Team bonding activities: The fast track to team cohesion

Team Bonding Activities in a Flash: Quick Solutions for Busy Managers

Getting workers together for an activity can boost productivity and team members’ well-being. However, most people already know this—finding time to do it is challenging. In fact, today’s fast-paced work environment leaves little time to mingle with coworkers, and even less time to plan and execute a full-on outing.

Yet, building strong, effective teams is still crucial, which explains why almost every escape room, ropes course, cloud-based game, and spa retreat offers corporate rates for team building—it’s an industry.

Most managers simply don’t have that kind of time. They need quick team bonding activities that can be pulled off in a flash, so that’s what we’re talking about in this blog.

What Are Quick Team Building Activities?

Quick team-building activities forge bonds, build trust, and boost employee engagement. They shouldn’t take about 15 minutes and fit easily into a busy workday for both in-person and remote teams.

An excellent team-building activity offers a break from the usual work routine, letting team members enjoy lighthearted fun while connecting as a cohesive unit.

MGR Handbook D

Some examples of quick team-building exercises could include:

  • Two Truths and a Lie:
    • Each person shares two true facts and one lie about themselves
    • The rest of the team guesses which statement is the lie
    • Teams learn more about each other and spark interesting conversations
  • Human Knot:
    • Team members stand in a circle, reach out, and grab the hands of others at random
    • Without letting go, they work together to untangle the knot
    • Teamwork and problem-solving lead to a solution
  • 30 Seconds Game:
    • Each person gets 30 seconds to describe something without saying specific keywords
    • Simultaneously, the rest of the team guesses what they are describing
    • The game enhances verbal communication and quick thinking
  • Emoji Show and Tell:
    • Team members share an emoji that represents their current mood or a recent experience
    • Then, they explain why they chose that emoji
    • Team members get to share personal updates and learn about each other
  • Scavenger Hunt:
    • Make a list of items for team members to find within their workspace or home
    • Set a time limit for finding as many items as possible
    • This activity encourages creative thinking on a short timeline

Overall, these are a few conventional options for quick team bonding activities. Notably, they take little time or effort and can be effective with remote and in-person teams (except for human knot).

What Are Effective 5-Minute Team Bonding Activities for the Workplace?

These kinds of activities can be a fun way to spice up team meetings or act as an icebreaker game for the beginning of the workday. Additionally, by dedicating just 10 minutes to team bonding, companies can promote a more cohesive and motivated team.

More Examples of Effective 5-Minute Team Building Activities

  • Show and Tell: Team members take turns sharing a personal item and explain its significance
  • Quick Trivia: Prepare a few trivia questions related to general knowledge, the company, or the industry
  • Speed Networking: Pair team members and give them two minutes to introduce themselves and share something unique, then rotate pairs every two minutes until everyone has spoken to each other
  • One-Word Story: The team creates a story with each person adding one word at a time
  • Memory Wall: Each person writes a positive memory or a compliment about another team member on a sticky note, and then sticks it on a wall for everyone to read and appreciate
  • Quick Brainstorm: Pick a topic or problem and have a 10-minute brainstorming session where everyone contributes ideas
  • Desert Island: Ask team members what three items they would bring to a desert island and why
  • Speed Puzzles: Provide small puzzles and challenge teams to complete them within 10 minutes
  • Guess the Baby Picture: Team members bring in their baby pictures, and the team guesses who’s who
  • Whodunit: Each team member writes a little-known fact about themselves on a piece of paper, and the team guesses who wrote each fact
  • Quick Debate: Choose a light topic and split the team into two groups for a mini-debate
  • Whiteboard Word Association: Write a word on a whiteboard and have team members quickly write down words they associate with it

As you can see, only some team-building events must cater to large groups to be effective. Small teams on a Zoom call can host fun team-building activities just as well.

Using Improv for Team Building Games

Improv is a fantastic way to get people’s brains going and build camaraderie. In fact, there’s a reason D&D players and theater kids seem to think quickly: a well-exercised imagination leads to fast pivots, inventive solutions, and superior communication skills.

