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The right time to actively boost employee morale is today–not when productivity and happiness begin to slip. Increasingly, organizations in the NYC metro area and the country are taking a proactive approach to managing employee engagement. According to Maritz Motivation, 78 percent of companies currently have a documented employee engagement strategy and nearly 50 percent measure engagement.

‘Workplace, or employee morale, is the job satisfaction, attitude and outlook that employees have while at your business” writes Forbes’ Mike Kappel. Researchers know that morale is influenced by a complex series of factors, including perceptions of reward, relationships with colleagues and satisfaction with work.

Improving relationships between team members can have a direct impact on employee engagement. Team building exercises are one free method New York and New Jersey organizations can use to proactively influence satisfaction and attitudes in the workplace, and fuel a positive workplace culture.

15 Free Team Building Ideas to Boost Morale

1. Scavenger Hunts

There’s nearly no limit to how scavenger hunts can be played, in the office, in the community, over a short period of time, or as an extended competition. Fostering healthy, low-stakes competition between teams of employees “inspires innovation and improves quality,” according to Entrepreneur.

2. Legos or Puzzles

Assigning small teams of people to complete a tough Lego project or puzzle fosters collaboration and problem solving, and can create bonds between individuals from different departments or teams.

3. Two Truths and a Lie

This classic is a get-to-know-you game where people take turns saying two truths and one lie, and others guess which are correct and false. Not only is this team-builder fun, it can also establish common threads between employees.

4. Volunteering

Organizing a community service project in NYC, Manhattan or New Jersey can allow employees to bond while giving back. Research by Deloitte reveals that nearly 38 percent of employees have access to employer-sponsored community service projects. These activities are correlated with better employee morale, brand perception and a happier workplace environment.

5. Trivia

Trivia is a fun, flexible game which can foster collaboration between teams. 61% of senior executives take daily game breaks at work, according to research by Jane McGonigal, and playing games in a team setting—either virtually or in real life—can create common purpose and engagement.

6. Office Clubs

Encourage employees to organize clubs around common interests–including food, film, books, sports and other areas of shared interest. Real-life companies like Boeing actively use clubs as a team-builder. “Clubs help create loyal employees, reduce turnover and improve morale while costing very little,” writes the New York Times’ Kristina Shevory.

7. Board Game Tournaments

Filling the break room with board games for impromptu gaming sessions and formal board game tournaments can be a wise investment for organizations to boost morale. “Game[s]… are about team building and de-stressing on a daily basis,” says architect Beverly Horii.

8. Kickball

Playing a round of kickball, just like the version played in elementary school physical education class, can be a way to boost morale and encourage employees to be active at work.

9. Lunch-and-Learns

Chances are, you have some experts and hobbyists on staff with deep expertise in topics like powerlifting, culinary herbs, or other unique subjects. Encourage resident specialists to host lunch-and-learns, 30-to-60-minute presentations for colleagues over an in-office catered lunch.

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10. Show-and-Tell

Allowing employees to show-and-tell special pictures or items is surprisingly fun, and can be an important morale-boosting exercise for creating a diverse workplace. “When you create an environment that makes it possible for employees[…]to bring their whole selves to work, you will attract, retain, and maximize diverse talent,” writes World Economic Forum’s Suzie Elliot.

11. Appreciation Exercises

Employees who feel appreciated at work are up to 50 percent more productive. Appreciation exercises can take many forms. Managers can write each team member a note on Fridays, or individuals can express gratitude for the person sitting to their right before meetings.

12. Find Something in Common

Kick off a retreat or long training by giving employees a set amount of time to find a shared characteristic everyone has in common. This 20-minute exercise can create an important bond and you may be surprised what they come up with.

13. Name That Person

Place a name tag on the back of each employee with the name of a well-known person, such as a famous film character, celebrity, or historical figure. Allow employees to ask their colleagues each a single question to guess the identity on their name tag, like a game of 20 Questions.

14. Water Balloon Toss

There are some caveats to making sure everyone involved enjoys a water balloon toss. It’s probably wise if the weather is warm and employees voluntarily opt-in. However, it can be a free team-building exercise that’s incredibly fun.

15. Movie Nights

Host occasional movie nights on a Friday afternoon to reward employees for a hard week of work or achieving goals. Provide movie-style snacks and refreshments in the form of popcorn or candy, or arrange for a catered meal. Making time for fun can boost morale.

Strengthen Morale with Team-Building Activities

Workplace morale is a product of many factors, including the total employee experience. By creating a fun workplace environment, showing appreciation, and fostering strong bonds between colleagues, organizations can create a healthy culture and improve employee engagement. This is especially important throughout the NYC, Manhattan and New Jersey area with many people coming back to work after the pandemic. Many of the most enjoyable and creative team building exercises are free or surprisingly low-cost.

Corporate Essentials has been fueling positive workplace culture for over 25 years. We reach over 1,500 companies and 150,000 employees each day throughout the NYC metro market with our products and services, including break room design, full-service pantry and breakroom refreshments, and corporate catering. Contact us for ideas on how to fuel a positive workplace culture at your location.

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Judson Kleinman

As the founder and CEO of Corporate Essentials, Judson set out with every intention of bringing a new meaning to the words "office culture". As leaders in the industry, his company constantly sets the bar by investing in, and improving their product offerings, technology, people and training. 20 years and 1500 clients later, Judson can proudly say that Corporate Essentials continues to positively fuel culture and allow over 150,000 employees to work happy.