Many of us ‘get’ that team building is inherently valuable. We know that it has some seemingly magical qualities that nurture cohesion and collaboration.
But when we really start to dig deep into looking at why team building is important at work, and why team building events are actually far more than a mighty fun jolly, we discover it’s even more incredible.
So, whether you’re an employee face-palming and typing into the search function, ‘why do we do team building activities?’ or an employer wondering how to capitalise on the benefits of team building, this article is for you.
You’ll finish up being utterly awed at the power of team building and stack up the calendar with a new bunch of carefully chosen activities.
At the end of the day, the reason for having teams is because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When you build magnificent teams to be the best that they can be, you get the best results that you can get.
Why do we need team building?
We’ve gone beyond the basics to bring you a comprehensive list of 20 reasons why team building is important at work. For each reason, we’ve shared a few suggestions for team building events and activities to help draw out these rewards.
The most successful teams are the ones where they are the best champions for each other. They motivate each other when the chips are down, or when they’ve got their equivalent of writer’s block, or the deadline is looming and they’ve just got no energy left to give.
But learning to motivate others, in the way that works best for them, doesn’t just happen. It needs real world experience and practice.
Team building events are great for developing motivational skills which can then be drawn on when needed in the work environment.
Good ideas include challenge-based activities such as obstacle courses, high ropes, or anything that places team members outside of their comfort zone.
Like siblings, it’d be wonderful if they all got on harmoniously all of the time. The reality is that most teams involve a hodgepodge of characters who wouldn’t choose to spend 40 hours a week together unless you paid them… oh, right.
Conflicts in teams can be very challenging to manage. Political wrangling and he-said-she-said dynamics can leave you feeling you’re managing a school playground, not a fully-functioning group of professional adults.
One of the lesser known reasons for why we need team building is that it can be very soothing when it comes to conflict resolution, when used carefully or pre-emptively.
Good activities for fostering conflict resolution will depend on the individual team. It may be as simple as pulling out a team jigsaw for meeting time, or running an event which is just good old-fashioned fun to create shared experiences.
Sometimes spending some time together, out of the workplace, is all that’s needed to resolve problems and prevent them from bursting into full-blown disputes.
Many conflicts spring from lack of knowledge or understanding of others. By exposing team members to diverse opinions and perspectives, through different types of activities, you can help to give the team the grounding it needs to resolve many conflicts more readily.
Fun is a wonderful psychological tool when it comes to effective teams. We often overlook it because there’s something societally shameful about admitting that work can be fun.
Apparently we should all hate it, or something. But read on and absorb the data, and you’ll want to ensure your teams are having fun, fun, fun all the time.
You’ll also realise that when David Ogilvy said “Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work”, it was actually a bit of an understatement.
- One study found that if you expose people to fun and humour they are better able to complete tasks, are more persistent and have a 12% performance boost!
- Fun underpins wellbeing and higher levels of wellbeing result in lower absenteeism, presenteeism and even work-related errors.
- Fun leads to happiness and happy people are usually healthier, more productive and more inspired at work.
- A meta-analysis, looking at a bundle of hundreds of studies, found that happy employees have, on average, 31% higher productivity.
- Fun makes you want to collaborate, it’s not a chore.
Having fun together shouldn’t be an under-rated and shamefully overlooked element of team building. Instead, when we wonder ‘why is team building important at work’ we should be loud and proud to state fun as one of the most important benefits.
So many different team building events have a fun element. Why not book a detective day where fun is right up there, along with a bunch of other team building benefits?
A sense of belonging
Humans evolved as tribes. Now we live in our little boxes and our inherent nature is dispersed.
Our workplaces are now our tribes. And it matters. We need to feel like we belong to our tribe. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s taught us that feelings of isolation and disconnection from our teams aren’t a good thing.
Especially with our new models of working that frequently see teams physically separated, we need team building events to foster a sense of belonging.
Many options exist for helping team members to feel like they belong. From team traditions like birthday doughnuts, to going out and enjoying a meal together, you can show every team member that they matter and are part of something more than themselves.
You know, inherently, that when a newbie arrives in the team, it’s going to take some time.
Relationships need to form, connections need to be made. And in the meantime, you need to be patient because, fundamentally, you know that deeper connections make better teams and deeper connections don’t just happen overnight.
But you can actually speed them along with a little help from carefully selected team building events. If you put people in the right environment, you can allow deeper connections to form, naturally, but more quickly.
For example, deeper connections are bound to form when enjoying a cuppa together after taking on a Wipe Out style challenge as you discuss the lows and the highs of the day.
