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Team-building is a common activity in elementary school, college orientation, and summer camps…and oh yeah, startups! Not just for kids or young adults, startups greatly benefit and thrive when their teams participate in team-building activities. At its core, team building seems easy enough – an activity aimed at bringing a group of co-workers together to align around a common goal, strength, or activity resulting in a closer bond.
However, in practice, it can be a lot harder to achieve this desired outcome well. Startup team-building activities, whether more team bonding focused or more team learning focused, are critical for team members to build camaraderie and company culture as well as inspire more creative thinking and long-term business success. Beyond building company culture and inspiring long-term positive business effects like more creative thinking, team building is a great reason to bring the entire team to get together.
According to Forbes, team building is often the most important investment successful companies make for their business. It builds trust, alleviates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. Finding opportunities to consistently bake team building into your startup’s culture is critical for building a positive, happy work environment. Providing team building too infrequently or one-off, and without leadership buy-in, can come off corny or fake and the impact won’t occur.
Ultimately, team building at a growing startup is an investment. It takes time, which often can be seen as the most precious commodity when hitting increasingly large and daunting revenue goals and product launches. It also might take financial resources. However, when done correctly and consistently, the price of onboarding is much less than the price of poor company culture, uninspired team, and turnover.
Happiness and Learning are extremely connected. Trying new things with your co-workers (via team building) is a great way to promote positive energy among employees. Pushing your team outside of their comfort zones in a fun way is a great way to get your team connected. The team at Visible has been 100% remote since day one, however, we’ve always found time for team building. Now that the majority of startups are experiencing remote-work life or even founding from the ground up in this totally remote world, we’ve curated a list of startup team building activities for teams to leverage the benefits of team building remote or in-person.
Why remote team building is important
The most successful and impactful team-building events are those that don’t feel “corporate” or like a workday in the office at all. Activities that focus on incorporating leadership lessons or practical takeaways are less powerful. Spending time together, sharing an experience or working towards a common goal allows bonding to happen more organically and far more effectively.
Team building can come in many shapes and forms. Building camaraderie is beyond icebreakers and scavenger hunts. Team building, especially for remote teams, can come in many different forms and categories. Team building exercises are important to incorporate for employee engagement, onboarding, company strategic growth, and company culture.
Related Reading: How To Manage Remote Teams: 16 Tips From a Remote Startup
The key to ensuring strong retention and a lasting positive environment for teams is investing in strong employee engagement team building. Having engaged, sharing, involved employees is critical for retention. Every company wants to attract and keep the top talent, but in today’s working world, especially in the fast-paced startup landscape, most employees quickly get bored or stagnant with their work, lose inspiration and start hunting for something new right around the 2-year mark.
Quick turnover like this, especially when it’s wide-spread and commonplace at your startup, drains companies financially and creatively, and culturally. On average, employee turnover can cost a company 6-9 months of that role’s salary, all the way up to 200%+ salary for top executives in the c-suite. Because of the literal cost of bad retention, employee engagement is critical for a number of reasons. HR professionals believe team building can be incorporated into a company’s culture for employee engagement in a variety of ways to make it easy for employees to love coming to work and continuously focus on enjoyable work. Employee engagement can be inspired by providing more ways for your team to have fun.
Outside of team-building activities, investing in an employee experience platform to track the metrics behind employee engagement. Setting up tools for easy peer-to-peer praise is also a great way for teams to build each other up internally (and even remotely). Finally, another good way to make sure employees are engaged and don’t get bored in their roles is to make promotion paths for growth extremely clear and publicly available.
Team-building can be incorporated starting on day one. Team building to promote employee engagement and company culture starts during the recruitment and interview process but employee onboarding can make or break a candidate’s experience of the company culture because it sets the bar and expectation.
Onboarding can sometimes feel overwhelming and dry for employees. There is a very school-like feel with all the information that must be presented to employees as part of the onboarding process. It’s important to balance the necessary information that needs to be shared at onboarding with a fun, relaxed, and inclusive onboarding environment. Providing new employees with an immersive onboarding experience not only gives them the critical knowledge they need in a short period of time, but also creates a bonding experience with other new hires.
An onboarding experience focused on team bonding can also help ease and speed up the transition from candidates to colleagues, and provide new team members with a head start as they begin to work alongside existing employees. Ultimately, team-building-centric employee onboarding can build camaraderie and company culture.
