Using Team Building to Build More Inclusive Work Environments

Pop quiz! (But don’t worry, it’s an easy one.) How do unengaged employees feel when your workplace isn’t inclusive?

  1. Ignored
  2. Invisible
  3. Excluded
  4. Ostracized
  5. All of the above.

Told you it was an easy quiz. The answer is obviously “5”, all of the above. And that’s a problem because you don’t want your coworkers to feel that way. Naturally, it’s an issue on the human/personal level. However, it also affects their job performance.


When people feel like they’re part of a team, they do better work, and they are less likely to switch jobs. Check out this amazing stat from The Muse, “89% of companies think that people leave for more money, but only 12% of employees actually do leave for more bread (cash). Employees want to be engaged, and they want to work in an inclusive environment. If they don’t, it’s not of a question of if they leave, but when they leave. Here’s how you can use team building to build more inclusive work environments.

Connect People Via Food

Food brings people together. A solid team building exercise is to celebrate employees’ birthdays at the restaurant of their choice. These outings are special, and they will promote fresh conversations. If your office is strapped for time, you can always bring in snacks or sweets. To make this team building exercise as efficacious as possible, it’s prudent to bring in a unique foodstuff. For instance, if the employee is Vietnamese, they may like durian, a popular fruit in that country. In most offices, durian would be an unusual treat, and it would spark conversation. That’s what you’re looking for. Restaurants or snacks that help coworkers understand the culture (and the preferences) of other coworkers.

Have Employees Take Walks With Each Other

According to CBS News, no amount of exercise totally cancels out the negative effects of sitting for protracted periods. If your office has a culture of sitting all day (minus the standard lunch break of course), then your workplace culture is unhealthy. Taking even just one walk during the day can help nullify these effects. Having employees take walks with each other, in groups from 2-5, will reduce the negative health effects of sitting all day. It also encourages employees to get to know each other. It has a two-pronged benefit.

Hold Lightning Talks

A lightning talk is getting a group of employees in a room and having someone talk about a certain topic. It’s simple; it’s also effective, getting certain people to talk about things they wouldn’t have otherwise brought up. The CEO of Concepta, a software company, mentions that his employees discuss various subjects during their lightning talks: everything from the history of their culture to how they learn new languages. It may sound trite, but everyone is knowledgeable about something. Everyone has unusual stories and engaging pieces of trivia.

Bringing in Speakers

When it comes to inclusiveness at work, the elephants in the room are race and gender. Minorities and women have historically received the short-end of the stick. However, discrimination or feelings of exclusion may affect anyone. For example, nursing is often considered a female profession. Things are quickly changing, but historically male nurses have certainly received a fair share of askance looks. Have a team building session with a professional speaker, a person who has overcome discrimination to find success in the profession, is a solid way to get positive conversations rolling.

Final Thoughts on Success & Inclusivity For Your Team

Does success automatically make work environments more inclusive? Or do people tend to be more inclusive when the ship is sinking? It turns out a lack of inclusivity can strike at any level. Team building exercises weed out isolation, but you can only reap the maximum benefit when you work with professionals. Many companies don’t have professionals on staff, so outsourcing team building strategy is the next logical step.