Definitely one of the better known reasons for why team building is important at work is the development of communication skills. Healthy, functioning and productive teams are communication pros. They’ve got it nailed.
Communication is a funny old beast. So much of our ability to be effective communicators is intangible. Watch a successful team’s communication and you’ll know it’s incredible, but you’ll struggle to pin down why.
This is because this higher-level communication is actually more about the unique interplay between the different team players and their understanding of their own and each other’s roles. The result is an efficiency that’s as smooth to watch as a professional ballet.
The good news is that this kind of exemplary communication can be nurtured and developed within any team. Any activity that facilitates deeper discussion, active listening, processing or problem-solving will work. Escape games or traditional team building activities, such as parachute games, are helpful here.
Problem solving is the mainstay background activity of many teams. It’s simply the nature of work. Developing problem solving skills, as a unit, rather than as a bunch of individuals, is part of the magic of team work over individual working.
Problem solving is another soft skill which takes exposure to develop. The problem is that you want those skills developed on something other than a critical problem that affects the bottom line.
That’s why team building activities which centre on problem solving can be clever choices. Your team gets to hone their problem solving skills so that when they are faced with a real-life real-work problem, they can approach it seamlessly.
We find that teams who have developed problem solving skills through different activities meet deadlines faster. They are adept at making quick decisions.
In the workplace we tend to pop ourselves and others in our pigeon holes (figuratively that is - we hope that you’re not wedging poor unsuspecting colleagues into small spaces…).
We know our role and we operate within it. The problem is that this doesn’t always uncover the potential in people which could be hugely beneficial to the organisation in the future.
As successful employers, we should always have one eye on our succession planning. We should always know who our future leaders are. And one great way to uncover the diamond-in-the-rough is to take them out of their pigeon hole and put them in an environment where they might just display some different skills and potential.
That junior clerk who managed to convince their boss that they could abseil down that cliff, that recent graduate who inspired everyone to get on the dance floor, or that quiet manager who succeeded in even getting so many people to attend – they are worth watching.
Ok, so collaboration is the Big Name in team building benefits. It’s the benefit that’s cited time and again and with good reasons. Good teams collaborate well. It’s what they do.
But actually, it’s what flows from collaboration that’s really brilliant stuff. It’s through collaboration that you get innovation and creativity. It’s through collaboration that you get effective communication and effortless productivity.
Collaboration is another tricky-to-conceptualise idea that you can’t just offer a training course on and expect your workers to do. It’s borne of time together, exposure to different things, and a commitment to one another. These aspects are all fostered in diverse team building strategies.
Ways to help develop collaboration in your team involves choosing team building activities where they have to work together towards a common aim. That could be undertaking a physical or mental challenge together. The key is the challenge element.
Trust is one of the central tenets of effective teams. Only teams which can trust each other can work well together. If one individual is second-guessing the behaviour or intentions of another, it’s going to fall flat.
Trust within a team also facilitates autonomy. If you want to bring out the best in an individual, they need to feel they have autonomy. You need to trust them.
The other element of trust within teams is having each other’s back. An effective team is one where each individual knows that the others will close ranks and protect them when the external attacks come.
Fundamentally, trust makes people feel safe within the structure of the team. When someone feels safe, it’s going to lead to them being the best they can be. It goes back to Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. When we feel secure, we can move on to performing in other areas.
In teams where risk-taking is particularly vital to the success of the team, trust is even more important. You cannot expect an individual to be proactive and take risks if there isn’t the safety structure there to hold them. If you want that vulnerability, you need to develop a team that trusts each other immensely. It’s why trust is so important amongst first responders.
Lots of different team building activities work to develop trust. From the age-old ‘fall back and catch me’ drama school lesson to working as a team against a common enemy in paintballing, trust can grow.
One of the benefits of teams is that they can plug the gaps in each other’s weaknesses.
Whether that’s doing an incidental but critical task whilst your colleague is delayed in a meeting, or knowing enough about what someone else is doing so that you can offer constructive criticism, shared insight is another reason that teams are better than groups of individuals.
A lot of shared insight is acquired through working alongside each other, day in day out. It’s one of the reasons why your boss is keen that you’re in the office and not wedded to working from home forever more.
But some aspects of shared insight are best gained outside of the typical workplace environment. In external environments, the weaknesses of team members are more safely exposed, and their strengths more easily shine. Once back in the working environment, these aspects are beneficial to the team’s functioning and operations.
If you’re ever felt your soul leave your body as you’re faced with yet another staid training course, you’re not alone.
But ongoing learning is a really vital part of your own personal development, and the development of the organisation. At the risk of sounding like your Year 9 maths teacher, you need to value your education and that of your co-workers.
