Organizing a team bonding event can be a hit or miss task. Organize a good event, and you’re a hero. But organize a bad one, and you probably won’t sit at the cool kids table at lunch any time soon. So how can you be an office hero to all of your coworkers? We sat down and thought through our favorite work events. If in doubt, ask your most socially connected coworkers to help you vet the ideas. If you’re still not sure, ask them to help you host and promote the event. They’ll only put their name on an event that they think people will like, which will help reduce some of the risk.
Tickets to a game plus beers and snacks is always an easy play and provides opportunities for the more social people to meet each other at the bar, while also allowing the more introverted people to spend some quality time sitting next to a coworker they might not know. While pro sports teams are usually good for fast action, they can be pricy. Usually though, you can find college and semi-pro teams, as well as highly competitive recreational teams. Most leagues and sports teams usually have group rates, even for college and semi-pro leagues. For something off the beaten path, you can check out a roller derby match (I’m a big fan of the Boston Derby Dames).
Forget trust falls. If you want to really get your team to bond, hand them a bag full of quarters and task them with saving Princess Peach from the evil King Bowser Koopa. To help encourage bonding, randomly assign people to teams and have them compete against other teams. Prize categories can include best team name, best team costume (because if you’re going to act like a 9 year old, you might as well wear a costume), lowest score and quickest to get killed in a game, and most amount of tickets from ski ball. Even better, have the teams think up prize categories that reward non-game playing skill so that non-gamers don’t feel left out. Make sure to check with the arcade if they are open to adult groups. Some arcades have rules against going in without a child in tow.
Paint night at a bar can be a great way spend an hour or two bonding with coworkers who you either don’t know very well and want to know better, or those with whom a stronger bond would lead to better productivity. Note that with this one, your team is going to spend most of the evening sitting on one place, so you won’t get much mingling. You could start the evening at a nearby bar, which will either help people release their inhibitions and find their inner Picasso, or will reduce the night to finger painting. Although in either case I would count it as a win.
If you live in a touristy area, chances are pretty good that many people on your team have never done the touristy things. I lived in Boston for 14 years before I went on a Duck Boat tour. Tourist activities often have group rates and are often accustomed to organizing company outings.
One of my best work memories was one where I helped my former CEO and my intern to strategize how to bait our CMO and one of our engineers into throwing all of the balls so that they had no opportunities to attack. We emerged victorious and the intern ended up getting a great recommendation for his next gig (hey, earn it however you can). You think salespeople are competitive on the last day of the month? Wait until they have a Nerf ball in their hands and they’re jumping around. If you don’t have a trampoline dodgeball arena nearby, ee if you can rent a basketball or tennis court at a nearby athletic center or town park.
Who makes the best pizza near your office? How about handmade chocolate shops? What about having appetizers at one bar, entrees at another, and dessert at a third? Food and drink tours are a great way of getting to know your neighborhoods while helping to constantly mix people into new groups. Just be careful if you decide to mix alcohol into the event, or even have it as the focus of the night. A few drinks can be fun, but too many drinks can lead to embarrassment and fights.
Kart Racing is great for small teams as the facilities usually have a limited number of carts. Sometimes though, cart tracks also have video games and a bar, which might allow you to cycle people between racing and hanging out.
Scavenger hunts are a great way to get teams to work together and pool their brainpower to solve riddles and hunt down prizes. I’m quite partial to having teams come up with names and wear costumes, especially for awesome photo ops. If you want to go the DIY route, there’s even a few scavenger hunt apps you can try.
Karaoke is like pizza; even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty great. In fact, the worse it is, the better! Before the event, send out a list of musical categories and artists that people can brush up on to add a little competitive element. Print award certificates for categories like “Best A-Huba-Huba-Huba Elvis Impersonator” and “Most Likely to Be Mistaken For The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”. Bonus points for costumes. ID a few songs that people can sing together so that those who don’t like to be in the spotlight can still participate.
Are there seasonal events or attractions in your area? Here in New England, the autumn season unleashes a trove of treasures at apple orchards, wineries (yes, really), corn mazes, and hiking in the mountains. These are usually low key events and are best suited for relaxing and unwinding.
If you want someone else to do all of the organizing and planning for you, check out Team Bonding. They specialize in helping companies to organize team bonding events.
What other ideas have you tried? Any hits or total misses?