Team-building activities are fun activities or challenges that get your employees away from their desks and bring them together. If you’ve got a team of dedicated, talented and enthusiastic employees in your startup, you may think they have all the motivation they need. But motivated individuals don’t necessarily add up to a successful team. Bonding activities can help even the most driven individuals to work together for maximum impact.

Some people see team-building exercises as a waste of time and a distraction from more important work. While it’s likely that most of us have had to sit through quite tedious team-building activities at some point, they don’t have to take a lot of time. Read on for suggestions for fun activities that will only take minutes out of your day, but could provide a welcome break and help your company to thrive.

Why do team building?

It’s important not to lose sight of why we have team-building activities in the first place. If done well, they can build trust, reveal hidden skills, improve creativity, enhance conflict resolution skills and simply give the team some fun, which all helps push the team forward.

One reason they work is that they take people out of their routines. Faced with certain challenges, people have to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to situations. 

Another reason is that typical offices silo their staff into departments, and although they might have to deal with people from other teams daily, they don’t get to know them like they do the person sitting next to them. Finding common ground and discovering what makes people tick makes both sides more approachable, and that means more efficient communication, and the ability to resolve conflicts amicably.

Good team-building can:

  • improve communication
  • enhance creativity
  • reveal hidden skills
  • encourage collaboration
  • improve problem-solving skills
  • deliver team spirit and motivation
  • foster connections and friendships
  • relieve stress

Our favourite 5-minute team-building activities

We’ve collected together our favourite team-builders that do their job without being too time-consuming or causing unnecessary distraction. Everyone gets a moment of light relief, and hopefully they’ll get to know their peers a little better.

Q for a brew

Pros: fun exercise, takes seconds to complete, can be done remotely

What you’ll need: no equipment, just everyone at their desk

Group size: any

Instructions: The Q here stands for “question”. The chosen person asks a question on email or any other internal comms system. The answer to the question has to be a number, for example “What is the population of Argentina?” or “how many millimetres are there in a mile?” Everyone answers instantly, without looking up the answer. The closest gets a small prize and asks the next question the following day. The furthest away has to make the next coffee round (hence the name), or undergo some other forfeit if they are working remotely

One truth one lie

Pros: fun, getting to know colleagues, can be done remotely, no winners or losers

What you’ll need: no equipment, two chairs for contestants

Group size: minimum 5

Instructions: Everyone starts by telling the games-master one unusual fact about themselves that only they could know. It could be trivial or epic; it’s up to them. The host then picks one truth and makes up one lie, and sits the person with the true story next to a random colleague, who is given the fake story. Everyone asks one question to each contestant, and both have to convince everyone that their story is true. At the end, the colleagues vote on which is the liar.

This can be done in the same room or electronically. One game can be done in 5 minutes, so you could get a few games out of everyone. For added excitement, you could randomly allocate truths and lies, so they might both be truth-telling – or lying.

Bridge build

Pros: tests teamwork, communication and creativity

What you’ll need: dried spaghetti and marshmallows (plasticine or blu-tac also work)

Group size: any

Instructions: This is an old team-building favourite but it remains relevant. The office is divided into groups of three or four, and each is given a pack of dried spaghetti and a large bag of marshmallows or some plasticine/blu-tac. They are all given the same challenge: build a bridge or a tower, using only what they are given. The longest or highest wins. It’s good for communication and maybe a few surprises. Did you know the office junior was such a skilled engineer?

For an added twist, you could get two teams to plan half a bridge using email or slack, and the two don’t see each other’s bridges until construction time. It would show the advantages and limitations of electronic comms versus face-to-face collaboration. 

Sell it!

Pros: develops sales and persuasive skills, encourages the finding of unknown benefits

What you’ll need: random objects from around the office

Group size: any

Instructions: A collection of random items are gathered from the office, and in turn, each person has to make a sales pitch to the rest of their team to convince them to buy their items. The more mundane the objects, the better. There aren’t necessarily winners or losers (you could hold a vote for the best pitch) but it does get the creative juices flowing.

Baby face

Pros: fun, good for bonding, costs nothing, can be done online

What you’ll need: photographs of colleagues from when they were babies/children

Group size: any

Instructions: Everyone is asked to bring in a photo of themselves when they were a baby or child, or to send a scan or digital image (for the younger ones) to the activity leader. The leader posts them up onto a sheet and everyone has five minutes to guess which team member is which child. The winner is the one who guesses the most correctly. It’s invariably funny, and is a great ice-breaker.

Office scavenger hunt

Pros: easy to set up, costs as much or as little as you like.

What you’ll need: some kind of tokens or objects for prizes

Group size: any

Instructions: This team building activity for adults draws heavily on the child’s treasure hunt. The activity leader hides treats (bars of chocolate, gift vouchers, maybe even tokens for a day off – you decide) around the office. Then everyone gets five minutes to find one. If you tell people in advance what the prizes are, they can choose to keep looking if they find one of the lesser prizes. 

Bucket ball

Pros: simple to set up, difficult to achieve, encourages creativity and communication

What you’ll need: 2 buckets per team, about 10 tennis balls

Group size: any even number

Instructions: Another classic team building exercise, all you need is two buckets and a number of tennis balls, all in one of the buckets. Teams of two are then challenged to move all the balls from one bucket to the other. Easy? Not if they’re not allowed to use their hands, arms or any props.

It’s interesting to watch the thought process develop into a workable solution. If you’ve got the resources and space, have teams playing simultaneously and where they can’t see each other so they can’t copy each other’s ideas. Otherwise, just get contestants to do it one pair after the other. The ones who’ve completed theirs can watch.

Give one a try!

Many of these activities cost nothing, and they certainly don’t use much time. So whether everyone works in the same office or your team is spread far and wide, there’s definitely an activity you can use here.

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