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Outdoor Team Building Ideas for Developing Recognition

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For better or worse, work is a dominant part of most of our lives. A normal working schedule requires us to devote approximately 40 hours per week to work. That’s nearly half of the time you’re awake Monday-Friday (assuming you’re getting a full 8 hours of sleep that is). To spend that much time on something suggests that you should enjoy it, or at least enjoy the people you are around.

Building a strong, happy team is something that many companies strive for yet still struggle with. Once you have it, any leader recognizes it. Strong teams run more smoothly, get more done, and have more fun together. It is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.

However, building a great working team can be a real challenge for many leaders and it takes great skill to cultivate one. Part of the difficulty is creating an environment where everyone supports one another, where you can recognize individuals for their contributions without alienating the hard work of everyone else.

Many who seek to build strong teams that recognize employees struggle with great team-building ideas that bring people together in the office. The ‘in the office’ part may be the crux of the problem. Outdoor activities have a profound way of bringing together teams in ways that other activities never could. And, in the time of COVID-19, there is plenty of extra benefit to taking things outdoors. 

Why Is Recognition Important?

Recognition is one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s or employee’s toolbox. It is the act of expressing gratitude or appreciation for tasks that coworkers take on, especially when those tasks help everyone out or the coworker goes above and beyond. Drawing attention to these things, either publicly in front of the rest of the team or privately with just the employee can make a big difference in overall employee satisfaction and productivity.

In a team setting, creating a culture of recognition and appreciation for the work that your team members do can be a profound means of encouraging comradery and building strong relationships. Unfortunately, many of us fail to give recognition as often as we should. This can happen for a variety of reasons such as high or unattainable performance expectations, a focus on weaknesses, or even a concern of showing favoritism.

But think about it — when have you felt the most appreciated or thought that the work you do really matters? No doubt you felt good when someone else — a leader, co-worker, or employee — told you that you were doing a great job or that they appreciated the efforts you had put into a task.

Chances are, this recognition spurred you on to work harder and be more engaged with the tasks at hand. By the same token, when you recognize others’ accomplishments, it can be an equally powerful motivator for them. When you’re giving recognition be sure to:

  • Be genuine
  • Notice the little things
  • Reward anyone above you, below you, or equal to you
  • Be timely
  • Give recognition in a format that means the most to the person you’re giving it to

Why Get Outside?

Building up your employees and working towards developing a real team atmosphere can happen any time, any place, and anywhere. But if you are going to put effort into a specific team-building event, there are plenty of good reasons to consider going outside and doing something fun.

First and foremost, being outside will automatically put your team in a different environment. On days with nice weather, most employees get a little excited to go outside, soak up some sun, and do something that doesn’t involve them sitting at their desks. Plus, outdoor activity helps improve our mental health by reducing stress, strengthening memory, and fighting depression.

Beyond its potential to help employees maintain their mental health, outdoor activity can greatly improve physical health as well. Research indicates that the stress-lowering benefit of outdoor time can actually be good for venous health and blood flow. This plays into larger factors such as lowering risks of things like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Taking your employees outdoors even for a short period of time can be a surprising boon to their overall health and well being.    

Team Building Outdoors

Your next step is bringing everything together into outdoor team-building activities. When many teams hear about “team-building day” they take a deep breath and prepare themselves for the awkward games and social interactions that are bound to ensue. Pro tip — trust falls have never been anything but stressful and awkward.

So how do you team build without making it weird? Some studies have suggested that the best ways to really develop leadership and build a team involve putting team members in unique and challenging situations. The best example of this is perhaps an outdoor adventure that lasts for several days. However, that is well beyond the budget and desire of most employees, so there are a few takeaways you can apply to other situations, such as:

  • Create a complex, unfamiliar experience
  • Do something that requires thoughtful preparation
  • Make sure there is continuous feedback
  • Ensure repeated tasks and challenges to build confidence

Not everything has to be focused specifically on developing skills though. In fact, just doing something fun together in a non-stressful environment can go a long way towards building the team that you really want. Fun and adventurous activities that are great for team building include things such as:

  • Rock climbing
  • Snow-fort building competitions
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Camping trips
  • Team obstacle courses
  • Photography challenges
  • After-work BBQ
  • Company-sponsored ballgame

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Creating a supportive environment for your team, in which everyone is built up and encouraged regularly, is the recipe for a dream team at work. Outdoor activities are a great way to start this process, as being outdoors automatically creates a new environment outside of work that has surprising health benefits. You can design fun activities to help them build leadership skills or simply because they’re activities that people enjoy doing together — either way, will be a step in the right direction.

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college, he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics, but business and leadership topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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