Who says work can’t be fun? A friendly competition between co-workers is a great way to boost teamwork, get everyone loosened up, and maybe even get some exercise. They can be a powerful way to increase morale and motivation, offer a change of pace, and - most importantly - have fun! A lot of contests can even gamify regular processes like sales, customer satisfaction, and quality assurance, leading to better results and more productivity. If you’re ready for your team to find some common ground, and have a great time doing it, then dive into our favorite ideas for workplace competition and contests.
27 Workplace competitions and contests
1. Themed photo contest
This is a fun competition that can be interactive and bring out everyone’s creativity. Host a contest where everyone can submit photo entries for the chance to win a prize. Start with a theme such as hometown history, sci-fi, or any other subject that your coworkers would find interesting. Invite employees to post photos on social media either in a private group you created, or on your public pages with a special hashtag. This way staff can see other entries and gauge their competition! Award prizes based on the number of likes for each photo. You could also come up with some separate prizes like “most creative”.
2. Costume contest
Chances are that most of the time you see your colleagues in business attire or casual clothing appropriate for your work environment. Most employees would jump at the opportunity to play dress up once in a while. Costume contests are a fun employee engagement idea, or you can take a group approach for more team-building energy. It makes sense to set a theme or parameters such as celebrities, historical figures, matching your office bestie, or famous people from your industry. Choose any topic that spurs creativity and fun! Plus, you can create social media posts around the costume contest in order to humanize your brand and drum up more social engagement.
3. "Around the world” steps contest
As more companies focus on health and wellness, step contests have become popular. Step-counting competitions involve staff monitoring their daily steps and trying to beat each other or a certain number. You can put a more fun spin on things by leveraging a map or globe concept where the steps walked equate to miles. In this way, employees can work their way “around the world” by adding up more steps each day. It makes the most sense to use a 1:1 ratio where one step equals one mile. Every day throughout the contest, contestants will update their map to display their steps/miles. For a little extra fun, have people pick “transportation” methods to move around their map, like a hot air balloon or a rocket ship. The race can last as long as you want it to, but a few weeks is probably best if you really want to see people make it “around the world”.
4. Desk decorating
Have staff transform their desks into works of art! Choose a theme, set a budget, and encourage everyone to get creative! Need some ideas? Try under the sea, Hollywood, outer space, haunted house, steampunk, eighties or nineties, or college dorm. Depending on the size of your office, the competition can be individual or team-based. Make sure to set a time limit for decorating and then have a panel of judges who will walk around, view everyone’s set up, and pick a winner. You can get virtual employees in on the action by having them decorate their home office and take photos, or have everyone create new Zoom backgrounds.
5. Office scavenger hunt
A classic scavenger hunt is always a winner. Put together a list of items that can be found around the office. Everything from a letter opener to a Diet Coke is up for grabs.
6. “Spring cleaning” scavenger hunt
Messy office spaces are no fun. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, a disorganized work space can have real impacts on productivity and morale. Naturally, you want everyone to clean up - but you don’t want to nag. Turn things into a game instead by creating a tidy up treasure hunt around the office. This game works best when announced in advance, and will require some prep work. Here is how it works: Hide clues in various messy spots around the office, and the team who recovers the most clues wins a prize. For example, you might want to put a clue on an unstocked paper towel machine, an overflowing trash can, or a buried-in-paperwork desk. Make sure to hide the clues in such a way that people will need to organize or tidy up a bit to obtain the paper. To further incentivize people, you could also offer small prizes for every clue collected, like movie theater candy, dollar bills, or tickets for food in the cafeteria.
7. Food drive competition or poll
There is great joy in helping the community around you, and your staff surely agrees. Invite your staff to bring in nonperishable food that counts toward a prize. You can make things really straightforward and provide small incentives for every item donated, or you can make things a little more fun. Setting up a “food pantry poll” is a fun idea that is more interactive. Create a poll about something that impacts everyone in the company, where they can share an opinion, and then have the non-perishable food items be “votes”. So, for example, you might have a poll regarding where to hold the company holiday party. Offer a few choices, and then have people bring in canned goods toward their favorite option. Set up boxes with the choices written on them, and have people drop their items in the box. In the end, the box with the most items is the winning option. This is a fun way to make some non-critical decisions and a great way to help others.
8. Review lottery
If customer service is part of your company culture, reviews are important. One fun way to incentivize more positive reviews and reward your team for great performance is by holding drawings of reviews. Every week, pick the new reviews submitted and print them - both bad and good - and then randomly draw one. If the review is positive, reward your team with a pizza lunch or other small prize. If the review is negative, share the feedback with your team and host a discussion on how to improve. You might even add some low-stakes repercussions such as having to take out the trash or replace the water filter for non-stellar reviews. Note: this sort of contest tends to work better than simply encouraging employees to ask for reviews. In those cases, the most outgoing and charismatic staff tend to get the most reviews, not necessarily the ones who serve customers best. A random drawing rewards the entire team while still highlighting individuals that might be mentioned. Getting more positive reviews can become an important goal for everyone in the department - more positive reviews equals more chances at fun perks.
