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How to Boost Staff Performance With Creative Team Building


The third quarter of this financial year brings with it new goals and targets to achieve but with holiday season looming just around the corner, there is also the danger of slumping productivity. What with Diwali, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up fast, your staff are distractedly thinking about office parties, planning their gift shopping and researching the trendiest place to spend New Years.

So what can you do to get them back on track?

Team building events are a great way to reconnect with your staff members and re-engage them in a fun way away from the desk. Plus, if you keep numbers small and focused, you can ensure the setting is more intimate and less formal than your typical office party would be (especially if you tend to invite clients to those kinds of things), allowing staff to open up and get to know their colleagues (minus the layer of alcohol that usually mars these type of social gatherings).

We know your time is precious – so before you start shaking your head, thinking about looming deadlines and worrying that there’s no chance for a day off work, bear in mind that team building doesn’t need to be a full day. Even a few hours or half a day can work wonders for staff motivation and morale!

What outcome do you want?

Great, so you’ve come around to the idea of a team building event of some sort. But before you start sending out iCals, ask yourself what outcome you want at the end.  

For example, do you simply want to have a good time where you can relax and unwind with co-workers or would it be more beneficial to do an activity which involves working together or learn something new? The WorkflowMax Marketing team went to Military Arts last year where we had an awesome time doing events like Archery, Axe Throwing and having several failed attempts at their vertical Climbing Wall.

You can easily get people to vote on their preferred event with Google Forms, or make a spreadsheet with all options listed, along with a little bit of context next to each, and instructions on how to vote.

For instance, every person is assigned 3 votes which they can allocate as they want across the options or if they really really want to do an activity combine their votes together to give 3 points for a certain activity. Whatever option gets the most votes is the chosen activity.  

Tips for success:

  • Know you won’t be able to please everyone; Your team is most likely comprised of completely different individuals, all with very individual likes and preferences. Hence agreement on one single activity might require some compromise. As a manager, be cognisant of different team members’ preferences and make sure everyone understands the bigger picture at hand.
  • Make sure you involve relevant people in the process; Even if you know some of your team have kids and most likely won’t be able make it, or new starters who are generally shy about this kind of thing – extend the invite anyway and see what happens!
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself; Share the load by involving your team and assigning roles and responsibility. While this is a great way of freeing up some of your own time, it also gives team members more ownership and increases their involvement with the event. Roles could be anything from Catering Champ and Quiz Master to Team Photographer and Sober Driver.

Location: In the office

Is it slashing down with rain, or sleeting? Are budget constraints an issue? It’s perfectly possible to have an awesome team day in the office too. All you need to do is aim for a change of scene by holding your event away from your desks – for example, taking over the large conference room (or even the kitchen space if you really have to).

Category: Game-based

Two Truths and a Lie

For team bonding

Have participants write down 3 things about themselves that they have to share with the wider group. Two of those things are true and one is a (believable) lie. Participants guess which is the lie.

Back-to-Back Drawing

For communication skills

Kind of like pictionary or charades, this game helps develop communication skills. Split your group into pairs and have each pair sit back to back. One person gets a picture or object while the other has a blank piece of paper. The person with the image or object needs to verbally describe what they’re looking at so their partner can draw it. Make it more fun and challenging by giving them constraints – e.g. how much detail they’re allowed to give or how much time they have to complete the task.


Category: Educational

Office Trivia and Scavenger Hunt

For team bonding and culture building

This is great idea for new starters in your team but also for existing members who might need a trip down memory lane to re-ignite their passion for the business.

Put together a list of trivia or questions about your workplace (for example “How was our company name decided?” “What do the logo colours mean?” “How many departments have the letter “M” in their name?” “How many posters around the office are red?”) with the entire quiz being timed. Some of the questions might require research or physically going around the office to collect clues. Let the teams decide how to strategize the best way to answer everything on the list in the shortest amount of time possible. Have prizes at the end to celebrate the victor!

