BEST Team Building Activities in the UK
Most of us have been involved in a team building activity or excursion at some point in our lives.
Team building is important in a number of different realms, from school and university, to sports teams or military units, right through to the workplace.
It is the action or process of getting a group of people to work together effectively as a team, through various activities and events designed to promote cooperation, collaboration and unity.
Companies may organise team building days when there is a change in the leadership team, when new starters join the business, or even just to develop and reinforce team relations. It differs from team training, which is a manager or HR-led exercise focused on improving efficiency, rather than interpersonal relations.
Groups participate in structured activities that are specifically designed to help employees work together as an effective team. Generally, the external activity leader will work with the management or HR teams to design the team building activities based on what they’re looking to get out of it.
Sessions may open with introductions and ice breakers, or they might involve getting kitted up and cracking straight on with the exercise. Either way, the activities and events are designed to develop skills and relationships that can be integrated into everyday work life, so the results continue long past the day out itself.
Why Do Companies Invest In Team Building?
For companies focused on making money, it seems counter-intuitive to let employees take paid time off work to do paid-for activities, doesn’t it?
But actually, there are a whole array of benefits of team building activities to companies and their employees.
The key concept behind team building is synergy – creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
In essence, employers want to create a team that works better as a unit than as all the individuals plugging away alone. The goal is to perform various activities that are both fun and challenging, which naturally have a side-effect of building teamwork skills that will improve employee performance and productivity back in the office.
A number of studies have found that out of all organisational activities, team building has the greatest effect on improving organisational performance and output.
Endless meetings, presentations and motivational speeches are monotonous and tiresome, and just don’t work.
Team building helps to build trust, encourage communication and increase collaboration between employees at different seniority levels.
It can break down silos between departments and test leadership within teams outside of the office environment. A larger workforce tends to suffer the most in terms of lack of communication and integration due to the sheer size of their teams and workplaces, and as a result, are most in need of these sorts of activities.
Effective team building will create more engaged employees, which improves company culture and ultimately boosts the bottom line. It can also help employees to feel like they are valued by the company, which will feed into a positive atmosphere and higher staff retention rate.
Employees who feel relaxed and happy around their peers are more likely to get involved at work, pitch in new ideas, go above and beyond, and help out colleagues when they are under-resourced.
It is important that companies view it as an investment in, rather than an unjustified ‘splurge’ on, their most valuable asset – their staff.
Of course there are various team building exercises that can be completed within the office, but getting out into a new environment allows teams to thrive, push themselves and interact with the wider group. It really is a case of the more that you put into it, the more you will get out.
Outdoor activities are the most effective way to engage a team, providing a new environment and outlook for employees that is far-removed from their office life. Competitive activities push teams to work together to produce immediate results.
The best team building experiences are will be those that allow passionate and dedicated employees to give their best towards a common goal, working with a shared vision of success – something that you would want mirrored in a working environment.
Top Team Building Activities
Choosing something slightly outside of people’s normal comfort zones will encourage them to come together in new ways.
Below are some great outdoors activities that incorporate elements of teamwork, communication, drive and most importantly – fun!
None of the activities we’ve selected will break the bank, but all of them will create a unique experience that your employees can learn from and bond over.
Dragon boating provides the ultimate team building platform to boost morale and develop skills essential in a work environment.
Dragon boating typically involves a crew of 22 individuals, comprised of 20 paddlers, sitting in pairs, facing toward the bow, one drummer and one steerer standing at the rear. Crews paddle to the beat of the drum to move the boat through the water as fast as possible. After a few practice runs, the boats will all race over a set distance.
Because the boats will quite simply stop moving if people are out of time or not pulling their weight, this is a great one for encouraging communication and teamwork. Naturally, teams also bond over the fact that they will win or lose as a crew.
The activity can be scaled to suit teams of anything from 20 people up to 200, and is not that physically demanding, meaning that everyone can enjoy getting involved. No previous experience is required, with crew briefings and training adding to the team interaction and inspiring a competitive spirit.
This activity is a little more challenging, competing against other teams whilst also battling the elements and racing against the clock.
Employees are assigned to teams, who are all provided with the same Robinson Crusoe-style sailing kit from which they must construct a raft.
They must then make a vehicle that can float long enough to take them downstream or across a body of water to a given point. The first team to land on the bank, having successfully transferred all team members across the water, wins. Bonus points are usually awarded if everyone makes it across totally dry.
Raft building requires quick thinking, teamwork and cooperation, communication, a sense of imagination and the ability to work under pressure – all skills that are directly transferable to office life. The activity brings to light differing strengths and weaknesses within the group, and will galvanise a team through achievement.
High Ropes Courses
High ropes courses combine mental and physical challenges, with individuals taking on a number of climbing, jumping and swinging activities.
