No company wants high turnover. It's exhausting for managers, leaders, and HR professionals, and financially draining for the organization. That's why it's key to create an engaging and productive work environment. Bonus points if you can sprinkle in a little fun!
You might be telling yourself: that sounds great, but how does this fit into my broader people and culture strategy? We're going to break it down in this article while sharing 40 of the best employee engagement activities to keep your team inspired and energized.
Add these activities to your workflow and see the power of employee engagement firsthand.
Why are employee engagement initiatives so important for maintaining a healthy company culture?
Engaged employees are like oxygen in a body: they're vital to the health and function of an organization. Without high engagement, employees feel disinterested, bored, valueless, and unhappy. Measuring employee satisfaction is a good start, but it isn't enough. Keeping employees engaged and feeling good about their chosen careers requires an all-encompassing approach.
Employee engagement activities or an extracurricular work program can also provide significant benefits for companies, including:
- Less absenteeism
- Greater productivity and efficiency
- Healthier employees (both mind and body)
- Higher employee retention
- Stronger leadership
- Faster professional growth
- Improved customer satisfaction
What manager doesn't want to take advantage of those employee engagement benefits? Great news: those are just the beginning of all the great things an engaged workforce offers employers.
Best practices for building employee engagement activities
If you want to make sure your engagement activities are as successful as possible, it’s important to follow a few best practices. You can also conduct a brainstorming session with your team to see what's engaging them.
Look beyond extrinsic motivation
Including rewards and cash prizes in your employee engagement activities can draw people in for the wrong reasons. Instead, focus on offering genuinely enjoyable experiences, learning and growth opportunities, and relationship-building moments.
Offer both remote and in-person activities
Reserving employee engagement activities during in-person events only can leave remote employees feeling left out. On the other hand, you’ll miss out on human connections if you exclusively host remote activities. Aim for a good balance, and try getting people together in person a few times a year if possible.
Have an inclusive mindset when organizing events
It’s important for everyone on your team to feel considered and comfortable when choosing your employee engagement activities. For example, if your activity involves food and drinks, think about cultural or religious practices that may impact what you serve.
Always have an overarching goal
Before deciding on an activity, ask yourself what your end goal is. Is it to encourage collaboration and problem-solving as a team? Do you want to foster wellness and happiness at work? Are you looking to build personal connections and relationships? Or is improving job satisfaction your main objective? Answer these questions and narrow your list down from there.
40+ Fun activities to engage employees
With these 40+ employee engagement ideas, you can give your team a chance to unwind, have genuine fun, and create personal development opportunities. Let's dive in!
Starting off strong, an innovation challenge is a perfect way to reach the workplace trifecta: high engagement, alignment, and collaboration. These challenges are flexible and can be adapted to every company, regardless of industry or size. The trick is to center the challenge around real obstacles or opportunities that work towards company objectives.
Innovation challenge ideas:
- Pitch a new feature to solve a customer pain point.
- Create a new process to accelerate project timelines.
- Build a new product prototype based on pre-conducted market research.
Tip: Encourage employees to collaborate with colleagues in other departments. Not only will having diverse skill sets increase the team’s success, but it will also give people the opportunity to work with team members outside their usual circle.
The premise of a hackathon is similar to an innovation challenge. The nuance is that it focuses on programming projects only. This employee engagement activity is great for tech companies looking to retain programmers and developers while attracting top talent along the way. You can also partner with universities to involve students in the challenge and professors in the judging panel.
Hackathon project ideas:
- Challenge employees to build a game.
- Ask your team to program a smart assistant for the office
- Ask employees to reate a prototype app.
Tip: Appoint team leaders to delegate tasks, or have every employee select their task based on expertise to encourage ownership and ensure smooth sailing.
Officevibe's Pulse Survey data found that 62% of employees wished they received more feedback from their co-workers. By implementing an employee engagement program that focuses on employee recognition and celebrating personal milestones, you can prevent one of the biggest contributors to employee turnover: feeling unappreciated and valueless in the workplace.
Activity ideas to foster peer recognition:
- Schedule time to give kudos during team meetings.
- Celebrate milestones (successful project, end of a sprint, employee anniversaries, work anniversaries) as a team.
- Use a private recognition tool like Good Vibes.
Tip: Make sure your team is satisfied with the frequency and quality of peer recognition they receive by sending out these 20 employee recognition survey questions.
Getting feedback from employees is far more important than most managers realize. According to Officevibe Pulse Survey data, 83% of employees appreciate any kind of feedback, both positive and negative. Using a dedicated feedback hub is perfect for encouraging employees to provide and receive open, honest, and continuous feedback regarding their work, progress, and development.
- Work with shared documents so everyone can easily give direct feedback.
