We all need to work together, and when it comes to your employees, communication is the biggest factor. Together we tackle customer needs, project goals, instructions, tasks, and more. If a team is having a problem it can affect everything, from the quality of life to the interaction between your team members. It’s not enough to simply “train” people to be better at communication; people need examples, and if those examples are activities you may see some better results.
Table of Contents
23 Communication Team Building Activities for the Workplace
When it comes to communication activities for team building, we are all looking for more. Please refer to this list for a variety of team building activities for the workplace:
- Blind Drawing
- Card Pieces
- Forming Groups
- Blindfolded Obstacle Course
- Just Listen
- Don’t Listen
- Four at a Time
- Acting Emotions
- Body Language Speaks Louder Than Words
- Island Survival
- Zen Counting
- Truth and Lies
- The Barter Puzzle
- Human Knot
- The Perfect Square
- The Minefield
- Storytelling With CCSG
- Crazy Comic
- Direction Direction
- Let’s Face It
- The Elephant List
- Build a Bridge
For this activity go ahead and divide up your group into pairs. Assign one person to be the speaker and one to be the listener. Give the speaker a picture of some geometric shapes without letting the listener see them. Also, provide the listener with something to write on and write with.
Have the speaker describe the picture to the listener (the listener isn’t allowed to speak at this point). After the listener finishes drawing what the speaker is describing, compare it to the original.
This is a fantastic way to show the visible breakdown in tacit communication. More bluntly it shows how important one-on-one communication really is and how we interpret one another. Communication team building is about understanding one another and making the leap towards that understanding.
Face it, it’s easy to misinterpret unclear instructions and it’s far too easy for us to let our communication skills slide. Since most businesses build themselves on proper communication, this activity showcases how we can take those skills for granted. Take note of how differently this activity will play out depending on who is the listener and who is the speaker.
If you’re looking for effective communication team building exercises, this one is chief among them as it is designed to make teams work together. You will need around six people for this one in order to pair people off into three teams. This game works even better if each team is three or four.
Have each team member take five playing cards from the deck. They will each cut the cards diagonally from corner to corner and create triangular pieces. Then, mix up the pieces and hand each team an envelope that contains the same amount of pieces.
Teams will need to sort out their pieces and see if they can create some completed cards. The next step is the most important one: give them a few minutes to negotiate with the other teams for the pieces they need to complete their cards. The winning team is whichever one has the most completed cards.
You can probably guess where this is going. This communication activity teaches empathy via tactical communication. After the game is over have everyone talk about what strategies they used and which were effective and ineffective.
Perhaps this activity should be played sooner rather than later. This one is great for practicing communication team building activities for the workplace, especially among larger teams. It’s very useful for groups where the team members may not know each other very well.
Ask your employees to form groups upon which the others have something in common. For example, you could tell them to form a group where everyone has the same favorite genre of movie or those who enjoy Pepsi instead of Coca-Cola. The options are up to your imagination, and there should be no end to your creativity. Whatever you choose, the end goal should be to use some communication to form into new groups quickly.
The point of this activity is to talk about what sort of communication the employees used and how they came to their conclusions. Have them discuss their strategies and how these strategies toward efficiency might benefit the workplace.
Blindfolded Obstacle Course
Trust is, we all agree, a very important aspect of all communication. When we trust one another it breaks down the barriers between communication issues and promotes healthy growth. For this game, we are going to build that trust by blindfolding one another.
Pick a decent-sized room in the office and create a usable obstacle course out of whatever (safe to use) objects you may have around. Blindfold the first employee and have the second lead them through this course. Repeat this process until each team member has a chance at the course.
You might notice that the most successful pairs at the obstacle course are those who use concise instruction and lead them through with plain language. After the activity is done, explain why it’s important to reduce the complexity of our language and use as few words as possible when establishing clear-cut communication.
For this game, decide on some topics to discuss (please avoid anything too controversial). Split up the groups, again assigning a listener and a speaker that will communicate with one another.
Set a timer (we suggest three or four minutes) and have the speakers talk about their topic with the listener. The listeners can’t speak, and can’t interrupt. When the speakers are all finished, have the listeners then attempt to summarize what their partners said while being objective about the way they said it. After they give their objective summaries, reverse the roles of the speaker and listener and give everyone a chance to go.