Where organisations went wrong is that they got stuck in the Year 9 maths lesson. They didn’t realise that actually, learning can be pretty cool, if you go about it the right way. Team building events that comprise elements of learning and development are akin to teaching a bunch of kids to count by getting them to bake cupcakes with Smarties on top. It’s fun, and so learning just happens.
Next time you’re wondering why we do team building activities, dig deep and uncover the learning opportunity that the organisers have planned. It’ll be there.
Competition is a driver. We all love to win. Turn something into a competition and all of a sudden you’ve got everyone energised, focused and in-it-to-win-it. With a competition, we can be tricked into achieving more.
Within teams, some healthy competition is therefore an excellent thing. Whether it’s the first to come up with a solution to that tricky problem you’ve all been facing, or the most-innovative design within the company, introducing a competitive edge is clever.
And you can foster that so easily with a little thought around your planned team building events. Pit teams against each other in laser tag, on our detective days, or in a bake-off challenge.
Diversity and inclusion
Cognitive diversity – the kind of different thinking that comes from a diverse team with different ages, races, sexes, abilities etc. – leads to a 20% increase in innovation. We benefit from diverse teams.
But we only actually benefit from diversity if we nail inclusion. And that’s tricky. We need to learn to accept and understand others for inclusivity to happen. We need to be able to shake off preconceived ideas about ourselves and others, and that requires trust and knowledge of others.
Team building activities can facilitate inclusion in diverse teams in a way that always being in the workplace stifles. This is because outside-of-work settings offer easier chances to get to really know one another and learn about other people’s experiences.
From learning about the cultural traditions of one colleague by celebrating an occasion together, to realising the challenges faced by your wheelchair using colleague on a city mystery adventure, team building can do wonders for increasing inclusivity.
Organisational culture development
Your organisational culture doesn’t just happen. It gets shaped in certain ways. And it’s important because organisational culture doesn’t just affect things like employee engagement and retention; it also underpins your brand identity.
Company culture develops when you facilitate things which fit in with your mission, vision and ethics for your employees.
Whether that’s a lunch time yoga session or a company bowling league, these events underpin what makes the company tick.
Engagement and morale
Research shows that the employees of highly profitable firms are around 50% more engaged. Team building events, many of which double-up as rewards, socialising or something else, boost employee engagement and, with it, morale. It’s the camaraderie that you’re looking to capture when you’re talking about engagement.
Team building events are the common ground when your team is so eclectic you wonder if it’s actually a bag of Pic n’ Mix. They are the thing to look forward to when the end of year accounts is numbing everyone’s mind. They are what says, ‘hey we appreciate that you guys worked your butts off on that project’.
When it comes to choosing team building events with employee engagement as a driver, pick ones you know will spell out F.U.N. to your team. For one that might be jet-boating and for another it might be a booze run to Calais.
Celebration, reward and appreciation
We need team building opportunities to celebrate, reward and appreciate the individuals that make things happen.
We need to celebrate our successes together. We need to be rewarded if you want more of the same. And appreciation always makes someone more willing to go above and beyond.
In busy workplaces, it’s very easy to let celebration, reward and appreciation get overlooked and forgotten about. And the result can be quietly seething or somewhat disgruntled employees who start dusting off their CV thinking they will go and use their skills and resources somewhere they’ll be recognised.
Lots of team building activities work well for this reason. From bunging some cash behind the bar on a night out, to treating the team to a trip to the theatre, it’s important to show your team that they matter to you.
Networking and socialising
At work it’s just time to crack on and get the job done. But actually, there’s a lot of value to be gained from allowing your employees active time to socialise and network. Making friends and connections benefits the organisation.
Take people out of the work environment and barriers to building these relationships are lowered. They’ll bond over being on the winning team at mini golf, they’ll chat over their rifles at target shooting, and they’ll laugh with each other when they’re covered in mud from an activity.
Something to look forward to
The pandemic has done a wonderful job of reminding us humans that we get a bit foot-stompy when our looked forward to treats are snatched away. We need those things on the horizon to stay focused and rational in the here and now.
And it’s the same for our teams. They need to have something to look forward to next week, after that project, or just because it’s Christmas. If the diary is only full of deadlines and nothing pleasurable then we lose our mojo in the here and now.
Team building events – when chosen with the preferences of the team in mind – are a highlight in the calendar. Whether it’s a cocktail class or an axe-throwing session, pepper the diary with things they will look forward to.
Yes, team building events can boost your bottom line. This is due to all of the interactivity of all of the above benefits. Productive teams are teams which have been built.