We all see the hype of teamwork and team-building events in the workplace. But does team building really work? Or are they just chains of awkward and forced activities that end up wasting everyone’s time and energy?

When you notice your employees aren’t interested in team-building activities, you may need to dig deeper and find the core problems instead of offering everyone ice cream and hoping everything resolves itself.

Fun or purposeful?

Team building isn’t just about playing Pictionary, taking pottery classes together, or forming a company sports team on weekends. It should be both fun and purposeful.

Admit it, have you ever participated in silly and pointless team activities? And all you want is to get out of there and take a nap at home? Most employees won’t be fond of wasting their time in events that get them nowhere and give them no value.

The focus should be on the purpose of the activities—bringing people closer together to work more effectively—and the fun factor comes second. Most often, employees are interested in activities that give them value such as strengthening skills or building workplace relationships.

Where the true problems lie

If you find your team separates and detaches, the problem might lie in your team’s communication. And we all know a few games can’t solve all that if no one’s actually communicating.

Leaders need to identify where the true problems appear. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your business strategies clear enough?
  • Do employees fully understand what to do?
  • Are there conflicts that haven’t been resolved?
  • Are there any blockage/rigidity in the workflow/certain processes?
  • Do you carry out private 1-on-1 conversations and talk about company culture, norms, and workplace experience?
  • Do you offer recognition and rewards?

How to make team-building activities more meaningful?

It takes time to build a strong team. New people join, senior people leave, things change.

The point is you should think of team building as a continual process, not a one-time effort. And how can you make them more meaningful?

Organize meaningful events and activities

Events and activities that help employees get to know other teammates on a deeper level, or help them grow are more welcomed.

Consider team members’ preferences

Ask about team members’ preferences. Activities shouldn’t intimidate and violate participants’ peace, making them feel negative.

You can let employees choose activities and events appealing to them. When they get to choose what to do, they’re more likely to be engaged and cooperative.

Set clear outcomes and purposes

Set clear outcomes, goals, and purposes for these activities and events. Does it solve any problems? Does it help clear some obstacles? Do employees receive any value, knowledge, or skills? Communicate those outcomes to team members to keep them engaged.

Vary the activities

Honestly, one event can’t please all participants. So it’s OK to try different activities so that everyone has the chance to enjoy team building.

Be willing to talk about unpleasant topics

Be prepared to talk about and resolve “sticky topics” that are happening at work instead of taking everyone out for some beer and fake that it’s fun.

Conclusion

There’s a good reason why people have opposing opinions about the true benefits of team-building activities. We all have times when we constantly look at the door seeking an escape from a boring team game. We sometimes feel closer when joining a running club at work.

As long as you focus on identifying the underlying problems happening at work and making efforts to resolve them, your team will be fine.

Team-building, when held intentionally and properly, is a great opportunity to get to know everyone, get closer as a team, and create awesome memories together.

Discover some team building activities to organize for your team.

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