Team building activities, whether they’re in or out of the office, improve relationships among team members, expose and address interpersonal issues. On the other hand, they are a great way to improve performance, productivity and creativity within the team.
However, employees usually aren’t thrilled when HR shows up with another team building game. Eyerolls start flying around the office, senior team members pull out their phones, and HR managers seem to be the only ones who are actually excited because of these activities. I guess you’ve seen The Office, so you know what I’m talking about.
Winter is approaching and you can expect that your employees will be feeling a bit under the weather. As the end of the last quarter is approaching, everyone has more tasks, deadlines, targets to meet, and people tend to lose focus and motivation.
It’s time to get ready for winter, so we’ve prepared a list of our favorite office games, which really helped us relax and refresh. These ideas don’t require a lot of resources, and they won’t take up big chunks of your time.
The whole point of such games is to shift your team’s attention from work challenges they’re facing, but at the same time they engage the brain, entertain and help with team bonding.
Before you start, don’t forget to turn off your computer monitoring software!
Clap – Clap
- Participants: Minimum 3
- Requires: Hands
- Duration: Anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours
This game is great for teams of all sizes, however, the more people are involved - the more fun it is!
None of us in the office are sure what’s the actual name of this game. Maybe it’s “clap clap”, or maybe “the clap game”, but each time we play it we break a lot of laughs. It’s also the simplest game on the list, and it can be played during breaks, or you can dedicate a full hour of the day to play it.
It starts with everyone standing in the circle. One person (Person 0) starts by doing a single clap, and saying the direction in which the clapping should continue. The next person in that direction (Person 1) claps next. And they have two options:
- Clap once and the clapping goes on to Person 2
- Clap twice (quickly) and the clapping changes direction (goes back to Person 0)
So, the general rule would be: one clap = continue in the current direction; two claps = change direction.
Clapping should be fast, so it’s easy to make a mistake, thus, the game forces you to stay focused at all times. The person who makes a mistake is out of the game, and the number of participants go down until there are two left - who are the winners.
Those who are out can cheer or try to distract employees who are still playing.
- Participants: Enough for at least 2 teams + the Leader
- Requires: A whole lot of Legos, and a timer
- Duration: 15 to 30 minutes
The Leader of the game should build a Lego structure away from all participants. This structure shouldn’t be too complicated, but also not too simple.
One person from each team comes to look at the structure. They come in together and have around 10 seconds to observe it. They aren’t allowed to take photos, notes or draw sketches. After observation, they should go back to their teams and try to explain what the saw.
The goal for each time is to recreate the structure Leader built as closely as possible, based on the memory of the colleague who saw it.
All teams have a certain amount of time to finish the structure - it can be anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes (or even more). Once the timer rings, teams present their creations and the one that looks most like the original wins.
- Participants: Minimum 3
- Requires: Papers, pens/markers, and a large table (conference or dining table should do the trick)
- Duration: 15 to 20 minutes
We definitely recommend that you play this game before you start working on a group project, or when you run into issues during one. The reason? This game really shows the difference between vague and clear instructions, it helps shift everyone’s focus from the problems and it points out the consequences of poor communication.
Everyone should sit around the table with a piece of paper and a pen in front of them. You should tell them that they need to follow your instructions word for word, without asking any questions or looking at anyone’s paper.
Here’s your script: “Draw a circle. Draw a triangle inside the circle. Draw a square in the corner. Write your name on the paper.” Now, ask everyone to hold up their papers so all participants can see who draw what. There’s a huge chance everyone draw something different, and when you ask them why, you can expect them to say that your instructions weren’t clear, or that you didn’t allow them to ask questions.
Once you’re done discussing the drawings, tell them to turn over the papers and do the exercise again. This time, give clear instructions. Specify where exactly should they draw each piece, and how big they should be. After they’re done, tell them to hold up the papers again. This time, each sheet should look nearly identical.
The Marshmallow Challenge
- Participants: More than 5, split into teams
- Requires: Uncooked spaghetti, tape, marshmallows, timer
- Duration: 20 minutes
Divide employees into two or more teams, then give each group an equal amount of spaghetti (our rule is to go with 50 sticks per team, because they keep breaking all the time), and tape (3 feet per team will do the trick), as well as ONE marshmallow.
Teams need to build a freestanding structure that can support the marshmallow, so the team who builds the tallest structure wins.
Give the teams 15 minutes to complete the task, and watch them work. The winner gets the rest of the marshmallows :)
Why is this game good? It demonstrates innovation, creativity, problem-solving and communication. It’s very good to make the team think outside of the box.
- Participants: Doesn’t really matter
- Requires: Printed picture as a model, papers, pens/markers
- Duration: As long as you want
Before you start, print a doodle of anything, like a cartoon character or a Tokyo landscape (although we recommend that you stick with something simpler). Make a copy for each participant, and ask them to draw an X on the hand they use for writing/drawing.
Afterwards, tell them to copy the original image as closely as possible, but with the hand without an X on it. You can add a timer to make things more interesting, but it’s not necessary given that it’s not a competitive game.
The point of the game is to relax participants, but also to spark creativity while employees are using their non-dominant hand.
All these games are great for then a constructive break is needed, and you can try each one before you find your favorite.
Whatever you choose, the games will only be effective if you’re aware where your team is going and what they need at the moment.
This article was originally written on December 21st, 2016. It was updated on September 27th, 2019.