15 awesome team building activities and games for engineering teams

Branimir Hrzenjak
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Engineering teams often have to deal with unique challenges, from building software that works well to keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change.

Having an engaging and creative team is one of the best ways to tackle these obstacles.

But how can you help your team to always be at the top of their assignments?

The answer is simple: let them play!

Not only will games and interesting activities give them some fantastic bonding time, but they can also teach them valuable lessons about how to work together better as a team.

The following are 15 awesome team-building activities that will help you build a sense of trust and camaraderie in your engineering team.

Engineers day

Engineer days are an excellent way for engineers to come together and present something they’ve been working on recently or something relevant to their work.

Presentations can be formal talks or open discussions, but regardless of format, they’re an opportunity for engineers to share what they’ve been doing with others.

For example, Cimpress, a software and development company, organizes engineer days with one goal in mind: to bring engineers together, enable them to learn from one another, and exchange ideas.

Source: Shake 

As Maarten Wensveen, a former CTO at Cimpress, points out, that not only builds engineers’ strengths, confidence, and abilities but also helps them contribute to the success of their teams in new ways.

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This ultimately translates into more efficient workflows and product improvements that benefit everyone involved.

Cross-training day

Cross-training days are a perfect opportunity to get engineers out of their comfort zones and teach them new skills.

They enable everyone to step outside their standard roles and gain knowledge from experts in other engineering disciplines or even entirely different departments. 

And as you can see in the picture below, the benefits of cross-training your employees can be numerous.

Source: Twitter

To start, conduct an informal survey beforehand to find out what topics interest your engineers the most.

This can be anything from different programming languages and machine learning to even cryptography or theoretical physics.

Then, when it comes time to schedule the training sessions, invite someone knowledgeable to come to address the group.

Bill Higgs, one of the co-founders of Mustang Engineering, recommends combining cross-training days with lunch and learns because this keeps people engaged and gives them lunch at the same time.

Source: Twitter

Either way, cross-training will help your engineers learn new skills they can use in their day-to-day work and give them a broader view of how things work.

New projects on Fridays

To foster creativity and innovative thinking among your engineers, you can implement the New projects on Fridays activity.

This way, they’ll be encouraged to spend part of their weekly time working on something different from what they usually do.

This concept has been a huge success for companies such as 14islands, a creative design and development studio. 

At their studio, Fridays are reserved for Hack days, when they engage in their passion projects, learn new things, and experiment with new technologies.

Source: Twitter

This allowed them to be more creative and become more confident in other fields of their work.

Also, that has even landed them a job creating a game, The Mindful Mountain of Google Interland, which they wouldn’t have the chance to do otherwise.

Source: Medium

As you can see, the goal of the New projects on Friday activity is to empower engineers to spend time pursuing something that isn’t necessarily their day-to-day work and what they might not have time for otherwise. 

The success of initiatives like Google’s 20% time and 3M’s 15% time demonstrates how important it can be for engineers to explore projects beyond their core competencies.

Virtual conference

If you want your engineers to stay on top of industry trends, consider implementing virtual conferences into their workflow.

First, find out if a conference relevant to your industry has a live stream available.

This way, you can watch the event online and then come together as a team afterward to share what you learned and discuss what you’ll do next in relation to the new information.

For example, DeveloperWeek is a conference where experts share their knowledge and experience with the dev community through talks, workshops, and hackathons.

Source: DeveloperWeek

The program covers a broad range of topics, including front-end, back-end, machine learning, mobile development, game development, design, and more.

Virtually attending conferences such as this one will allow your engineers to have access to the best speakers in the industry and learn from experts in their field.

And that will help them stay updated on the latest developments in all areas of software engineering.

Icebreaker session

An icebreaker session is a great way to start a team event or a team meeting.

Icebreakers establish rapport and get people who may not know each other well to talk to each other.

For example, one of the classics when it comes to icebreakers is definitely the game “Who am I?”

Source: WikiHow

To play, everyone writes down a name on a sticky note and places it on the forehead of the person next to them. 

Players ask each other questions about themselves to figure out who or what they are before the round is over. The player who correctly guesses his identity first wins!