Usually there is a range of elements at different heights, so the challenge level can be varied accordingly. It is the perfect activity for encouraging trust, support, motivation and teamwork.
Elements on the course include everything from pole climbs and stepping stones to rope swings and leaps of faith. Obviously it is a physical activity, but a major part of it is overcoming fear as an individual and as a team.
The cheers of team mates as you defeat an obstacle magnify the feelings of elation and accomplishment. The challenges can be personal, paired, or completed as part of a wider team.
For those that really can’t face the heights, there are valuable roles given to team members whilst on the ground, including managing safety ropes and guiding others over certain obstacles. This means that this activity is still fully inclusive, even if some employees are less physically able or would prefer not to go up high.
Teams can opt to complete certain sections of these courses blindfolded, for the maximum test of cooperation and leadership. High ropes courses bring great benefits in terms of team building, but also to individuals, who will have to personally overcome fears and push themselves in new ways.
Go karting brings a heavy focus on competitive spirit, energetic involvement and pushing yourself for the overall benefit of the team.
Companies choosing a go karting day out as their team building activity can go down one of two routes. The first is a scaled-down version of F1 Grand Prix racing or Le Mans style endurance racing where employees will go to an indoor or outdoor tarmac race track and be separated into their teams.
After donning their gear, drivers will take to their cars and race a set number of loops around the track as fast as they can before switching with a team member in a relay race style. The benefit of this option is that these tracks are open all year round, in all weathers.
The second option involves employees being split into teams and rotating around a series of team building exercises – either mental or physical – geared towards organisational issues flagged by the company as a focus. Once they complete the exercise, they will earn parts for their go karts.
Once they have a full set of parts, teams return to their garages to build their go kart within an allotted time. Once the karts are built, teams race them over a set course. However, typically the go karts have no steering or brakes, and thus rely on the team’s ability to manually steer and stop through communication and team work.
Whichever activity companies opt for, go karting is a popular and fun-fuelled activity that always brings teams together and has them feeling like rally kings and queens.
Paintballing involves players eliminating opponents from play by hitting them with dye-filled paintballs or pellets, fired from a specialised gun. To come out on top, teams must work together, ducking and diving behind obstacles and running across terrain whilst firing at opponents.
The activity is highly competitive and can be played in large or small teams, where communication and cooperation are crucial to ensuring that your team mates are not taken out by sneaky opponents.
Games can be played on indoor or outdoor fields of varying sizes, in environments set up to look like war-zones or film settings.
There are different types of game, from capture the flag or elimination, to defending a specific area or person, hosted either indoor or outdoors; but all of which involve coming together as a team to carry out specific tasks and aims.
With competitions able to be staged over a few hours or an entire day, teams and leaders can be changed to test and develop different employee relations and dynamics, and maximise return on investment.
Nautical team building offers an incredible day out for companies looking to do something totally different with their employees that is not only great for developing skills crucial in the workplace, but also providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The yachts are crewed with a skipper to help teach the team and encourage them to work together. Smaller companies can hire one boat and just spend the day learning the ropes (literally) and sailing around a given area, whilst larger corporations can take out a fleet and build towards a series of races at the end of the day.
Aboard a 40-foot yacht, participants are encouraged to take on a variety of tasks like managing the helm to steer the yacht, handling the sails and grinding the winches.
Unlike some other team building tasks, which are engineered in artificial environments, sailing a large vessel grants a huge sense of achievement for completing a team task that would usually be written off as being for professionals only.
Yacht racing is truly a team sport, with communication and coordination crucial to outperforming and sailing faster than the competition.
Bubble football combines the nation’s favourite sport with an element of zorbing.
The activity involves two teams playing football whilst encased in an inflated ‘torus’, essentially a small zorb, which covers the player’s upper body and head. This one is much more lighthearted, and employees bond over laughter and shared experience as much as the actual competition and outcome.
Individuals are split up into teams of five and then compete against each other in a single game or a miniature series of matches.
Before heading onto the pitch, players talk tactics, planning out where their strengths lie as a team and how to best utilise this to help them win the game. In the same way as regular football, the game involves strategy, communication and teamwork, with the added benefit of relentless laughter and cheering.
The fast-paced game can be played over the course of a morning or afternoon on an indoor or outdoor pitch, making it a suitable team building activity all year round.
Team bonding shouldn’t be a case of doing it once and then ticking it off the company’s to-do list. See if you can get a couple of events going each year, perhaps high ropes in the summer and go karting in the winter.
How do you know if you’ve gotten team building right? If there was a sense of accomplishment, plenty of conversation and laughter, and a handful of photo opportunities, then you’re certainly on the right track!
Use TOAD to find team building activities in the UK near you!
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