Bring the group together when everyone is done. Discuss how it feels to speak without interruption (probably good, right?), and then ask the big questions: Were the speakers able to express themselves with clarity? Did the summaries make sense and reflect attention? Was it easy to listen for such a prolonged time without being able to speak?
In the end, ask everyone how they might use these communication activities to improve both their listening and speaking skills in the workplace, with one another, and with clients.
Wait a minute, I thought we were listening? Here’s the challenge: we are next going to do an activity that’s the complete opposite of what we just learned. Divide the group into speakers and listeners again. This time (without the speakers being privy) tell the listeners to stop listening about 30 seconds into the topic.
Again, allow speakers to choose a topic and again give them three to four minutes for the discussion. Once the speakers become aware that the listeners are not paying attention to them, pause the activity.
Bring in the group and ask everyone when they first became aware the listeners were not listening. How did this make them feel? How did they notice? Use this to make everyone aware that listening is not a passive activity, and have a discussion about active listening.
Four at a Time
We are going to continue examining nonverbal communication with this game. You’ll need a slightly larger group, at least nine people, and this activity works best the more you have.
Arrange a few chairs in a circle. Direct four people to stand while everyone else remains sitting. Set a timer for ten seconds, and at the end of the timer have the four standing sit and another four stand. The trick to this game is that no one is actually allowed to speak.
Keep the game moving. It only ends if you have more or less than four people standing at once. After the game ends, talk about nonverbal communication and what strategies people used to know when to stand. Ask the coworkers how they relied on one another to know when to act. Discuss how this can be used to strengthen the bonds between your coworkers.
Let’s do an activity on nonverbal activity that centers around human emotion. For this, grab some cards and write or draw a different emotion on each one. Hand a card to each person and have them act out the emotion. The others will guess what the emotion is.
Hold a discussion after each person has acted through at least one emotion. Talk through which emotions were easy to portray and guess and which were difficult. Discuss in what situation you might see these facial expressions and when they might come up at work.
Who is expressing these emotions? Consider how assuming what someone is feeling based solely on body language might be a difficult prospect, and how this sort of communication might lead to negative assumptions. Discuss what you might do when you see a particular coworker expressing these emotions.
Body Language Speaks Louder Than Words
Here we are going to do an exercise where we follow instructions as quickly as we can. Ask your employees to perform a series of actions (such as clapping, standing up, waving, etc.). Do about six actions, showcasing each as you give out the instructions.
Then it gets tricky. For the final instruction, tell the employees what to do while performing a different action. Mentally note how many people followed your verbal instruction versus how many people copied your physical action. You will probably find that the majority copy what you do rather than what you said.
Bring everyone in and ask how many noticed the mistake. This should open a discussion about how influential body language can be, even if it is at odds with your words. This is a powerful lesson that can demonstrate bodily awareness and message delivery.
For this game, break up your groups into teams of five people. Have someone read aloud a scenario in which they have been stranded on an island, and after the stranding, they discover that some items have washed up on shore with them. Keep a list of around thirty items but tell them they can only keep five in total. The teams will work together to select which of the items they will keep.
When everyone is done, have each team present which items they kept and why. This is an important communication activity because it helps your employees practice proper communication team building skills while discussing solutions. This improves teamwork by asking your team member to cooperate in figuring which items are the most beneficial and why.
Everybody take a deep breath. For this activity, direct your teams to sit in a circle but have everyone face away from each other. Have each team member start counting from one to ten, with each person saying a single number. If anyone talks over anyone else, or someone repeats a number, bring the exercise back to one.
This is a stillness and contemplation exercise that should encourage active listening in communication. Without seeing one another, your team members will have to trust in patience and cooperation.
Truth and Lies
This is a good activity for a medium-sized group of five or more. Ask each team member to come up with three personal facts and one personal lie (the lie should be as believable as the truth). After one person reads their list, have the remainder of the team guess which statement is the lie.
This is a great activity for improving communication by getting to know one another, but it also encourages empathy. The point of this exercise is not to demonize the lies but to see how well we know each other. This also gives people opportunities for opening up in ways which they may not typically feel comfortable.
