Not all Outdoor Team Building Activities are Created Equal

How the Wrong Kind of Outdoor Team Building Activities Can Sabotage Teamwork

Outdoor team building activities can be a boon to collaboration or they can be a manager’s worst enemy.  It all depends on how they’re structured and whether there are any real goals.

Not all Outdoor Team Building Activities are Created Equal

What’s up with beach volleyball at work?

Team builders come in all shapes and sizes, from the driest power-point presentation to outright survivalist ventures in the wilderness.  While the former may be an office fixture forever, it’s the latter that have been called in to question lately.

After all, what’s the real value of playing beach volleyball with co-workers?  And more importantly, can such a team builder actually do damage to the cohesiveness and productivity of your team?

Does zip-lining with colleagues really bring out the best in us?

While it may look like a lot of fun to strap in and shriek with delight (or terror) front of cubicle mates and managers, appearances can be deceiving.  Activities that require physical ability can make lots of people feel extremely uncomfortable.

Besides, you’re setting up a competitive paradigm that’s not based on relevant workplace skills.  Try as you might to eliminate competition from zip lining, those who feel afraid will also feel inferior.

Or bowling.  Although not technically an outdoor activity, it’s the same premise at work here.  It’s easy to feel awkward or singled out when bowling- why put your team through that?  What’s the goal?

That goes double and triple for outdoor team building activities that are actually based on real sports.  There will be winners and there will be losers- it’s the perfect way to set up resentment among co-workers.

Even when outdoor team building activities aren’t mandatory, they can cause barriers.

Making these types of team-builders voluntary doesn’t help, either.  How does building a team with only a fraction of the team members present lead to cohesion?  If anything, it causes gaps to widen and cliques to form.

Here’s something better.

If your goal is to get your team out of the office and into the fresh air together, there are plenty of team building events that don’t cause resentment, embarrassment or division within your team.

One idea is an Amazing Scavenger Hunt, which has teams working together to reach pre-set locations around your city.  It’s collaborative and competition is based on work-relevant skill sets, not physical ability or bravado.

Besides, when team builders are structured around concrete goals that fit workers’ tasks at work, everyone gets to play on a level field.  Outdoor team building activities that thrust your employees into unfamiliar situations requiring completely physical (and irrelevant) skills is not helpful at all.