Who is up for some good, old-fashioned bingo? Actually, most people are. You can set this game up easily and it can run for as long as you need it to, plus you can center the bingo cards on various tasks or other relevant office happenings. Create cards with things that need to be done throughout the week, or facts related to the company or your colleagues. Look for bingo choices that bring people together and help them to connect. This is another activity that can work for virtual teams as well as in-person groups. Everyone can follow along on their own and declare “bingo” as they make progress.
10. Virtual hackathon
This is a great option for remote teams or teams who are spread out geographically. Online hackathons are one of the most popular and effective team competition ideas. A hackathon is a marathon competition where teams compete to sketch or design a new product over the course of a few days. To host one, pick a theme (like sustainability or pop culture) and announce it at the beginning of the competition. Make sure to announce the contest in advance of starting it so that teams have time to gather supplies, implement the right collaboration tools, etc. Divide your group into teams and let them get started! Then, at the end of the allotted time, wrap up the competition and set a time for everyone to present their finished products. Then judges will pick a winner and award a prize. Maybe the product ideas could even be implemented someday!
11. Photo caption contest
Pick out a funny meme or cool photo and ask everyone to come up with a clever caption. You can either have one person pick a winner, do so by committee, or share with the company and let audience applause dictate the most popular caption. This is a quick team-building activity and easy to put together, and a good option for when you have a short window of time to bring everyone together. This activity is an ideal choice if your current bandwidth only allows gathering everyone in the breakroom for an hour or so. Simply share the image the night before and let everyone bring their A-game in the morning.
12. Creativity contest
If you really want to encourage creativity, pick a theme and ask everyone to make something related to it. There’s so many directions people can go in, which makes this extra fun! You may decide to give people supplies in advance or pick one type of material for them to use. If you have a large group, perhaps you want to take a team-based approach to increase collaboration and bonding. Allow everyone to come up with their own work of art, and have a panel of judges pick the one that is most creative.
13. Video contest
Short-form videos have become extremely popular - just look at the success of platforms like TikTok. Let everyone bring their inner influencer out by creating their own video to share with everyone. This can be a really exciting competition and great for team-building. It works best with smaller teams. Break people into groups and give them one hour to script, produce, and polish their video content. You can either let their imaginations run wild or choose a theme for everyone to work with. Make sure everyone has access to necessary video editing software or other tools so that they can make their video even if they’re beginners. Have a great prize ready for the winner - bonus points for a movie-themed gift like theater tickets or “movie night basket” with an Amazon card, popcorn, and snacks.
14. Themed cook-off
You’ve no doubt heard of a chili cook off. You can either run with this idea, or pick a new genre like pizza or desserts. It’s most likely difficult to cook in your office environment, so have everyone prepare their masterpiece and then bring it into work. Let everyone sample the various wares and vote on a winner.
15. Company quiz
Who knows the most about your organization? Come up with a quiz to find out. Put together a fun list of questions based on company mission, values, history, and staff. Grade the quizzes and the employee with the highest score wins. If you want to up the ante, have every team member write a question about themselves to incorporate into the quiz. Have them make it as challenging as possible!
16. Brain teaser challenge
Test everyone’s problem-solving skills with some fun riddles. Put together a list of brain teasers for everyone to take a crack at. This is a great activity to take a team approach to. Break everyone up into small groups and share the list of questions with a time limit. Highest score wins!
17. Office “Great race”
Have you watched The Great Race? It’s a competition show where teams race around the world competing various tasks, finding out what their next task is when they complete one. You can create your own version in your office and have teams go on a quest before ending at a finish line. You can make a day of it, or break things up over a few weeks.
Here’s a classic that never gets old. Split your group into two teams and have them act out popular expressions, phrases or sayings for the other team to guess. You can either pull some suggestions from the internet or buy a version of the game from somewhere like Amazon or Target. Most people are familiar with charades and will be comfortable playing, plus it's free and doesn’t require any special set up.
19. Coworker trivia
Similar to the quiz idea, team trivia is a great way for colleagues to get to know each other better. This can be a lot of fun for groups that are often disjointed. It’s easy to find online trivia games for free, or you can use an online quiz maker to put one together. Or, you can have colleagues submit their own questions based on topics that you shared in advance. You can also include virtual team members easily as well.
