to‘90s music or classic movies. Or use this as an opportunity to educate your employees and choose themes like Black history or financial wellness. Split everyone up into teams (preferably with people they don’t usually get to work with) and have them put their heads together for a fun game night.

3. Relax with a guided mindfulness session.

Intent: Relax and unwind
Ideal group size:

There’s a reason why meditation has been skyrocketing in popularity these days. Your employees are stressed, and they’re desperate to find ways to unwind. A guided group session is a great way to introduce people to this relevant practice.

4. Play a round of drag queen bingo.

Intent: Drive connection 
Ideal group size:
Up to 30 people

This is one of the most popular events we’ve had at Blueboard! It’s a fun twist on your standard bingo game that’s guaranteed to lead to laughs, bonding, and a generally good time. Pro tip: arrange prizes for the winners to make it a friendly competition. 

5. Revisit childhood with a magic show.

Intent: Relax and unwind
Ideal group size:
Up to 500 people

Remember those magic-themed birthday parties we went to as kids? As it turns out, magic has no age limits. Help your employees revisit childhood by hosting a virtual show. You can even give them a small budget so they can enjoy the experience with their favorite snacks and drinks.

6. Go on a cultural tour.

Intent: Learn something new
Ideal group size: Up to 30 people

Many of your employees are missing travel, but they may not feel quite ready to get on a plane yet. To scratch that itch, consider online experiences that let you (virtually) explore other parts of the world, whether that’s going on a tour of the Taj Mahal or learning about the history of Cuban music. 

7. Discover your artistic side. 

Intent: Learn something new
Ideal group size:
Up to 30 people

Arts and crafts—such as origami, watercolor painting, and block printing—are fantastic team-building experiences that can accommodate a wide range of interests and personality types. Plus, it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill that has the potential to turn into a full-blown hobby or side hustle.

In-person team-building activities. 

While virtual team-building experiences are a great option, it’s important to occasionally give employees the opportunity to connect in-person as well.  

Research shows that having experiences with other people is a fantastic way to enhance our social relations, create lasting memories, and even shape our identities in a positive way. Here are eight in-person team-building activities to consider:

8. Learn new skills at an improv workshop.

Intent: Improve team collaboration 
Ideal group size:
Up to 25 people

Improv is about more than creating comedy. It’s a team-building exercise that teaches valuable skills—such as communicating more effectively and reading social cues—that can help teams improve the way they work together.

9. Explore your local area with a guided hike.

Intent: Learn something new
Ideal group size:
Up to 15 people

Being out in nature is good for the soul. Gather local employees and arrange a guided hike at a state park. They’ll probably learn something new about the area they live in, and they get to spend time outside with their colleagues—it’s a win-win.

10. Volunteer at a local non-profit.

Intent: Drive connection
Ideal group size:

Volunteering has been shown to improve social wellbeing, mental and physical health, and life satisfaction. Beyond that, doing good with your colleagues strengthens your sense of camaraderie and will (hopefully) carry over into the work you do as a team.

11. Collectively unwind with a wellness day.

Intent: Relax and unwind
Ideal group size:
Up to 40 people

Give your employees the time and space to fully unplug from work. Start with a group yoga session and end with a healing sound bath. These relaxing activities will likely lead to meaningful conversations and organic moments of connection with others. 

12. Test your team in an escape room.

Intent: Improve team collaboration 
Ideal group size:
Up to 10 people

Escape rooms are a great way to see how teams work together under pressure—but in a totally unique (and super fun) setting. Regardless of whether you do or don’t successfully escape, there are a lot of learning moments to take advantage of. 

13. Attend a concert.

Intent: Drive connection
Ideal group size:

This activity presents an opportunity for employees to step out of their comfort zones and explore new types of music. Whether it’s seeing a string quartet at Carnegie Hall or enjoying a show at the local jazz club, there are an endless number of ways to enjoy music as a group. 

14. Cuddle with farm animals. 

Intent: Relax and unwind
Ideal group size:
Up to 10 people 

Is there anything more endorphin-releasing than petting a goat? Animal interactions make for fantastic team-building activities—just make sure the site you visit follows animal welfare guidelines and takes a humane, ethical approach to these experiences. 

15. Get out on the water.

Intent: Learn something new
Ideal group size:
Up to 30 people 

If your office is close to an ocean or a lake, there’s an opportunity for an awesome team event. Get everyone outside and have them learn how to jetski, kayak, or sail. Not only does this activity get people outside and in the sun, but it also teaches them a brag-worthy new skill.

Use team-building activities to foster meaningful connections in the workplace.

It’s never been tougher to be an HR leader, and we know how overwhelming it can feel to juggle all these workplace challenges at the same time. 

Begin here, with a culture of team-building, as your launchpad to rebuilding engagement, connection, and relationships at your organization. It won’t happen overnight, but slowly, surely, you’ll start to see things shift. 

If you’re looking for more data and strategies on workplace connection, check out our new report, The State of Workplace Connection 2022.

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