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Smells like team spirit: 8 team-building activities that won't make your staff cringe

Forget trust falls. Companies these days are swapping cliched team-building exercises for trendy team-bonding experiences such as art jamming and leather-crafting workshops.

Smells like team spirit: 8 team-building activities that won't make your staff cringe

Public relations firm The Mango Agency recently booked a three-hour class at The Potters’ Guilt in Chinatown for its all-female team of seven. (Photo: The Mango Agency)

You know that Human Resource personnel are getting cooler when even paintball is considered passe. These days, companies are trading the cringeworthy and the cliche for the trendy and terrific when it comes to the unenviable job of artificially orchestrating a certain intangible known as team spirit.

Once viewed as a necessary evil involving trust falls and awkward games at beachside resorts that too-cool-for-school employees would take MC to dodge at all costs, team-bonding activities have since moved from the realm of the unimaginative to the creative – for enlightened organisations, at least.

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And it appears that many companies are immersing their teams in the culinary arts of late, made fashionable, no doubt, by the rise of celebrity chefs; popular Netflix series the likes of Chef’s Table; and TV cooking competitions like MasterChef.

BMW Group Asia, for example, recently organised a regional offsite in Singapore – the company’s first outside Munich, Germany – with a cook-off at Coriander Leaf.

“Cooking with family or friends has always been known to bring people together, and this was one team-bonding activity that everyone could participate in, no matter their skill level,” said Corporate Affairs Director Preeti Gupta.

BMW Group Asia recently organised a regional offsite in Singapore with a cook-off at Coriander Leaf. (Photo: BMW Group Asia)

Inherent in the programme (at S$140 per head) was a challenge to produce a dinner spread within a prescribed duration, “requiring us to make time-sensitive decisions,” she added.

The participants, which included BMW employees from various countries such as Germany, Russia, Australia and Singapore, were split into three teams comprising four to five persons each, and each team was tasked with cooking two dishes. They were then judged by the facilitator on timing, taste, presentation and teamwork.

Inherent in the programme was a challenge to produce a dinner spread within a prescribed duration. (Photo: BMW Group Asia)

In three hours, the three teams whipped up rice paper rolls, beef and lamb satay, chilli crab, black pepper crab, Szechuan-style chicken with dried chillies, and vegetables with oyster sauce.

“This was the first time many of the team members had been to Singapore and it allowed my colleagues from all over the world to experience Singaporean cuisine. Sharing a meal that we all put time and effort to cook was the best ending to the event,” Gupta shared.

If a family that eats together stays together, does a team that cooks together work better together?

“We definitely are closer than we’ve ever been before and are working together more and more,” she concluded.

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Other companies, meanwhile, turn to clay to get their creative juices flowing.

Public relations firm The Mango Agency recently booked a three-hour class at The Potters’ Guilt in Chinatown for its all-female team of seven. For S$95 per head, they made a variety of artistic cups, bowls and vases, which included glazing and firing one piece of artwork each.

“We wanted to do something that none of us had tried before, and create something with our own hands that we could take away and use as a memory of the experience,” said Director Jennifer Dembitz.

Public relations firm The Mango Agency recently booked a three-hour class at The Potters’ Guilt in Chinatown for its all-female team of seven. (Photo: The Mango Agency)

What the ladies appreciated most was the sense of present-moment awareness the activity called forth.

“The wheel was especially meditative, although it took a while to grasp some of the techniques. It was great spending time together outside of the office, getting our hands dirty and shutting off all devices for a few hours to really focus and enjoy the process,” she noted.

“The team works extremely hard and this was about enjoying each other’s company, bonding and having some time to relax and decompress at the end of the year over a creative activity.”

Pottery made by The Mango Agency staff. (Photo: The Mango Agency)


Making art can be a very solitary endeavour but the concept of art jamming adds a social dimension, often with food and beverages. And, according to Singapore’s leading team-building company The Fun Empire, art jamming is one of the top five of its 30 team-building games and activities that corporates are requesting today, along with terrarium workshops.

“Art jamming boosts creativity, nurtures patience and fosters interactions among participants while terrarium workshops allow participants to express their creativity in a fun way while promoting teamwork, patience and focus among team members,” explained Marketing Manager Stephenie Koh.

Having conducted more than 8,000 team-building events for half a million people across Asia, the company adds that the main criteria clients look for when selecting a team-bonding activity are the provider’s track record, experience and reputation as well as pricing, suitability of activities and safety.


Leather crafting has been gaining in popularity as a team-bonding exercise, with organisations such as the Land Transport Authority, the Singapore Police Force and ExxonMobil sending their staff for crafting workshops at Maketh Project.

The five-year-old crafting studio conducts corporate workshops for up to 35 pax where crafters learn leather crafting skills and techniques using cow and buffalo hides, from cutting, sewing and finishing, including personalised debossing of initials.

From leather to lather, more corporates are also foaming about soap-making workshops these days. At Sugar & Spice, teams work together to create cold-process handmade soaps using plant-based ingredients and 100 per cent pure essential oils. It’s a toxic- and palm oil-free method and philosophy that has won favour with clients like the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, OCBC Bank and Procter & Gamble.

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We don’t know a single person who doesn’t love chocolate so a chocolate-making workshop with Fossa Chocolate is not only a safe bet – but an exceedingly yummy one, too.

Singapore’s first award-winning artisanal bean-to-bar craft chocolate maker offers workshops where teams make artisanal chocolate truffles while learning about the different flavour profiles and tasting the difference of single origin chocolate. For once, your staff will be happy to have bean there and done that team-bonding activity.

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For organisations that love some friendly competition, go-kart racing is an excellent option that pits speed against wit.

The Karting Arena, opened by Singapore racing royal couple Yuey Tan and Claire Jedrek, offers two corporate racing packages: Casual and Competitive. In the former, groups head out from the pit lane and attempt to set the fastest times they can.

The Competitive race is organised in an F1-style format where drivers get to practice around the track then compete for best lap time in a qualifying session, before taking to the starting grid in a final race – replete with trophy presentation for the top three positions.

Companies can also select between two race classes: Standard for racing up to 30km/h and Elite, for racing up to 50km/h. Prices start from S$1,650, and the track can accommodate group sizes of 10 to 40 pax.

With the diversity of options available, we reckon it’s worth getting the team together for a fun day out. Who knows, it might turn that Negative Nancy in your office into the next Nigella.

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Source: CNA/ds