Corporate Team-Building Events: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

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When it comes to provoking a hostile reaction from employees, the words ‘team building activities’ are up there with ‘redundancies’ and ‘pay freeze’.

Whether it’s hurtling around on quad-bikes or decorating cupcakes, these corporate away-days, which often appear to bear little or no relevance to employees’ individual goals, can seem like a waste of time.

“It’s all very well spending the day doing inter-department three-legged races in the middle of nowhere but meanwhile, back at the office, client demands are piling up,” says Ben, an account manager at a digital marketing agency.

Sarah, a brand manager for a cosmetics firm, is happy to take part in team-building away days but is not convinced they’ve ever given her work performance a boost: “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take making chocolate over stewing over spreadsheets any day of the week – but how this translates to being more engaged with my role, I’ve never been quite clear.”

According to HuffPost blogger and founding partner of Epiphanies LLP, Dominic Irvine, choosing the right activity to suit the brief is key: “With thousands of companies all offering promises of enhanced performance through activities as diverse as chocolate making, stand-up comedy, 'it's a knockout', climbing, art, drama and personality profiling exercises - it's really hard to work out what is a gimmick and what's genuine,” he says.

“Or more bluntly what's a complete waste of time and money and which is likely to deliver an ROI?”

Irvine believes a successful team-building event is not about the activity itself but the outcome the company is hoping to achieve.

“For example, if you want the team to have a bit of fun and relax together following a very intense period of work, it may well be that a fun session doing something like chocolate-making followed by a dinner is entirely appropriate,” says.

“On the other hand if you are starting a project, time taken to share previous experiences and personal perspectives on the challenges that lie ahead may be more appropriate,” he adds.

In her blog, 'Is Corporate Team Building A Waste Of Time?' Anne Thornley-Brown, a team building facilitator and corporate event planner says : “When companies try to pass off recreational and social activities as "team building" then yes, it's a waste of time. That's when eyes glaze over and team building get a bad rap.

But with the right mix of activities, including recreational challenges, brainstorming and problem solving, Thornley-Brown believes employees can learn a lot from corporate team building days: “Team building can be a powerful vehicle for tapping into the collective wisdom of employees and taking organizations to the next level.”

So with that in mind, anyone for sausage making or human sheep herding? From the cool to the downright crazy, we’ve rounded up some of the most bizarre team-building experiences out there.

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