Business team building aims to boost the cohesiveness of intact or cross-functional teams to boost their effectiveness in contributing to organizational effectiveness. The question “Is there a role for fun in corporate team building?” frequently comes up in discussions and on social media sites.
This blog has previously explored the fact that recreational activities and social events are not a substitute for real team building.
I have frequently stressed the fact that team socials and recreational events for corporate teams play an important role in corporations. A company where no one ever laughs, smiles or plays would be a dreary work environment. I know I would never want to work in a setting like that.
Sometimes companies misuse recreation. I’ve distinguished team building from team recreation and cautioned executives about the pitfalls of substituting fun and games for “real” team building.
Dangerous and risky activities have no place on the corporate agenda.
Also, companies that coerce employees into participating in extreme or physically dangerous activities are putting the safety of employees in jeopardy and setting themselves up for lawsuits. So I will say it again.
So I will say it again. Extreme and dangerous activities have no place on the corporate agenda.
If team recreation is not the same thing as team building, what is the role of “fun”.
I find it helpful to use analogies from the world of dining. Think of fun as the icing on the cake. All cakes don’t have frosting but many people find cakes are so much more delicious when they have icing. Notice I said “many”. Icing doesn’t appeal to everyone. In the same way, while fun is not always appropriate for team building, when it is, it can greatly enhance the experience for participants.
It’s possible to have dinner without dessert but, in my book, a meal is so much more enjoyable when it’s topped off with a delicious dessert. When appropriate, fun can greatly enhance the enjoyment of team building.
How “Fun” Enhances Team Building
- to help team members relax and unwind
- as a component of business simulations
- to celebrate key milestones or team accomplishments
- to take team members out of their day to day routine
- as an energizer to keep participants engaged and alert throughout the day
- to break down barriers to help team members get to know each other better
- to provide opportunities for team members to bond during down time during retreats
- to give team members an opportunity to get to know members of the senior management team in an informal setting
- to provide an opportunity home leadership and other skills in a non-threatening environment
Do the Recreational Components Have to be Outdoors?
Definitely outdoor recreational activities have the benefit of providing team members with exercise and fresh air but it’s not the only option. Depending on the interests of the group, the “fun factor” can also be added through:
- cooking challenges
- activities involving music
- indoor sports
- art projects
- virtual reality
- computer based gaming
- mixed reality (MR)
- augmented reality (AR)
When it’s Best to Skip the Fun and Games
There are a number if instances in which it is best to leave the fun factor out of team building or at least postpone it for a more appropriate time. Here are some examples:
- if a team has just gone through a crisis, team members will welcome an opportunity to have their concerns addressed, not play games
- if a team member has passed away, been the victim of a crime or committed suicide, the team will need support not a social.
- when there has been a major downsizing, recreational activities will be perceived as inappropriate and incorporating them into team building instead of focusing on issues of concern will backfire
- when workloads are massive, team members may resent forced socialization while work is piling up but they will likely appreciate an opportunity to celebrate and decompress when the backlog has been cleared
Business Team Building with Recreational Activities
Here are examples of business team building programmes incorporating indoor or outdoor recreational challenges, full debriefing and business application exercises:
- Restaurant Inc.
- The Toy Box
- Wilderness Survival Team Building
- Desert Survival USA
- Desert Survival: In Search of the Golden Camel (Dubai, Abu Dhabi. Oman)