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5 team-building ideas that won’t make you cringe

Team-building in work is something we’d like to happen naturally, but there’s only so much bonding you can do at the coffee machine or sharing memes on Slack or Basecamp.

Like every cliche about relationships, team bonding takes work — but it doesn’t have to be a chore. And if it’s well thought out, you won’t be cringing or eye-rolling through it like one of the poor cubicle drones in The Office.

Team building is essential for building trust in colleagues, confidence in yourself, communication, collaboration and building leadership skills. And if your team works remotely, it’s a chance to finally meet colleagues outside of a Zoom screen.

Not feeling inspired yet? Try these ideas for organising team building events that don’t suck.

The great outdoors

Your office might have a pinball machine, a ping pong table and cocktail Fridays, or your remote working set-up might be an interior design Pinterest board come to life. But that only applies to a small percentage of us, and we all need a break from our regular four walls.
Whether you’re an office-based company or you work from home, the fresh air at an outdoor event can clear heads and blow away some cobwebs, leaving room for more creativity.
So, how ‘outdoors-y’? You’re not filming an extreme sports montage so keep it inclusive and manageable. Think a picnic in the park, mini golf, a light hike or orienteering — no need for snow goggles or wetsuits, just the right sensible clothes.
The Matrix team really pushed the boat out recently with a cruise around Dublin Bay that included a few drinks, selfies with the famous Poolbeg Chimneys in the background and the obligatory Kate & Leo Titanic reenactments (no life drawing classes below deck, thankfully).

Treasure hunt

If your idea of a treasure in work is finding a colleague’s secret biscuit stash, you need to get out more. A treasure hunt is a perfect way to split into teams and go on a competitive voyage of discovery.
Most modern corporate treasure hunts are app-based, with AR and GPS tasks. It’s a great way to explore your home town or city — answering questions about landmarks and famous locals, and earning points for your team through off-the-wall bonus challenges.
Split your departments so you get to collaborate with different people, and try not to hold a grudge if you miss out on the gold!
On a recent Matrix treasure hunt around Dublin, the team left their inhibitions back at the office and ran around the city doing magic tricks, catwalk impressions, martial arts displays, air guitar solos and some truly ‘unique’ breakdancing.

Are you having a laugh?

Unless your boss is a David Brent or Michael Scott wannabe entertainer, your office days or Zoom calls are probably light on comedy.
But having a laugh with colleagues is one of the great levellers — it reduces stress, releases endorphins, creates a bond and boosts creativity.
So how do we prescribe a good dose of the best medicine? No, don’t just give the floor to the office joker — book a personalised stand-up show from a real comedian.
Virtual standup events are good for chuckles, but there’s nothing like being there in the room and feeling the stress lift.
For a corporate standup show, don’t be aiming for comedy auteurs, self-indulgence or deep social commentary. Choose a comic that’s good at ‘crowd work’ — interacting with the audience and building up a rapport.
Brief the comic beforehand about the team — how you see yourselves, demographics, company culture and what you like to laugh about. A good comic will get the crowd onside with in-jokes, and sense which team members like to get involved.
If your team can laugh at yourselves together, you’ll let their guard down and open up — and learn a lot about each other.

Craft day

If you work in an office or at your computer at home, chances are that most of your movements involve tip-tapping on a keyboard, shifting in your seat or turning on the kettle.
But what if you could channel your inner artisan creator?
Corporate craft events can open up coworkers’ creative sides, discovering new skills and sharpening the talents you already have.

A few suggestions:

  • Good clean fun in a soap-making class
  • Get the write idea making personalised notebooks
  • Work life imitates art with a painting class
  • Lean into the daily grind with a DIY coffee mug workshop

During lockdown, the Matrix team indulged in some shrub-standard work — taking part in a virtual Koki planting workshop hosted by Artful Green. In some cases more soil ended up on our desks than the special coconut fibre ‘pot’, but some of the plants are still thriving over a year later.

The great escape

Bolting out the door at 5pm on a Friday is one corporate escape room experience, but there are better ways to get outta dodge.
Escape rooms and adventure puzzle games are a great way to bump a few heads together to solve a problem. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a survivor with a head for puzzles, team up with colleagues to beat your captors.
You’ll soon work out your strengths — are you good at solving clues through mental agility or brute force? Do you have the patience to let others take over? Are you a wizard at word games, riddles, hand-eye coordination or balancing precariously?
Even if there’s no big prize, victory will be worth it when it comes to bragging rights back in the office — some members of the Matrix team have been rubbing it in for months after winning a GoQuest challenge.

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