Using team building exercises for work is critical to getting your team bonding. By bringing them together and overcoming light hearted challenges, you can mix fun with socialising…all whilst at work.
The following 28 exercises are simple and effective and can be implemented at the start of each day, for no more than around 10-15 minutes of activity.
- The Blindfolded Compliment Carousel
- The Open Compliment Carousel
- Blind Drawing
- Standard Pig
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Game of Possibilities
- The Ball Game
- The Human Knot
- What’s My Name
- The Minefield
- The Barter Puzzle
- The Fox, The Chicken and the Grain
- This is Better Than That
- Sneak a Peek Game
- Dare Jenga
- Pair Matching
- The Marshmallow Challenge
- Workplace Trivia
- Picture Pieces
- Paper Plane Challenge
- The Paper Tower Game
- Sweet Frustration
- I Have Never
- Who is That?
- The Movie Ball
- Twenty Questions
- The Five Minute Jigsaw Puzzle
- Scramble Puzzle
- Team Building Exersises for Work – Conclusion
The Blindfolded Compliment Carousel
This exercise is great at giving and receiving positive feedback. It also helps break down social barriers, through a few good old fashion whispers…
Here’s how to do it:
- Put one or a small group in the middle of the room. Have them blindfolded, and get them to just listen;
- The other members of the group must randomly and quietly walk up to the blindfolded person(s) and gently whisper a compliment at them, as they pass by. Repeat this exercise as many times as you like, or until all group members have had their turn in the middle.
There is a magical response when someone whispers something positive in our ears – it creates a genuine feel good factor. Try it with your team.
The Open Compliment Carousel
This is similar to the above, but with a few nuances. In this version, have one person at a time sit in the middle, with the rest of the team surrounding them in a circle.
- Each team member standing in the circle, gives a genuine praise on one aspect about them. It could be anything from how they performed a job, their character, how the look – anything! As long as it is praise;
- The person in the middle has one thing to do – and that is just simply acknowledge the praise and say thankyou;
- After each thankyou, the next person in the circle gives one form of praise, until everyone has done this;
- Repeat for each team member, or indeed, split this activity over the course of a week or so, by having one person receive praise every day until you get around the whole team.
This may seem rather benign, but it’s actually hugely liberating – and it’s incredibly uncomfortable at first to accept so much positive feedback. It’s a great way of building confidence and team rapport. Try it and see for youreself!
- Split the team into pairs. Each pair sits back to back. For each pair, give one person a random picture of anything and the other person, the pen;
- Now set the timer for a few minutes, and get each person with the picture to shout instructions out to their partner on what they see and how to draw it. The other person frantically draws based on their instruction;
- After a few minutes, stop the session and let each pair show their result against their accompanying picture.
This exercise is a great way to break the ice. It’s also a good mini lesson in communication…
This exercise is similar to the blind drawing method. In this scenario though:
- Ttake the drawing of a pig and keep it close to hand, so the team can’t see it;
- Now give each team member a pen and paper, and proceed to describe how to draw the pig;
- Avoid teaching people and pointing things out as you go. Just explain the drawing and see what each team member comes up with;
- Jokingly compare the results at the end.
Perhaps the winner wins a sweet or two for their effort!
Two Truths and a Lie
- Get each team member writes down two truths that the team may not know about them, and also a lie;
- Take it in turns to go through the statements in any order with each person, and sit back and experience the laughter and open debate for each discussion.
This game helps teams open up to each other and build rapport through discovery. It’s also a great way of having fun at trying to find what the lies are.
Game of Possibilities
- In this team building exercise, give an object to one designated person in the group. This must be concealed from the rest of the group;
- The person that was given the object, then enacts using it without telling anyone what it is and what they are doing;
- Team members call out to see if they can get what object is being acted out.
The wackier the objects, the more interesting and fun the game is!
The Ball Game
This exercise teaches the idea of continuous improvement, and how challenging the norms can result in big gains. It’s one of the team building exercises i use the most. It’s also a great way to get the team up close and personal, working a challenge out.
