19 Team Building Ideas for Welcoming Back Workers

As employees come back to your workplace, use these team building ideas to help them forge new bonds and get them primed for action.

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The pandemic has been hard in many ways. For teams that were used to working in person, the quick snap to remote work was challenging to say the least. Now that businesses across the country have begun to return to working in the office, it’s a great time to focus on all the great team building ideas that didn’t work in virtual meetings or had to be adjusted for remote workers.

Because so many things feel fresh and new, it’s also a great time to rethink and refresh your team building ideas. This is especially true if you have new people who have joined since the pandemic and are beginning to work with their new colleagues in person for the first time.

When it comes to returning to the office, team building exercises give you a chance to tap your creative thinking.  You can find ways to foster collaboration virtually and in person. For example, if you decide to play an online game, employees in-office and working from home can both participate.

To get you started, here are 15 creative team building ideas you can use to build relationships, foster camaraderie, and boost team bonds in the post-pandemic workspace. With employee engagement being such a critical issue, you want to use every tool available to bring them back to the office and keep them on your team.

Memory wall

Constructing a memory wall is a fantastic ice breaker and reconnection tool. Have employees collect photos of previous outings and team-building activities and pin them on a wall in the workplace where people commonly gather and  socialize. Some potential locations include the break room or near the water cooler.

If you have a lot of new hires, you can also have team members write down on a notecard what they are most looking forward to this upcoming year and what their goals are. When you have group staff meetings, you can ask employees to share their progress.

Volunteer day

FOR AN INCLUSIVE TEAM BUILDING EXERCISE THAT INTERSECTS WITH COMPANY CULTURE AND VALUES, HOLD A VOLUNTEER DAY.

Sometimes it helps to do something out of the office. For an inclusive team building exercise that intersects with company culture and values, hold a volunteer day. This team building event can also act as free promotion for your company  for its community service.

First, you’ll want to pick a location to volunteer at. This can be an animal shelter, soup kitchen, or another worthy cause. To further engage your colleagues, you can even vote on your preferred action. Or you can choose a different cause for each department or team, since small groups can be easier to manage.

Once you know where your team will be volunteering, set a date and schedule the afternoon off for the outing.

Show and tell

During the lockdown, many people took the opportunity to invest in new hobbies and interests. Consider scheduling a 45-minute break during the workday and ask employees to show off things they did to keep themselves entertained while at home. It could be anything from an instrument that they’ve recently learned to play or even cute pics of their pets. The options are limitless.

Company field day

It’s no secret that physical activity can decrease stress and give you a boost of energy. In fact, one study found that participants in workday exercise improved their time management by 72%.

You can leverage this by hosting a company field day. The entire group can participate in fun team building activities like egg tossing, nerf gun battles, three-legged races, egg drop races and disco dance challenges. Many of these team building games are not only fun, but they also foster communication skills and teamwork.

And if you want to give this team building idea a twist, pattern the day after the episode of “The Office” in which Michael Scott, the manager, takes everyone (except Toby) to the beach for a day to sleuth out who will be his replacement thanks to his misguided assumption that he’s going to be promoted to corporate.

In classic Michael Scott style, he does so through a series of inane competitions that include an egg race, a hot dog eating contest, and walking over hot coals. Naturally walking over hot coals is only something that should be attempted on TV; more mild-mannered adaptations of the other competitions can make for a great lighthearted way to do some team building activities with a side of humor.

Two truths and a lie

It’s fun and easy to transition this classic dinner party game into an office-appropriate team bonding activity. It’s simple — everyone takes turns telling either their group or all fellow colleagues three things that might be about themselves. Two statements must be true and one has to be a lie. Then, people take turns trying to guess or determine which one is a lie.

You can make it more of a game or a competition by dividing employees into teams who do the guessing together. Every time a group gets it right, they get a point and — you guessed it — the team who gets the most points gets some kind of prize. Here is where you can really get creative! Maybe it’s a special team lunch or a bonus Summer Friday.

Work Jeopardy!

This works exactly like you think it would. Come up with 5 questions for each of 6 categories, with each question getting progressively harder and worth more points. You can break the company up into smaller teams for a little healthy competition in Work Jeopardy! The creative and enticing prize you come up with for the winning team will be just a part of the reward.

Yoga session

Many find yoga to be a huge stress reliever while also being a workout, and studies suggest that regular yoga practice can reduce anxiety. Book a yoga session at a local studio or hire an instructor to visit the office for an afternoon to give your team a crash course. Inform the instructor ahead of time if there are any members of the team with disabilities, so the class can be designed to be inclusive. Or visit a local park that is fully accessible and hold the impromptu session there.

Exploration day

Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt. And you can make these games as simple or complex as you want.

