Are team building and corporate activity days really worth the cost and effort?

It is really important to remember “team building” strikes fear into the hearts of many people at work.

While the boss may think it’s a great idea (the boss possibly being you) it conjures up hours of awkward moments with colleagues people don’t get on with or maybe getting cold and wet in a river somewhere. For others who perhaps have a young family it may mean leaving home earlier than usual, arriving home later, childcare, travel costs and more. But, can a team activity day or team building event still be a positive thing? Is it worth the cost and effort on all sides?

team building

The old days

In the day when Gordon Brittas was still on our screens and the Crypton Factor was still a recent memory corporate team building days really were quite limited and pretty one sided in terms of what you got up too. Often it was some kind of challenge like raft building, a few embarrassing trust exercises, maybe a treasure hunt and then some business awards or even the dreaded “role play” sessions to help deal with customers or selling! Some people loved these types of things, but a lot of people didn’t and a bad corporate team day can do a lot of damage to morale and were often something to be endured.

Winds of change

As with so many other things, team activities have changed a lot over the last 10-15 years. Not only have a lot of businesses started to understand not everyone enjoys the same thing the choices and types of activities have grown vastly. The root drivers for doing any kind of team activity are generally the same. Building your team’s relationships with each other can help create an environment of trust, boost morale, improve communication and even highlight people who had leadership qualities no one noticed; oh yes and they can help productivity but mainly as a result of the above benefits.

Inclusive and fun

One of the hardest things to nail down on any kind of team day or activity is how to include everyone. If you have a team of 20 people with mixed genders and ages, you are going to have a big mix of tastes. This makes it almost impossible to find something for everyone and often it is a waste of time trying to do so. This is not to say just ignore the wishes of your staff; no, the key is to consider running two events in the year. These can be polar opposite in type and thus making it clear the business understands there are different tastes. Everyone should be encouraged to go to both events knowing there will be one of two events that will be more “their thing”. It may cost a little more but it will pay off with a more positive view of the events and people that are not willing to try and enjoy the event that isn’t for them knowing there is one that will be may need some help understanding other people’s needs in the work place.

But are they worth it?

Some of the benefits have already been stated but so much of the success depends on both the business and the type of team activity you choose. Not every team will benefit from a specific team building day, they may get more from a fun activity. Getting the staff out of the working environment and being able to have some fun and relax together without the boozy angle of a “work do” is beneficial, it really is worth the effort. Doing it wrong may not be quite so positive but the right activity will yield better relationships within the team and all the positives that go with that.

Getting it wrong

Yes, team activity days are worth the cost and effort if they are done well. However, they can be done badly! Choosing to organise a day without using a professional event company could lead to some awkward and embarrassing mistakes in organisation. It could lead to staff viewing the people who planned it badly and doing a lot of damage. The same can go for forcing a team of people to do something the boss likes that they are clearly hate and are only doing because they have too. Imagine if the boss loves mountain biking but the team are all 10 years older than her and haven’t ridden a bike since they were kids. It might be fun for one or two once they get going but the ones that fall off and injure themselves or stand around wet, cold and tired simply wont get anything from it apart from resentment.

Do it, but do it well!

So, the answer to whether or not these kinds of events and activities are worth is it yes but only if they are done well. Find out what the team likes, find out if some people are really not going to like it, look at other options. Look at travel time and how much out of work time it will take and plan something people will enjoy. By all means push people to try something new but within a limit!

Let the team lead when it comes to choice of activity and the benefits, smiles, laughs and memories will last a long time. Ignore them and you wont want to know what they remember about the day.