Here comes winter – out-of-office messages abound! Whether it’s holiday celebrations, vacations, or using up that PTO, colleagues aren’t looking to be tied to the desk over these next couple of months. What a great time to plan a few good ol’ team-building winter activities to keep your team engaged, festive, and motivated!
There really is no better time to bring warmth and camaraderie to your workplace. Winter-themed (or winter-adjacent) team building activities are a perfect way to beat the cold and build strong bonds among your colleagues. These activities can infuse the workplace with fun and promote cooperation, communication, and team spirit all at once.
Whether you’re looking to take it outside or stay warm indoors, we have some super cool winter-themed team building activities that can help your team stay connected during the chilly season.
Yes… we really mean play outside. Bundle up, put on your snow boots and gloves, and head outside. Have a (friendly) snowball fight. Build snow forts. Build a snowman. Go sledding, skiing, or ice skating (be safe and know your limits) – it’s like you’re a kid again! Being outdoors can help your team connect with nature and promote physical well-being, and offers a refreshing change of scenery that can help give them a much needed brain break.
Once you get back inside from a cold day of winter play, what better way to warm up than with a hot bowl of chili. Fire up the crockpots and invite colleagues to showcase their culinary skills by prepping their best chili recipes. Assign each entry a number and do your best to keep each dish’s creator a secret. Then, let team members taste and judge the creations. Then choose whether the winner gets bragging rights, a prize, or both. Make sure you’re cognizant of dietary restrictions and label ingredients!
White Elephant Gift Exchange
A team favorite, this classic activity involves team members exchanging quirky and humorous gifts, often leading to fits of laughter and a lot of fun. Setting the parameters can be just as fun. Here are some ways to make your white elephant exchange uniquely yours:
- Very specific dollar amounts – $20.23 for example. If you want to get really granular, make them attach a receipt.
- Items cannot be purchased specifically for the exchange… meaning that team members must venture around their homes to find something to give.
- Regifts only. Everyone has that gift still sitting on the shelf from last year that they’ve never used. Now is the time to pass it on to someone else.
If you’ve never been part of a white elephant gift exchange before, check out these OFFICIAL rules and instructions to get the most out of it. White elephant gift exchanges are a fantastic way to celebrate the holidays, share a few laughs, and learn more about your colleagues’ sense of humor.
The holidays inspire giving and there is no better way to foster your team’s collective giving spirit than engaging in acts of kindness. Many nonprofit organizations need extra volunteers and support in the winter months.
Consider organizing a volunteer project for the team. It could be anything from packing winter care packages, serving at a soup kitchen, participating in a charity run, donating blood, or even adopting a family by purchasing gifts from a wish list. Giving back can help instill a sense of purpose, hope, and fulfillment in your team.
Calories don’t count during the holidays, right? Hosting a cookie exchange lets colleagues share their favorite recipes for some of their favorite holiday treats with each other. If they’re comfortable sharing it – we get it, no one wants to share their Nana’s super secret chocolate chip cookie recipe. Ask everyone to create recipe cards too. Again, make sure all ingredients and allergies are shared.
Though the 2026 Winter Olympics are a while away, your office “athletes” are ready to compete. Set up your own competition featuring office-friendly versions of Winter Olympic sports.
- Curling. Order a tabletop curling game online and get ready to throw stones! Though there won’t be a need for sweeping, the shuffleboard-like game emulates the scoring and tactics of a curling game.
- Chair, dolly, or cart luge. Depending on what equipment you have at your disposal, use a rolling object to set up luge races. Find a clear area, like a wide hallway, to create your track and have one person push the other. This one has the potential to get out of hand, so know your audience well before you plan your activities… and BE CAREFUL.
- Hockey. Grab some brooms and a wad of paper and choose your teams. Set the timer and get the “puck” in the net! Highest score wins.
- Figure skating. Find a clear space and have your team members make up their figure skating “routines.” But please, keep it limited to the short program because no one wants to see someone pretend to be on ice skates for the long program.
Make sure you get clearance from the company (and any of the safety folks) before you host your Olympics. Of course, you can incorporate some less-physical activities and still create the same level of competition. And fake gold medals can add a fun touch.
No matter where you are in the world, winter blues can bring team morale down. By planning some unique team building activities, whether they’re outside, inside, or a combination of both, your team will not only stay motivated, but will discover a new sense of camaraderie. So bundle up and bring that winter wonderland to work.
Kadi McDonald is a freelance writer, marketing strategist, and proud Cleveland sports fan.