However you want to build office camaraderie, don’t make it too forced
Team-building exercises can be a controversial topic. While many HR departments and managers are tasked with developing a program around them each year, if not done properly they can be awkward, costly and a waste of time. Management consultants widely agree that team building exercises are most effective when they are positive, have clearly defined goals and offer clear lessons.
New research is putting food at the forefront of the team-building debate, establishing cooking and eating together as an effective team-building exercise that helps create cohesiveness and camaraderie. Dive deeper for some recommendations on how to introduce food and cooking into your team-building strategy as well as some other ideas for team-building exercises that work.
New research from Cornell University shows that teams that eat together are more productive and operate more effectively as a unit. The study examined the communal cooking and eating done at firehouses and showed that eating together became a central component of operating together effectively and created a focus for the firefighters when they weren’t on the job. While eating is something we do every day and almost seems mundane, according to the study, “eating is such a primal behavior that it can be extraordinarily meaningful.”
Using food as part of a team-building strategy makes it accessible. Cooking and eating is something that everyone can do, as opposed to a ropes course that might be more exclusionary. It can also take a variety of forms, from group lunches at area restaurants to brown-bag get-togethers. By providing access to snacks, meals and coffees in the office, you can foster opportunities for employees to engage in this natural team-building opportunity.
Other ways to use food as a team-building activity include considering creating a meal or cooking class as your next team-building event or hosting cook-offs that allow amateur in-office chefs to show off their work. One warning: like anything else, don’t overdo the structure around this strategy, as it can quickly feel forced. Creating natural opportunities for people to share meals together and the occasional structured activity strikes a great balance.
From a casual game time at the office to specific team-building games that leverage one another’s cooperation, game-playing can be a way to lighten up the atmosphere while also helping employees learn more about the way their colleagues work and think. Some examples of games that also promote teamwork include back-to-back drawing, where two people sit and one draws an object while the other describes it to them, or mine field, where a blindfolded person is led through an obstacle course by someone navigating by voice. Other ideas for team-building office games can be found here:
- Ultimate Guide to Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck – Wrike
Office trivia can be a fun way to get everyone involved and talking across departments while building up camaraderie and dialogue. Trivia topics can range from traditional general interest to office-related trivia (ex., what color are the walls in the kitchen? Who’s desk is third in from the door?). One great aspect of trivia is it’s an equalizer – fun for most, doesn’t require a degree of athleticism and can be tailored so that it’s accessible for the entire team based on topic.
Getting off-site to give back as a group can be a fantastic way of building your team’s camaraderie. Choose volunteer activities that will suit your team’s goals, whether that’s working together to build something or joining forces to get assembly-line style tasks done or offering up your team’s expertise to benefit an organization.