The Team-Building Mega-List: 40+ Team-Building Activities for Every Team Size & Budget
Depending on your personality, hearing the phrase “team-building activities” makes you either squeal with delight and anticipation…or squeal in anguish as you look around frantically for the nearest exit.
For those who love team-building activities, we’ll give you a bunch of ideas further down in the article. But for those who hate team-building activities, we’d invite you to drop the “team-building” moniker and think of these simply as activities. The outcome is the same no matter what you call them, and we’d wager there’s an activity you enjoy doing that could function as a team-building activity.
The real secret of team-building activities for work is that they don’t need the label. Any activity that involves multiple coworkers—from an afternoon snack run to actually working together on a project as a team—is a team-building activity. If you accept that the point of team-building activities is mainly to provide opportunities for interaction with others, the options for team building become endless.
Experts disagree on the effectiveness of team-building activities as a way to achieve outcomes like improved collaboration or better performance. But they don’t argue over the idea that having friends at work makes people happier, more productive, and more engaged—and fun team-building activities can foster those friendships. So whether or not you enjoy them and whatever you call them, these activities that encourage people to interact can be a positive influence in your life and your organization.
How to Decide on Corporate Team-Building Activities
It’s interesting to note that even proponents of team-building activities have a hard time coming up with ideas when asked to suggest one; that’s why idea lists like the one in this article can come in handy.
Here are a few tips to help your team overcome their team-building analysis paralysis:
Don’t be perfectionists.
Take the approach of those who don’t really like team-building activities: Instead of trying to find a purple-unicorn activity that everyone will enjoy, start by picking any activity. Choose something you know a few people like to do and open it up for anyone to participate. Then pick another, and another, and another—in the end, what matters is frequency and variety, not universal participation.
You don’t need to have a full intramural league before you can start team-building activities. Not only are larger groups harder to organize, but it’s also unlikely that every person in a large group will interact with everyone else. A smaller group activity can be more effective in fostering interaction.
Meet your budget, or lack thereof.
Budget is another concern for many organizations, but it shouldn’t be. As we mentioned, any activity that involves team participation qualifies as a team-building activity, so dropping thousands of dollars on a fancy weekend retreat isn’t required for team-building efforts to be successful. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t drop thousands of dollars if you have it—feel free to invite us—but you don’t have to spend anything at all to reap the benefits of team-building activities.
Focus on interaction.
All you really need to do is create the opportunity for interaction. Interaction creates social bonds, helps people understand what motivates their colleagues, and encourages perception of the workplace as a worthwhile place to be.
The List of Team-Building Activities for Every Size and Budget
Without further ado, here’s the list of activities we collected from various companies, professional team-building organizations, and our own BambooHR employees.
Food-Related Team-Building Activities
This is a favorite for more than one company we surveyed, and the reasons we saw mentioned often were the level of participation by both men and women as well as the variety of the entries. For whatever reason, chili is one of those dishes that everyone seems to enjoy making and eating.
“We help organizations…by providing a fun standalone event, or an activity that meeting planners can use to break up or [conclude] meetings and training — it’s a great way to relax, have fun, and build relationships between coworkers.”
-Michael, The Great Guac-Off
“When employees are friendly with each other, they seem to be happier and more excited to work. [For the rib cook-off,] you didn’t need to be good at sports or have a specialized skill or anything. All the employees needed was a good attitude and a sense of what kind of BBQ sauce tastes good.”
– Matthew Ross, The Slumber Yard
“One of our best team-building activities [is] ‘Summer Snack Fridays’. Three (or more) people in the office group up and bring in a different snack every Friday during the summer months. This is a wonderful team building activity because you never know what the snack will be, which creates a lot of curiosity and excitement in our office.”
– Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com
“At two different companies now, I have taken my Customer Experience teams to cooking schools as a team-building activity. What made the experiences particularly effective was the small group collaboration and learning a new skill (e.g., how to properly cut vegetables or make sauces) that everyone could leverage in their personal lives.”
– David Verhaag, Olifano
Lunch and Learn
“I think the biggest mistake you see people working in talent make [is thinking] a single activity is going to bring their team closer together. The smaller things—like eating meals together twice a week [or] giving team members the opportunity to host lunch and learns—are so much more effective at actually building teams because they’re ingrained into everyday life for employees.”
– Emma Hunt, Looka.com
Outdoor and Sports-Related Team-Building Activities
“Some of our favorite [team-building activities for work] have been kickball in the park behind the office, as well as a cornhole tournament and Kan Jam. These games gave us a chance to grab some fresh air and [give] employees the opportunity to get to know and rely on one another.”
– Eric Dieterle, JAM Paper & Envelope
Here’s one from BambooHR itself. “We have this perfect grassy area next to the office for outdoor games, and every sunny day you’re guaranteed to find a whole bunch of Bambooligans playing volleyball during lunch. It’s team-building disguised as having fun in the sun.”