- Take 4 tennis balls and have the team position themselves in a circle;
- Start by gently throwing one ball to a random person in the group. They are now the first person in the process;
- Ask this person to randomly throw the ball to the next person opposite who hasn’t received the ball yet;
- Repeat this exercise, until everyone has received the ball in a sequence. The team has now created a ‘process’;
- Now get the team to toss the ball in the sequence they have just defined and do it as quickly as possible. This time, introduce 3 more tennis balls in order, starting from operator 1. In effect, the team toss each ball in sequence, as a process, using one ball after the other;
- Whilst they do this, time how long it takes for all 4 balls to go through from operator 1, through to the end of the process, to the last operator;
- Record this time, and challenge the team to halve the time for round 2. Get them to think creatively to reduce the inefficiencies;
- Time the second round, and challenge them again. Introduce props, like sellotape and paper, to help them come up with innovative ways to drastically improve the time;
- In round 3, ask them to challenge their thinking further. Set them a target of 1 second. How will they do it? Allow them to work together to see if they can.
Remember, all 4 balls must go through the same sequence defined at the start and everyone must touch them in this sequence.
The answer (only if you want to share it with the team at the end…) to achieve this in less than a second, here’s how to do it:
Tape all 4 balls in a line. Now get each operator to stand closely in their sequence, with their fingers outstretched in front of the 4 taped balls.
Get operator 1 to hold the overlap of tape at the end of the balls, and when ready, the operator pulls the balls through the process, touching each finger in quick succession. The faster operator 1 pulls the balls through, the faster the total process time. You can get the time down to a split second – challenging their original thinking of “it couldn’t be done.”
The Human Knot
- Get everyone in a circle facing each other, shoulder to shoulder. Now ask one person to grab another person’s hand in front of them with their right hand, and grab a totally different hand from another person, with their leff;
- Repeat this for every person in the circle. Now they’re locked up, the challenge for the team is to un-knot themselves, without releasing their hands.
If you have a large group of over 8 people, then you can split it up into two groups – where the winning group untangles themselves first.
This is another great up close and personal, rapport building, problem solving game!
What’s My Name
This is a classic but great team building exercise for work.
- Write down the names of many famous celebrities on post it notes. Then stick these to the forehead of each team member;
- Break the team into pairs and get them to answer yes or no questions to try and guess whose name is on the post it.
The first pair to guess the right celebrity wins!
How good are your team’s verbal communication skills? In this 10 minute activity, put cones and objects around a small area. These will form the obstacles.
- In pairs, one will be the blindfolded minefield walker; the other, their guide. The objective is for each team to guide their blindfolded walker to the finish, around the minefield, without touching any objects;
- The blindfolded person mustn’t ask questions or speak – leaving it totally up to their guide(s) to get them through;
- If they hit an object, they have to pause for 10 seconds as a penalty.
The first team to get to the end, wins!
The Barter Puzzle
This exercise is a great way to encourage face to face communication with the simple act of bartering and negotiation, too. This only really works if you have a large group. Ideally, you’ll need three or more sub groups of teams.
- Give each group a set of similar difficulty puzzles to put together (one or two puzzles for each team). The caveat is that there will be some elements of the puzzles missing. You’ll mix them up across the teams without telling them;
- It’s each group’s task to first find those pieces of the puzzle by describing what they need to the other groups. They then must negotiate with that team to get the missing pieces back.
Naturally, other teams won’t want to give up these pieces of the puzzle, so each group will have to negotiate or barter to get their pieces.
Perhaps they could trade? Maybe exchange team members? Perhaps they could acquire more team members? Whatever they do, the team must agree.
The first team to complete their puzzle(s) is the winner.
The Fox, The Chicken and the Grain
In this exercise, split the team into pairs or smaller groups. Present the challenge to them, as follows:
- The farmer (played by each team), must get the fox, chicken and the grain over the other side of the river, all safe and sound;
- The problem is that the fox, if left with the chicken, will eat it. If the chicken is left with the grain, it will eat that;
- To compound things, you can only move one of the three over the river at any one time;
- Ask the teams to work out how to achieve this, so the fox, chicken and grain get to the other side, all in one piece.
