There are a lot of reasons to play games in (and out of) the office: getting to know each other, practicing communication skills, exercising problem solving skills.
My favorite one? Fun.
If you’re looking for a fun activity that your whole team will actually want to do, try these with your team for a bit of bonding. We’ve separated them into different categories so you can find the right ones that fit your space, mood and available time.
No props games are based on communication—whether it be verbal or non—and are super fun without prep or props.
2 Truths and a Lie
Why play? Breaks the ice; exercises your poker face.
How to play: Have each person share 3 facts about themselves: 2 true and 1 entirely fabricated. Have the rest of the group vote on which “fact” is the lie, after which the speaker can reveal which statement is indeed false.
Why play? Sharpens communication skills—especially listening and working together to create continuity through a story.
How to play: Have your team sit in a circle and start your story by saying, “Once upon a time…” and having the person next to you finish your sentence. Go around the circle, each person adding a sentence, the goal being to create a coherent, interesting story by the time you get to the end of the circle (or have rounded the circle a few times, depending on your number of team members).
Why play? Sharpen communication skills: this game can only be won by 2 people working together, over and over again—or by one person being creative enough to guess the winning word.
How to play: One person chooses a secret word. They tell the rest of the group what letter it starts with—let’s say, D—then the group asks questions to categorize the mystery word, like, “Is it an animal?”
If the answer is no, the word keeper must answer it by saying “No, it is not a Duck.” (They must answer with a word that fits the letter clues and category given—here, an animal that starts with a D.) If they can’t think of a word matching those restraints before a set amount of time, they have to tell the group the next letter.
This one works best with small teams and can take a few tries to get a handle on, but once you do, it’s super fun! Find more detailed instructions here.
Why play? Sharpens communication skills, reveals who is patient during times of frustration, and reveals who takes on a leadership role.
How to play: In a circle, shoulder to shoulder, have each person reach out their right hand and grab another hand around the circle at random. Repeat with left hands. The group must untangle their circle without releasing hands within half an hour.
Why play? Practices nonverbal communication and restraint (no talking, laughing, or smiling!). And, you know—just for fun.
How to play: This one’s a bit complicated, but there’s a reason it’s so popular among university students, churchgoers, and pubgoers.
Here’s a basic rundown: you’ll move around the circle, passing an invisible ball from member to member, communicating with one another and passing the ball through only a set of silent gestures. Have a read-up on the rules here and try it at the end of your next meeting—you won’t be disappointed.
Tea & Coffee
Why play? Exercises memorization and listening skills.
How to play: Go around a circle, having the first person state whether they prefer tea or coffee and how they take it (cream, sugar, both, black). Have the second person recall the first person’s preference and tack their own on at the end. Go around the entire circle, where each person must recall the tea/coffee preference of the members before them while adding their own preference.
Paper, pen, a deck of cards—you won’t need much for these games, and you can do them all indoors.
A Better Place
Why play? Encourages teamwork to solve real-life workplace issues.
Materials: Paper, pen
How to play: Give small teams of 2-4 people an hour to come up with a plan on how they can improve a certain issue around the office or in the community with a small budget.
Have each team present their ideas at the end of the hour; whoever wins the most votes for best idea wins the small budget needed to make a difference!
Why play? Encourages thinking outside the box, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, and—just for fun—survival skills.
Materials: Pen, paper
How to play: Paint the scenario for your teams of 2-3 people: they’ve just been stranded on a desert island and can only bring 10 things. Give them a list of 20 things—10 actually useful things they’d need to survive on the island, plus 10 decoys of things that may seem important, but actually aren’t
Use this Navy lieutenant’s recommendation list as a guide. Have each team order their list of items chosen and explain why they chose what they did. Whoever’s list matches the Navy lieutenant’s most wins.
Why Play? To get newly-formed teammates talking to and learning about one another.
Materials: A pen, printouts of a table (described below)
How to play: To prepare, fill in a 5×5 table with characteristics that might apply to some of your team members in each slot, such as:
- has been to Prague
- drinks black coffee
- was born in another country
- plays an instrument
- has a strange pet
Print these and pass them out to your team. Have them go around the room and get team members who match the characteristic listed to sign their name in the box, the goal being to fill up the entire table with names first.
Later, have everyone go around the room and give more backstory to why they were able to sign their name under a certain characteristic.
House of Cards
Why play? To exercise teamwork, communication, and creative thinking skills.
Materials: A deck of cards and pair of scissors for each group of 2-3
How to play: Have each team build a structure of cards using only a deck of cards and a pair of scissors. Whoever can build the tallest structure that holds for 10 seconds wins.
Lights, Camera, Action
Why play? Exercises creativity and teamwork.
Materials: Pen, paper, cup, camera phone
How to play: Write down lots of different movie genres on slips of paper and jumble them in a cup. Divide your team into smaller teams of 2-3 people; have each team choose a slip of paper at random.
