The practice of "team-building" is going through a sort of makeover. In order for companies to build a cohesive team, they're finding that they must first create the conditions necessary for team-members to form bonds.

Team bonding may just be one of the best investments a company can make, and studies have found that bonding activities can enhance overall productivity, positively impact leadership skills and customer focus, and maybe even boost the bottom line.

But company bonding can be less effective if certain guidelines are not met. Knowing which activities employees respond best to and how to implement them correctly is key.

Undeniably, there's a pretty clear difference between team-building activities that employees are forced to do and the fun activities they actually want to do.

For a closer look at the truth behind which activities employees are forced to do versus what they actually want to do, Nulab surveyed 1,000 full-time employees to learn how common these bonding events are, which tend to get employees the most excited, and their value as long-term investments. 

Bring in the food 

Nothing brings people together quite like food, and the same was certainly true among full-time employees polled for this study. 

Eighty-eight percent of team-bonding exercises included food in some capacity (like a potluck or team lunches), and in nearly half of examples identified, alcohol was also present for company get-togethers. The second-most popular team-building exercises revolved around holiday events (78%) and gift exchanges (58%).

Interestingly, potlucks or company lunches were considered some of the most effective (62%) and most valuable (63%) team-building activities.       

Appeal to your employees' passions

As the study found: 

  • Volunteer days were considered the most effective and valuable team-building activities, despite being significantly less common than food or holiday events. 

  • Only 1 in 5 full-time employees had participated in a company retreat, although they were nearly as effective and valuable for team building as volunteering.

Expert management consultant John Hagel said the secret to company success might not be in measuring employee engagement, but finding opportunities to stoke employees' passions.

Research on corporate volunteer and giving programs found that not only do these events help build better relationships among co-workers, but also they give team members an opportunity to engage with organizations they're genuinely passionate about.      

Make team bonding optional 

According to the survey, full-time employees were 3.6 times more likely to enjoy team bonding that was optional rather than mandatory. More than half of employees also acknowledged always participating in optional team-bonding exercises offered by their company. 

Make team bonding enjoyable

Crafting enjoyable experiences that employees want to attend may not come easily to some company leaders, but the results can be invaluable. When employees know the purpose of the activity and enjoy the event, they may see a boost in their peer relationships, their ability to communicate effectively, and their overall enjoyment.

While there were still some questions about productivity, many employees clearly identified the perks of team bonding. Around 96% cited having better relationships with their colleagues, followed by collaboration and open dialogue.