- Normalize feedback by giving it and asking for it in everyday conversations.
- Use an anonymous feedback messaging tool.
By making the feedback process collaborative, you can foster healthy professional development and skill building, starting with a strong foundation of openness and honesty.
Tip: Set an example by always responding promptly to employees’ comments and acting on feedback quickly. A manager who actively works to improve the employee experience is sure to build trust within their team.
Everyone remembers feeling shy on their first day of work. To ensure all employees feel welcome and connected to their colleagues right from the start, build a dynamic onboarding experience. In the distributed landscape, it’s best to have a remote-first plan for employees who live out of town or seldom go to the office.
Hybrid onboarding ideas:
- Invite new employees to a happy hour before they join the team to make their first day a little less nerve-racking.
- Ask everyone on your team to individually book coffee chat calls to get to know their new teammate.
- Try an employee onboarding platform to build structured and welcoming experiences.
Tip: New hires meet many people during their first week, and it can feel intimidating. Minimize this feeling by asking team members in other departments to film and submit short welcome videos on onboarding software like Workleap Onboarding.
Job rotation programs
Humans are curious by nature. We’re always seeking to try and learn new things, and this definitely applies in the workplace. That’s why having a job rotation program is a great way to keep things fresh and boost employee engagement. These programs give employees a holistic view of the organization's operations, while allowing them to explore new career paths and collaborate with new team members.
Job rotation program ideas:
- Make two team members switch roles for a set period (day, week, month).
- Allow employees to explore a new role for the duration of a project or sprint.
- Implement a shadowing program where employees can follow and learn from another employee in a different role.
Lunch and learns
Lunch and learns have been a popular way to bring people together and spark continuous learning at work. There are two ways to go about this. First, you can reach out to experts in your industry and have them teach your employees relevant new skills. Second, you can involve employees and ask volunteers to host a session. The latter can help break silos in your organization and give people a sneak peek into the inner works of other departments.
Lunch and learn ideas:
- Host lecture-style sessions with live Q&As at the end.
- Include interactive workshops that allow employees to put their learnings into practice.
- Provide a free lunch or gift card to those attending, if your budget allows it.
Tip: Send a poll or start a Slack channel to gather employee feedback on the topics they're most interested in.
Games and competitions
Who doesn't love a little healthy competition? Company events like mud runs, board game afternoons, or bowling bring out the fun and encourage employees to get to know each other better. And creating personal connections is an engagement game-changer as it allows employees to feel more comfortable around each other inside and outside work.
Virtual game and competition ideas:
- Play a game of virtual charades through video calls.
- Organize fitness challenges using exercise-tracking apps like Strava.
- Create teams and see who can solve as many word puzzles or riddles in a given amount of time.
- Play virtual strategy games like Beat the Hacker escape room.
- Form sports teams and organize regular tournaments.
Team potluck dinners
Food does wonders at bringing people together, especially when it’s home-cooked. Next time you plan a team dinner, opt for a potluck over a restaurant, as it’s a great way to get all employees involved. Food is also at the center of culture, so having your teammates share dishes they love or grew up with is a terrific way to celebrate diversity, an important component of engagement, in your team.
Potluck dinner ideas:
- Ask everyone to bring their favorite dish.
- Ask everyone to bring the first thing they learned how to cook (no matter what it was!)
- Come up with a 5-course menu as a team and divide and conquer.
Tip: Don't forget to ask employees about any special diet considerations or allergies ahead of time!
What activities, hobbies, and interests make your employees tick outside the office? Do they love painting? Riding horses? Hiking? Wine tasting? Choosing your activities based on what your team loves doing shows that you care about their lives and interests beyond work. It also provides opportunities for everyone to participate in new and exciting experiences.
Activity ideas based on hobbies and interests:
- Ask employees what activities and interests they have, create a “hobby roulette” featuring every submission, and spin the wheel to pick your next engagement activity.
- Make an activity bucket list based on your team’s passions and interests.
- Assign an “activity captain” every quarter, and have them plan a team activity based on their hobbies.
Tip: Make sure your team submits inclusive ideas and avoid trying out hobbies that cannot be enjoyed by all. For illustrative purposes, avoid rock climbing if half of your team is scared of heights!
Mental health and wellness days
Engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees understand the importance of self-care and mental health. Holding a mental health day is one of the most popular employee engagement activities for teams. As long as the activity is a positive experience, anything goes. It allows employees to relax, recharge, and get to know each other better in a light, informal situation where their only task is to feel good about themselves.
Activity ideas to improve mental health and wellness:
- Allow employees to bring their office-friendly pets to work for a day to boost employee morale.
- Offer free drop-in sessions (in-person, through video call, or both) with a local therapist or wellness counselor once per quarter.
