The happiness dividends of team building activities
Fun is transformational. We see it all the time: A corporate group shows up for a team building event and they are tired, grumpy, deflated. They grumble, “What are we doing here? I could be back at the office working.” Then a Watson Adventures host sets them up in teams for a “scavenger hunt,” during which they work together to answer tricky, humorous questions about a museum or historic place.
Two hours later they show up at the finish line looking like a bouquet of smiles—they’re excited, they’re laughing, they’re teasing each other. We see the transformational power of fun and the power of happiness.
Best of all, the happiness experienced that day can pay off handsomely back at the office. “By and large, happy people are more creative and more productive,” says Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, in an interview with the Harvard Business Review.
And as we’ve noted elsewhere, a study by management expert David Maister found that by regularly providing fun for employees, you can “retain people and increase billability by 15 percent.”
What Drives Happiness?
So what is the key factor driving happiness? “Happiness is the sum of hundreds of small things,” says Gilbert. The frequency of positive experiences matter more than the intensity. That’s why “the small stuff matters.”
The daily, routine interactions with your colleagues are part of that “small stuff.” Gilbert says that if he wants to predict your happiness, the number one thing he wants to know about is your social network.
“Happiness on the job,” notes Gilbert’s associate Matthew Killingsworth, “may depend more on moment-to-moment experiences—including our routine interactions with colleagues…than such things as title and salary.”
How can a team building activity increase happiness? By fostering better relations among staffers. By creating out-of-the-office opportunities for colleagues to get to know each other better, in a setting where the stakes are low and titles are irrelevant.
Sharing a fun experience has a ripple effect: When people are having fun and laughing together, they get to know each other better, beyond their workplace roles. They relate to each other in different ways. They let their hair down.
That bonding can build at a gathering immediately after the team building activity: the participants have a shared experience to talk about that’s not about work. This spurs new conversations and relatedness over drinks or dinner—and continues at the coffee machine the next day. The connections people make go back with them to the office.
But wait! Is happiness at work overrated? What about history’s famously creative grumps, like Beethoven and Van Gogh? “I know of no data showing that anxious, fearful employees are more creative or productive,” says Gilbert. The bottom line: if you’re a boss, you need to invest in happiness. And just think of how happy that will make you too.
Find More Fun
Need help setting up a fun team building outing? We’ve been arranging corporate scavenger hunts since 1999. Contact us online or at 877-946-4868, extension 11. You can also visit the Public Scavenger Hunt schedule to find an upcoming scavenger hunt in cities around the country.