Words like "team building" and "ice breaker" can elicit groans from even the most team-oriented people, and even cause anxiety among introverts.
Team-building activities often have a reputation for being long, uncomfortable, awkward and boring, but with a little creativity and planning, they can be a way to refocus, bond and build teamwork.
A lot of companies use team-building exercises at off-site locations to break out of the usual office monotony and productively build employee morale. These company outings also provide memorable and fun ways for employees to form friendships.
"When employees are friends, production goes through the roof," said Dusten Estes, owner of Slingshot Entertainment in Peachtree Corners, the largest indoor entertainment facility in Georgia. "It generates a better work environment."
So banish trust falls and potlucks. With options ranging from obstacle courses to "Olympics-style” activities designed for every level of competitor, here are secret ways to make team building an event that employees will actually want to see on their calendar.
1. Become ninja warriors as a team
What better way to bond than to test out the largest indoor ninja warrior obstacle course in the U.S.? Created by designer Jason Huewe from the popular reality competition "American Ninja Warrior," shown on NBC and the Esquire Network, Slingshot Entertainment's course can ramp up a retreat or team-building excursion.
Slingshot's course has over 40 different obstacles that will get the adrenaline pumping. During team-building exercises, an event host takes the group through the course.
"It's like an old school trust ropes course on steroids," Estes said. "It's set up like a playground for grownups."
Obstacles range in difficulty to fit every skill level, which helps ease any concerns that an employee will be embarrassed or feel left out.
"We have beginner obstacles that are as easy as falling into an airbag," Estes said.
The course joins other activities, such as go-cart racing, bowling and a NASCAR pit crew-style challenge, which can be arranged by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Fight through the zombie apocalypse
Got "The Walking Dead" fans in your office? Then a zombie-themed event could be just the thing to build camaraderie and inspire teamwork.
Wrike.com suggests this scenario: Recruit one team member to be the zombie. Gather everyone in a conference room and lock the door (or pretend to). Give your team a series of puzzles and clues in order to find the hidden key to unlock the door and save themselves.
What's the hurry? That zombie volunteer from before is tied in the corner, and every five minutes that rope gets a foot longer and the zombie gets a foot closer to the team of humans.
The zombie craze also has invaded Atlanta, where the hit AMC show is filmed, with other zombie-themed attractions.
3. Lip sync your way to synergy
Between Jimmy Fallon's viral lip sync battles and celebrities competing with over-the-top performances on Spike's "Lip Sync Battle," lip synching is cool again. Time to bring those battles into your company.
This idea of creating an office lip sync competition is flexible. You can turn it into an individual competition or have groups compete in bands playing air guitar and other instruments. Co-workers also may discover special talents and forge connections that will continue in the workplace.
Take over a conference room, book a restaurant with karaoke rooms or rent out a space, such as Slingshot Entertainment's mainstage, for a special company lip sync battle. Give participants a heads-up so they can prepare a song or two of their choice, complete with elaborate outfits and choreography, and see who shows their star power. If some team members aren't as faux-musically inclined, remember that all battles need judges.
Creating or planning activities that match what's trending in popular culture today — from zombies to ninja warriors to lip synching — can help turn your next team-building event from a dud into a success.
This article is presented in collaboration with Slingshot Entertainment. Visit the website for more information.