Volunteer events, field trips, physical activity — there are all kinds of team-building ideas out there. Some work, and some clearly don’t. Finding the best ones for your company can be a tricky task.

The most successful team-building activities accomplish an objective and can be a healthy, productive departure from the monotony of work. A team that is on the same page communicates effectively, collaborates seamlessly, and has fun — all important ingredients in building a positive, engaging culture. Good team-building exercises allow employees to get to know each other on a more personal level, laying the foundation for mutual understanding and respect. They also can teach employees important lessons about their teammates’ strengths, styles, and motivations.

Here are seven ideas for team-building exercises that will challenge your employees, make them laugh, and help them grow:

1. Volunteer

Giving employees time to leave the office and volunteer can reinvigorate your team. It can be a cost-friendly activity for you, and a rewarding experience for everybody. Not sure where to start? Your employees are a great resource. Ask them if any organizations they’re affiliated with — schools, libraries, homeless shelters, etc. — need a hand. You also can peruse VolunteerMatch to find ideas in your area.

2. Get active

Physical activity releases endorphins, combats stress, and boosts happiness for most people. Organize a day to play kickball, softball, or another light team activity. Or simply coordinate a time people can go for a walk or run after work. Turning work teams into sports teams can be a great way to bring employees closer — just be sure to be inclusive (not everybody wants to run!).

3. Mind games

Mental challenges can be just as satisfying as physical ones. Many organizations host events in which your team has to decipher clues to solve a scavenger hunt or make it to a destination. You also can put a scavenger hunt together yourself. The opportunity to think outside the box can provide interesting insights into the way different employees approach challenges.

4. Get creative

Give employees an opportunity to share their creative sides. Painting, cooking, or building something are great ways to spur collaboration and competition. You can form teams and get to know people better based on the way they tackle the artistic challenge, and by the time you’re finished, everyone will have something that distinctly represents their style.

5. Field trips

Getting out of the office is a great way to reward your employees while strengthening relationships and building bonds. Take a day trip to a sporting event or concert. Or plan a retreat. At Gusto, we do an annual workation.


6. Problem solving

Challenging employees to solve a problem is a great way to mobilize them, give them a chance to work with people they don’t normally interact with, and provide newer members strategy experience. Assign cross-functional teams, or allow people to choose their own. Then turn them loose for a defined period of time to solve the problem. You’ll be surprised at the ingenuity people express when given free reign, and you may actually be able to implement some of the great hacks your teams come up with.

7. Icebreakers

Before status meetings, take a few minutes for everybody to get to know each other better by tossing out some icebreakers. When employees share more about themselves, they are likely to have a stronger connection and better understand their teammates. At the end of every Gusto Growth meeting, one teammate gives a “Show and Tell” presentation about any aspect of their life they want the rest of the team to know about. After each meeting, everyone walks away closer than ever.

Antonio Gonzalez Antonio Gonzalez, a contributing author on Gusto, provides actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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