For more ideas check out: 50 Scavenger Hunt Ideas


Category: Educational/Problem Solving

"We can do better work when we collaborate [but] you can’t just put 2 people in a room and expect them to work together. There are certain dynamics and fit involved.” – Geoff Teehan, Product Design Director at Facebook

Ideation Workshop
For communication and creative thinking


Image via Sunni Brown

Sometimes it's not so much about the making as it is about the thinking. Bring together your team, give them a brief on the challenge you’re trying to solve and have a really good brainstorming and ideas session, free from judgement. Every idea should have some merit. And  while creative brainstorming on the spot can be difficult, here are some ideas you can use to make the process easier:

  • Visual stimulation; scatter the room liberally with magazines, posters, cultural references.
  • Set constraints; As many ideas as you can in ten minutes
  • Play word games
  • Focus on generating LOTS of ideas
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Ask “What if…” to build on others’ ideas
  • Ask the right questions
  • Moderate to keep the meeting on track


For creative thinking and time management


“Some of the most productive hackathons include those from different disciplines, such as the sales team.” – Parklet

In essence, hacking is creative problem solving. Hackathons don’t have to be for coders or developers alone. In fact Hackathons are growing in popularity all over the world as more and more companies adopt these brainstorming, strategizing and making sessions to stir up new ideas and create practical solutions on everything from culture change to product innovation.

You could get consensus on 2-3 ideas you want to focus on during the hackathon (depending on how big the team that gets involved is) and divide teams up with a good mix of skills across the board. Along with finding a plausible, practical solution to your issue, you want to focus on encouraging learning, collaboration and innovation. Other benefits of hosting these kinds of events includes gaining insight into how other teams and disciplines work, and opportunities to upskill; everyone involved will learn at least one thing from someone else, gain some confidence in public speaking and presenting!  

Give your hackathon a cool name and provide advance notice so people can clear their calendars. Provide snacks – prototyping is hungry work! Make sure all the tools required will be available. And if it’s a hit, make sure you do it every quarter or so!

Location: Out of the office

Category: Charity/Volunteer

Coastal clean up or tree planting

Image via sustainablecoastlines.org

Volunteering events are a great way for teams to come together over a common cause. You could team up with already established organisations or host your own event. Find a cause that aligns with your organisation’s values – for example, if your philosophy involves eco-design, it might be appropriate to do something that involves the environment. If you’re based in New Zealand check out Sustainable Coastlines, Keep New Zealand Beautiful or the Kaipatiki Project for ideas.

Of course volunteering can take lots of forms. You might decide to feed the homeless at your city’s soup kitchen, host a mentoring day at local schools or help out at the Zoo or community SPCA. Whatever it is, finding something that will resonate with your staff and company will have more chance of success.

Category: Competitive/Active

“Laugh in the face of adversity…Focus on the obstacles and the teamwork and you won't even notice the km fall away behind you” – The Madness, by MuleNZ

Fun Run or Obstacle Course

After doing events like Tough Mudder with a small group of complete strangers, I have to admit: I’m a total convert. I think these kinds of events put us outside our comfort zone, get our adrenalin going and build bonds like nothing else. After crawling through mud and barbed wire, leaping over fire, plunging through icy cold water who wouldn’t be friends? Plus after a particularly challenging obstacle – you can pull together and help each other through it. For some ideas check out:

The Madness by Mule NZ, Tough Guy & Gal and of course, Tough Mudder.

The most important thing is to have fun with your team day. Remember that a company is only as strong as its people; your employees are worth investing in! We hope these ideas help you create an awesome team day that will not only boost employee morale and engagement for the next few months as holiday distractions start rolling in, but far beyond!

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Mallika Goel
Mallika Goel is the communications manager at WorkflowMax, fresh from the agency world. She brings with her four years of experience working with some of New Zealand’s largest brands as well as more boutique ones. She thinks life’s too short to do one thing, so she keeps herself busy pursuing her many interests: an obsessive love of writing/blogging, fitness, travelling and design.

Mallika Goel