Wonderful team awayday ideas (that won't make you cringe)
October 13, 2023
Team building, team bonding, team time... These terms don't normally instil joy in employees, even though they are intended as a fun way to boost employee engagement.
Whether it's a cooking class, sports day at a local park, a virtual scavenger hunt, an escape room or other any other so-called fun team building activity, the intention is great - they bring team members together and facilitate team bonding.
But the experience of an awayday isn't always that great. When it goes well however, team time gives colleagues a break from the office, virtual or physical, and time away from day-to-day work - all with the aim of strengthening team bonds and enabling a fresh perspective towards work.
What is a team awayday?
A successful team building session is:
An opportunity to generate new ideas and discussions – to think and talk about work but not actually do work. Spending focused time with colleagues, encouraging everyone to work together on answers to big questions, has the potential to be transformative. (Source: LinkedIn)
☝ The bit about not doing any work is important – organisers of awaydays take note!
An awayday is, among other things, an opportunity to:
Encourage friendly competition
Elevate teamwork skills
Collaborate with other team members
Practice team problem solving
Boost morale (remember how excited you got as a kid on a school trip... the bus, the packed lunch eaten at 11am... 🥪)
Increase job satisfaction
See team leads in a new light as they take part in a silly party game or relay race (three-legged obvs)
In our experience, one aspect of team building that always gets very positive feedback is giving employees the chance to work and talk in small groups as well as the whole group
Many of our clients highlight the value of spending time away from the office, away from the usual hierarchy, dynamics and workloads:
"Thank you for taking the time to create bonds between colleagues!"
"More opportunities to get to know co-workers please"
"As a recent joiner, this was an incredible way to experience MURAL's culture, vision and joy of collaboration. The event was infused with fun and a great bonding experience."
Why do teams need awaydays?
As well as getting the chance to spend time with colleagues in an informal way, it allows employees a moment to pause for breath.
If people are always head down working without looking up, they can lose sight of the bigger picture. Toes might curl at the mention of team building activities / team buidling exercises / team building events, but they they help build stronger teams, teams that are aligned on a common goal.
The opportunity for employees to get to know each other outside of the workplace is itself a good enough reason to organise an awayday. But as well as this, they offer the opportunity to get together away from organisational hierarchy, which means people tend to feel less restricted and more open - perhaps not immediately, but over the course of the day. Emphasising the benefit of pausing for a 👉 whole day 👈
So, awaydays are an excellent way to encourage more, and better, communication within and across teams, strengthening relationships between colleagues no matter what their role or team.
The relaxed non-work environment facilitates open and honest group discussions, strengthening team bonds; people see their colleagues as human beings, with personalities and feelings. Appreciation and respect are the foundations of high performing teams so helping team members develop these qualities for one another is crucial for the success of any team.
As well as the team bonding benefits, awaydays are also an excellent time to engage in creativity and innovation - they offer time and space to think more freely and be creative in a way that differs from the day-to-day of work when deadlines and budgets loom large (more about this below in idea #5 below, Ideate and innovate).
Five great reasons to organise team time:
1: Employees reveal new aspects of themselves
Give people the permission, space and time to pause, breathe, reflect and let go. Let them play, have fun, be silly, get messy, get things wrong and shine in unexpected ways! You might find you have the county cartwheel champion in your midst or - someone close to our hearts - a magician who can wow you with their sleight of hand and spellbinding storytelling.
It is important for colleagues to socialise within the company - meet new people and develop new relationships - but also to show themselves, and see colleagues, in a new light, so that everyone can understand everyone on a more personal level.
2: Build team spirit and cohesion
Both of these are particularly important for remote teams and hybrid teams, where connections between colleagues are harder to maintain and easier to lose. When team members experience a memorable team building activity together, barriers come down and stronger friendships start to emerge. The team dynamic shifts in a beneficial and often fun way.
3: Reinforce company culture
Company culture has suffered as a result of remote and hybrid working so any great team building activity that can encourage teams to strengthen their culture is a good thing. Events that encourage teamwork on this topic help keep the culture strong. In turn, this improves team morale, motivation and productivity.
4: Reinforce team purpose
Team building activities provide a temporary team purpose - for example, a team that has to get out of an escape room; they would have to work together effectively to achieve the common goal of finding the exit! This could be a fantastic springboard to a bigger conversation about purpose in the work context - dealing with misunderstandings and aligning people.
5: Colleagues communicate better
Conversations at work revolve around... work! So team building activities that give an entire team a challenge to figure out will stretch and improve communication skills within the team. In particular, newly formed teams and new joiners benefit from team building as it gives them a chance to get to know everyone outside the confines of work.
Here are 8 ideas for team away days that will spark joy!
