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The Science behind consistent team building

Finding the right balance for team building is a crucial step towards nurturing a thriving and productive workplace culture. In our previous blog, “Optimising Team Building Frequency: Finding the Right Balance for Your Team’s Growth,” we explored the importance of tailoring team building efforts to meet the specific needs of your team. Now, armed with those insights, we embark on a deeper journey to uncover the science behind consistent team building and its profound impact on workplace productivity.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, regular engagement in team building often takes a backseat to pressing deadlines and immediate deliverables. However, neglecting the power of consistent team building can hinder your team’s growth and stifle its potential. That’s why we’re diving into the science behind it!

In this blog, we’ll explore the fascinating link between team building and workplace productivity, backed by scientific research. We’ll uncover how regular engagement in team building activities not only enhances collaboration and communication but also taps into the brain’s adaptability to establish lasting behavioural changes.

Join us as we unravel the science behind consistent team building and unlock the strategies and insights you need to unleash the full potential of your team and drive workplace productivity to new heights.


The Scientific Link Between Regular Team Building and Productivity

In the bustling arena of today’s work environment, the connection between regular team building and productivity is not just anecdotal—it’s scientific.

At the heart of this connection lies the concept of ‘team building’. Team building, as the term suggests, is about strengthening the bonds between team members. This can be achieved through a variety of activities, ranging from structured exercises like team building programs to more informal events such as team lunches or socials.

The benefits of these activities are substantial and multi-dimensional. They foster open communication, build trust, and create a sense of collective identity—all of which are known to boost productivity.

For instance, a Harvard Business Review study found that teams that communicate effectively consistently outperform their peers (1). In the same vein, research published by the Association for Psychological Science points out that trust within a team leads to improved collaboration and better team performance (2).

63% of leaders feel team communication improved after participating in team building activities. 61% of leaders felt team morale improved.

-Team Building Hub

Team building activities can also enhance morale. Employees with high morale are not just happier—they’re more productive. A study on the Effects of organisational team building on employees’ (3) concluded that employers could increase morale and, consequently, job retention by increasing the frequency and quality of team building activities in the workplace. The researchers found that team building activities significantly increased employee morale.

Team building activities can also play a significant role in reducing workplace conflicts. According to a study published in the book “Team effectiveness in complex organisations: Cross-disciplinary perspectives and approaches”, team-building interventions that focus on role clarification can help reduce conflict and improve team effectiveness (4). A harmonious work environment, free from conflicts, is conducive to higher productivity (5).

Finally, a study titled “Does team building work?” published in the Small Group Research journal found that team building activities have a moderate positive effect across all team outcomes, suggesting that they can indeed boost productivity in the workplace (6).

So, the science is clear: regular team building isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have for any team looking to boost productivity.

The Psychological Mechanisms at Play

Delving into the science behind consistent team building reveals its profound psychological transformations. Team building exercises break down barriers and foster unity within a team. They go beyond task collaboration, building a shared understanding, common language, and collective identity.

Team building activities serve as a masterclass in communication, enhancing the human skills teams need to thrive. They nurture trust, fostering strong bonds that glue the team together. By overcoming challenges together, team members enhance problem-solving abilities and camaraderie.

These activities create a safe environment where ideas and risks are freely expressed. This psychological safety encourages open dialogue, diverse perspectives, and boosts innovation and creativity.

Team building exercises deepen appreciation for strengths and weaknesses, building respect and empathy. Individuals step out of their roles, connecting on a personal level, and increasing trust and collaboration.

With a newfound understanding of the profound psychological transformations brought about by team building, we uncover a beautiful connection—where these shifts in mindset and connection intertwine into a range of positive emotions and intricate physiological responses.

The Power of Play: The Feel-Good Physiology of Team Building

Peeling back the layers of team building, it’s clear that at its core, it’s all about fun. It’s about the laughter that echoes around the room when a challenge is met, the shared smiles of a group working in harmony, and the collective cheer when a goal is reached. It’s about the power of play.

When we engage in team building activities, we’re not just working together—we’re playing together. And this play comes with a rush of feel-good emotions that permeate the group, creating an environment that’s not only enjoyable but also incredibly productive.