Come up with a scavenger hunt that allows employees to explore the city. Leave clues or riddles at different businesses and locations around town. Team members can build their collaborative skills as they piece the clues together. You might have to set a time limit for this team building activity. Once the scavenger hunt is over you can all meet up at a local restaurant to have lunch.

If you don’t have time or the resources to put together such a large puzzle, or if you’ve moved to a new office post-pandemic, you can keep it simple. Instead of a citywide or downtown scavenger hunt, keep it near the office and get lunch catered.

Company trivia

What better way to get new team members familiarized with your small business and their co-workers than office trivia? Everything from interesting facts about employees to company history and mission, milestone moments, and more can be included in a team building game that’s fun and educational at the same time. Count this team building idea as one of those in person events that remote workers can easily join as well.

Company raffle

It’s hard to go wrong with gifts. Another great way to make employees feel appreciated and have fun in the workplace is to have a company raffle. The gifts don’t have to be expensive. They can be as simple as a gift basket, quilt, fiction book, calendar, coffee mug, or coffee shop gift card.

And if you combine the raffle with other icebreaker games, such as a trivia night or a jigsaw puzzle, you can incentivize all team members to join in.

It’s also important to note that raffles can be in-person or online – so you can easily involve your remote team.

DIY Cards Against Humanity

Whether it’s a complete “do it yourself” effort and you make your own cards or you buy a blank set of 40 white and 10 black cards from Cards Against Humanity itself, you can customize them to be workplace or team related (and all office appropriate!). The result is a game that’s fun, familiar to many, and unique to your company that allows people to get to know each other and the office better than ever before.

Camp retreat

Most of us can recall roasting hotdogs or smores over a campfire, or telling scary stories with fellow campers. Or just sitting under the stars enjoying the night sky. Take advantage of this nostalgia by taking your team members on a camping trip.

This is a much bigger event than an office icebreaker, but a well-constructed retreat can really boost morale. You can also incorporate special training and seminars into the break while giving employees plenty of space to chat, play team building activities, and relax.

A WELL-CONSTRUCTED RETREAT CAN REALLY BOOST MORALE. YOU CAN ALSO INCORPORATE BOTH SPECIAL TRAINING OR SEMINARS INTO THE BREAK WHILE GIVING EMPLOYEES PLENTY OF SPACE TO CHAT, PLAY TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES, AND RELAX.

Talent show

Talent shows are a fun way to help team members reduce stress and learn more about each other. Take an hour or so from work and ask each team member to show off a unique skill and then vote on who was the most talented. You can even offer a prize for the lucky winner.

If you have a large office, try using the talent show as the “closing” hour of the week. For example, two or three employees can show off their skills in the last work hour every Friday. You can even bring in remote employees by having a computer set up for a conference call.

Karaoke

Set up some music in the break room and ask your team members to meet there. They can choose to sing or just sit back and watch others. Either way, it’s sure to be a fun night for all involved.

You can also order pizza or another take-out favorite to further promote participation and get your employees connecting.

Employee movie night

After the workday has ended, break out some chairs and a projector in the conference room to host your very own movie night. Provide snacks and soft drinks along with a few movie options for employees to vote on watching.

Online games

When the pandemic hit in 2020, online games became the start of virtual team building exercises. These fun games can be as simple as online bingo, pool, Words with Friends, or even a murder mystery.  For example, some companies specialize in creating team-based games, such as Murder in Ancient Egypt or Jackbox Games.

Keeping virtual activities on the agenda can help you retain and engage your remote teams. Of course the flip side of that is have a few board games in the office

Share employee playlists

Another fun option is asking employees to share their favorite songs and creating a team playlist. You could even host a “dance party” either in the office or as a virtual meeting, and ask a different employee to DJ at each party.

Escape rooms

Finally,  visiting an escape room can be a nice change of pace. It’s everything that team building anchors (problem solving together!) all in one. Plus, escape rooms are an increasingly popular option in cities and towns across the country, so chances are there’s a local escape room near you. If not, virtual escape rooms are fun, too.

After this fun activity, consider having a happy hour, dinner, or other gathering to talk about how it went for everyone. You can hold a group discussion about the challenges, the creative solutions they discovered and what your staff learned about themselves and each other along the way.

Employee’s choice

Have a meeting and ask employees to come up with fun team building ideas that they would like to do together. By giving your entire team the chance to determine the activities, your employees will feel valued and appreciated. They will also be more likely to take part in the chosen activities.

The biggest challenge? Choosing what to try first

Team building exercises are great building blocks for team management. They can help put returning workers at ease and engage them in the workplace. The biggest problem most managers face is deciding what to do first. When in doubt – ask your team what team building ideas appeal to them the most. Not only will you have an action plan, but your colleagues will be more invested in the process.

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