Is your workforce functioning as a team? Sometimes it can look like it on the surface but when it comes right down to it, staff don’t feel they know each other very well, and they lack the confidence to collaborate on work as a result. That can significantly limit your productivity. To change the situation, you need to introduce ice-breakers that will help your employees regard each other as allies, but not just any old activity will do. Anything that eats into break time or involves being kept back after hours is likely to be unpopular, as is activity that people feel forced into. The best approach is to find activities that draw out your employees’ existing interests.
What makes a great team activity?
When you plan activities, make sure that they’re accessible to everyone in your workplace. Don’t go to a bar if some staff members have religious objections to alcohol, and don’t organize a baseball game if a disabled staff member would be left sitting on the sidelines. If some people on the team are shy and some exuberant, choose activities that make it possible for the former to contribute without pressure, and don’t let the latter dominate all the conversation.
Starting a workplace book group can be a great way to create conversations that go beyond what happens in the office and the personal details people feel immediately ready to share about themselves. If everyone in your workplace likes to read, why not take it in turns to introduce your favorite books at intervals that give everyone enough time to read them, then discuss them afterwards? You could start by talking about favorite authors and discussing the ones that some employees already have in common.
Going out for a meal together is a good way to celebrate special occasions, whether they’re public holidays or work successes like securing an important contract. Make sure you choose a place with sufficient options for any vegetarian or vegan staff, people on special diets or those with allergies. Sharing food is also popular in the office, especially if it’s presented as a treat, such as ordering pizza for everyone on a Friday afternoon, going for a picnic in a nearby park on a sunny day, or even just making sure there’s a stock of nice cookies next to the water cooler.
Nothing breaks the ice quite like a game. This could be anything from a paintball session to an office computer game tournament or a weekly quiz with small but fun prizes. Consider introducing a weekly game session and inviting employees to make suggestions. The best options are those that encourage cooperation in small teams. There are lots of games you can play together now online or on an office intranet, and purchasing online lottery tickets as a syndicate gives you a weekly activity to bond over, waiting to see if you’ve got lucky when the numbers come in.
Research has shown that one of the main things workers look for in a job, after pay, is the opportunity to enhance their skills. Giving your employees the chance to train and learn together can satisfy this desire at the same time as encouraging them to cooperate and spend time together. Many training companies now use group work and strive to make the sessions they deliver entertaining – something that helps with knowledge retention – so they can be fun to participate in and give teammates something to talk about afterwards.
Few things help people to bond as effectively as working together to support a good cause. Choosing a charity to support for your workplace gives you the opportunity to get involved in lots of fun activities that will make workers feel good about themselves and one another. A good place to start is with an office bake sale, and you can easily move on to sponsored events. Many charities have a list of plans for events they can share with you and are happy to take care of most of the administration when it comes to more complicated activities. They’ll also feed back to you on how your support has helped, giving your team something to celebrate.
Workplace activities like these help your staff to think of themselves as a team and put the needs of the team first. They build trust and help people feel comfortable together, so that collaboration on work projects comes naturally. They can also create and maintain a happier workplace and staff that are more loyal.