Tired of mundane “been there, done that” team building exercises that make you wish you were safely back in your cubicle? We are, too. After all, we know that team building exercises can be extremely valuable drivers of company loyalty if they’re executed properly. As Harvard marketing expert and author Sam Mallikarjunan explains, “Bonding as a team results in a release of oxytocin, that little chemical in your brain that makes you feel love and excitement. When team-building exercises work as designed, your employees will actually want to see each other.” And this is essential, because “Company culture has become one of the top reasons a candidate will consider one job over another.”
To capitalize on the benefits offered by team-building exercises, you’ll need to get everyone on board and excited—In other words, you’ll need to surprise them. Don’t go for generic team-building ideas; instead, you should tap into what makes Seattle special. Try orienting your team-building exercises around unique attractions (like the ones listed below), and you’re sure to enjoy better team engagement. After all, who doesn’t like discovering hidden gems in their own backyard?
The 6 Best Seattle Team-Building Activities
1. Tour the Seattle Underground at Pioneer Square.
If there’s one important lesson all businesses need to learn, it’s how to innovate and rebuild after disaster strikes. Interestingly, the heart of downtown Seattle had to learn this same lesson in 1889, when a wildfire destroyed the business district. Rather than allowing all 31 blocks of wooden buildings to be rebuilt, city planners decided to change building regulations to only permit stone and brick buildings. They also raised the city streets out of the swampy earth below them and built large retainer walls. As a result, “Shops and businesses that had already rebuilt found the first and sometimes second stories of their buildings facing a concrete wall, the new street several feet above. Eventually, new sidewalks were added at street height, and the underground largely forgotten, left to opium addicts, prostitutes, and gangsters.” (Atlas Obscura) This effectively created a time capsule of historic roadways and shopfronts that can still be visited today via guided tours.
To add some team-building panache to these tours, you can turn them into a memory game: Divide employees up into teams, ask everyone to put their smartphones and notepads away, and tell them to listen intently to the tour guide. Afterwards, each team should write down all of the historic facts they remember from the tour; the team with the best recall wins.
2. Revisit Seattle’s Music Scene, Airband Style.
This idea is great for cash-strapped small businesses as it’s one of the few team building activities in Seattle that doesn’t require visiting any paid attractions. Instead, you’ll just need to grab some speakers and a smartphone or mp3 player, loaded up with hits by Seattle’s many famous rock and grunge bands. Split employees up into groups of 3-4 people and have them form “bands,” complete with a drummer, singer, guitarist, etc. Let them choose and rehearse a tune of their choice, then put on a lip-synced airband rendition of it. Once all of the groups have performed, employees can vote on the winner.
3. Have a Blind Taste Test with Treats from Fran’s Chocolates.
Fran’s Chocolates are so good that President Obama reportedly kept the White House stocked with he and Michelle’s favorites (the salted caramels) and routinely offered them to visitors. So, why not pick up a few boxes of assorted Fran’s goodies, divide people up into small groups, then have everyone put on blindfolds and sample the treats, guessing what’s in each one they try? The team that gets the most ingredients correct wins (and we’re willing to bet that the losing teams won’t regret the experience, either).
4. Visit the Ninja Escape Room.
Have you ever spent idle hours at the office daydreaming about what it would be like to be a ninja instead of an Administrative Assistant or Tax Accountant? Of course, you have—and so has just about everyone else you know. That’s why the Ninja Escape Room is such an awesome team-building resource: They offer a customizable team-building experience wherein team members have to solve complex puzzles in order to defeat a fictional criminal organization known as the Kraken. The challenging, creative nature of the Ninja Escape Room’s puzzles and their clever, humorous storytelling make for a truly engaging and immersive experience. (Just don’t blame us if a few people from your accounting department give up their day jobs to become super-spies after visiting the NER…)
5. Check Out the Flatstick Pub.
The Flatstick Pub is a quirky hangout located conveniently close to Pioneer Square. It offers a range of well-reviewed games, like mini golf, and caters specifically to group events. While the games on offer aren’t team building activities Seattle employees will be unfamiliar with, the Flatstick’s atmosphere makes them unique. This pub is famous for having a low-key and humorous vibe that promises to help even the stuffiest employee just relax and “hang out.”
6. Play Some Pinball at Full Tilt Ice Cream.
If there are two things that almost everyone enjoys, they’re pinball games and ice cream. That’s why Full Tilt Ice Cream has become one of Seattle’s biggest success stories, even though they operate in a city that seldom sees real summer heat. Offering 32 flavors and then some—including vegan options sure to satisfy the plant-based fans in your group—Full Tilt Ice Cream is a great place to build team camaraderie over classic arcade entertainment.
Seattle is many things—offbeat, chronically damp, and maybe a little bit too obsessed with coffee—but if there’s one thing the Emerald City isn’t, it’s boring. As the six-team building events/ideas above prove, this is one of the best places to professionally bond in the USA; no wonder so many successful businesses have grown up right here in Seattle. (And let’s face it, you can never really be too obsessed with coffee…)