I work in a rather small company, only about 25 people. The company doesn't organize team building events (as an introvert I'm happy about it), but we have our rituals. When someone has a birthday, or leave, or something, they buy 5-6 pizzas or cakes and invite everybody into the main hall for a small celebration. That makes it about two birthdays a month, plenty of celebration. And there are huge parties on New Years Eve and on the company's birthday, when CEOs buy a lot of food and alcohol, people play games and laugh. Also, sometimes people gather to play football or something.
I like that these events aren't obligatory, people leave when they want to and stay as long as they want to. I think this is the main thing that makes a good team, knowing that you're free to do what you want (as long as you're nice) and don't have to herd any sheep.
Team events really can suck for the same reason so many other work things suck: Lack of empathy from management. I think people sometimes can't put themselves in others' shoes to see just how stupid work functions can be.
Michael Scott on the office is always enthusiastic about everything, even though it becomes a cringeworthy timesuck for everyone else.
We have a small team so it's easier but we really try to focus on things that are truly fun and not take that for granted.
One really fun thing we did was Escape the Room. It really fit the general team's interests and there was something for everyone. I doubt that would be true for a much bigger org. It worked for us.
There is a VR arcade in our office' neighborhood and I think that would be a fun excursion. Everybody can have fun on some level. It seems a fun space even if you don't really wanna try the VR.
Rock climbing was also fun. It was a chance for some team members to show off their relative mastery/experience, while others got to dip a toe into a new activity as complete beginners. It was an opportunity to root for each other, and burn off some steam.
Sharing passions in a non-competitive setting is fun and generally productive for the goal of team building.
Since my company is large, it tends to be large-scale stuff that's officially mandated, like field day (I refuse to go, but I hear it's not terrible), the end of the year party (with a loaded baked potato bar!), or the summer picnic (at a park or a zoo).
Individual teams can do their own thing if they want, but it's not on the company dime. This also tends to be the stuff that makes or breaks team building, since the events with hundreds of attendees are super duper safe...
Team lunch? Cool, whatever. Team lunch where only the developers are invited, instead of QA, design, PMs, etc? Not cool. Happy hour where after management leaves everyone can talk candidly about culture issues since everyone's tipsy? Awesome! Though that same happy hour for a team of older people with families who don't want to stay out all night would be a nightmare. It needs to be very team specific. One team went to an Escape Room to celebrate a release, but I don't see that working well on my team since we're beer snobs that want to go to the local bar and argue about the draft list.
Well there's the annual ski trip which involves a lot of skiing and also a lot of drinking. Thankfully nobody got that mixed up :)
Of course, there is lunch times where sometimes we cook together.
There's also a fair amount of drinking and spending the Friday evening on the company terrace.
Interestingly enough, nobody ever feels obligated and a good portion of the team is usually missing although the missing people are actually different from event to event.
It might be something like cycling a nice part of the country, or maybe kayaking. I wouldn't look forward to it, but at the same time, I think it's important to give it a go and go in with an open mind. If it turns out to be a nightmare, you'll all at least be bound by the same experience.
I never took part in a team building event. My company organizes events, some of them could be considered as "team building" ones, but not that much. I don't go to these events anyway. Also, as a consultant I have two "sets" of colleagues:
I never see (or even know, with a few exceptions) the former ones, and it's kinda part of my job to get along with the latter ones!
I joined a company less than two months ago and between that period, we:
on a week day, we went for breakfast and then in an Escape room game just the Product team (~10 people). It was a great fun morning.
we went go-karting the whole company (~50 people) outside London, almost an 1 hour traveling to reach the track. C execs were also there and we had so much great time.
In the end, I ended up blending in the company quite easy and got to know lots of the people fast, where if it wasn't it for the social events, I wouldn't be that extrovert.
I'm one of those unicorns. Ya know, the extroverted developer, so I can love a good team building event. Unfortunately most are forced and unnecessary. Since our small agile team, in the large pond, has come together we've talked about last day of the increment (retro) being an afternoon "team building" event.
For the most part these are the "work friends" that I normally eat with, work with, and sometimes hang out with. Anything after work is a "no-no" for me as I have a 70 mile commute and a wife and 2 kids waiting for me at home.
I think the worst part about team building is the "voluntold" attitude surrounding it. It's up to you if you'd like to participate, it isn't mandatory ... BUT ... it won't look good. I'm up for trying new things and growing relationships (teams work better if more tightly knit [IMO]), but lets do it with out being corny, rigid, and full of BS.
Back in the winter of last year, I was part of a startup incubator that had a couple of teams. We were all our own startups and had mentors and investors in the incubator, but we were still very close friends nevertheless.
That winter we had a team-building getaway for two days at a super cool etno-village in a small town in the Bosnian countryside. The events planned for us were cool, I can't deny it, but the actual bonding all went down at the afterparty where everyone got wasted. It's not until then you really get to know someone. People were carried, others were running around half-nude in the winter cold, two of the guys got into a fight and then hugged it out literally 3 seconds later.
Long story short, best team building event ever. Bonds created there will last a lifetime. Even though we all work at different companies now, everyone keeps in touch. That's what I call successful team building.
We've done kayaking couple of times, laser tagging, paintball, sometimes we just go for a round of drinks.
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