Teamwork in the workplace begins with great leadership. Leaders must know how to encourage their teams to work together and achieve their goals. To inspire this kind of unity and to help team members form bonds, many managers look to team-building activities.

Studies show that team bonding may be one of the best investments an organization can make. Bonding activities enhance overall productivity, positively impact leadership skills and customer focus, and can even boost the bottom line.

However, Marcel Schwantes, a speaker, executive coach and podcaster, says that company bonding can be less effective if certain guidelines aren’t met. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between team-building activities that employees are forced to do and those they actually want to do.

For a closer look at these activities, software company Nulab surveyed 1,000 full-time employees to learn which activities tend to get employees the most excited and their value as long-term investments. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, Schwantes provides an overview of the survey results and how leaders can inspire great teamwork.

Bring in the food. Nothing brings people together quite like food, says Schwantes, and the same was certainly true among full-time employees polled for this study. Eighty-eight percent of team-bonding exercises included food in some capacity (such as a potluck or team lunches), and in nearly half of examples identified, alcohol was also present for company get-togethers. The second-most popular team-building exercises revolved around holiday events (78%) and gift exchanges (58%). Interestingly, potlucks or company lunches were considered some of the most effective (62%) and most valuable (63%) team-building activities.

Appeal to your employees’ passions. Schwantes reports that the study found volunteer days were considered the most effective and valuable team-building activities, despite being significantly less common than food or holiday events. Only one in five full-time employees had participated in a company retreat, although they were nearly as effective and valuable for team building as volunteering. The secret to company success might not be in measuring employee engagement, but finding opportunities to stoke employees’ passions. Research on corporate volunteer and giving programs found that not only do these events help build better relationships among co-workers, but also they give team members an opportunity to engage with organizations they’re genuinely passionate about.

Make team bonding optional. According to the survey, full-time employees were 3.6 times more likely to enjoy team bonding that was optional rather than mandatory. More than half of employees also acknowledged always participating in optional team-bonding exercises offered by their company.

Make team bonding enjoyable. Schwantes says that crafting enjoyable experiences that employees want to attend may not come easily to some company leaders, but the results can be invaluable. When employees know the purpose of the activity and enjoy the event, they may see a boost in their peer relationships, their ability to communicate effectively and their overall enjoyment.

While questions surrounding productivity still exist, many employees clearly identified the perks of team bonding. Around 96 percent cited having better relationships with their colleagues, followed by collaboration and open dialogue. To inspire better teamwork at your organization, consider the points above.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is a speaker, executive coach, podcaster and syndicated columnist drawing more than a million readers per month worldwide. Schwantes is the host of the popular Love in Action podcast.