10 corporate team-building activities to try this summer that aren’t cringe-worthy

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While I am all for a team happy hour, I’ve found I form a stronger bond with my coworkers when we team up to complete a common goal unrelated to our day-to-day tasks. I’ve spent time giving back at local charities and cracking codes in an escape room and I’ve always appreciated the comaraderie that out-of-office events offer.

Take a day to reconnect with your team. Whether your goal involves strengthening problem solving skills or tackling a fun goal in a relaxed environment, Charlotte offers unique team building opportunities for corporate groups and startups alike:

Brave the outdoors on a Raft and Zip Tour

Teams interested in adding adventure to their outing should consider a trip to the U.S. National Whitewater Center (5000 Whitewater Center Parkway). Raging rapids and close quarters in the raft may just be the perfect remedy to inspire a team to work toward a common goal in a stressful, yet fun, environment. Both the rafting and zip guided tours have a reserved time slot, leaving the rest of the day for meetings, a catered meal, or an evening at the River Jam concert series.

Additional team development activities at the Center include a Wilderness Survival Challenge, Challenge Courses and Canopy Tours.

Team bonding, 40 feet up.

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Learn and laugh

Strengthening a team’s ability to offer support and effectively adapt to change may be as simple as spending a few hours in an improv class at the Charlotte Comedy Theater (900 North Carolina Music Factory Blvd.). Students will learn the importance of “Yes, and…” – a core improv concept that proves the speaker accepts what their partner says and will adapt to achieve a common goal. Not only will a class strengthen the bond between employees, but it will also build on presentation skills and the ability to think quickly when pressured.

Better the community

Spend the afternoon crafting, setting up birthday bags and sorting toys for underprivileged children and families at Bright Blessings (1150 Crews Road). I’ve personally spent a few outings with my team at the organization in Matthews; the relaxed setting and feel-good projects unite our group and inspire us to work toward a common goal that will better the community. Their corporate sessions begin with a brief overview of the different programs they offer, followed by a group project and a video highlighting the individuals and families whom our hard work helps.

If your team prefers to spend a few hours outdoors, Trees Charlotte (701 Tuckaseegee Road) offers opportunities for groups to work together to plant trees in underserved areas of Charlotte. The organization aims to grow Charlotte’s tree canopy and team members will work to dig, plant and care for trees in order to better the community.

Reach new heights together

Build trust, encourage teamwork and challenge your team with a trip to the Inner Peaks climbing facility (2220 S Tryon St.). Using indoor climbing as the framework for learning, the group facilitator leads teams through a series of problem-solving activities. Participants will learn mechanisms to cope with new situations, offer support to teammates and improve trust and communication.

Strengthen leadership

One of the most unique team-building experiences comes from the North Carolina Outward Bound School (2582 Riceville Rd, Asheville, NC 28805). Dedicated to a culture where “I can’t” isn’t acceptable, the NCOBS strengthens leadership, increases productivity, and improves internal communication skills for organizations through a series of wilderness-centric workshops. They offer opportunities to connect in the North Carolina mountains through their Immersion Expedition Program or an Accelerated Insight Program for teams that prefer to remain closer to work.

[Related: Is an Outward Bound trip one way to better leadership?]

Strategize to win

Sometimes, teams need a new perspective to solve problems together. Per experience, I’d recommend a trip to Exit Strategy (4215 Stuart Andrew Blvd., Ste B), an escape room adventure that encourages teams to work together to solve a scenario and “escape” in under an hour. Teams can play for fun or add on a “Boost Your Game” program for a facilitated debrief afterward.

[Related: Your guide to 6 escape rooms in Charlotte, from hostage situations to elite spy missions]

Ride or stride for a good cause

Join forces with other groups like Bank of America and Birdsong Brewing to sponsor a team with the 24 Foundation (801 E. Morehead Street, Suite 308), formerly known as 24 Hours of Booty. Dedicated to changing the conversation about cancer and inspiring communities to take action to create immediate impact for those affected by cancer, the foundation hosts riders and striders who wish to donate time to a worthy cause. Not only will your team spend 24 hours together, but they’ll learn to strategize time, strengths and abilities to successfully ride or stride the course in shifts. This year’s event takes place July 27-28 from 7p.m.–7p.m. Register here.

Pool knowledge to complete a scavenger hunt

Teams explore Charlotte through a new lens when completing a Big City Hunt scavenger adventure. Led via an app on a phone, teams will work together to explore landmarks and hidden gems, test trivia knowledge and compete in photo challenges. It’s a unique way to incorporate teamwork as teams explore the Queen City and complete fun challenges. Try the “Lap Around Charlotte” (starts at 500 S. College St.) to see the NASCAR Hall of Fame, The Green and Elmwood Cemetery.

Master new skills together

SkillPop Charlotte (2128 Remount Road), a local startup dedicated to uniting the community through unique classes, proves an exciting escape from the office. Classes range from $20-$40/person and offer workshops on functional skills (e.g. Communicating Effectively in the Workplace; Building Your Personal Brand) and fun excursions (e.g. Stepping Up Your Golf Game; Pie Baking Basics). Whether you’re looking to hold a skill-based course outside of the conference room or seeking a relaxing environment for your team to bond, SkillPop’s variety of classes offers something for everyone.

Take a break

Sometimes just getting out of the office strengthens the team and encourages positive interactions in a refreshing setting. Take your team for an Art Break, a 30-minute tour beginning at noon on Thursdays at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Mint Museum and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Schedule a special lunch hour, complete with a quick bite and an art tour to refresh perspectives and encourage cultural discussions outside the office.

While your team will likely always have a project to complete, it’s important to take a break to build unity outside of the normal office setting. Not only will the activities improve employee engagement, but coworkers may find a new appreciation for the unique skills each individual brings to the table that can be leveraged to the good of the organization.

Featured photo: Courtesy of the 24 Foundation

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