31 games to play at work
Scientists have often found a link between happiness and productivity. So it makes sense to try to encourage employees to keep a sense of fun while they work.
Whether it’s for team building, team bonding, or simply a bit of mental stimulation between shifts, there is no shortage of ideas on the internet for great games to play at work. So we’ve decided to hunt down the very best, and compile them all into a list, complete with a short explanation as to why we think each game could be a good one for you to play with your colleagues at work.
Oh, and the good news? Many of these games can be easily adapted to play remotely – and most of them cost absolutely nothing! 😎
Games for breaking the ice and bonding
These games are perfect for helping new colleagues – or even old colleagues! – to get to know each other better. They’re fun, light-hearted, and your employees will come away feeling like they’ve learned something about their co-workers. These games are mostly very easy to adapt to a remote working environment, too.
1 – Guess That Baby
In a game of Guess That Baby, all players bring in a picture of themselves as a baby. The aim is simple – coworkers must browse all of the baby pictures, and aim to identify who each photo belongs to.
We like this game because it encourages fun, positive conversation – and opens up opportunities for colleagues to learn new things about each other’s childhoods.
You can play this game remotely, too. All you have to do is jump onto a video call with each other – but remember to get everybody to send in their baby pictures in advance, so that they can all be laid out somewhere neutral, such as the organizer’s screen share.
2 – Heads Up
Heads Up is a free app for iPhone or Android, designed by the celebrity Ellen DeGeneres. She even plays it on her show!
While Heads Up is designed as a ‘party game’, we’ve found that it’s a great ice breaker game to play between work colleagues. You place the phone on your head, and a word shows up – and whether you’re trying to name celebrities or identify animals, you’ll soon have your colleagues frantically pointing, singing, or putting on silly accents in an attempt to communicate the word that’s sitting on your head.
We’ve seen this played remotely, too, via videolink. However, the game works far better when everybody can get together in the same room.
3 – Spaceteam
Spaceteam is possibly one of the wildest collaboration games played on a mobile app that we’ve ever seen. If you like the idea of shouting at your colleagues, while working together to stay alive, then this is the game for you.
If you walked in on a game of Spaceteam, you’d find a group of people, all staring down at their own phones, apparently doing their own thing. Except that the air would be full with the sound of them shouting wacky things like “Honk the Space Horn”, or “Set the Chemical Quartz to 2”. Oh, and from time to time, they would all suddenly tilt or shake their phones at the same time – you see, they’re working together to try and avoid certain death.
If it sounds confusing and chaotic, well, that’s because it is. You see, you’re all trying to keep your spaceship alive… but you all control different areas of the craft. And nobody knows who is in control of what, while instructions fly onto random people’s phone screens, telling them what settings need adjusting, and which buttons need pressing. This leaves them to shout this out to the rest of the group, in the hope that they will hear it, and prevent a fatal crash.
It gets noisy. It gets a little bit stressful. And adrenaline levels can run high. But it is a very rewarding game that can teach you and your colleagues the value of communicating under pressure, while helping you to understand each other just a little bit better.
4 – Psych!
Another game by Ellen DeGeneres, Psych! is a game of bluffing, communication, and social togetherness – from wherever in the world you all are.
Simply download the app, and give all players the special passcode to your game. Then, all players will all be shown a question on their phone, which they all must think of an answer for. This might be to make up a crazy State law that the rest of the group never knew existed… or it might be to simply answer something about somebody else in the group, such as “if Margaret was an ice cream, what flavor would she be?”.
The good thing about Psych!, is that while inventing wild answers and voting on your favorites, you’re actually learning a lot about your colleagues.
5 – Two Truths and a Lie
In a game of Two Truths and a Lie, each person picks two truths about themselves, and then makes up a lie. The objective of this game is to try to guess which statement is the lie, for each player – which can be a ton of fun.
Not only does this game encourage you to get creative with the statements you choose, but it also helps you to find out interesting facts about your colleagues.
6 – Who Am I?
Similar to the Heads Up game mentioned earlier, this game involves players sticking the name of a celebrity onto their heads. Of course, they don’t know which name they have on their own head.
However, unlike the game of Heads Up, which is turn-based, a game of Who Am I will see all players walking around at once, asking questions about the character on their head. And the questions can only be answered with a “yes” or “no”. For example, “am I a comedian?”.
This game is a great way to get people mixing and mingling fast, while producing some pretty hilarious results.
7 – Never Have I Ever
Another game that’s all about digging into each other’s histories, a game of Never Have I Ever is typically used at parties, and alcohol is often involved. It can get pretty wild, and the subject matter can sometimes get a bit inappropriate… so you might want to set some house rules first. But this game can actually be a really great ice-breaker for new colleagues to get to know one another better.
The way we like to play this in the office, is to divide a space into two areas. Everybody stands in one area, and the first player will state something that they have never done. For example, “never have I ever played golf with my mom”. Then, they will go and stand in the other area – and anybody else who has never played golf with their mom, will join them. Everybody left in the original area will have played golf with their mom.
