Simple Team-Building Ideas

Elizabeth Cipolla

Imagine if you could add some variety, energy and fun into your workday. How might it impact your overall engagement, creativity, sense of inclusiveness and productivity? Better yet, imagine feeling genuinely excited to go to work. The notion of creating an environment that fosters renewed passion starts at the top. As a leader, if you are feeling stuck in the monotonous cycle of meetings, emails, conference calls and bad office coffee to keep you energized, then your employees are feeling the same way.

Throughout my career as a consultant and human resources executive, I’ve heard many top leaders proudly proclaim a desire to create a highly engaged and values-driven culture. Yet, they are missing one important and surprisingly simple ingredient to make this happen; a bright spark of employee engagement through teamwork. In fact, before you can meaningfully pursue the goal of creating a culture centered around the core values of your organization, you need to identify and involve team members who are positive and truly passionate about their work. If your organization is filled with pockets of negativity, mistrust and undermining behavior, then your values-focused organizational transformation efforts will leave you underwhelmed.

Before you try to boil the ocean with a complete cultural transformation, start with some simple yet powerful steps to lay team building groundwork, which will serve as a critical foundation through a stronger team dynamic. The concept of team building is simple, but it often gets a bad rap. I know what you might be thinking…cringeworthy visions of The Office episodes where Steve Carell’s character as an awkward try-hard leader who forces his office staff into lame team building scenarios result in disastrous mockery. Despite these visions, when done right, it is one of the most important investments you can make for your people. It can build trust, encourage communication and boost your bottom line through a higher likelihood of collaboration versus working in isolated silos.

Here are some fast, simple and inexpensive team building ideas for you to try. In fact, most of these ideas are free. Give them a try and experiment with some fun ways to create a stronger bond amongst your team.


This is a free activity that requires little planning. It is perfect for a 5-minute break amidst a hectic and stressed day. The leader gives each team a random item such as a paper clip, and asks them to think of a creative way to use it. For example, a paper clip might be painted or reshaped to create fancy jewelry. Each team continues to share their ideas until time runs out. The intended outcome of this silly game is to encourage creativity, thinking under pressure, and team unity.


In this free activity that also requires little planning, you can take 15-20 minutes of time to spread some positivity amidst an otherwise drab workday. Simply gather your team so everyone is facing each other in a circle. Each person will say something they appreciate about the person standing to their right. To encourage meaningful shows of appreciation, encourage them to share work related compliments or positive behavioral observations. Then, repeat this circle of compliments to the left. The intended outcome is encouraging employees to think outside of their typical workday mindset and appreciate those around them. This will inevitably foster stronger relationships and communication.


This activity will cost you less than $10 for an adult coloring book and colored pencils. Or, you could opt for free pictures from the Internet. To create a 10-minute break if you notice escalating stress levels or loss of focus, invite your team to color. You might even consider encouraging your stressed employees to trade in their ink-pen meeting doodles for a stress-reducing coloring page stapled to the back of reports or meeting agendas.

Sometimes, it is easier to focus upon discussing large quantities of work when you can release some stress while coloring an intricate design. The intended outcome of this activity is to relieve stress, have some fun, and restore a mind that lacks focus due to mountains of work.


This free activity will simply require you to find an area to display and showcase ideas from your team members. The total time will take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes and is great to do regularly. For this activity, your employees will display challenges they’re experiencing, something that inspires them, or printouts of current projects. The wall should be updated regularly such as bi-weekly, and all employees should be invited to contribute. Naturally, this wall will become a low-key forum to talk about ideas, solutions, and have supportive chats when feeling challenged or stuck. The intended outcome of this activity is to encourage collaboration, openness, and creative inspiration.

The best way to know if you’ve done team building the right way is to look around and listen. If you hear laughter, see smiles, witness gestures of support, and feel a renewed sense of positivity, then you are off to a solid start.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a leadership communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 20 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, aerospace, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at changeagentsee@gmail.com.


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