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Greenville Business Magazine

Team Spirit: Unique team-building activities boost morale and build connections

Dec 10, 2019 01:05PM ● By Leigh Savage

If the phrase team-building activity conjures up thoughts of Michael Scott organizing a lame event in the breakroom at Dunder Mifflin, you're not alone. Local employers say that by listening to what workers want and plugging into the wealth of options in the Upstate, they can create team-building activities that even the most cynical employee can't resist. 

Topgolf employees tend to love golf, but it turns out, they are just as adept at throwing axes. "They've been here and they are planning another one with us," says Lucas Ziermann, manager of Craft Axe Throwing at Hampton Station in Greenville. 

He's overseen groups from Fluor, Michelin and companies of all sizes since the axe-throwing facility opened in 2018. "People get competitive and the smack talk starts—it's fantastic," he says. Catering (from nearby White Duck Taco or elsewhere) and beer (from neighboring Birds Fly South brewery) create a complete afternoon or evening for groups from 2 to 100. "We have 14 lanes, and it can be five people per lane, bowling alley style," Ziermann says.

Axe throwing is just one of numerous team-building activities available throughout the Upstate, including cookouts, 5K races, yoga classes and karaoke. Research shows that the activities improve communication, motivate employees, promote creativity and create interaction between departments or people who don't normally work together. 

Ashley Brown, marketing specialist at Kopis USA, a software development company, says her company's team-building efforts focus on getting people from behind screens and interacting face to face. Quarterly lunches and social activities such as tailgates and chili cook-offs are highly attended because employees have input into what they'd like to do. 

Because unemployment is so low, especially in the technology fields, social activities and perks are important for recruiting and keeping employees. "It's vital we build our reputation on having an approachable and warm environment," Brown says. "Our culture is one we pride ourselves on, and we find it very important to take time to get to know one another in person, especially when we all work in a screen-driven profession." 

The most popular events are driven by food, she says, such as a recent happy hour at Yee-Haw Brewing, where employees could bring their dogs. 

Another popular and endlessly customizable activity is a "trivia night," which can be organized by employees or can take place in one of many bars and gathering spots. Becky Hendrich, manager at Joe's Place in the Pettigru Historic District, says trivia nights are popular at the bookstore, which also offers coffee, wine, food and art. 

The trivia teams aren't always coworkers, but it's not uncommon to see a workplace team, including a group of teachers from Greenville Tech who recently attended. "It was funny because they found out who knew what and who didn't," Hendrich says. 

For larger groups, including a recent Yelp Elite group, Hendrich put together a special trivia night that included a scavenger hunt. "We've done a lot of crazy things," she says. "People are looking to do something different."

Sadly, Joe's Place will be closing at the end of this month, but other venues in town, including City Tavern and Connolly's Irish Pub, offer trivia nights.

Team up to help out

Many area corporations accomplish team-building and community engagement in one fell swoop, organizing days devoted to helping out at a nonprofit. 

Muriel Taylor, director of volunteers and community engagement at Meals on Wheels Greenville, says a variety of Upstate businesses pitch in at her organization, and corporate and community route partners are essential to the group's mission, making up approximately 20 percent of the volunteer base.

She lets companies know that volunteering is "an excellent team-building opportunity" that boosts communication and morale, and points out a 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey that found that 89 percent of working Americans believe that companies that sponsor volunteer activities have a better overall working environment than those that don't. Seventy percent say volunteering boosts morale better than company happy hours. 

Elliott Davis packages meals monthly at Meals on Wheels and delivers twice a month, and Heather Meadors, director of community relations, says coworkers enjoy conversation, laughter and even competition as they package 1,400 meals in two hours. "Every group who goes from Elliott Davis reports back that they enjoyed their time doing something worthwhile for their community while building closer relationships with their coworkers," she says. 

Christy Thompson, site administrator and community engagement coordinator for Celanese, appreciates that her team felt truly useful during the volunteering session at Meals on Wheels. "It was a short enough time span that folks with a heavy workload could participate, and it was rewarding enough to make a couple of hours worthwhile," she says. "I really haven't found many projects like that."

The clearest feedback? "I've already had folks ask when we could go back," she says.