Kick the Year Off with Great Team-Building Activities

16th January, 2023
A group of people holding giant jigsaw pieces in place, one person standing atop the pieces cheering
After a well-deserved end-of-year break, returning to work can be hard even for the most enthusiastic employees. Once the novelty of catching up with colleagues has worn off, it’s back to another long and challenging year with the holidays now a distant memory.

On one hand, taking time off has allowed us to reset and recharge the batteries, however, irregular routines and disruption to workflow means we need time to readjust and prepare ourselves for the new working year. Not to mention that it has been a while since we last connected with our teams in any meaningful way.

That’s where team building steps in to help reinvigorate that sense of purpose and belonging needed to stay motivated and thrive in our jobs.

Having first emerged in the 1920s, the benefits of team building are well understood. In fact, team building has featured in workplaces for so long now that some eyes might roll at the thought of taking time out from a busy work schedule to attend a team building workshop.

This is not to question the importance of team building - it just has to be purposeful and genuinely build teams, rather than a display of tokenism depicted in sitcoms like The Office.

Forbes describes Team Building as the most important investment you will make for your people. One that “builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. Effective team building means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture and boosting the bottom line.”

The good news is that team building doesn’t need to be ‘lame’ or structured around key company ‘takeaways’. Instead, the most impactful team-building days don’t feel like a work activity at all. It’s a day everyone can enjoy - so mix it up, get adventurous, and take some time out to create memories your team will reminisce about all year.

It might seem fitting to commit to team-building activities during the year or organize something fun at the end of the year. But with the mid-year summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere and end-of-year Christmas parties everywhere, having something fun to look forward to at the start of the year provides the perfect ‘welcome back’ gesture. This is a well-timed reminder that you value your employees, which in turn instills a sense of loyalty.

So on that note, why not kick off the year with some uplifting team-building activities?

Take a look at our article to understand any challenges you may face with your hybrid teams!

As mentioned, team building activities are more effective when they don’t feel like a work activity at all. They are designed with your people at the center - to enhance relationships, show appreciation and promote creativity - and are therefore most effective when conducted off site.

Here is some inspiration to help you think outside the box and get out and try something you’ve never done before as a team.

Interactive offsite team building activities:

- Clay modeling lesson: cast your mind to the Ghost scene, only more fun and less romantic. This activity is also therapeutic and leaves us with a handmade souvenir such as an oddly shaped mug or art piece to forever remind your people of this fun activity.

- Cooking class: rather than just taking your people out for lunch, it might be nice to mix it up and take them for a cooking lesson and then enjoy the meal together. No matter your profession or cooking skill level, this is a fun activity that helps people build useful skills and share a memorable experience among colleagues.

- Escape room: if you’re feeling a little adventurous why not invigorate your employees with an escape room experience? It’s a great way to start or end the working week and is something they will be reminiscing about for months to come.

- Wellness activity: highly appropriate if you have uncovered new year’s goals surrounding health and fitness. A boot camp, yoga session, or even something more regular can start your year off on the right foot and be well-received by your team.

- Breakfast meeting: if things are a little hectic from the outset and you haven’t been able to plan anything innovative, you could simply treat your team to an offsite breakfast meeting where you catch up first and talk about yearly goals second.

Team building with a focus on remote teams:

For purely remote teams, the lack of face to face interaction makes team building all the more important, and that extra bit challenging. Thankfully, with a bit of imagination you will find that many activities don’t require face to face contact at all and are indeed enhanced by digital means.

Here are some clever ideas you might want to consider on digital platforms:

- Virtual Bingo: you could design these questions around what you did/didn’t do over the break, new year's resolutions, etc. It’s a fun and interactive way to recount what they got up to over the break rather than going around the room (or screen) - and asking everyone the same generic question.

- Scavenger hunt: you could give clues or give your team members a heads up to grab as many items as they can to present to the group.

- Virtual escape room: there is a myriad of free and paid online escape room options out there. Some are even themed to keep it interesting, especially if anyone has tried these before.

- Wellness session: depending on your teams’ interests and fitness levels, a wake-up morning workout is a good way to kick the day off, get the heart rate up, and have a laugh. This is especially appropriate if your people have ambitious new year's resolutions centered around health and fitness. Another option is a morning or afternoon yoga session; yoga flow in the morning, and meditation in the afternoon. These can be conducted on your video conferencing platform with an independent instructor to coach you through it.

- Online murder mystery: during the pandemic, some theater companies branched out into online theatre in order to survive, and these included team-building productions. The way it works is actors join your call in character and bring the team on a fun and light-hearted murder mystery journey. Team members can interact and ask questions to uncover the mystery. One thing worth considering for multilingual global teams is that there could be an unfair advantage to native-speaking team members who also might be inclined to speak more.

Check out our Article to help you better engage with your remote team members!
To increase engagement, you can put these activities to a vote or set a budget and allow your team to arrange something to their liking. The overarching theme for team building is that it brings people together first and foremost and fosters a cohesive work dynamic based on trust, empathy, and openness.

Team building can certainly complement a company’s efforts to boost morale but is futile if employees are disengaged or if the corporate culture needs work in other areas.

Better understanding your company’s climate is another more robust measure and something managers should commit to monitoring this year. Thankfully the Beaconforce Climate Survey can measure the seven most important factors that impact engagement at work. Among them are Trust, Relations, Communication, and Leadership. Knowing where you stand and what areas need work helps determine the most effective actions to take and devise a team-building activity that will resonate best.
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