To build relationships between co-workers, many managers plan team-building activities throughout the year. Some of these activities can take place at lunch, especially if the workplace has an employee cafeteria or common lunch area. To present team-building activities that will benefit the employees and strengthen their commitment to each other and to the company, take into account what the activity's purpose is and how it helps others reach desired goals.
Beneficial team-building activities should promote mutual respect, compassion and friendship. Determine what the objective of the team-building exercises should be. Some objectives might be to get cliquish workers to become more inclusive, inject respectful humor and fun into the workplace, relieve stress, improve problem-solving skills, or promote the concept of teamwork for success. Team-building activities at lunchtime should be relatively short, enjoyable and the participants should learn something from the exercise.
Small Group Ideas
Small group team-building exercises that take place at lunch can just take a few minutes but can lead to big gains in establishing bonds with fellow employees. Plan a special lunch with catered food once or twice per month so co-workers can gather in a common area for time to visit and enjoy a free lunch. Another idea involves eating lunch in groups of two or three. Give teams five minutes to discover something unusual about others in the group. Employees then share information with everyone.
Large Group Ideas
Large group activities at lunch should also be fairly short and not intrude with eating. Invite motivational speakers to give short but humorous talks on a key aspect of personal or company development. Hold it outside, picnic style. Another idea is to encourage people to get to know someone new by handing out name tags at the door. Employees must find their match, like "Romeo" and "Juliet" or "Lewis" and "Clark," then eat lunch with that person. Or set a poster board and markers at each lunch table, where employees can create posters, whether silly or motivational.
What Not to Do
Team-building activities should be planned well enough that they shouldn't be viewed as a waste of time. Poorly organized activities can cause employees to lose respect for managers. Never hold team-building activities that alienate anyone or gain humor at someone's expense. Avoid silly games that might cause embarrassment among workers or games that point out obvious problems in the workplace. Don't promote activities that include any physical risk. Avoid team-building exercises that are competitive between groups because this will divide people rather than bring them together.