How to choose a team bonding activity that works

Providing a workplace that encourages wellbeing, creativity and enjoyment increases the likely success of any organization and its employees.

According to Deakin researchers who examined the psychological impact of Laughter Yoga on more than 400 corporate workers last year, significant improvements in wellbeing were seen in just one month.

General life satisfaction, personal wellbeing index, mood, self esteem, optimism, and control all rose after just one Laughter Yoga session from between 4.5% to 10.8%. At the same time, stress decreased by 9.8%, anxiety by 5.9%, and depression by 5.8%, proving that Laughter Yoga has an immediate impact.

In recognising this, it is now commonplace for many companies to implement corporate team building activities, wellness workshops, and corporate health programs for their staff. But with so much choice out there and so many different personalities to cater for it can be really confusing for employers to pinpoint exactly what is going to work best for them. So, where exactly should you start?

According to Cheryl Daryl, a Leadership Coach at Leadership Headquarters, the team activities that work the best are those that have been specifically selected based on the needs of a team and are something that “fits” with the team dynamic.

“It is really important to identify what is lacking in the team to start with,” explains Daryl. “For example, if there is already a high level of competiveness between groups or areas, having an activity that is also competitive will just be like a day in the office and could get out of hand.”

“If your team challenge is more that the team do not know each other well and therefore do not trust each other, then a “getting to know you” type activity would work best, something more social or specifically targeted at sharing information.”

Daryl believes that the primary positive to come out of any kind of team building activity is related to the social interaction of the group and the fact that the participants are being put in a situation whereby they have the opportunity to get to know each other better.

“Depending on the way the activity is set up and how it is executed, bonding occurs when people have the opportunity to get to know each other and to help each other, so a game where they don’t speak or don’t help each other will not be very effective if it is bonding you are looking for.”

Daryl suggests that managers should choose activities that are well planned and facilitated as this provides the best scenario for people to be themselves, as well as to also be pushed slightly out of their comfort zone.

And being pushed out of your comfort zone may certainly be part of the course if your company decides to partake in activities such as Jet Ski Safaris, Beach Olympics, and Project Runway – just an example of three of the many that are on offer by the Corporate Challenge Events Company.

“We do push people out of their comfort zones a bit,” says Danielle Lambert, an Event Coordinator for the company, “but, interestingly enough, the people who protest the most at the start are actually the ones that end up getting the most out of the activities.”

“The main goal is just to create an environment which is fun and provides the opportunity for people, particularly those who don’t necessarily work directly with each other, to get to know each other.”

And the success of this is reflected in the feedback that the company receives with Lambert regularly hearing from clients who have witnessed a change in their team culture since partaking in the activities.

“Clients tell us that their team members return from the activities much happier, more productive, and with a renewed confidence, not only in themselves, but in others within their teams. We also regularly hear of relationships between departments being established and developed, where previously there were barriers.”

However, if perhaps you are looking for something a little bit different for your team, be advised that there are plenty of other options available and a successful team building activity does not always have to be associated with something that is of a high energy nature.

Such is evident in the Holistic Services Group who provide a slightly alternative approach to corporate team building activities offering workshops such as laughter yoga, interactive team cooking, and corporate drumming

Mischa Weissenberg, a Workplace Wellbeing Specialist from the Holistic Services Group says, “We focus on activities which align staff wellbeing with the health of the organization, and encourage organisations to invest in their team’s ability to manage stress and bring energy to the workplace.”

“One of our most popular services is actually our corporate massage which offers a revitalising and stress-busting reward for employees, whilst minimising disruption to the work day.”

As with all of these things however, there are always going to be problems which can’t necessarily be fixed by a team racing through a field or an afternoon of team cooking, and there are always going to be the introverted employees who are intimidated by these kind of activities and, as a result, are reluctant to join in.

But according to Daryl these issues can be overcome, but the key is in managing expectations, and planning well in advance

“Team building exercises are not a magic cure for specific dysfunctions in a team, and in this situation there is a requirement to have a structure to support the ongoing changes after the event,” says Daryl. “But with the right kind of planning and the correct activities chosen everyone can certainly benefit from team building. In fact, introverts are actually perfect candidates for participation as they very often pick up on the finer details of “team” building components that are overlooked by the extroverts.”

This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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