Company Strategic Growth
As mentioned before, team bonding comes at a cost to the company. A cost of time and money for employees. But, as stated, the cost of poor company culture and employee turnover, can be financially damaging to a company and worse-so, culturally damning for a company as well.
Team building is critical for unlocking the characteristics needed to successfully scale a fast-growing startup. When team members are bonded, they have a higher level of trust. Trust is key to a space of sharing and honesty for new ideas and constructive feedback for growth. Some other benefits of team building for startups’ strategic growth include inspiring more creativity, creating an environment of approachability, identifying new and upcoming leaders, and uncovering new strengths across the team.
Team building can break the monotony of the typical grind and day-to-day for startup teams. A break in routine and pushing employees to use their brains in a different way with their teammates can leave them feeling refreshed and ready to bring new ideas to the table and be more creative in their day-to-day. Along with the trust foraged by team building, somewhat goofy or non-typical team building activities where leaders and management show vulnerability and participation can make the entire team dynamic and leadership more approachable, a positive aspect of strong startup culture.
Many team-building activities require one or more participants to take the lead or volunteer to try something new first. Team building is a fresh way to identify future leadership potential across the company by providing new outlets for folks at all levels to shine and share their strengths. By pushing everyone outside of their comfort zone in more fun, creative team-building environment, you may unlock new strengths that will ultimately help the team in future work-centric projects and decisions. By allowing folks to showcase their strengths outside of their typical 9-5 tasks, you may inspire managers to re-delegate work or reconsider how they manage certain folks on the team, ultimately leading to more inclusive and positive company culture.
Startup Company Culture
Active and consistent employee engagement, a positive and interactive employee onboarding experience, and positive strategic company growth are all components that makeup company culture. Ultimately, company culture comes down to how enjoyable, safe, and inclusive a company environment is for all employees. A hostile, back-stabbing, gossipy, or over-worked culture is going to negatively impact the other three categories listed above – and will result in a less successful company than what could be by focusing on building positive company culture through investment in team building.
As more and more companies make the decision to stay remote-first or continue allowing a large portion of their workforce to stay remote-first in the future, company culture is more important than ever. A major aspect of company-culture that can be lost while folks are remote-first and primarily working over tools like Slack and Zoom is the chance to mix and mingle with other departments and teams. According to a study shared by the people-management software company Lattice, a 2017 Harvard Business Review study revealed that remote workers often left out, and the study’s authors stressed the importance of taking “extra measures to build trust and connection with colleagues” in a remote work environment.
Team building is a great way to solve this problem by providing fun, low-stress options for teams to collaborate and get to know folks virtually that they would normally meet in the kitchen or at happy hour.
So what’s next? As a company that has always existed remote-first, we want to provide you with a comprehensive list of team-building ideas that fall into these 4 buckets. We present to you:
34 Remote Teambuilding Activities
A scavenger hunt around your office or a local area. When doing this remote you can also make it for individuals to find things in their own home or office.
Host a happy hour where folks can optionally show off their homes to the team and answer questions about hobbies or cool art on display.
Invite dogs to the office one day a month or to a zoom happy hour – nothing breaks the ice like a cute puppy!
Encourage employees to create custom emojis in Slack and fill out their profiles with fun information and stories.
The Donut App
Donut is a Slack App this randomly pairs folks across teams for coffee chats every week.
Employee Engagement Activities
Create a #Praise channel in Slack to encourage folks to shoutout their teammates.
Provide company-wide swag rewards for hitting OKRs.
Create rituals for activities such as closed deals (a bell ring) or new product launches. (champagne anyone?)
Interest Slack Channels
Slack channels for everything – interest groups, gratitude and positive vibes, even music or funny videos.
Establish employee interest groups so all employees have a safe space at work. This might include a women’s ERG, an LGBTQ+ ERG, or a black employee’s ERG.
Similar to the #Praise channel, use “Weekly Thanks” on a team call to allow employees to shout out a fellow team member that went above and beyond the previous week.
Employee Onboarding Activities
LinkedIn Scavenger Hunt
Have new hires find the employee that matches with a list of fun facts or past experiences as a way to get to know folks across the company.