This game quickly lets you discover fun bits of information about everybody you’re working with, which is why we believe it’s a great one to include in our list of games to play at work.
Games that encourage teamwork
The following games are specifically listed with the idea of helping your employees to learn to work better as a team. But don’t worry, they’re super fun too – we’ve tried most of them out ourselves!
8 – Human Snakes
In a game of Human Snakes, you need to split your group into teams of equal size. You can have as many teams as you like, and you could theoretically have teams of any size… but we recommend between 4-6 people per team. You’ll soon see why!
Each team stands in a line, with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Every single person in the line must be blindfolded… except for the person at the very back! You must then ask each team to navigate some sort of obstacle course, being driven, of course, by the person at the back of the line.
Navigation should be kept to a simple tap of the shoulder – left for left, right for right – which is transmitted up the chain. This will teach the person at the back better timing and coordination skills, and the rest of the team will learn to better trust their colleagues.
9 – Balloon Race
Similar to the Human Snakes game, you’ll need to split your group into teams, who will stand in a line.
Place a balloon between each person, which they must hold in place without using their hands. Then, with the balloons sandwiched between each they players’ chests and backs, each team must attempt to either navigate an obstacle course, or run a race.
It is fun to run a race with all teams at once. But if you don’t have the space for this, you can easily use a stopwatch to record scores.
10 – Bridge Building
It’s probably best not to get your teams building actual bridges, unless they have the correct insurance. But you can get them working together to build a small bridge out of items like paper, old bottles and glue!
You can do this however you like, but our favorite method is to place two markers, a couple of feet apart. The bridge must stand alone from one marker to the next. The bridge which can hold the most weight without collapsing, will win the prize.
You’ve thought of a prize, right?
11 – Egg Drop
Similar to the Bridge Building game, this game requires your teams to work on a construction together. Only this time, the goal is for the device to hold a raw egg, which can stay in-tact after being dropped from a certain height.
In our experience, many of these creations get pretty wacky – and they don’t always work. If more than one invention safely prevents the egg from breaking, then the winner should be the team with the device that weighs the least.
12 – Broken Telephone
In the UK, this game is sometimes referred to as ‘Chinese Whispers’. But we prefer the US game of the same name, Broken Telephone.
This is one of our favorite games to play at work, because it encourages very careful communication – and can have some hilarious results!
Get everybody to stand in a long line, or even a circle. The starting player must think of a short sentence – or you can provide them with one. They must then whisper this sentence into the ear of the person on their left. And so on, and so forth, until the message has traveled the whole way along the ‘telephone line’.
The last player must announce the sentence they believe was whispered into their ear. And if your team doesn’t even manage to transmit one single successful message… well, rest assured that laughter is the best medicine.
13 – Artist in the Dark
This is another great game to encourage communication between team members. And there are lots of versions of this game, but the one we like the best, is the one where you split your group into pairs.
Each pair sits back to back. Give one person a picture, and give the other person a pencil and paper. Then, get the person with the picture to describe what they can see to their partner – who must attempt to draw a replica of the picture, as best they can.
The pictures normally look nothing like what they’re meant to. But some might surprise you. And either way, your team members will be learning to improve their communication skills in the process.
Games to play at work during your break
Not all games need to be focused on something like team building or team bonding. In fact, playing games during break time is a great way to recharge your batteries and get ready for the next half of your shift.
So we have decided to include a few of our favorite tabletop games that can generally be played in under an hour. Many of these work better in person, but we will also include links to where you can play some of these games online, in case you’re working remotely.
14 – Chess
Chess is probably the most popular two-player board game in the world. And not only is it a great way to pass some time, but it hones skills such as strategic planning and forward-thinking.
As with many board games, Chess is now very easy to play online – either against a friend, or against a stranger. So if you’re working remotely and fancy a game, you can head over to lichess.org and start exercising your thinking muscles!
15 – Werewolves
Werewolves is such a fun game of social deduction and trickery, that we think it deserves more than one mention. Also known as “Werewolves of Millers Hollow”, the game is quick and easy to teach, and will immediately immerse all players in a very lively set of discussions about which one of them is secretly trying to eat the other players.
In a game of Werewolves, players are secretly assigned roles. The werewolves must attempt to convince the villagers that they are innocent, while the villagers must attempt to lynch the secret werewolves amongst them.
There is a print version of the game you can buy, or you can print your own copy and learn the rules here. Alternatively, you can just play the game online at Board Game Arena, which makes remote play possible.
16 – Coup
Another game of social cues and bluffing, in a game of Coup you rely on your individual ability to smuggle lies past the other players on the table. Or, if you are brave, you can win this game by telling bare-faced truths the whole way through!
