By Ben Simmons

We may be a nation of good sports, but most British workers think that doing more company team-building events would not help improve how they work with colleagues.

A survey by Vodafone UK and YouGov suggests employees feel that some organised team-building activities can be a waste of time, and at worst, are toe-curlingly awkward.

British workers would much prefer being able to communicate with each other better at work rather than being forced to build rapport with their co-workers by sharing adrenaline experiences or performing 'trust' exercises.

The research among more than 1,000 British employees with colleagues uncovered some eye-popping examples of awkward and silly team-building activities, including enduring bikini-clad ‘bed baths’ and massages from colleagues, holding lingerie parties, and eating crickets as part of a 'bush tucker trial' style event.

While the majority of workers surveyed have been made to do some form of team-building activity, more than half don't feel that doing more would help them work better with their colleagues.

“British companies are spending a huge amount of time and effort in building more effective teams,” says Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK. “This research confirms that people place more value on open, collaborative and flexible ways of working every day than one-off team-building exercises.”

According to the survey, adrenaline experiences like speed-boating and bungee jumping are considered the least effective team-building activities, followed by trust exercises such as being blindfolded and led by colleagues. Those deemed most effective are social events like going out for a drink or a meal, followed by volunteering and charity work.

Rather than potentially waste money on frivolous team-building exercises, respondents with a negative view of team-building suggest that companies should instead focus on providing a more supportive atmosphere at work, enabling better team communication and offering tools for flexible working as their top three priorities.

“Many genuine team-building activities can be valuable, but ultimately, to achieve better teamwork businesses need to get the basics right first. Employers need to focus on how their employees work day-to-day, and give staff the tools they need to be able to do their job best. Employees also want to be able to work smarter — and that means easy access to customers, colleagues and information wherever they are," continues Peter Kelly.

Respondents are also clear about the negative impacts of not working effectively as a team. The most serious of these were delayed decision-making (named by 3%), unhappy customers through poor response (29%), missing targets because of lack of timely input from colleagues (28%), and making the wrong decisions because of lack of access to the right people and information (28%).

Overall, only 26% of respondents feel that more team-building would help them work more effectively with their colleagues. Whether it’s down to cynicism or wisdom, age seems to engender a more jaded view of team-building exercises: only 10 per cent of people aged 55 and over say they help improve team working, compared with 42% of 18—24 year-olds. People in Scotland seem to be more positive than those south of the border, with 33% of respondents saying that more team-building events would encourage better team working.


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