5 Tips for the Best Employee Engagement Activities (& How To Do Fun Team Building Activities!)

If there's one thing you take away from reading this post today, it's this:

Team building is so much more than a game!

Gone are the days of cocktail making (aka let's get wasted), boat rides (aka thrill-seekers anonymous) and clay pigeon shooting (when are we ever going to use that skill?!)

It's not just that people are apprehensive (they are), or get bored (they do)...

Employees are under so much pressure these days - they literally feel fear & guilt about taking a day off once in a blue moon - so when you take them away from their desk for the day, it has to be worthwhile.

Picture this...

You've been working flat out for weeks, or even months. I'm talking log on at 8:00am, log off at 6:00pm, have dinner, check emails, do 'just one more thing' in the evening. Your inbox is NEVER EMPTY, everything that drops into it is 'urgent', & you're getting chased by finance for the last 2 months of expenses on a daily basis.

Then your boss announces you're all taking a mid-week day off to go boozing.

There's no WAY you can be offline for a whole day without hell to pay after (& by the sounds of it, you're going to be hungover when you do), and this year's activity isn't really something you'd choose to do on your day 'off', either.

But there's no excuses, everyone has to be there to bond (and let's face it, be grateful for the 'treat' of it). It will be fun, they say. Has to be done.

So how can you make it MORE than fun? How can you deliver a team building activity that really delivers the benefits of employee engagement?

You're searching for 'unusual team building activities' because you can't do what's been done before, but you also want it to be meaningful.

The best employee engagement activities - fun team building activities that make a difference (& make it worth the time OOO) are those that include & elicit these 5 things:

1. Engagement

Whatever activity you choose, it HAS to grab people's attention. Make sure that people aren't having to wait around, or that if they are - they're invest in what they're watching.

There's nothing worse than getting home at the end of the day & feeling like you may as well not have been there or that you didn't really 'get it' (what a waste of your money, too).

What you can do: Pay attention to the itinerary of the day, ask questions about how the activity is run & visualise a run-through so you can spot any opportunities to lose people's attention

(side note: down-time & opportunities to step away for a moment are positive elements for introverts - it doesn't have to be full on, but the ratio needs to work for your group) 2. Communication Group activities need to have an element of collaboration - whether they're doing the same thing & talking about it, or they each have a part to play & need to work out how they fit together - to push people into communication. Sometimes at work, we get so caught up in what we're doing (or so used to running on auto-pilot) that we forget to lift our heads & gather more information (or share it!) What you can do: Think about the group dynamic - who's going to be involved in the activity & how (or how much) do they usually communicate? Put people in teams where the outcome of the communication is going to be beneficial when they go back into the office. Is there someone who's really a bit afraid of the boss? Is there a clique in your office who always talk to each other but nobody else? Interfere with the dynamic to give them individually & collectively the support and confidence to change their communication habits. 3. Trust Trust is the elephant in the room when it comes to performance management and employee engagement. Leaders who are 'too busy' to help their team yet refuse to delegate are actively (although likely unintentionally) distancing themselves from the relationship with their staff - either because they don't trust them, or because they've fallen into the cycle of not delegating, then not trusting them because they've never known them to handle the extra work. Team building activities that build trust either consciously or subconsciously, interrupt this pattern (& paired with communication above, can open up new ways of working when they get back to the office!) What you can do: Look at how participants will be working together. Will there be elements of relying on each other to deliver, or support them? Putting one person under pressure to complete a physical task with information or instructions from their team is a good example, as is putting a team in a challenge together to achieve something where one person simply cannot do it all themselves. 4. Empathy Team building activities that elicit empathy are among the most powerful there is - these are the ones that will have the biggest impact on your team when you get back into the office. Empathy is a skill ESSENTIAL for those in leadership roles, but it really works both ways. Employees who have empathy towards their managers are more engaged, more motivated & higher performing because they don't get caught up in the he-said-she-said of office politics, or take everything that doesn't go their way to heart. Building empathy through activities that 'humanise' your workforce teach them that those colleagues they may often get frustrated with are people too - with their own challenges & their unique way of thinking. Pair that with trust & communication and you've got yourself a new lease of life in your team! What you can do: Look out for opportunities to make it personal. Pairing people with those they don't have an out-of-work relationship with & including exercises or activities that help them learn more about each other is a very simple thing you can add to any activity. Alternatively, activities that highlight challenges others are facing they may not have thought of, can create a real lightbulb moment for many. 5. Inclusivity The saying goes "you can't please everyone" and quite rightly, so. But when you're asking people to attend something where the intention is to 'have fun', then you've got to give it your best shot. I've seen team building activities run before where people have been given a choice of how to spend their time (think; go-karting or spa day) - but that doesn't solve the problem of bringing the team together AND rewarding them - for the best employee engagement activities, you've got to be aiming to land both. Adjustments, sub-options & varying roles are the key to an inclusive team building activity - the idea being to make the same activity as accessible (& enjoyable) to all. What you can do: When choosing fun team building activities, take into consideration the individuals in your group. If you KNOW some people aren't big drinkers but you REALLY want to do a cocktail masterclass, then make sure there are 'mocktail' options available (side note: they HAVE to be as good - don't just replace a mojito with apple juice & a sprig of mint...😅) At REFLEX, our Equine Facilitated Learning workshops are designed specifically to support the Employee Experience (and we prioritise these 5 elements to give you the best employee engagement activities) - we specialise in team building & engagement, leadership skills development and employee wellbeing & resilience. Find out more & book your workshop here.

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