What makes a good team building activity? What are the key ingredients and what to avoid? We asked Rita Viegas, Marketing & HR Lead at Oz Energia Gás, a few questions that were on our mind – we hope you’ll find them as useful as we did while improving our customisable outdoor team building games.


Secret City Trails: Let’s start with the big question: why do companies organise team building activities? Beyond learning how to cooperate better, what’s in it for the team, and for the company?

Rita Viegas: From my experience, activities specifically designed as “team building” are not usually the most successful ones, because people feel obligated to bond. However, if you wrap them as having a different purpose (leadership, motivating teams, creative thinking, volunteering, etc.) even if you’re doing the same type of activities, they end up being more effective.

Also, I think companies don’t exactly need “team building” activities per se. If employees don’t collaborate, or if they don’t feel as part of the company/team, it tends to be because the company (i.e. top management) needs to improve something else, like their leadership skills, build trust, be a living example of the company’s culture and values, cultivate a dynamic and creative environment, accept failures as part of someone growth, reward achievements, etc… If they succeed in those areas, it’s easier for people to bond and work together daily.

What is the most fun or unusual team building activity you participated in? Why has it stayed in your memory?

I can think of a few of my favourite experiences:

Organising the annual Sales event and being part of a surprise flash mob during the company’s Christmas dinner, probably because in both cases it implied being with this small group of people away from and after work, and because when you’re doing events, you all need each other to solve all issues and last minute problems. Also, backstage has this surprise or secrecy vibe that makes you feel you belong somewhere that is not accessible to everyone.

Volunteering activities (painting a house, selling our company products in Rossio to collect money, or organising a second hand market to fundraise).

A leadership program our company offered with several group sessions, where we had the opportunity to learn more about each other and share experiences.

I’ve also heard about an activity in which each team had to create a sandwich with the available ingredients and then prepare enough quantity for all of them to eat it for lunch. The feedback was quite positive and I believe it was a lot of fun. I think these activities are more successful when there is some friendly competition with other teams doing the same. It makes us grow closer to people in our team.

Onboarding is a crucial step in the overall employee journey because it is the one that “sets the tone”, it’s the first real impression an employee gets of its company, working space and co-workers.

Rita Viegas

Marketing & HR Lead, Oz Energia Gás

What is the most important thing to have in mind when planning team building activity?

Finding the right balance between fun, content and bonding. Making sure people take something out of the activity and build memories.

And to flip the previous question: what to avoid when planning team building?

Avoid doing it just once, there’s the risk people will feel that is because there’s a problem and they are part of it. Also, organising activities that are too childish or make people feel ridiculous when doing it.

Since you mentioned the frequency – how often would you recommend to organise team building activities?

I think the best option would be to do it on a regular basis, like once a year or every six months, so people consider it as part of the working experience and environment and build the expectation around what is going to happen the next time.

Let’s move onto the onboarding process. Beyond the necessary introduction to the workplace, what other activities should be part of welcoming new hires?

Getting to spend time in each department (more in the ones that will work closer to you) so you learn the business from the inside and you feel comfortable with the people you’re going to work with. A welcome coffee so you get to know everyone, and they learn more about you. Also, giving information about who’s who (with photos), where they seat and what they do.

Another idea, inside the team or the department have a meeting with everyone to align expectations, define responsibilities and “action fields”, and to give co-workers an opportunity to present themselves and share something not work related – it helps mitigate gossip and speculation. Also, share, share, share (information, knowledge, experience, etc.).

How important is onboarding in the overall employee journey? Are there links between onboarding and employee success, productivity, retention?

Onboarding is a crucial step in the overall employee journey because it is the one that “sets the tone”, it’s the first real impression an employee gets of its company, working space and co-workers.
But it has to be aligned with the previous steps (recruitment and selection) – if you “sell” something during interviews that are totally different from what the employee sees when he enters the company he will feel disappointed and betrayed, impacting on his motivation, trust and eventually its productivity – and the rest of an employee journey – if you invest massively on having the best onboarding program and then you abandon the employee; if there is no feedback, progression, fair rewarding systems, etc., probably the employee (especially if they are a “talent”) will feel defrauded and will look for other opportunities.

Thank you for your time and valuable insights, Rita!

PS Since you are here, take a look at the customisable outdoor team building games we offer all over Europe – also available for onboarding, book your riddle game now .

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