The Barter Puzzle
You’re going to need a couple of puzzles for this one. Divide all players into small groups of equal sizes (typically about three or four people) and hand them each a puzzle of equal difficulty. Challenge the teams to see who can complete their puzzles the fastest. The untold twist in this is that some of the puzzle pieces will be mixed into the puzzles of other groups.
The purpose of this activity is to identify the mismatched pieces and figure out how to get their own. This game should showcase some healthy negotiation and trade, though it may end up with swapping team members and even entire puzzles. This is another game that should showcase empathy and discretion through trade tactics.
This is an activity for a larger group, preferably between ten and twenty people. Ask your team members to stand in a circle and face each other, shoulder-to-shoulder. Everyone should then put their right hand out and grab the person directly across from them. The group then figures out how to untangle themselves from the human knot without releasing their hands. For added challenges, you can add a timer to this game.
This game should be performed at everyone’s discretion but is a great activity for communication that might feel a little unorthodox.
The Perfect Square
You will need rope and blindfolds for this activity (we promise it’s safe). Have a group of between five and twenty participate in this one, and have each team member stand in a circle and hold part of the rope. Ask everyone to put their part of the rope down, put on their blindfolds, then take two steps from the circle. Then have everyone return to the rope and attempt to form a new shape (such as a square) while keeping their blindfolds firmly on.
This is a communication team building activity that generates strong communication skills and typically requires some leadership skills too. It can be complicated, but the results will be an increase to effective communication.
We will need an even number of people to participate in this activity (it requires a partner). Place objects on the ground (balls, cones, markers) in an open space (like a park or parking lot) and then direct everyone to put on the blindfolds they used in the previous activity. Their partner then leads them from one side of the space to the other using only verbalized instructions. If you want to increase the challenge you can create specific routes for the speaker to take the listener through.
Again, this is a great activity for building both verbal and nonverbal communication, and it’s another game about trust. The blindfolded listener has to trust the speaker that is directing them, and believe they are not leading them into any traps or bad situations.
Storytelling With CCSG
Wait, what is CCSG?
Storytelling is a unique and positive way to express information. The narrative is extremely effective, and a great way to motivate and inspire others. This time we are going to practice building our narratives. Using CCSG as a structure, we will create an information delivery tool that will help us draw on our narrative experiences.
CCSG stands for Characters, Conflict, Struggle, and Goal. Participants are going to express their narratives using CCSG. As an example, a team member might describe something they are proud of to the entire group, showcasing what their communicative strengths helped them reach success. Relying on this, the Characters would be who was involved with the narrative, the Conflict would be the challenge faced, the Struggle would be what they had to overcome, and the Goal would tell of their success.
Use this simple narrative structure to build active, communicative stories that your team members can recall to one another, and keep the stories centered around office benefits. What part of the CCSG can they use in the future, and what did they learn from it?
Let’s continue on the track with some creative freedom. Your team members will need to communicate some creative ideas to one another and unit in the end for some cooperative decision making. The idea here is to create a comic strip together, using everyone’s skills and communication to reach the goal.
You will need a decent amount of people for this game, as well as an assortment of tools such as paper, pencils, inks, etc (you may want to ask people what they want to use for their artistic needs). Let everyone form into smaller groups and give everyone a unique task to produce their comic strip, with each person being assigned a single frame.
Have everyone discuss the plot and characters of the comic strip. Discuss who will take on which tasks and what each frame will showcase. The trick is to have everyone drawing at once so that they won’t actually see the next frame.
After it’s done (and everyone has had a good laugh) prompt a discussion over communication, what succeeded and what didn’t.
Here we are going to use a complex set of instructions to convey our ideas. Think of this like the game “Telephone” where information is going to be misinterpreted but then improved by our communication, listening skills, and cooperation.
Have someone pick a game where the instructions might be difficult to properly memorize. Then, of your team members, pick a person (called the speaker) to explain the instructions to. The speaker will pass this info to the rest of the team to the best of their ability. Then, have the group play out the game using ONLY the instructions given by the speaker.