Of course, there are also other fun and engaging icebreakers, such as Number games, shown in the video below, or games such as Whose story is it?, Show and tell, and Passions Tic Tac Toe, to name just a few.

Source: Elevate Experiences on YouTube

Whatever you choose, it’ll help you break the ice with your team members and set the tone for a positive working relationship going forward.

LAN games

Undoubtedly, one of the most popular pastimes for engineers is gaming.

Why not then make use of that fact and set up LAN games on your office’s internal network to encourage some fun, friendly competition?

Your team members will get the thrill of competing against one another, and you can even add an extra incentive to the mix by giving out prizes for a winning team.

Source: Twitter

Back in the day, LAN games were the primary source of multiplayer gaming. 

Since the dawn of online gaming, LAN gaming has become something of a lost art. 

However, they’re still perfect for office settings considering that you can add as many computers as you like to an internal network. 

With this kind of setup, you’ll also keep your office computers safer from malware and other perils that lurk on the internet.

And if you’re wondering what kind of games would be perfect for your LAN competitions, the YouTube channel Gemeaux Games has you covered. 

Source: Gemeaux Games on YouTube

They recommend games such as Mario Party Superstars, Halo Infinite, Unreal Tournament, and League of Legends, among others, as ideal games for different events or gaming skills of the players.

You must admit, nothing is better for boosting team spirit than kicking back and beating your teammates in a good old LAN game. 

Especially if you have a lot of avid gamers on your team.

A meme contest

A meme contest can be a great way to bring some fun and creativity into the office.

Some of the most successful companies already use memes to communicate internally and get their teams laughing and chatting in a low-key way.

Source: Twitter

By starting this type of contest in your office, you can create a space for team members to voice their opinions, share quirky ideas, and practice their sense of humor.

There are many variations on what a meme contest might look like, but in its most basic form, it can be as easy as creating a series of images or text prompts and asking your team members to submit their memes. 

You can encourage using tools such as Meme Generator to make participation in the contest easier for everyone involved.

Source: Imgflip

You could choose to run the contest with one person submitting per week or have everyone submit their own at once—the choice is yours! 

The only rule is that there has to be some kind of judging involved, although this can vary depending on what you want out of this contest.

The key thing to remember here is that memes shouldn’t be offensive: they’re not meant to alienate anyone but rather to keep everyone talking and engaged with one another.

Board games at a bar

It’s always fun to get some time away from the office and do something different from our daily routine, especially if it leads to a greater sense of team bonding and camaraderie.

And taking an engineering team out to a local bar to play board games can be one of the best ways to connect outside the office. 

Most bars have board games, making organizing such activities even easier.

Source: Twitter

Board games can provide an outlet for positive energy, especially when team members work together towards a common goal.

However, when planning these activities, it’s important to choose games that are conducive to everyone involved.

You want everyone to be engaged in the game so that they’ll all enjoy the experience.

Escape room

If you want to add even more fun into the equation, an escape room activity could be just what you’re looking for.

For those unfamiliar with the escape room concept, it’s pretty straightforward. 

Participants are locked in a room and have to solve clues, puzzles, and riddles to find keys, codes, and other items to unlock the door within an hour. 

Source: Twitter

However, you don’t necessarily have to play escape rooms on site, as there are plenty of virtual escape rooms available, such as Oscar’s stolen Oscar, The Minotaur’s labyrinth, and The Midnight Express, to name just a few.

One of the most popular, however, is Prison Break, in which team members have to escape from a jail cell under the warden’s nose while he’s away at a wardens’ meeting.

In the picture below, you can see SIWOM’s team having fun while trying to escape from the prison.

Source: Sorry, I was on mute

All in all, escape rooms are great for team building because they require one another’s knowledge in order to succeed. 

Each member brings something different to the table, whether it’s knowledge about a specific topic or how they approach solving problems. 

This encourages people to work together and learn from each other while having fun at the same time.

A weekend retreat

A change of scenery during a weekend getaway with the rest of the team, especially if it’s in a place with beautiful nature, can create a strong bond between team members and recharge their batteries.

You may find that spending time away from the office will allow your engineers to see their colleagues in a new light—and perhaps even help you all come up with new ideas for the company.

