“Team building” usually leads to eye-rolling. How can trust falls and ropes courses lead to stronger accounting departments?
True, it can feel silly. But good team building activities help people feel more comfortable. They encourage them to talk more during “regular” work hours (as in, after the trust falls and the ropes courses), which is important since half of employees don’t feel comfortable speaking their mind at work.
Team building activities are especially valuable for cross-cultural teams. Pooja Kothari, a diversity, equity, and inclusion trainer and CEO of Boundless Awareness, talked to InHerSight in May about how exercises can strengthen work relationships.
“Workplaces are made up of a diverse group of people from all sorts of backgrounds, learning styles, work styles, geographies, cultures, ethnicities, skin colors, disabilities, genders, and sexualities,” Kothari says. “We don’t all think the same, we don’t have the same personal experience, or professional experiences. All of this diversity impacts the way we communicate with each other. We work together, collaborate, and have to understand each other to create a unifying product or service.” (Read more about specific culture-building exercises for your team.)
Of course, traditional team building activities rely on coworkers being in the same room, which used to be the norm. Now, with more teams working remotely, activities need to be virtual-friendly.
After more than two years of staring at screens, many of us are done with virtual happy hours. We’re looking for more purpose, less small talk, and a time limit. With that in mind, here are five team building activities suited for virtual or hybrid teams that can be done in five minutes.
5-minute team building activities for virtual or hybrid teams
Team building activity: Show and tell
What makes it a good team activity: People have a chance to see a more personal side of their coworkers and potentially connect on things other than work similarities.
Ask everyone to bring an item they can talk about for one minute. The item should be suitable for work, but also be something that shares a bit about them. It can be funny, sentimental, visually interesting, or come with a compelling story. This allows people to show off aspects of themselves without having to share personal details if they do not want to.
Team building activity: Sales pitch
What makes it a good team activity: The team has to work together and cooperate, but with low stakes.
Break the team into small groups of a few people and ask them to give a short (20-second) sales pitch for a mundane item, like a stapler or computer mouse. Give them a few minutes to brainstorm as a group on what their “pitch” will be. This lets them be silly, creative, clever, or show off real marketing chops, but mostly it gets them talking to each other and collaborating.
Team building activity: Icebreaker questions
What makes it a good team activity: You can learn more about people you spend a lot of time with but don’t know all that well.
The team leader asks a series of open-ended, not deeply personal questions: What’s your favorite TV show, now or as a child? What’s your favorite color and why? What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten or received? (We have a great list of icebreaker questions you can use here.)
Team building activity: “What I Learned”
What makes it a good team activity: It doesn’t have to be personal for people who want to keep their personal lives private, but it can still spark more conversation beyond work.
Have everyone share 30 seconds (or more, if time allows) on something they’ve learned, read, heard, or watched recently. It could be personal (my uncle owned a popular nightclub) or not at all personal (cilantro tastes like soap to some people). Let people know it’ll be happening so they’ll be ready.
Team building activity: Trivia
What makes it a good team activity: There’s light competition, and people get to talk through topics without having to get too personal.
Trivia has become a popular work activity. A quick, 5-minute team-building version involves breaking the team into at least two groups, giving them five questions to work together on answers for, and then seeing who gets the most right. It’s a fast and easy way to get people talking to each other about non-work topics for a few minutes.
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