Slack Introductions in a #Welcome Channel that includes a unique fun fact!
Lunch with the Founders
This is a great way for new higher classes to understand and feel passionate about the mission of your startup from the get-go.
Make those boring security and employee handbook meetings more interesting and interactive!
New Hire Buddy’s
Pair a veteran on a team with a new hire for the first 2 weeks and give the veteran employee specific questions and prompts to check-in and provide advice and help as the new employee ramps.
Leadership and Strategic Growth Activities
Have teams take a personality test such as Insights, Predictive Index, or Meyers Briggs and bring in a facilitator to discuss the results and showcase how everyone’s personalities align on the team.
Diversity and Inclusion Presentations
Bring in relevant speakers for monthly deep-dives or encourage internal leadership to present on important cultural topics for the team.
Ask Me Anything
Allow employees and teams to have time with executives and leaders to ask them anything. This can cover things outside of work too!
Allow teammembers to present master classes to their peers. These can be things they learned at work or a hobby outside of work. At Visible, we use “Show and Tells” every Thursday to let a teammember share something they’ve recently learned.
Lego “Team Building”
Send everyone a custom lego kit and let folks tinker with it while listening to an all-hands or long company call, allows them to do something with their hands and still stay engaged with the content.
Sales Team Building
Newbies and veterans get the opportunity to practice new pitches for fun prizes. Pitch your own product or have them come up with something entirely new!
“BDR for a Day”
An opportunity for Sr. sales leaders and AEs to come together and work with the BDRs to book outbound meetings for an afternoon.
Everyone presents a meme that describes something relatable to sellers, everyone votes on the best.
Marketing Team Building
Bring a top customer on for a panel with your team to better understand your customers and tailor your message.
Encourage each team member to bring 4 problems they are working through to the table and collaborate together with breakout discussions.
Send a team to a virtual or IRL conference and have them present to the company a quick overview of what they learned.
Tweet Writing Competition
Challenge marketers to creatively pitch a new product, campaign or initiative in *280 characters or less. Emojis encouraged.
Company Culture Activities
Pick 3 office snacks and have teams compete with the best recipes.
Tik Tok Competition
Pick a famous Tik Tok and see what team members can do it best. Let the entry-level Gen Z kids show everyone how it’s done.
Virtual Cocktail Class
Many local distilleries and brands have started offering virtual cocktail classes. Can also be done as a mocktail class.
Same as the cocktail class, just as delicious.
Virtual Magic Show
So bad it’s good!
Live-stream a band or singer and have them take requests via the chat. Or step it up and have a band live stream a concert using Mandolin.
Themed Team Meetings
Quick ideas include beach, safari, sports, and throwback Thursday!
Utilize an app like Netflix party to stream and chat about a new documentary and host a “book club” style discussion about the film the next day.
Company Activity Challenge
Encourage folks to download an app like MoveSpring and set up a team step challenge, leaders across the company or different offices win prizes!
The best part about this list? It’s growing every day. Have a great team-building idea that worked for your growing startup? Share it here: email@example.com or @VisibleVC on Twitter.
Team Building Resources
We tapped into these awesome resources to build out this list. Along with ideas, feel free to reach out with helpful resources or research that backs up the benefits of team building for growing startup teams.
Team Building Research
- Forbes: Why Team Building is the Most Important Investment You Will Make
- SHRM: Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture
- Harvard Business Review: A Study of 1100 Employees Found Remote Workers Feel Shunned and Left Out
- Small Business Chronicle: Benefits of Team Building in a Corporate Setting
- Job Monkey: 19 Important Benefits of Team Building at Work
- Forbes: Why Corporate Culture is Becoming Even More Important
- Indeed: 8 Reasons Why Organizational Culture is Important
- LinkedIn: Why Company Culture is So Important to Business Success
Team Building Ideas
- Snack Nation: Employee Engagement Ideas
- Lever: 7 Essentials of Successful Onboarding Team Activities
- HR Morning: Team Building Activities
- Lattice: 5 Creative Ways to Appreciate Employees Using Technology
- Lattice: 10 Creative Team Building Activities for Remote Teams
- Airbnb Experiences – Hub of virtual classes and experiences from around the world!
To learn more about scaling and hiring top talent at your startup, check out our ultimate guide to startup culture here.