The Answer (if they don’t figure it out):
- Take the chicken over first;
- Return to get the grain and take the grain over;
- Bring the chicken back with you and get the fox;
- Take the fox over, leaving the chicken there;
- Return for the chicken, bringing it back over to the other side.
It’s easy when you know how!
This is Better Than That
- Take 4 or more random objects and then split your team into smaller groups;
- Present each team with a wacky challenge like, you’re facing armageddon, and the world will be hit by a meteorite… or, there is a Zombie attack, or you’re stuck on a desert Island;
- Get the team to take these objects and identify how they would use them to help save the day, and in what priority order.
When the round is over, get each team to report back their findings and laughably discuss!
Sneak a Peek Game
Simple but fun… Get some lego or similar blocks, and build a structure out of them. Do not show these to your team.
- Split the team up into competing smaller teams;
- Agree one delegate from each team to come up and spend 10 seconds looking at your structure;
- They then must go back to the team, and without building it for them, tell them know how to build it;
- After one minute, they can get another team member to go back and observe the structure for 10 seconds, and report back, repeating the same verbal instructions;
- Continue this way, until the first team completes the structure, and wins.
You can play this in rounds, as well, improving the structure complexity with every passing round.
This is Jenga with a subtle twist.
Before you play, take each Jenga block and write a simple dare on it. You don’t need a new dare for everyone – they can repeat. Here are some example dares to get you started:
- Spin around 5 times before taking your next Jenga turn;
- Take the next turn blindfolded;
- Take the next block in the lower third of the tower;
- Sing the national anthem whilst removing your next block;
- Use your feet on the next turn.
Stack the jenga blocks as normal and play as you would, ensuring each team member completes their dare.
Play the rest of the Jenga rules as usual!
- Create pairs of products or items, and write each of them down on a separate piece of paper.
Here are some paired examples:
- Salt and pepper;
- Fish and chips;
- Peanut butter and Jelly;
- Cagney and Lacey (for those that remember the show..);
- War and Peace;
- The fox and the hound.
2. Tape a piece of paper to each team member’s back, so everyone has a label.
3. Now get the team to walk around the group, and have them answer yes or no questions when figuring out their item on their back.
4. Once they know, they have to find their pair and convince them that they belong, through the yes and no answering technique.
First pair wins!
The Marshmallow Challenge
1. Divide your team into equal groups and give them the following equipment:
- 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti;
- a role of masking tape;
- A marshmallow;
- 1 metre of string.
2. The objective is for each team to use as much of the above materials as possible to build the highest tower that supports the marshmallow.
The marshmallow must be secured and intact. The biggest supporting tower is the winner!
- Capture some useless facts around your workplace, and when ready, split your team into smaller competing groups;
- Now, read out the questions and get each group to answer amongst themselves;
- When you’ve finished, read out the answers. The team with the most correct answers, wins!
Typical questions to use, could be:
- How many windows does the top floor have?
- How many lights are in the boardroom?
- How many chairs are there in the training room?
- What colour is the carpet in the conference room?
- What brand is the coffee machine on the 1st floor?
- How many footsteps from the canteen to the 1st machine on the shopfloor?
- First, split your team into smaller groups;
- Then print out a picture on A4 or A3 size. The picture can be of anything;
- Cut it into equal portions, relating to the number of groups you have. So, if you have 4 groups, then cut the image into 4 pieces;
- Now issue each group with large flip chart paper and coloured pens and ask each one to replicate their part of the drawing on larger scale, by redrawing it on flipchart paper;
- Once drawn, allow the groups to collaborate to try to fit each part of the enlarged drawing together. When they think they have cracked it, stand back and admire the masterpiece!
Paper Plane Challenge
In this game, teams build paper airplanes with the aim of making theirs fly the furthest.
