Depending on who you ask, you might hear that team building is the most important thing you can do to make sure your team works together smoothly. Others will tell you it’s not team building that’s key, but team bonding.
Visit any corporate development corner of the internet and this battle between team building vs. team bonding rages on. Some people will argue adamantly for one over the other, while some folks don’t realize there’s a difference between the two concepts. A third large segment probably has no idea what either practice entails; they just know that team-building and team-bonding exercises usually get them out of work for a day of goofing around, and therefore they must be worthwhile.
As it turns out, there is definitely a difference between the two, and knowing the details of both will help you choose the right activity and get the results you want.
Since we at Firefly Team Events unabashedly consider ourselves the pinnacle of team building and team bonding expertise (🙂), we’ve put this guide together to help you decide which one you should focus on for your next workplace get-together.
Firefly offers awesome team-building and team-bonding events. Choose from our menu of favorites or request a custom activity; the choice is yours! Check us out here.
How To Choose Between Team Building Vs. Team Bonding
What is team building?
The University of Berkeley defines team-building as “an ongoing process that helps a work group evolve into a cohesive unit.”
This is a very academic way of saying that team-building encourages employees to work together well, and that activities should be done on a regular basis for best results.
Essentially, team-building activities focus on helping team members build new skill sets that will enable them to work together more effectively. Activities should ideally be targeted toward helping employees improve in specific areas. Common areas for improvement include problem-solving, communication, and conflict resolution, but you can tailor an event toward solving almost any interpersonal issue that affects your workplace.
For example, the following image depicts a popular team-building event that helps employees develop the very specific ability to balance a hula hoop on one finger, which is a crucial skill to have in most workplaces:
We’re kidding, of course.
This is actually a snapshot from one of our team-building events where participants solved fun challenges and learned to contribute toward a common goal on equal footing.
A couple of other popular team-building events our customers love include Level Up—or the customizable Level Up Workshop—and a more unique experiential option of Outrigger Canoe Racing, but we have tons of options to choose from. Every Firefly event includes a targeted approach to help you achieve your particular goals and a debrief after the event to make sure your team has made progress toward those goals.
If you’re more the DIY type, you can take your group to an escape room or check out a fun ropes course near you. Just be sure to go in with a specific goal in mind (like improving performance under pressure or boosting communication skills), and survey your team members after the fact to see whether they feel like the event was a success.
What is team bonding?
Team bonding is all about developing meaningful connections between employees.
This is important because studies have shown that having a friend at work boosts job satisfaction, job performance, and even overall wellness and happiness. So, if your employees hide in their offices like hermits every day and grunt noncommittally at each other in the break room, it’s probably time for a team bonding event.
Some our favorites at Firefly include:
However, unlike team-building, team bonding doesn’t necessarily require an “event” to make it worthwhile. Events are fun, of course, and they can provide an extra boost of bonding when your team really needs to come out of their shells.
But in between those events, you can do something as simple as hosting Doughnut Fridays or bringing in some fancy coffee during lunch once a week to encourage everyone to meet up, enjoy some tasty treats, and chat amongst themselves.
So, which one is better if you’re looking to create a strong team?
The truth is, both team building and team bonding are equally beneficial for your team.
That’s because a well-integrated, skilled team that knows how to communicate and solve problems together while preserving their sense of friendship will be able to conquer almost any corporate goal thrown their way. Team building and bonding are two sides of a coin that, when combined, make your team function optimally in a number of different conditions.
With that said, trouble often happens when a team lacks one aspect or the other. Without the skill sets imparted by team building or the sense of connection from team bonding, a team can struggle when an obstacle creates unexpected friction.
Therefore, it’s not necessarily a matter of choosing between team bonding vs. team building and then sticking with your choice forever. If you have a team that’s running into frequent issues in any particular area, you’ll need to figure out whether that problem would best be solved with team-building or team-bonding activities.
In most situations, you can use the following to guide your decision.
Choose team building if:
- Your team continually experiences friction and tension sparked by the same pattern of circumstances
- You think your team would benefit from becoming better at communication, problem-solving, performance under pressure, or delegating responsibilities
- Your team struggles to work together as a cohesive unit, even if their skills are reasonably complementary
Choose team bonding if:
- Your coworkers seem like strangers even though they see each other every day
- Your workplace lacks a sense of connection and belonging
- You suspect a lack of trust is the root of ongoing issues
- Your organization is experiencing a higher turnover rate than you would expect given the working conditions
Ideally, both team building and bonding should be practiced on a fairly regular basis. Try to set up a workplace get-together if you start to get the feeling that your team could use a tune-up. It’s always better to prevent the problem from happening than to try and fix a problem once it’s already causing havoc. In fact, many organizations plan team-building or team-bonding events on a quarterly basis, or even more frequently as smaller-scale check-ins.
You might find that you turn to one type of event more frequently than the other depending on your company’s circumstances. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you’re in tune with what your team needs the most!
Keep in mind, team-building activities typically provide the most benefits for small-ish organizations or individual departments. That way, when employees learn to work together accomplishing team-building tasks, it’s likely they’ll be working with those same people back at the office. They can take the lessons they learned and apply them directly to their work environment. Team bonding, meanwhile, can be great for small groups, massive company-wide gatherings, or anything in between.
Firefly Team Events is your one-stop-shop for team-building and team bonding goodness.
Whether you have a specific activity in mind or you need some suggestions for where to begin, Firefly has you covered. Our experts are happy to suggest an event that would be great for your situation, bring your unique ideas into reality with a custom event, and take care of all the tricky planning, setup, and take-down. Even if your team is remote, chances are we’ve got a virtual event that will help you accomplish your goals!