Wonderment at the stars on a frosty night, break time at school from dull lessons, kicking back with pals around a campfire, going for a swim in the sea, clearing your head with a long walk… have you ever noticed that the best things in life happen outdoors? It’s no accident, and a very compelling reason why outdoor team building activities are better.
But why is the outdoors so great? What does it have over central heating and creature comforts? Read on to find out.
We know you’ll be so convinced by each compelling reason why the outdoors is so great that we’ve included the ways in which you and your team can reap the wonderful benefits by adding a bunch of outdoors team building ideas and activities for you to try.
The benefits of outdoor team building activities and how to get them
We can bedazzle you with science, and we will, but sometimes we need to just listen to our ancestors, who figured things out without the data. John Muir, dubbed ‘Father of the National Parks’ in the States, once wrote:
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
We may not all be as capable of such profound statements, but there’s definitely truth in the fact that being in the outdoors helps us reflect and process thoughts in a way that just doesn’t happen in the confines of four walls. It might be intangible, but it’s about what makes being human a pleasurable and meaningful experience.
For many office-based workers, they can feel like cogs in corporate machines. Corporate team building activities outdoors have the power to make them feel human again. And you want humans running your business, believe us. What’s more, if your team has hit a snag and needs to reflect on it together, being outdoors will help.
An idea: Grab the team and head out in nature for a hike. Short walk or long walk, it doesn’t matter. Get the team out together and simply be in nature.
Fascinating stuff happens to communication when you head outdoors. Indeed, some snazzy research shows that 50% of positive changes in communication patterns within the workplace happen due to social interaction outside of the workplace. Woah. You’ve got to actually take people away from where they work to get them to learn to communicate better in work.
Organised outdoor team building activities are often geared around improving communication, so it seems like you’ll get a double-whammy. Not only will simply getting away from the workplace improve communication patterns, the activity will actually be geared around facilitating better communication.
An idea: Outdoor team activities don’t get much better in the communication stakes than a team building Detective Day from CluedUpp. Team members have to converse, negotiate and think together to solve clues, riddles and mysteries.
It’s not another day in the office
Yes, we’re creatures of habit. But we’re also creatures that are easily bored. And boredom stifles efficiency and productivity like a Victorian corset stifles breathing. If you put your workers in an office and day-in-day-out expect them to just get on and never get bored, you’re being unrealistic, no matter how supremely satisfying their job is. They need some variety.
Getting outdoors changes the scene, shakes the boredom right out of their boots, and enables them to return to the office engaged and energised.
An idea: Banish boredom with one of the most dare-devil of outdoor team activities, zip-lining.
It ditches formality
Formality has its place. Wooing a client, conducting a performance review, interviewing a candidate… But when it comes to building a team you need to break down a few barriers and formality doesn’t do that.
Teams that know each other perform together, and they can’t do that when they are stood on ceremony. If your workplace has understandably formal elements (yes, accountants and lawyers, we’re looking at you), then you need to take steps to occasionally shrug off the formality so that your teams can flourish.
Step outdoors, where suits are forgotten, and you instantly say goodbye to formality.
An idea: Get the team outdoors for a game of Frisbee and watch how the formality dissipates.
It boosts productivity, creativity and focus
Let’s face it; we bow down in awe at anyone who is a Harvard physician. They probably know a thing or two more than we do. Eva M. Selhub is one such big-brain who wrote a fascinating book, poring over the data, called Your Brain on Nature. In it, she and her co-author, Alan Logan, revealed how being outside actually boosts our productivity, creativity and focus.
List some of the top attributes you want in your team members, and the chances are you’re going to list those three things. You want them, and you want them badly.
An idea: Shake up the team to bring out productivity, creativity and focus, as they navigate their way through the rapids, with a rafting experience.
Stress is a biiiig problem for many teams. Indeed, nearly three quarters of us in any one year will, at some point, feel so stressed that we become overwhelmed and unable to cope. Employers ignore that at their peril.
But here’s something pretty amazing: simply being outside, in nature, actually lowers stress. It actually, without the short-cut of a beta blocker, lowers your blood pressure. At the same time, it calms down the surges of cortisol and adrenaline that are exacerbating the stress symptoms.
An idea: Corporate team building activities outdoors don’t need to be one off experiences. Why not organise weekly outdoor Tai Chi lessons to stave off the stress in your team?
Happiness and mood
The science is also pretty compelling when it comes to being outside and our happiness. It makes us feel good. And when we feel good, we’re going to be better team players. Anxiety, depression and anger all decrease simply by spending some time outside.
