In search of team spirit

Organisations often talk about collaboration at the workplace but in reality, employees compete. Team building activities can help staff to use their collective strengths to bring about even greater returns

Would going to work in your birthday suit help you develop better bonds with your colleagues? The producers of The Naked Office, a UK television show, seem to think so. The six-part series examines whether working in the buff can help break down relationship boundaries in the workplace by increasing positivity and productivity.

While the show represents one of the more extreme examples of corporate team building, many organisations today do invest time and effort into more subtle bonding activities. These aim to get co-workers to better understand each other and form greater workplace synergies.

Raj Sandhu, Manager, Action Teams, says that team building activities, done outdoors or in a non-work environment, can help employees reduce stress. They can also serve as a form of reward and recognition for hard work.

Specialist team building providers offer a variety of courses that can be customised to meet different needs and budgets.


Managing high performance teams

Working in a communal environment often puts staff face-to-face with individuals that they may have little in common with. Most people are able to cast their differences aside and focus on the tasks at hand, but that can be difficult for the increasing number of roles that depend on team interaction. Members of high performance teams need to actively communicate with one another and be involved in decisions that directly affect them and their organisation.

David Simpson, Training Director, Team Building Asia, believes different working styles and personalities of employees should be celebrated. And team building events – everything from cookery tasks to action games – give employers the chance to do just that. He says the experiential nature of these activities allow employees to observe their own behaviour in relation to others. When people realise what causes problems, they can then correct destructive behaviour. “For example, if someone is very tasked-focused in their working style, it is more productive if you stick to the details in the meeting with them,” he says. “This way you are adapting your behaviour to gain a better response.”

From the time we enter school, we are conditioned to be the best and outperform our peers. It is thus no surprise that high-achieving individuals are always competitive and sometimes fail to realise that their collective strengths can bring about even greater success. ASEAN Single Currency, a programme by Team Building Asia, works to specifically address this issue. Members of the group are broken down into smaller teams, representing different countries from the region. Each team is given some information and money and asked to gain the highest value for their currency within a set time. This is achieved through trade and negotiations with other teams. “At times in teams we compete with each other and at other times we collaborate but this exercise highlights that we can do both at the same time and as a result improve productivity,” Simpson says.

Team Building Asia makes use of the Harrison Assessment to help teams reach their highest potential. This system uses paradox theory to calculate conscious and unconscious measures of behaviour. It helps to identify what sort of change or modification in behaviour could bring about the greatest improvement in performance.

Every training module by Team Building Asia ends with a debriefing that focuses on specific objectives, like effective communication or personal development. These are documented and emailed to the participants upon the conclusion of the programme.


Outdoor Fun

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy – or so the saying goes. Getting your employees out for a day of fun and games could do wonders in boosting staff morale and team spirit.

Action Teams, for example, offers a host of innovative activities that let employees get to know one another in an outdoor setting. Its Corporate Grand Prix activity sees teams brainstorming to design and build a push-car. The company also organises treasure hunts that take employees on an adventure across Singapore.

Or why not go even further afield? For some offshore fun, organisations might want to consider a team outing onboard a ship. Royal Caribbean Cruises offers a host of facilities that can accommodate team building activities. Organisations can make use of its 9m-high rock climbing wall, a miniature golf course, 800-seat theatre as well as themed lounges and open decks that look out to the sea.

Forest Adventure offers another welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Singapore. An aerial adventure course built through trees at the Bedok Reservoir Park, it requires participants to climb ladders, cross bridges, trapezes and zip line through the reservoir. Customised team building programmes for corporate organisations are available and keenly sought after. In addition to completing the course – a significant challenge on its own – teams are asked to work on a series of tests scattered throughout the course. These challenges require both mental and physical prowess and gives every team member a chance to contribute.

Stephanie Besse, Managing Director, Forest Adventure, says enjoyable team building activities allow organisations to “give something back” to their employees for their hard work. “With the recent push for productivity, you really need to be careful about how you handle your talent. Our programmes are designed for co-workers to laugh together and know each other better.”

Instructors are trained to understand a group and enhance positive dynamics, rather than impose rules and restrictions that may break existing good vibes. For example, if a group is having a lot of fun with one challenge, they will not be rushed into the next activity, Besse says.

While the skills picked up on the course might not directly transfer into the workplace, Besse says the activity creates bonds that help staff value their colleague’s point of view. “It allows them to discover who they are outside the office,” she says.

Muhammad Isa Lee, an engineer with Jurong Consultants says the Forest Adventure course helped his team develop stronger bonds – and this has translated into improved meetings and more innovative ideas. “My colleagues got to know each other better and interact better during work discussions,” he said.

Of course, for something even further off the wall, HR can always take a leaf from the Naked Office handbook. The show’s host, leadership and change specialist Seven Suphi, says the unique concept does get results when it comes to having colleagues feel at ease with each other. “For most people, going to work in the nude is a very daunting prospect,” she says. “I believe this extreme process will help them push their boundaries and become a close team that trust each other – enough to get naked together!”

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