- Find a large space in order to test the planes, and then split the team into smaller groups;
- Encourage them to research the many types of planes online and pick their preferred version;
- Get them to test two or three versions, before settling for their preferred choice;
- Have the team get involved in a shootout. The furthest plane or the one with the highest hang time wins.
The Paper Tower Game
- Split your team into smaller groups of around 3-5 people and give them 20 sheets of paper each;
- Now, get them to build a paper tower, using nothing but standard paper. This means no glue or scissors, or anything else.
The teams will have to be creative in how they make their tower. The object being – the team that constructs the highest free standing tower wins!
- Split your team into smaller groups of say 2-3 people;
- Provide two bowls for each team, as well as chopsticks for each person;
- Now fill one of the bowls in each team with sweets, like Smarties or M&Ms – sweets that are preferably round and harder to pick up with chopsticks;
- When the round starts, each team member takes one sweet at a time, placing it in the empty bowl;
- The team that has the most sweets in the second bowl, or manages to move all the sweets over, wins.
This is an easy and light hearted way for breaking the ice and forming team bonds.
I Have Never
This game is an interesting one.
- Give each team member an equal amount of sweets. Stand around in a circle and have the first person shout out, “I have never…..” and get them to complete the sentence to their choice;
For instance, it could be, “I have never stood on the top of the Eiffel Tower and watched the sunset” If someone has, then they shout out, and that person takes a sweet from the team member that made the statement in the first place.
2. Repeat this with every team member, or indeed keep going for 10 minutes;
3. This game can get competitive and heat up fast, so sit back and watch it unfold. The person with the most sweets at the end, wins.
Who is That?
- Get each team member to write a secret on a piece of paper, folding it up and giving it to you to place in a box or bowl;
- Have the team stand around you as you read each one in turn, getting the team to discuss and decide who they think the secret belongs to.
This is a simple game but can help the team open up and develop trust, in a similar way to the Johari Window.
The Movie Ball
- Get your team to stand around in a circle, with some distance apart;
- Take a beach ball and give the ball for someone to start;
- The game is simple, whoever has the ball, must shout out the name of a film, within 3 seconds of receiving it;
- They then randomly throw the ball to someone else, who repeats the process;
- You lose and step out of the circle if you repeat the same film that’s been mentioned already, or you take longer than 3 seconds to shout the next film.
The winner is the last person standing.
- Give someone in your team the task of identifying an object – any object will do, as long as it’s clean;
- The team then have 20 questions to ask, to identify what the object is;
- If they don’t guess in time, the person with the question wins. If they do guess, they beat the person in the middle.
This is a very simple, quick and safe team building exercise that is often a great ice-breaker, too.
The Five Minute Jigsaw Puzzle
- Split your team into smaller groups and give them the same complicated puzzle each;
- Set the timer and get each team to work together to solve the puzzle in 5 minutes;
- If no-one completes it, the team with most of the puzzle completed, wins.
The objective of this game is for the blindfolded team to build a puzzle under the guidance of their leader. Communication and listening skills are a must… Here’s how to do it:
- Split your team into groups of 3 or so. Allocate one leader in each group. The other team members must be blindfolded;
- Give each team a relatively easy puzzle to complete and spread all the pieces out across the table. Start the timer and the race is on;
- The leader in each group guides their team in picking and placing the puzzles in the right way;
- The first team to complete the puzzle wins.
Team Building Exersises for Work – Conclusion
Interestingly, there’s evidence to support that some of the best ways to build rapport and improve productivity is to improve communication and increase face to face interaction amongst a group. We’ve created an article that shows the science behind this thinking, so if you’re interested, check it out.
Business doesn’t always have to be serious. In fact, by socialising and engaging team building exercises for work, you can improve communication and therefore improve interaction and productivity.
The above team building exercises for work won’t break the bank, nor will they cost the earth in terms of time. The pay off is well worth the creative investment.
Get going now, and choose from the list of team building exercises – selecting one a day, and you’ll have a high performing team in no time!