It’s not going to be a magic cure for any team members with mental health difficulties, such as anxiety or depression (which on average costs you 21.6 working days per person per year), but it’s something that’s known to help and that’s important.
An idea: Boost the happiness and wellbeing of your team by organising outdoor team building activities. It doesn’t have to be complex: load your team up with a picnic basket, or some take away pizzas, and send them out to enjoy a feast in a local beauty spot.
Tiredness and sluggishness makes us less productive. It’s a problem, but what can you do about it when repetitive tasks beckon and your eyelids shut with every minute that passes?
Some Aussie researchers discovered something pretty cool. They tasked some lucky people (AKA poor students) with the job of doing a really dull and boring task which required concentration. One bunch of students looked out at a roof with some blooms and greens for 40 seconds mid-way through the task. The other bunch got 40 seconds looking at concrete. Those nature-gazers? They made fewer mistakes. It would appear that looking at nature makes us more accurate.
We want accurate teams.
An idea: Take your team to the local park for a kick about game of football to give them a chance to be more accurate.
If you’ve ever donned a step counter and compared a day at a desk job and a day out in nature, you’ll notice that there’s a reason these are called sedentary jobs. Even with all the advice to ‘take the stairs’ and ‘get off the bus a stop earlier’, you just don’t move about much in most jobs.
But there are huge benefits to moving more. It helps our mood, and reduces the risk of type II diabetes, just for starters. Simply walking more and doing more physical exercise releases endorphins which are nature’s painkillers and feel good hormones.
An idea: Just getting outside will get you moving, but why not up the ante? Put the team through their paces on an obstacle course.
Yeah, sorry, it’s still here and it’s still a pain in the butt. Team building activities that see your team squishing up close indoors in unventilated spaces are going to be about as popular as garlic chewing gum for a while yet.
The easiest way to enable team building activities that are welcomed for not being lurgy spreading events is to choose outdoor options.
An idea: There are loads of Covid-secure outdoor team building activities. What about a team game of mini golf?
Boosting immunity and vitamin D
Sticking with the issue of immunity and bugs for a moment, we need to get time outdoors to boost our immune health. That’s largely thanks to the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D.
But there’s a tricky issue for many when it comes to vitamin D. Most of us - depending on where we live (but that’s all of the UK for example) - can’t get enough throughout the year from the sun alone. Add in being an office worker when you’re shut away from what little daylight there is for huge chunks of the day, and your immune system isn’t going to be optimised.
It makes sense that employers get their teams outside whenever they can. That can be hard when work requires you to sit at a desk, so you’ll need to grab every opportunity there is.
An idea: Carry out team building games and activities outdoors, where the sunlight can hit the skin. There’s no reason you need to stay indoors. Try some simple challenge games, or old school games like Blind Man’s Bluff.
Honestly, team building should be fun. It’s often not, it’s often a drag. But it should be fun. Fun experiences bond a team and invest them in each other. The most fun experiences happen outdoors, it’s just the reality.
Compare the things you can do indoors to what you can do outdoors and it’s a no-brainer: outdoors is fun.
An idea: For a really fun outdoor team building activity, go dragon boat racing.
It helps your vision
Seriously. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and in the modern world, one of the biggest issues they have in that regard is keeping workers safe from the effects of prolonged screen use.
Your team members need to have a chance to look up, stretch their eye muscles, and focus on something other than a screen. Spending time outside, where you naturally look much further, has been shown to reduce the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), such as blurriness, red eyes and headaches.
An idea: Look at seriously cool stuff outside by getting your team together to go stargazing.
Team building activities help motivation. Team players have to come together to do something together, outside of their normal environment, and the result is that they find their motivation bolstered. They want to help out colleagues, they want to achieve their goals and they want to get the most from their work.
Motivation boosts morale and engagement in the workplace, and it’s remarkably easy to encourage through team building activities.
An idea: Encourage motivation in your team by getting them out in their local area together with a city tour.
Teams need to collaborate effectively. If the aim was a bunch of individuals each doing their own thing, then we’d have no need for teams at all. However, we all know that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that’s thanks to collaboration.
Collaboration is a wily beast and sometimes needs a helping hand. It can’t be assumed that it will just happen. It needs the right nurturing environment, which often isn’t found within the mundane daily life of a team.
By getting outside and doing things together, the team’s ability to collaborate increases. In many ways, it doesn’t actually matter what the team is doing, but by doing an activity together, they develop in confidence and the ability to collaborate with one another grows.
An idea: Take your team away from the norm to inspire collaboration with a birds of prey experience.
Outdoor team building activities bring all the benefits of team building and add them to the benefits of the great outdoors, to power-up your teams.