By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Do you ever get bored with your standard business lunches? I do. So when I plan a meeting, I try to make it interesting. Sparring in a boxing ring or lifting weights with a coworker or colleague has taught me things about them, and myself, that I couldn’t have learned over lunch, and sharing unique activities with others creates a special bond.
Food is great, don’t get me wrong, and I also do business lunches and dinners, but whenever possible I like to try something new and different to keep things fresh and stimulate new ideas. This works best when you share something that you are genuinely interested in with a coworker or client. For me, that’s fitness. Here are five fitness-centered team-building activities that I find to be particularly successful.
In the corporate world, it can be easy to fall into a rut where you feel uninspired and don’t communicate well. Team-building exercises can be used to pop your people out of these ruts and create a bond that allows for more communication and collaboration. Going outside for fresh air and more organic views can help.
During the colder months, I look forward to the sharp, invigorating chill in the air, and during the darker months of the year, exposure to the sun can help fight off the blues as well as generate vitamin D. Wanting to stay warm gives me one more reason to exercise. There is something very special about working up a sweat on a brisk autumn day, and I have many special memories of outings and games with family and friends in the fall.
The best team-building exercise is the one your employees will like the most, so unless your plan is to surprise them, ask your team what activities they have enjoyed in the past and which ones they would most look forward to in the future, and then plan accordingly. Incorporating your team in the planning process helps you find the best activities for everyone and builds anticipation and excitement for the event.
Fun team-building activities often include events that are naturally group-oriented. If some of your team members enjoy jogging, sign up for a 5K or go jogging together, and encourage the members on your team who do not usually jog to give it a try. For people who want to up their running game, there are running exercises you can do to help increase the speed and duration of your runs.
In today’s fast-paced, competitive world, you don’t always have a lot of time for corporate team-building activities, and for people who love their work and are focused intently on deadlines, taking time away from work tasks may actually hurt their morale. But coworkers need to develop relationships so they can communicate well and stay on track. A team that communicates well and looks out for each other is happier and more productive. Finding fun and easy things you can do in just five minutes will help you help your team create a better rapport.
Even a short walk around the office park can help reinvigorate the body and mind, while giving coworkers the opportunity to talk about non-work topics. But if your team’s schedule just won’t allow you to get outside, a short game or activity will give people a chance to have some fun and sharpen their focus. Collect a list of team-building games that can be introduced whenever there is a lull in the action, like “Three Truths and a Lie.”
Five-minute activities can also help create a sense of urgency in your team without adding anxiety or stress. The time limit encourages players to pay close attention and stay on their toes so they don’t fall behind. Building a sense of urgency and a desire to communicate in your team will help them bond and work better together.
Take your workgroup outside for some invigorating fresh air and exercise that will help your team grow closer together and build excitement about your common goals.
Large corporations love team-building activities, but what can you do to make 200 people feel closer together? A scavenger hunt is a fun activity that can scale to include as few or as many people as you have. When you take it outside, the sky is the limit. You can use 5 people or 500, and the size of your field is limited only by the amount of time you have allotted for the activity. Organizing people into small, randomized teams helps employees meet and build relationships with other individuals from your organization that they wouldn’t normally interact with. Having a friend in another department often leads to not just one but several new acquaintances and can open lines of communication that would otherwise remain silent.
Scavenger hunts can take significant planning in order to run smoothly. If you are limited on time and resources to plan your outdoor team-building event, capture the flag is another good way to get a lot of people working together as a group, but it has the advantage of not needing more than a big open space to play.
Like scavenger hunts, capture the flag gets your teams to circulate and work together with people they wouldn’t normally see. This activity is also a little more physical than a scavenger hunt, so this is a good option if you really want to get the blood pumping.
On a sunny fall or spring day, outdoor yoga is a great way to combine fitness and team building in a way that will boost everyone’s mood and lower their sensitivity to negative emotions. Most people don’t get enough exercise, and yoga is one of the most recommended exercises to reduce anxiety. It’s been shown that when people move in the same way at the same time, it creates an effect called muscular bonding that brings people closer together and encourages trust and communication. Doing yoga in a nearby park will provide even more benefits to your team, as there are positive health impacts associated with spending time in parks and natural areas.
Incorporating fitness into team-building activities can be especially effective in the fall and winter because the outdoor temperatures naturally encourage movement. The cooler weather makes fall an ideal time to encourage your people to work up a sweat and have fun.
Stacking your team-building with fitness creates an exciting atmosphere full of positive energy that is good for both physical and mental health. The five activities we have discussed will not only help you increase productivity and communication but also build friendships and relationships that will last for years to come.