Team building vs team bonding: What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between team building and team bonding? There’s a common misconception that these terms are synonymous or interchangeable which causes managers to pick the wrong activities for their event.

But what are the right activities for your team? Should you set up regular team lunches or organise a lightning scavenger hunt? Understanding the difference between team building and team bonding helps you find the right activities for your event which, in turn, enables you to meet your goals.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what each term means and why it’s essential to invest in both. At the end of each explanation, you’ll also find a list containing a few examples of team building and team bonding activities.

What is team building and why is it useful?

Team building focuses primarily on the development of individual skills geared towards a common goal or objective. The team-building activities you choose to include in your team building event depend on the desired outcome. Does your team require an improved set of skills to complete the task? Maybe your team needs to improves its communication skills to work more synergetically? The answers to these questions will help you decide which activities to choose.

In a nutshell, team building is all about learning. It helps employees to nurture their existing skillsets and better understand how their role fits into the bigger picture. When your workforce understands how their job contributes to the objective, they’re more likely to be engaged with their work.

But what’s the benefit of improved engagement, exactly? Well, employees who are engaged with their work are likely to work harder and more effectively. Oh, and the quality of the work increases too. 

A study conducted by Willis Towers Watson found that companies with high and sustainable levels of engagement tend to have operating margins up to three times higher than companies with low or unsustainable levels of engagement.

5 examples of effective team-building activities

What is team bonding and why is it important?

While team building activities are designed to teach your team new skills, team bonding is all about having fun together and strengthening interpersonal relationships. The primary objective is fun, with little to no emphasis on skill development.

Team bonding activities are simpler than team building activities, with no clearly defined objective. Team bonding activities can be one-off events to rebalance the team after a recent departure, or they can be recurring activities, designed to keep the team chemistry alive.

Team building is not only an investment in the happiness of your employees but also an investment in your business as a whole. Employee engagement and employee happiness are two pieces of the same puzzle. Employee happiness and employee engagement is a two-way street, the two frequently intersect, which is why team building and team bonding are equally important.

Happy employees are integral to the success of your business. Author Shawn Achor went as far as to write a book about the topic, entitled The Happiness Advantage. Referring to employees, Achor wrote “[Happy employees] have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance rating and higher pay.”

Companies with happy employees also see vast improvements in their baseline revenue. A 2008 global health study by Gallup found that happy employees equal lower costs. They said that unhappy employees take considerably more sick leave, staying at home on average 1.26 days more a month, equivalent to 15 extra sick days per year. Higher absentee rates cause roadblocks in project workflows, resulting in slower delivery times and decreased efficiency.

When employees are happy, they’re more engaged, more productive, and take less time off. Furthermore, happy employees are considerably more likely to stick around. 

Retaining members of your workforce not only keeps down recruitment costs but also has tremendous benefits for your company culture. Long-term employees help to spread the company ethos which boosts morale and helps onboard new members.

Team bonding activities are also great for reducing stress. Lighthearted activities enable your team to blow off some steam and improve their relationship with the office environment. When employees have a positive association with their workplace, they’ll look forward to coming into work and they’ll feel happier as a result. This has great knock-on effects on employee creativity as employees who feel comfortable at work are more confident when suggesting new ideas.

5 examples of fun team-bonding activities

Unlock the potential of your team with Surf Office company retreats

The team at Surf Office has years of experience planning successful team-building retreats for companies such as Google, WordPress, Stripe, and Shopify. Working together with Surf Office gives you access to our comprehensive industry expertise and saves you valuable time and money. We make the process of planning a company retreat entirely stress-free, so you and your team can focus on doing what you do best.

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