Team Building in the Workplace

Why team building?

Its detractors call it 'forced fun', and many cringe at the prospect of having to play games when reeling in the aftermath of mass redundancy. However, team building can be still be a positive and useful exercise in the right hands.


It is clear that happy teams enable companies to thrive. When morale plummets, the negativity can spread like a nefarious cloud diminishing productivity. Companies nationwide are struggling, and if pay rises and more resources simply aren't an option, team building can play a valuable part in improving the dynamic of a group.


Why team building?

Rather than executing a programme of dry training sessions in the same office, team building companies tend to offer workshops, challenges and even overnight-stays in diverse settings. By taking employees out of the familiar office zone, they provide an opportunity for new dynamics and behaviour to emerge. Team events can also be successful in breaking patterns of ineffective communication. For example, Sue and Phil have worked together for years and got by with minimal interaction. Now however, the team is taking on a project where they must work more closely over an extended period of time. It can be awkward for long-established team members to start anew so having them partner up to tackle a labyrinth, or treasure hunt, could be an effective way to begin.


Furthermore, technology often takes the place of physical interactions, especially when there are stairs involved. Separate teams can interact for weeks via phone, messenger and email without any real human contact, resulting in dwindling face-to-face communication skills and creating distance between departments.


Team building sessions can target specific skills such as compromise, decision-making, communication, time management and leadership. Instead of the in-house PowerPoint presentation and beige buffet, these themes can be addressed in a fresh way, perhaps via a challenge or a game that facilitates joint-working or competition.


What are the benefits of team building?

The benefits of teamworkingare widely acknowledged: creating supportive, empowering relationships; enabling innovation; promoting equality and awareness of others; encouraging joined-up working and rapport-building. Despite this, many consider the idea of teambuildingto be contrived, expecting teams to form organically and thrive. However, there are any number of outcomes when teams are formed and not all of them are good for business or morale. Team building sessions can be a useful way of moulding a newly formed team into good practises early on, setting the tone and breaking the ice. More established teams can be 'shaken up' out of old habits and introduced to new ways of working in a novel environment.    


Naturally, companies want to see a return on their investment, and employees want to understand why they took time out of their busy schedule to do an assault course in a muddy field.

Therefore, the benefits of team building include:


Bonding - which fosters trust and kindness. This is as useful to long established teams as it is to the newly formed. With bonding comes the gelling of the team, working more closely and pulling together during tough times, sharing workload and creating the ability to influence one another positively.

Improved communication - which improves efficiency and speed. When a team communicates well tasks are executed faster and problems are solved earlier - and amongst the team rather than escalated to a manager. Naturally, they become more interactive and share ideas, improve interpersonal skills and become more relaxed, which in turn means fewer mistakes born from stress and less absenteeism.


Fresh perspective - for those who've been in the same job for a while, habits can be hard to break. For some  there may even be an element of institutionalisation. Breaking out of the work environment, even seeing colleagues in their own clothes and in different surroundings, or having the boss around as 'one of us' for the day, can be stimulating and facilitate the acceptance of new concepts.


Energy - when a team building day is successful, employees return to work energised and full of stories to share with other colleagues. Energising highlights may include the confidence boost of winning a task or receiving praise, or seeing a team member in a new light. The laughter generated during a comical exercise, such as dressing in sumo wrestling costumes or riding 'fun buggies' can be a source of lasting lightness and energy. Finding out the boss has a sense of humour is also uplifting.


What type of activities are there?

It depends on what you want to achieve and your budget. Essentially team building activities are stimulating, interactive and often problem-solving tasks designed to help group members work effectively together. 


Many sites exist that provide a range of bespoke workshops and activities from the standard to the bizarre.Greentopfor instance provide 'Circus for Business' -  a unique opportunity to work with professional circus artists, with trust building exercises involving  tightrope walking and balancing priorities on stilts.Kaleidoscope Eventshost filmmaking sessions, which can bring out the frustrated actors in the group, and chocolate making workshops within a time limit and virtual budget, as well as fantasy Formula One. Indeed, cars feature prominently for several team building organisers,Off Limits Corporate Eventsoffer no less than ten driving activities including 'rage' and 'chuckle' buggies, blindfold and even hovercraft driving.


If the budget doesn't stretch to such events, simply taking the team out for dinner and an interactive activity such as bowling, Laser Quest or a murder mystery can be effective at boosting morale and getting people talking, and laughing, no matter the mood in the office.The Team Building Directoryalso offers free games and ideas based on themes such as motivation and change. In-house team building is also an option, but efforts must be made to ensure the team is properly stimulated in this familiar environment, and returning to the desk during breaks should be discouraged.


It is important to recognise that much depends on the facilitator. Whether hired, or in-house, team building in the hands of an excellent leader can turn even the most simple game to an important learning experience. Deciding what should be achieved from the team building exercise, and providing a structure to accomplish it, is crucial, lest the day descends into it chaos and becomes counter-productive.


Team scenarios:


What if the team members don't get on with each other?

Where there is difference (earnings, opinions, attitudes), old grudges or ineffective communication there is conflict. When left to escalate 'a combative climate of distrust and suspicion develops' (Bowditch & Buono, 1997). Team members may benefit from activities that level out some of those differences and provide opportunities for communication and laughter. It is important to recognise the strong feelings team members may have toward one another, while encouraging quick resolution within depersonalised, communicative activities. It is important to source a facilitator who can give this delicate theme the structure and respect it deserves. The benefits of solving this issue will enable team members to coordinate their work more easily, meet deadlines, take responsibility, share workload and reduce absenteeism.


What if the team members get on too well?

Some teams are simply entrenched in doing things as they have always done them. They refuse, or feel unable, to change. Their confidence comes from knowing the job well, doing it in a certain way and retaining the same familiar dynamic. In this way, the team itself can take on its own personality - in this case, it is close but stubborn. In this instance it is important to bring the team together in a relaxed environment which plays to their strengths, whilst ensuring an activity which requires everyone's input. Learning activities, in an environment that allows for mistakes, and offers plenty of praise can help soften resolve. Sessions that embrace change as a force for good would be advisable.


What if the team is new?

Establishing the professional tone and values of an organisation, and forging a team in a more controlled way, is best achieved when the team is new. Communication exercises are vital at this stage. A series of ice-breakers and team working games would be beneficial. Team building for such groups also provides the opportunity to discover the personalities of the new recruits, including who naturally leads, builds rapport or shies away from attention. This in turn can be useful for managers wanting to work with the dynamic of the team and create a synergistic group.  


What if the team is angry?

Following redundancy, appraisal or pay cuts, team members can become angry, resentful, rebellious or lose faith. The suggestion of a team building day may seem to throw more fuel on the fire, but this is an ideal time to take the team out of the office and address these issues. Debates, interspersed with physical activity to run off adrenaline, and humour to lighten the mood, could offload some of the team's collective feelings and provide neutral territory to discuss wider issues. Failing that the 'rage buggies' mentioned earlier could let off some steam. 


Properly managed, a healthy team plays to its strengths, bringing out the best in each team member. Subsequently the unit as a whole takes on its own dynamic which complements and strengthens the team further.The Team Building Directorystates 'a strong team who know they can rely on each other will outperform others in all areas.'


It is clear that effective, well facilitated team building sessions can help to achieve this.

Company : 1902 Media