Productive Team-Building Exercises at the Workplace

Team-building exercises aren't just fun and games; they're vital to a company's functioning and success.

What Is Team Building?

Team-building can serve as the foundation for a project or company’s success, but too often, employers implement ineffective strategies like trust falls or excessively long dinners. While face-to-face interaction and socialization might reinforce your team’s bond, an escape room or softball team alone won’t create a cohesive team. Effective team-building involves more than just social time outside the office and can cement a team’s mission, goals, and culture while fostering a healthier workplace.

Here are a few hallmarks of an effective team:

  • Sharing common goals
  • Populated with the right skills and competencies
  • Understanding and buying-in to a company’s mission
  • Open channels of communication
  • Employees who understand their company’s processes and their roles within the greater organization
  • Collaboration and respect for dissenting opinions
  • Encouraging creativity 

Team-building also helps foster workplace health. A well-functioning team can decrease stress and tension in the workplace. Job stress doesn’t just negatively impact your employees’ mental health; it also can lead to physical problems, such as elevated blood pressure and an increased risk for occupational injuries. Studies also show that decreasing stress in the workplace can improve productivity and decrease absenteeism.

How Do You Build a Strong Team?

Building a team is an ongoing process. As team members enter and leave the group, you must build new relationships, pass on values, and explain your systems. And as new goals and challenges arise, your team must decide how to address and overcome them. Since your tactics will vary depending on the size, goals, and nature of your team, you should tailor your team-building strategies to address your team’s unique characteristics. However, most effective teams have several common elements: leadership, ownership, and camaraderie.


Without a well-defined leader, teams can lose direction and become ineffective. When you build a team, you should empower leaders to:

  • Set ground rules and define goals
  • Delegate tasks
  • Solve problems and disputes
  • Identify and foster growth opportunities
  • Mentor and develop team members

Sometimes, team-building involves a constructive assessment of its leadership organization. This might include workshops, guided discussions, and other means of evaluating and improving the team’s systems.


Team engagement is a vital part of an organization’s success. Team members should clearly understand their company’s goals and their team’s purpose and mission. This requires team members (including leadership) to:

  • Share clearly articulated goals
  • Understand their team’s role and value 
  • Collaborate together
  • Listen to new and challenging ideas
  • Make improvements and meet goals

If team members don’t understand the team’s purpose and context, it’s easy for disputes and inefficiencies to appear. For example, a team member might go on a tangent, using valuable time and resources, because he or she doesn’t clearly understand his or her role or the team’s purpose. Ownership is about education and shared values. Team activities that encourage ownership typically involve transparency, empowerment, and collaboration.

Camaraderie and Recognition

People are more likely to work extra hours and help out when they like and respect their colleagues, and morale always improves when effort is recognized and appreciated. While employers should encourage workplace diversity (both cultural and thought diversity), it’s also beneficial to have common values or shared interests. Something as simple as a shared coffee hour, board games over lunch, or a monthly happy hour can build rapport and collegiality. 

Recognition is trickier. While many employers recognize and appreciate their employees’ grander gestures (like pulling late hours to deliver a project or help a team member), it’s easy to overlook their daily grind. Little acts of kindness as simple as an unexpected box of doughnuts or bagels can brighten a team’s sprits when paired with a heartfelt thank you. And while it’s important to recognize top contributors on your team, it’s also important to recognize the team as a whole. Celebrate your team-wide successes as much as those individual breakthroughs.

Planning Team Building Activities

Some people love team-building activities. Others dread them. Before you schedule a social activity for your team, ask yourself some critical questions to achieve maximum participation and the best possible outcomes:

  • What is the goal of the activity? Are you building camaraderie? Recognizing exceptional effort? Encouraging collaboration or communication?
  • Do any of the team members have physical limitations that would exclude certain activities?
  • Do your team members have cultural or religious mores that would impact their ability to participate in a social activity (such as drinking alcohol)?
  • What are some shared interests that could bring your team together?
  • Does your team prefer structured activities or something that’s more open and undefined?
  • How can you empower more reserved team members to demonstrate confidence and leadership?
  • Would a neutral location foster or inhibit conversation and engagement?