Ever noticed the surge of positivity after a team activity? That’s the morale-boosting effect in action, injecting us with a can-do spirit.

These feel-good emotions aren’t just a fleeting sensation. They have a physiological basis. When we complete a challenge as a team, our bodies respond by releasing endorphins—the body’s natural ‘feel-good’ hormones. These endorphins contribute to feelings of happiness, relaxation, and a sense of achievement.

Moreover, the act of playing and having fun together leads to what sociologist Emile Durkheim termed ‘collective effervescence'(7). This is the exhilaration, the shared joy, and the sense of unity that arises when people come together in celebration or in overcoming a challenge. This feeling of collective joy can strengthen the bonds between team members and boost productivity.

In essence, the feel-good emotions that arise from team building activities are more than just a bonus—they’re a crucial element of the process. They create an atmosphere of positivity and camaraderie, fostering a work environment that’s not only productive but also enjoyable. 

Harnessing the Power of Play: Strategies for Effective Team Building

Now that we’ve explored the psychological and physiological benefits of regular team building, let’s dive into some practical strategies to harness these benefits for your team.

1. Create a Safe Space:

It all starts by creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their ideas and emotions. Encourage open communication and foster a culture of respect and inclusivity.

2. Incorporate Variety:

Not all team building activities have to be physical or outdoors. Incorporate a mix of activities that cater to different interests and abilities. This could range from charity team building to educational workshops or virtual events.

3. Encourage Participation:

Make sure everyone in the team is involved in the activities. The power of play is most effective when everyone is engaged and contributing their unique perspectives.

4. Celebrate Success:

After completing a challenge or a project, take the time to celebrate as a team. This not only acknowledges the hard work put in by each member but also reinforces the sense of collective achievement and camaraderie.

5. Regularly Schedule Activities:

Team building shouldn’t be a one-off event. Regularly scheduled activities ensure that the bonds formed are strengthened over time, leading to lasting benefits for team dynamics and productivity.

6. Promote the Power of Play:

Last but not least, always remember the power of play. Keep the activities fun and enjoyable. After all, a team that plays together, stays together, and thrives together.

In the realm of team building, science and playfulness intersect in a powerful way. We’ve delved into how the psychological dynamics and the physiological responses that come into play during team building activities contribute to a more cohesive, motivated, and productive team.

The science behind team building can’t be denied. From fostering a sense of unity and shared identity to triggering the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones that boost morale and productivity, the benefits are far-reaching.

But beyond the science, it’s the power of play that truly sets team building apart. The shared laughter, the collective achievement, the exhilaration of overcoming a challenge together – these experiences infuse teams with energy, joy, and a sense of purpose.

If you’re looking to take your team’s energy to the next level, consider incorporating team building into your team’s DNA. Embrace the power of play and watch as it transforms your workplace culture.

Ready to supercharge your team’s productivity and cohesion? Start harnessing the power of play today. Your team will thank you for it.

  1. Pentland, A. (2012). “The New Science of Building Great Teams.” Harvard Business Review.
  2. De Jong, B. A., Dirks, K. T., & Gillespie, N. (2016). “Trust and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis of Main Effects, Moderators, and Covariates.” Journal of Applied Psychology.
  3. Zia, S., 2012. Effects of organizational team building on employees’ morale & job retention. Business Management Dynamics, 1(7), p.31.
  4. In E. Salas, G. F. Goodwin, & C. S. Burke (Eds.), Team effectiveness in complex organizations: Cross-disciplinary perspectives and approaches (p. 223–250). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
  5. Spector, P. E., & Jex, S. M. (1998). “Development of Four Self-Report Measures of Job Stressors and Strain: Interpersonal Conflict at Work Scale, Organizational Constraints Scale, Quantitative Workload Inventory, and Physical Symptoms Inventory.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
  6. Klein, C., DiazGranados, D., Salas, E., Le, H., Burke, C. S., Lyons, R., & Goodwin, G. F. (2009). Does team building work?
  7. Durkheim, E. (1912). “The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.”