20. March madness
Take advantage of a competition that’s already going on! Build off of the energy of March Madness and encourage staff to participate. Have people create brackets and keep track throughout the series. You can take things to a new level by adding in a few other themed challenges like a desk decorating contest or make your own jersey day. If you go this route, you can assign points for each challenge to go along with bracket performance.
21. Live “Price is right”
If you’re familiar with the classic show, you know how into it people can get! Try hosting a variation of the show at work. Split everyone into two teams and have everyone guess prices on things from around the office. You can use items ranging from an executive desk to snacks in the kitchen. Make sure you know the real prices so that you can fairly determine the winners each round. Bonus points for having fun props like large cards to write guesses on, or nameplates to display team names. You’ll have to give some consideration to just where to host this game - the space needs to fit everyone and also have room for bringing in the items.
22. A great debate
Bring out your inner debater by having two teams go at it in a healthy dialogue. Make sure to pick topics that are light and fun, not serious or political. For example, which college sports team is best (although, people can get really passionate about that too!). Have everyone come up with a few points to argue their stance and have a judge who will determine the winner. Make things official by setting up two stands opposite each other and special seating for the audience to observe.
23. Guess who game
In this activity, each team-member shares a fun fact about themselves and then everyone will guess who the fact belongs to. Keep things fun and work appropriate. Examples of facts could be things like “favorite candy is twizzlers” or “never been to the state capitol”. Bonus points for coming up with facts that start a dialogue or bring some humor.
24. Field day games
Put together a day of outdoor fun. Check out our past post on field day ideas, and implement some activities like a relay race, water balloon toss, or other favorites from your childhood field day.
25. Paper plane contest
Who can craft the best paper airplane? Have individuals or teams use provided supplies to come up with a working paper airplane. Have everyone attempt to “fly” their paper airplane and see whose goes farthest. You can award prizes for the plane that flies farthest and the one that is most creative. This idea is easy to implement because it’s simple, cheap, and not too time-consuming. It’s a great way to end an otherwise intense day.
26. Suggestion box raffle
If you’re looking for ways to improve morale and enhance communication, try having everyone write down some thoughts. Many times, people don’t want to take the time to do so (or they’re nervous to share their real opinions). Incentivize idea-sharing by holding raffles on various entries. Have everyone write their idea, question, or discussion item down on a piece of paper and put them all in a box. Pick a few entries at random and hand out prizes accordingly. For other team-building activities you can do at work, check out our past post.
27. Card game
Classic card games are a fun way to add some excitement into your workday. Hearts, poker, go-fish. All of these games are fairly simple and easy to execute. You could even make a championship where teams advance through stages. Many people find sitting around a table of cards with food and drinks to be tons of fun - take advantage of this by setting up some game tables, putting out refreshments, and providing decks of cards. Have fun!
Tips for a great workplace competition
Not all work-centric contests are created equal. It’s important to put some thought into whatever idea you decide to run with. Here are some tips for making sure your competition or contest is impactful, successful - and most of all fun!
- Determine parameters - One of the most important things to do when executing a workplace competition is to decide what type of contest you’ll hold and think about the goals of the activity. Do you want to focus on team-building, getting to know a new space, or increasing health and wellness? Next, think about how long the contest will last and what resources you’ll dedicate to it.
- Generate excitement - You want as much participation as possible, so give people plenty of notice as well as reasons to look forward to the activity. Advertise the competition a few weeks before, talk about possible prizes, and place reminders around the office. Think of preparing for this event as a type of campaign with multi-faceted touchpoints. You could also release a couple teasers rather than revealing all information at once - generate some buzz and keep people intrigued.
- Make sure rules are clear - It’s important that everyone is crystal clear on the rules before any real competition begins. Guidelines should be clear, easy to follow, and fair to everyone. If your competition has several phases or is particularly complex, you may want to make sheets with the rules listed to hand out. If this is a virtual competition, you may want to hold a video conference in advance, and make sure to have all the necessary links or materials readily available.
- Divide people into groups - Office competitions are an ideal team-building activity. That means you should give thoughtful consideration to who will be working together. You need to divide larger groups into smaller teams. For maximum effectiveness, match up employees strategically. For example, pair people from two separate offices, or match super creative people with some very practical ones. You can always allow employees to choose their own teams, too, but try to encourage them to break out of their comfort zones and get to know new people.
- Have fun! - Employees will follow your lead, so you need to make sure that you participate and that other company leadership does too. Make it known that you want people to set down their work and have some fun with their colleagues. People shouldn’t have to worry about how work will get done if they take the time to participate in these events. Consider bandwidth and timing when setting up team-building activities. Then, dive right in and enjoy the day!
Quick and fun team-building activities are always a welcome addition to the workplace. Choose one (or more) of the contest ideas listed and watch your employees have a blast.
Surf Office is here to help. We can deal with the logistics of such events so that you can focus on what’s important - having fun!