Team Events on a Shoestring: Fun Team Building Ideas That Won’t Cost You

manly race1

Astute managers know that time for team fun leads to greater engagement and happier teams. Teams that have fun with each other focus their energy positively and have better rapport with mounting evidence of higher productivity too. Low morale in a workplace is characterized by sabotaging behaviours (eg gossiping, time stealing) that spread amongst bored, unsettled or disengaged teams. Our advice: If your team gets in a negativity rut you need to devote some time to personal connections and fun.

So, all teams benefit from team fun, how can you add fun within the time and budget constraints of modern workplaces? Here are some no or low budget suggestions for busy managers:

1. Have a “You Tube” Film Festival

This is very simple, everyone just has to find their favourite you tube clip and forward the link to an organiser. Most will be funny, but some may surprise by being touching or just cute. You could combine your You Tube film festival with a morning tea or paper bag lunch. Perhaps offer a prize (or just a round of applause) to whomever entered the best clip.

2. Word of the Day

Popular in creative workplaces, each morning (or just on Friday mornings if you prefer) a word of the day is announced including its meaning. The goal is then to use this word through the day in “natural” conversation. Points are earned for how early in the day you manage it, with bonus points for using it in a client meeting. To get your word a group could get together and brainstorm a long list of words or you can sign up for’s word of the day.

Today’s word on is “Tarry” meaning to remain or stay or a sojourn – this would be a doddle to get into a sentence by 9.30am.

3. Friday “Beer O Clock” Games

How about calling a halt to proceedings at 4.30pm some Fridays to play some games? This can be quite spontaneous or structured. Some groups even create some permanent teams to compete together and keep a master score sheet over a few months or even the year.

There are lots of games that are really easy to run; such as Spelling Bees, Tongue Twisters, 5 question Pop Quiz’s (in topics such as sport, celebrities, music, movies, TV etc), Chinese Mimes (passing a mime along the line – a mime of an emotion works very well!), Foil Planes and Celebrity Head.

If you don’t want to make it competitive try games like Celebrity Head, 2 lies and 1 truth, “Who Would You Do” (fun in categories like “tennis players, newsreaders, politicians etc”).

Another variation of “Who Would You Do” is where people are forced to choose only one person from a pair – everyone has to answer regardless of orientation. The pairs should be well matched so it isn’t an obvious choice, such as George vs Brad or Miranda Kerr vs Jennifer Hawkins. Hint: This game gets much more fun if the pairs are both awful such as John Howard vs George W Bush – hilarity is guaranteed if your pairing can elicit groans.

4. Create a “Wall of Infamy” Pinboard

Sharing experiences – and especially challenges – is the fastest way to build team bonds, so try to capture some of these “real” moments on a wall of infamy pinboard.

Examples of things you can pin up are “stupid customer” stories / complaints, great typos, dumb ideas from your advertising agency*, references to boring presentations that you all had to sit through, photos of team members pulling ugly faces or coming in sick or injured (or hungover), pictures of people pulling an all nighter, parking tickets etc. Whilst unorthodox to “rah rah” team builders a wall of infamy pinboard actually celebrates some of the lower moments a team experiences and therefore has a rare authenticity and true story telling value.

* I worked for a major bank in the late 90’s and our agency brought us a concept that involved a queue of people at the ATM, which was supposed to alleviate queues inside the branch!

5. Theme Lunches

Split your team into groups of about 6 people and put each small group in charge of creating one theme lunch during the year (tip: book them in the diary during January). The trick is to keep this simple with a low budget and simple themes such as Italian, Indian, Asian, Mexican etc. Make sure you don’t get too gourmet or teams will be too daunted and so keep the menu simple and make sure cooking duties are equally shared.

If you do get into the rhythm of sitting down together for a casual shared lunch it can also be fun to structure the conversation with a really good question for everyone to answer. Questions can be light, allowing for story telling (eg, naughtiest thing you did as a child, best party you ever went to, most famous person you’ve ever met) or have a bit more depth so you get more revealing stories. Example conversation starters might be “what was the best day of your life so far” or “what do you find really inspiring” or “what would you do if you only had a year to live”.

6. All Team Guessing Competitions

A lot of teams have probably tried baby photo guessing competitions, but there are other types of guessing competitions that can be fun to run. Start by choosing an obscure question or fact about everyone in the team; such as such as the first prize they ever won in childhood, one thing they are really good at that nobody at work knows or their maternal grandmother’s maiden name – then create a board that lists all the “facts” and the corresponding names. This is one competition that it is worth getting a decent prize for!