– Michael Sanders, BambooHR
We received tons of excellent suggestions for sports-related team-building activities. Some other ideas included:
- Running clubs
- Curling lessons (You could be the next winter Olympian)
- River rafting
- Tough Mudders/Spartan races
- Axe throwing (This one is catching on like wildfire)
- Fishing trips
- Ropes courses
- Company swimming pool (An awesome big-budget idea from Dan Bailey of MyRoofingPal)
- Rec-league teams (Too popular to count)
- Walk and talk (Low-impact, but a favorite of the BambooHR Creative Team)
- Health and wellness challenge
Indoor Gaming and Strategy Team-Building Activities
Another one with too many suggestions to count, escape rooms are great for group problem-solving. At BambooHR, we recently had a company provide an escape-room-type murder mystery experience in our own office. Even Lars liked it.
“As an eCommerce business owner, I manage several employees that work remotely. A way I do team building with them is by playing online video games together. A big group of us will play DOTA 2 and other MMOs on Steam. I think by playing the games together, my team is more unified and works better together.”
– Becky Beach, MomBeach.com
This was another repeat suggestion, and we thought it was interesting how some people think of a scavenger hunt as an activity best suited to a state-sized area, while others think of it in much smaller terms. We like the idea that a scavenger hunt can be any size, whether indoors, outdoors, virtual, local, or global.
Dungeons & Dragons / Board Games
“Board games have been a staple lunchtime activity at BambooHR for as long as I’ve been here. Every department seems to have a favorite game, and they even suck in people who don’t think of themselves as ‘gamers,’ which is a great thing to see.”
– Michael Sanders, BambooHR
Low- and No-Budget Team-Building Activities
Some of these might not even strike you as activities, per se, but all of the ideas below encourage interaction, creative thinking, and connection with coworkers. And they cost nothing at all to initiate.
- Ice-breaker type games (this was suggested by four different companies as a great way to get to know new hires)
- Charity work/volunteering
- Book club
- Culture games (with games inspired by company values)
- Group questions
- Two truths and a lie
- Memory wall
“We simply provided staff with a sheet of paper and some Blu Tack, and then gave them all a good ten minutes to jot down their positive memories, to then stick up on our office wall. This is a great team-building exercise for all companies because it sparks conversation amongst all employees within the organization, and allows your team to understand one another better.”
– Matt Dunne, Africa Travel
Big-Budget Team-Building Activities
- Movie premiere night (a good one for families)
- Company retreat (this was suggested by many respondents)
- International Trip
“When our team hits certain goals we reward them with an international trip. Most recently we flew the entire company first-class to Paris, France for a week in December. Not only did it bring our team much closer together, but other companies don’t typically do drastic activities like that, so it helps us stand out from the crowd, but genuinely gives back to the team in a meaningful way. ” – Michael Tuso, Chili Piper
Fun and Unique Team-Building Activities
“We’ve started an “Energy Jar” at our office, which is a jar with all sorts of quick, fun activities written on small pieces of paper inside. In the afternoons, when everyone is losing a bit of momentum, we’ll pull from the energy jar and do whatever activity was randomly chosen. It could be a quick game of cards or a quick walk outside with the whole team. This allows our team to mentally reset and increases productivity, team closeness, and overall morale.”
– Jack Wright, Buyback Boss
“One person is selected to present a Powerpoint deck with slides they have never seen before, usually on a random, silly topic. It’s great for improvisation and it always makes the whole team laugh.” – Olga Mykhoparkina, Chanty
“Mr. Rogers” Calls
“Twice each month, software randomly matches two or three team members to schedule a 30-minute call. The only rule is that during the call you aren’t allowed to talk about work, and you are encouraged to explore other topics. Employees talk about their pets, travel, favorite books and similar topics. These conversations help employees get to know each other better and find common ground.”
– Michael, Museum Hack
Virtual Movie Night
Another great idea for remote employees, “We stream a movie through a video conference call. We keep the instant messaging chat box open so that team members can chat about the movie while it is playing.”
– Carlo, Time Doctor
Here are a few extra ideas:
- Whiteboard technique (Like the Energy Jar, this is an idea-gathering technique involving a blank whiteboard, placed in a central location, on which people can write ideas, comments, and inspiration)
- White Elephant exchanges
- Painting classes
One Last Thought
Team building at work is just like team building outside of work. Imagine a basketball team that only meets once a month, playing against a team that practices together seven days a week. The team that rarely gets together will probably have a harder time coordinating plays and completing passes—just like any working team that puts all their faith in big company-wide activities that happen once or twice a year. When it comes to team building, you don’t have to do the same thing twice. You just have to do something, often, to see results. And then, keep doing things together. Who knows; you might enjoy it!