(And one that will make some of you cringe 🧟)
1. Let Abracademy create a magical moment for you
Of course we're going to big up our own offering, so let's talk about that first:
Whether you want to ignite a mindset at the start of an event or if you need us to design and deliver a whole team building awayday, we have created and delivered magical moments for many clients, including MURAL, Netflix, Siemens and Vodafone. Check out our case studies to see how we've worked with different clients.
Magic as a team building exercise is much more than rabbits in hats and card tricks... it's about the magic of people and how a team works together. Magic acts as a tool to ignite curiosity and encourage creative thinking (how did the magician do that??), but most of all magic brings wows and wonder, and connects colleagues in the most beautiful way. Have a look at our solutions then drop us an email to discuss your awayday needs.
2. A board game tournament
Think about it... A silly game like Tiddlywinks will make people laugh and you know what they say about laughter On the other hand a more challenging game like chess encourages strategic thinking and problem solving skills. You could rate one team's performance against another to reveal the creative problem solving abilities of different teams, which could then form the basis of deeper - and more work-related - discussions as well as other team building exercises to strengthen skills. One team might do very well in creative thinking, while another has outstanding communication skills - put them in the same playful space and encourage them to support each other and inspire mutual respect.
3. A cooking class
During MURAL's company retreat, The Maze, a wildly diverse range of sessions was on offer, some run by us, others facilitated by MURAListas including desk yoga, portrait drawing and of course magic lessons. And someone hosted a live online cooking class! Not only did participants get to try something new, creating a delicious meal, but we had a global virtual dinner party! It was a fantastic way to bring people together and there were no Post It notes in sight 😉
Brainstorming is a team activity so everyone can take part, from the newest joiners to the senior leadership team. In fact, it's important to structure the day to make sure everyone does take part - the more ideas that are generated (that's the diverging part) the better and the more likely the team is to converge on a great idea at the end of the day. If everyone is engaged, ideas will start popping like popcorn in a pot and each will build on other ideas to create even more possibilities.
It is beneficial to organise a brainstorming day in a relaxed and informal setting... ie not the office! It's the best way to encourage everyone, from the most confident to the most quiet ones, to participate in generating ideas.
It's also important to create an atmosphere of psychological safety to ensure people feel open and safe, both in sharing ideas and in challenging other peoples' ideas.
The only guideline should be that any and all ideas are welcome! Try MURAL'sHow to Facilitate a Brainstorming Session.
5. Ideate and innovate
Get all your people and mix them up into random teams so that people work with colleagues from all departments and teams across the company. Give the teams a challenge to solve, for example develop an app that tells you when your dog needs a walk. Then send them off into different spaces, give them a time limit and see what emerges.
In fact, you could make coming up with the challenge a part of the day by asking people what problem they'd like to solve. Encourage them to be as creative and impractical as they like! Dreaming big is an important part of any innovation process... dream big then find ways to make it reality.
It's useful to use a framework, for example Bend Bend Break, to make sure people don't get stuck on the first idea they have. Hyper Island has a fantastic toolbox for ideation sessions - the Apple Drawing is a great one to get the day started and remind everyone that they have their own version of creativity.
6. Take a Wonder Walk
Wander and wonder on a guided, synchronised walk with colleagues. We did this with global teams and can testify that it is surprisingly moving to walk in sync with someone on the other side of the world, see their neighbourhood and in turn, share your world with them.
7. Learn the Thriller dance
Is this the one that will make you cringe?! Surely this ticks all the awayday boxes:
✅ It's fun
✅ It's bonding
✅ There's great music
✅ The learning will stick - you will always know the Thriller dance
✅ There's Zombies
People will remember this awayday for years to come, it will be legendary - a team bonding activity like no other that promises communication and collaboration between colleagues no matter what their zombie skills. We know, we've done it!
8. Host your own Pecha Kucha-style event
The format is simple: 20 slides that stay up for 20 seconds accompanied by a short presentation or talk. It's a snappy and highly entertaining way to find out about the people you work with - their hobbies, their families, their travels, their dreams. Say more with less.
You can have a succesful awayday that isn’t cringey, one that is fun and boosts employee engagement!
A successful away day creates teams that behave like teams, more than a group of people who happen to work together.
Awaydays give team members time to know and respect one another, value each other as human beings with personal lives that can impact life at work. Awaydays create teams that communicate effectively, that can overcome conflict, engage in friendly competition and ultimately see the value of every single member for the strengths they bring and the successes they contribute to.
Document everything - take notes and photos.
Capture ideas, observations, suggestions and feedback. Awaydays generate surprisingly useful insights and information. Assign someone to take notes and photos. Share key observations with people afterwards, highlighting action points or things to follow up on. This will maintain the momentum of the awayday.
If you want some ideas or to discuss an idea you already have, talk to Rubens 💌