They’ll have to write and shoot a short film that falls under the genre selected, takes place in the office, and uses only props readily available. The most compelling short film wins!
Salt and Pepper
Why play? Exercises critical thinking, communication skills.
Materials: Pen, paper, tape
How to play: This one’s great for large groups. Write out a list of pairings—salt and pepper, cat and mouse, Sonny and Cher—with one part of the pair written on one sheet of paper, and one sheet of paper for each person. Tape each sheet to a team member’s back without revealing what’s on it.
Now, the team must work around the room, asking questions to figure out what person or thing is listed on their back and who might be the other person in their pair. Once a pair has found each other, have them sit down and ask each other 3-5 questions about themselves.
Why play? Self expression, artistic expression. Helps team members understand how others see themselves.
Materials: Paper, markers, colored pencils
How to play: Have each person draw a self portrait anonymously. Collect the portraits, put them up on the wall, and have the team guess which is whose. Once the right person is guessed, have them describe why they drew themselves the way they did.
Why play? Teamwork, communication skills. Break down barriers by appointing a lower-level person team leader.
Materials: Basic sculpting or painting materials; a random (but distinctive) sculpture, object, or photograph
How to play: Split into teams of 2-4 people. Appoint a leader (or “peeker”) to each team. Take the peekers to a separate area to show them the distinctive sculpture, object, or image you’ve chosen. Once the peekers rejoin their team, they have 5 minutes to describe to their teammates what the secret object looks like while their team recreates it best they can.
To make things more interesting, ban your peekers’ use of words obviously associated with the object!
Exactly what it sounds like. Step outside to do some team building in fresh air. (I mean, I guess you could do these in a big room instead, but that’s no fun, is it?)
Why play? Breaks the ice, helps learn names, exercises memorization skills.
How to play: Have about 10-20 people stand in a circle. One person, say, Jim, starts off by saying, “I’m Jim,” and passes the ball to someone else across the circle. The person who catches it says, “Hi Jim, I’m Rachel.” Then Rachel passes the ball to someone else, following the same pattern. Increase difficulty by increasing speed and the number of balls in the circle.
Why play? Exercises communication and trust.
Materials: A few random, medium-sized objects like cones, balls, bottles, boxes
How to play: Divide the team into pairs and have one of each pair blindfolded. Lay out objects in a random pattern in a sort of obstacle course, using 2 distinctive objects for the start and finish marks.
Have the un-blindfolded person lead the blindfolded person through the “mine field” with verbal guidance only. The goal is for the blindfolded person to make it out the other side without having touched any of the objects. The first person to the finish wins!
Why play? Breaks the ice, encourages teamwork
Materials: Pen, paper, camera phone
How to play: Make a list of random, silly tasks your team can do around the neighborhood, like “take a selfie with a police officer” and “walk a stranger’s dog”—using photos as proof. The first team to check off all the tasks wins!
If you feel like splurging on your team, or have an employee development budget to spare, you might want to consider treating your team to these fun games that’ll cost a bit more than the ones we’ve mentioned so far.
Why play? Encourages teamwork, listening, collaborating (not “no—but…” but “yes—and…”!) and is just plain fun.
Materials: Either a pro improv facilitator or a good instruction book on how to DIY
How to play: Does the local improv troupe/acting school offer group improv lessons? Take your team down for an afternoon of improv fun where they’ll play Whose Line-type games together.
Why play? Critical thinking skills, teamwork, and fun.
Materials: A venue (a home or even the office!), dinner, printouts of one of these murder mystery games
How to play: I mean, it doesn’t HAVE to be fancy, but it’s more fun if it is.
Have everyone dress up (according to your particular murder mystery’s theme) and bring a dish! Follow the instructions on your chosen murder mystery scenario, passing out invitations, name tags, maps, and suspect files. Let the team loose in groups of 2-3 and see who figures out whodunnit first.
Why play? FUN. Also teamwork, communication, and strategy.
Materials: A paintball facility that’ll rent your team equipment and time on their course
How to play: A Saturday morning paintball competition is probably the most fun kind of team building their is. Head to the local paintball venue and ask for a small business discount!
Why play? It’s the best way to test teamwork skills, determination, and patience.
Materials: A ropes course facility; or a book on how to make one with your own ropes, tools, and lumber.
How to play: Have an expert/venue sort this one out for you. They usually involve obstacles like a 20-foot wall that members must get over, a tightrope walk, and swinging ropes. This is great, but be aware of your team member’s physical ability and their willingness to participate.
Why play? Because golf is terrible and this looks much more fun. We can tell the stiffs in budgeting it’s for team building, though.
Materials: A trip to 1 of TopGolf’s nearly 50 locations and tickets inside
How to play: This one ain’t cheap, and it ain’t easy to describe. It’s basically golf on caffeine: lights, music, obstacles, and targets. But holy heck—gift this experience to your team and they’ll never forget it.
How Will You Build Your Team?
Have you tried any of these games—or do you plan to? How do you break the ice and build better bonds? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments below.