Afterward, prompt a discussion about what happened. Ask how easy it was to follow directions and if there was a lack of clarity. Ask if there was confusion, and what may have added to the confusion. Ask what they personally might change to increase the level of clarity and communication for everyone.
What do our communication skills say about our expectations? When it comes to any task that involves expectation, we can all agree that clarity goes a long way. Clarity, in fact, has both psychological and professional benefits, and the more clear we are in our instructions and responses the better our communication will be overall.
Reducing ambiguity means reducing stress and anxiety, and enhanced clarity makes everyone feel smarter and more listened to.
This activity can involve any number of team members. Someone needs to build a list of topics of which everyone will act out, then you can instruct the players to break into groups. In each pair, take turns having people be mimes and askers. The mime will read the topic on the card (then act it out), while the asker will pose questions. The mime can only respond with action, not words.
This is an activity about assumptions and judgments and how we act and react to these assumptions and judgments. When the activity is over, ask the group if they could comprehend what was happening and if they might have an increased appreciation for understanding others. There are many factors that contribute to a lack of clarity, and sometimes these prevent us from asking useful questions that would resolve situations faster.
Let’s Face It
When it comes to proper communication, we all need to work on our self-awareness. Self-awareness plays an important role in communication and influences all of our interactions.
This is another game not limited by group size, so you can play it directly following the preceding game (you just need enough paper and pens for everyone). This is also a quick game that can be played during a break or lunch.
Begin with small groups of about five, and have someone volunteer to keep track of the discussion. Have each person write a feeling on their piece of paper, fold it, and pass it to the volunteer. From this person take another piece on which someone else has written a feeling, and then attempt to act out this feeling to the group using only facial expressions. Have each other team member attempt to guess at the emotion.
This game is about feelings—the ones we understand and the ones we don’t. Despite the fact that facial expressions are a normal part of everyday life, we may not consider them when it comes to advanced forms of communication. Relying on facial expressions to understand the nuance of emotional communication is a good way to reduce misunderstandings.
The Elephant List
For this activity, we are going to create an environment of inviting and open communication, whereupon we will identify issues the team faces. This will help the team move forward on projects while we safely discuss the dreaded “elephant in the room.”
We are going to address each “elephant” by deciding what issues the team members have control over, which they can influence, and which they should accept. Hand out sheets to everyone and give each team member a few minutes to write down one of these “elephants.” They should note if the “elephant” is something they can control, influence, or accept. Collect the sheets and read them aloud (keep them anonymous).
As a group, go ahead and decide which “elephants” are issues, and whether they should really be accepted or not. Discuss which “elephants” need to be let go, and open up the floor for discussions on what sorts of issues should be tackled and which should be shrugged off. Try and come up with real actionable solutions, and ask everyone how they feel about these “elephants.” How can we resolve these issues? When should we resolve them? Give everyone time to discuss the best course of action and make sure everyone really listens.
Build a Bridge
Together we are going to build a bridge with supplied materials. Participants will each build part of a bridge and connect them to make a complete bridge. The room will be divided, and this activity builds proper communication because each team will have to discuss how they can best use their materials to only build half a bridge.
Arrange some type of barrier (such as a sheet) through the room so that the split teams won’t be able to spy on one another. Divide everyone up into two teams (or more, as long as they are even-numbered). It doesn’t really matter how large the teams are but this should be an activity for smaller groups.
Hand out the materials, giving everyone the same type and amount of materials, including pencils and paper. Allow everyone a few minutes to sketch their bridge concepts. Remind each team that communication with their partner group is key here (the group on the other side of the barrier). The end result is joining the two pieces of the bridge together.
Each team will then get around thirty minutes to build their half of the bridge (you don’t actually have to time this portion, but this is for the sake of the day). As each team works on their construction, make sure the leader of the activity is constantly checking on both teams and encouraging active communication. Once each side is done, attempt to fit the bridge pieces together!
Yes, this is more of an advanced activity and should be structured for time.
We hope that you now understand the importance of communication, and how proper communication leads to either the success or downfall of virtually any situation in the office (or anywhere else). These communication team building activities for the workplace should help your team really learn about one another and understand how to better communicate!