For example, before the pandemic, Buffer regularly organized retreats for employees in destinations such as Iceland, Hawaii, Australia, and Thailand.

Source: Buffer

It was an opportunity for everyone to have some fun and relax outside the typical work environment, and it also helped build closer relationships within the company.

Of course, you don’t have to go to such faraway destinations. 

A hiking, seaside retreat, or wine-tasting trip to someplace closer to your company’s headquarters can be just as rewarding, relaxing, and reenergizing. 

Two truths and a lie

The game of Two truths and a lie is designed to help you get to know your teammates better, and it has the added advantage of being an easy game to implement. 

The rules are simple: each team member writes down two truths about themselves and one lie. 

One example might be:

  • The name of my childhood pet was Marcel.
  • I’ve been to Romania twice.
  • I think the Beatles are the best band ever.

Then, everyone else in the group tries to guess which fact is a lie by asking questions and making statements about what they think is true and false.

After that, as in the picture below, they mark the statement, which, in their opinion, is a lie. 

Source: Conceptboard

As they immerse themselves in this activity, they get to know each other better.

The guessing keeps the conversation going, making it easier for everyone to open up on a personal level and share their experiences with other members of the team.

A trivia game show

If you’re looking for some fun ways to develop your team’s collaboration skills, try a trivia game show.

It’s easy to start—just think of a few topics you want to cover and make a list of questions from different fields. 

The best part is that you can tailor the game to your specific needs, so it doesn’t have to be just about random facts.

Source: Twitter

For example, you might consider adding questions on a topic that has come up in conversation recently or even relevant industry news. The possibilities are endless.

However, you can completely streamline the whole process using tools such as TriviaMaker.

Source: TriviaMaker

The app allows you to customize trivia games or select one of their premade options, and it works great with a projector to display questions on a big screen or to play online. 

No matter what approach you choose, it will help you break down barriers between team members in a fun and engaging way.

A cook-off

If you’re looking for something easygoing and fun, a cook-off can be a great team-building activity that also ends in yummy treats.

There are two ways you can run a cook-off.

The first and more fun one is where you have the participants gather recipes ahead of time, then bring them all together in one place with the necessary ingredients and tools.

As the lack of pots and stoves in an office setting might prevent you from organizing such a contest, you can decide on simpler dishes that can be made in crackpots, such as soup or chili.

Source: Twitter

The other solution is to have participants pair off and cook at home, bringing their creations to share with everyone at lunch the next day. 

However, if you’re doing this, keep in mind that people will want pictures of your whole cooking procedure step by step as proof!

Whatever type of cook-off you choose, you’ll have something fun and memorable for everyone at the end of the day—a chance to bond over food everyone got involved in making. 

Team workout

When it comes to fostering casual conversation and cohesion, why not encourage your developers to work out together? 

When team members exercise together, they have lots of opportunities to learn things about each other off the clock—good habits, bad habits, and everything in between.

This can give them much more insight into each other’s personalities and lifestyles.

Source: Twitter

You can even offer incentives like extended lunches or training gear subsidies to sweeten the deal. 

This way, you’ll not only have an informal environment where people can openly discuss their thoughts and ideas, but you’ll also be encouraging your engineers to take control of their health and stay in shape.

Team dinner

One of the easiest and most effective ways to foster a sense of camaraderie and team spirit is definitely by having a team dinner. 

This activity requires little effort to organize yet has much potential for strengthening interpersonal relationships and fostering positive interactions between coworkers.

The fact that everyone is out of the office removes some barriers between people who probably rarely see each other in the office during the week. 

Source: Twitter

The key is to choose a place that’s easy to get to and where the noise level won’t be distracting.

You can also try out new restaurants that everyone is buzzing about since they’ll likely be more exciting and may allow you to try something new, like some new type of cuisine.

Conclusion 

Engineering is a highly collaborative field, meaning engineers often work in teams.

And one of the best ways to build cohesion and team spirit is through games that make the office feel more like a fun-loving place than a stiff and formal workplace.

In this article, we gathered some of our favorites when it comes to interesting office activities. 

Hopefully, they will inspire you to make your own additions to the list.

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