- Host weekly yoga sessions at the office and record the class through Teams for employees doing remote work.
Tip: Create a health and wellness committee that can take charge of organizing these activities and gathering feedback from employees before and after.
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts don’t have to be reserved for children – adults can dabble in the fun too! When introduced to the workplace, creative arts can offer a slew of benefits, increasing engagement being one of them. Aside from being fun, and even therapeutic, they help you flex your creative muscles (literally) by exercising the right side of the brain.
The more employees train their creative functions, the better they’ll support their rational thinking by offering unique perspectives and new ways to solve problems. In the end, you’ll have an engaged team with rounded-out skill sets and problem-solving techniques.
Creative arts ideas:
- Invite local artists to host drawing and painting workshops.
- Attend a pottery class in a nearby atelier.
- Ask a small business owner to teach a jewelry-making session.
- Host a hybrid arts and crafts session using readily available materials with an elementary or high school art teacher.
Emotional intelligence workshops
Emotionally intelligent people can successfully manage their feelings and those of others. It's different from IQ intelligence and is a flexible skill set that employees can hone with practice. Having an emotionally intelligent workforce can significantly reduce stress, improve communication and peer relationships, and boost overall engagement.
Emotional intelligence workshop ideas:
- Follow an emotional intelligence skill-building worksheet.
- Try a self-awareness exercise where employees write down their feelings, identify current emotions, and learn healthier coping skills.
- Create a safe space for employees to talk about their feelings at work and give advice to one another.
Tip: Inviting an emotional intelligence expert to moderate your workshops can help your team make the most of the activity.
How to fit these activities into your employee engagement strategy
Your employee engagement action plan should tackle all parts of the employee experience to be effective. This includes:
- Making sure your team is aligned by continuously communicating company and team objectives, and how each person contributes to them.
- Prioritizing tasks and projects to support realistic and stress-free workloads.
- Investing in employee development programs that help employees grow their careers within your company.
- Giving your team the right tools, resources, and environment they need in both the virtual and physical workplace.
👷Build and implement the best employee engagement strategies to increase work productivity, happiness, and satisfaction.
While employee engagement activities shouldn’t be at the center of your strategy, they’re the supporting actors that round it off. Some of these activities can easily be implemented in your regular workflows, but those that require more effort and resources are fun to include throughout the year.
Here’s how you can plan engagement activities year-round:
- High-effort activities like innovation challenges can be held once a year.
- Medium-effort activities like team potlucks can take place quarterly.
- Lower-effort (but just as important!) activities like dynamic onboarding should happen regularly, or every time someone joins the team.
Take your team's pulse on employee engagement
So, you understand that employee engagement activities should not be ignored within your organization. But how can you benchmark the success of these activities and fun team-building exercises? We've got it covered. Officevibe offers a variety of powerful, science-backed tools that managers and team leaders can use to measure employees' progress and engagement levels.
Our employee engagement solution is the perfect resource for organizations that want actionable advice and insights to help them create a healthy workplace and keep employees connected to their jobs. Receiving critical data and feedback from employees allows you to evaluate and assess their engagement levels quickly and conveniently.
With these 40+ employee engagement activities and strategic tips, you’re primed to create a winning team where all employees feel valued. In no time, you’ll see healthy communication, connections between colleagues, and innovation in your company flourish. All thanks to a little fun in the workplace!
FAQ on employee engagement activities
What are meaningful engagement activities?
Meaningful engagement activities refer to initiatives or programs designed to actively involve and connect employees in the workplace. These activities go beyond the daily tasks and aim to foster a sense of belonging, motivation, and satisfaction among team members. They create opportunities for employees to connect with each other and the organization as a whole. Meaningful engagement activities can take various forms, such as team-building exercises, social events, workshops, or volunteering activities.
Why should companies do employee engagement activities?
Employee engagement activities play a crucial role in building a positive work environment and strengthening the bond between team members. By organizing these activities, companies demonstrate that they value their employees as individuals, care about their well-being, and recognize their contributions to the organization, which in turn enhances employees’ overall job satisfaction and commitment. It also creates a sense of camaraderie and encourages collaboration, leading to improved teamwork, productivity, and employee retention.
What are the benefits of employee engagement activities?
There are several benefits associated with employee engagement activities. They contribute to higher levels of job satisfaction and morale, as employees feel appreciated, supported, and connected to their colleagues and the organization. This leads to increased productivity and motivation, as engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile and invest their efforts in achieving shared goals.
Engagement activities also foster a positive work culture, as they promote open communication, teamwork, and mutual respect. Employee engagement activities can have a positive impact on employee retention, reducing turnover rates and the associated costs.
These activities create a virtuous cycle, where engaged employees contribute to the success and growth of the organization while experiencing personal fulfillment.