There are three things the typical employee enjoys as much as working on a Saturday:
- Filling out an I9 and new-hire paperwork
- Meetings that don’t stick to the allotted timeframe
- Team bonding activities
- For all intents and purposes, let’s place fire drills and corporate jargon in the same category.
There is no obvious reason as to why team-bonding falls under the same umbrella as the other two items. Team building is supposed to be fun, right? It’s supposed to make the workplace feel like home, right? Wrong. Collaborating with new people, performing a new activity, or being placed in a new environment is uncomfortable. And if you’re dealing with a group of introverts, those ice-breakers you’re forcing upon them probably feel like ice-picks for all people involved.
But guess what? Doing what’s comfortable never got the job done.
For anyone who has ever gone through a rebrand, fought for a proposal, or has worked against any form of a cutthroat deadline, they will tell you two things:
- It certainly wasn’t comfortable
- Their team got them through it.
The challenge for any company is taking a group of people, and somehow transforming that group of strangers into a true team: a team who will want to brainstorm together, fight for that proposal together, and (hopefully) celebrate their victory afterward, together.
So how do you form that team? You could always refer back to the classic route, which involves locking them in a conference room for six hours. Or, if you prefer a more progressive approach (and your HR department would frown upon the previous option), we have one suggestion:
If you want a group of people to truly become a team, make them feel as though they did so on their own.
If you create an environment conducive to team building, those ties will happen organically, in their own time. Here is how four companies have implemented this approach:
- Force them to run into each other. Literally.
This sounds like a stunt a single person would pull on their secret crush (don’t pretend you haven’t tried it). There might be something to this tactic because Google has adopted it. Within common areas, chairs are placed ever-too-close together so employees will bump into each other while standing up. Thus, they are forced into a conversation.
- Provide office distractions.
Planting distractions seems counterintuitive, but it also may be where ideas flow most freely. Wedding Wire follows this tactic by planting a ping-pong table in the center of their office. Workers can take a break from their tasks to play a game, then return to work rejuvenated.
- Feed them.
Clearly, we are completely biased in this arena, but hear us out for a minute. At Zerocater, we eat together every single day as a team. We’re not running out for take-out or eating lunch at our desks; i.e., we’re not blatantly ignoring each other. We sit together and talk about our days (work-related or not), collaborate, and actually speak to people outside our department.
- Finally, if all else fails, buy a keg.
No, we do not place drunken stutters in the same category as productive conversation. Yelp, Thrillist, and other companies now offer alcohol at work (with drinking hours usually permitted after the work is done). These companies believe if you treat your employees like adults, they will act like adults. And frankly, if enjoying yourself at work gets the job done, then so be it.
The fact of the matter is, it’s not about the alcohol. Or the food. Or the ping pong tables. It’s about the people. Just as with every successful business venture, it’s not about the spreadsheets, the HR policies, or the office politics. An exceptional company is built on exceptional people who work well together.
It’s always, about the people.