Here are a few great improv games from improvisationalcomedy.com that your team can play in 10 minutes or less:

  • Yes, And…: One person opens with any line, and the next person then adds to it with a “yes and” statement before going back and forth. For example:
    • 1st Person: I need a new water bottle
    • 2nd Person: Yes, and one that isn’t made of plastic wrap
    • 1st Person: Yes, and aluminum foil doesn’t really work either
  • The Ad Game: Suggest a simple item (chair, phone, table, etc.) and shout “Yes!” as each person adds a new detail to the product.
    • “This table folds up to the size of a housefly.” “Yes!
    • And its sturdy wooden legs never wobble.“Yes!
    • The edges are soft, so you don’t hit your elbows on it.“Yes!”
  • Fortunately, Unfortunately: One person makes a statement starting with the word “fortunately,” and then the next person says something related beginning with the word “unfortunately.”
    • 1st Person: “Fortunately, I got a job at Walmart.”
    • 2nd Person: “Unfortunately, it’s to deal with all the angry customers.”
    • 3rd Person: “Fortunately, they gave me an air horn to blow if people get too mean.”
    • 4th Person: “Unfortunately, I used it up the first day.”
  • Questions Only: Speak using only questions, with anyone who isn’t kicked out of the round until only one person is left.
  • Rhymes: Speak using phrases where the last word rhymes with the previous person’s last spoken word. Introduce new rhymes as needed.
  • Sell It To Me: Players go around introducing nearby objects and selling them. The winner is whoever’s presentation gets the highest rating or most votes.
  • Alphabets: Each sentence needs to start with the next letter of the alphabet.
    • “Anchorage, Alaska, is my favorite tourist destination.
    • But have you been to Hawaii?
    • Cool it with your one-upping, will ya?
    • “Don’t you guys ever vacation outside the US?”

Improv games are fun and challenge each person’s problem-solving skills. These games don’t always work as well in small groups, but when used correctly, they can get brains working and let team members show off their personalities.

Great Icebreaker Games in Five Minutes

Icebreakers are quick ways to warm up conversation and build connections between team members. Specifically, these activities are beneficial for new teams who need to be introduced to each other.

Here are a few:

  • Pet Peeves: Each person shares a pet peeve, prompting some fun conversation and funny moments
  • Four Corners: Label four corners of a [virtual] room with different options (e.g., favorite season: winter, spring, summer, fall), then direct participants to the corner that represents their preference
  • Story Starters: Provide a sentence starter (e.g., “The best vacation I ever had was…”) and ask each participant to complete it
  • Personality Quiz: Have participants take a quick personality quiz and share their results with the group
  • Guess the Sound: Play various sound clips (e.g., nature sounds, animal noises) and have participants guess what they are

Remember that most people are perfectly fine breaking the ice on their own. There’s no need to force people into icebreaking activities, so keep things light and simple for best results.

The Philosophy Behind Team Building

A few different obstacles can get in the way of people working together. Open communication is the most common, but egos and cultural clashes also pose problems. Specifically, your team-building activities should target different aspects of team composition to stretch people in various ways.

Cathy McCullough’s The Five C’s of Leadership and Team Accountability offers a roadmap for deciding on and pursuing team-building targets. Let’s take a look.

Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful team. Beyond just exchanging timely information, team members must also understand and interpret those messages correctly. In particular, a lack of clear communication can result in misunderstandings, unresolved conflicts, and ultimately, teams where no one is on the same page.

One-on-ones are great for enabling clear communication channels. Brainstorming sessions are also helpful for letting people convey their ideas and see how they’re received.

Collaboration

Collaboration is the art of getting people to focus on a single outcome. People get excited to pitch in and offer new ideas during successful collaboration. However, it requires a little humility to share ideas when they might not be accepted, therefore, collaboration exercises should emphasize accepting others’ contributions and seeing where they lead.

Helpful collaboration activities include virtual whiteboard drawings, as well as improv games, and even escape rooms.

Clear Expectations

Managers sometimes err on the side of giving only a little information, often thinking, “I shouldn’t have to hold your hand throughout the whole project.” However, this far-too-common mistake has led to delayed rollouts, frustrated teams and managers, and even disciplinary action due to misunderstood job duties. Therefore, don’t seek to be understood—speak in such a way that you can’t be misunderstood.

The 30-second game can be an excellent way to demonstrate bad communication. When managers and team members don’t give enough information, everyone suffers.

Common Purpose

Beyond knowing what work needs to be done, teams should be aligned on the reason for doing the work. Therefore, rather than a group activity, managers should lead by example and showcase the “why of their work by narrating their thought processes. As a result, this gives team members an example to follow.

Consequences

The final C is to understand the consequences of working together effectively (or not). In particular, post mortems are the most common example of reviewing consequences—teams get together and discuss what went well and what didn’t, and why.

In most cases, teams that understand the consequences of subpar work tend to put more effort into their individual contributions.

Takeaways

There are many great, quick team bonding activities to try out at work. In fact, the more fun team members can have with each other, the easier time they will have working as a team, and as a result, the better their work will become.

The driest corporations are the ones that don’t inject lighthearted fun into the workday. While they may bring in huge amounts of revenue, they don’t command the same employee loyalty as those with a more personable company culture.