In a game of Coup, you are attempting to eliminate all other players, through a combination of robbery, taxation and assasination. You will use your influence with various characters from the central ‘court’, in order to do this… but if you don’t have the influence of the court, you can just claim you have it anyway. You’ll be fine – as long as nobody calls your bluff.
There is a physical version of this game, but if you are part of a remote working team, you can play this game online at Board Game Arena.
17 – Code Names
Code Names is a wonderful game for two teams, all about communication and clues. You must attempt to pass clues to your own team, without giving away clues to the opposing team.
Code Names is unique in that you’re not just having to consider how you can best communicate with your friends. You’re trying to work out ways to prevent your communication being understood by your enemies!
Code Names is a physical board game, but if you already know the rules then you can play it online here.
18 – Cards Against Humanity
This is probably not the best game for serious business functions, as it’s not particularly pleasant. In fact, the game creators themselves describe this game as “a party game for horrible people”. But if you don’t mind a bit of inappropriate language, then Cards Against Humanity will have you and your colleagues in stitches for your entire lunch break.
In a game of Cards Against Humanity, somebody will draw half of a sentence from the card deck. You must then use your own personal stash of cards to complete the sentence. If your solution is voted as the funniest, you win the round.
You can print a free copy of this game from the Cards Against Humanity website, as long as you promise not to use it to make money.
Good ideas for physical activities and sports with colleagues
We believe you should encourage your teams to be physically active where possible. Not only this, but sports can encourage healthy competition, which can be good for motivating your employees to perform better at their jobs. Here are some ideas for making sports and physical activities an important part of your working environment.
19 – Team Sports Tournament
Organizing a sports tournament between teams is a great way to encourage a little bit of healthy competition, and get the blood pumping. You might want to book out a full day for this, or perhaps you’d prefer to run this over a period of time, during lunch breaks or on weekends.
Outdoor or field sports lend themselves well to tournaments – think about sports like soccer, volleyball or even extreme frisbee! Of course, if you don’t have the space to play something like this, then you might prefer to consider a smaller sport that can be easily played indoors.
20 – Team Sports Challenge
Instead of organizing a competition between teams, one great idea is to organize a challenge between other businesses or organizations. While this isn’t appropriate for everyone, if you work in an area where many businesses operate, then you might find they are more than willing to put a team forward for the occasion.
The reason we believe organizing a challenge between other businesses works so well, is because it can really encourage that team spirit and make your teams even closer to each other than before. It encourages a healthy mindset of working together to beat a common ‘enemy’ – and anybody who doesn’t want to play will enjoy spectating and cheering their own team on.
21 – Ping Pong
Ping pong, or table tennis, is the classic indoor sport for office spaces. It only needs a small amount of space, and it provides a great workout at the same time.
Be careful, because in our experience, ping pong can get pretty heated between players!
Remember that as well as buying the ping pong table, you’ll need to keep your staff supplied with plenty of bats and balls. These can break, so make sure you have plenty spare.
22 – Run-Around (ping pong variation)
If you have a ping pong table, then a great game to try at work, if you want to include multiple people at once, is a big game of run-around. The game works best with around 8 people, but can be fine to play with 4-15.
How a game of run-around works, is everybody stands in a circle around the table, holding a bat. The two players at opposite ends of the table will start – one will serve the ball to the other. However, upon hitting the ball, each player will begin making their way to the next side of the table, leaving the player behind them to return the next shot.
Each time a player misses a shot, they sit out, until eventually only 2 people remain. You can declare these joint winners, or have a play-off to determine the champion.
This game will tire your team out, and leave many in fits of laughter.
23 – Foosball
If you want something a little more gentle, which takes up even less space, then a foosball table is a good alternative for sport. While it is not particularly physically active, it is suitable for 2-8 players at a time, and can lend itself well to tournaments and leagues.
24 – Yoga
Yoga is not a sport, but it’s certainly not as relaxing as it looks on the surface. In fact, a one-hour session of yoga probably produces enough sweat to fill a bucket. Sorry, you didn’t need to know that.
But seriously, yoga can be a great way to help your team focus their minds and bodies. Not only does it boost concentration and energy levels, but it helps you keep your employees physically healthy.
If you can afford to, why not bring a yoga instructor in to run classes once a week?
Creative games to play at work
If you’re looking for games to play at work which will boost creativity, then this next lot is for you. These games are exceptionally fun, and encourage your employees to really think outside the box, and get their creative juices flowing.
25 – The story game
In the story game, players sit in a big circle. Each player takes a blank piece of paper, and writes the first sentence of a story. Once done, everybody passes their paper to the person on their left.
The next person reads the previous sentences, then writes the next sentence. However, before passing this on, they fold the previous sentence over so that it cannot be seen. This way, each player is only ever following on from the very last sentence in the story.
This can make the stories disjointed, surprising, and most of all, hilarious. Once the bottom of the page is reached, the story ends. And everybody reads out the end result to the rest of the group.
26 – Picture Consequences
Similar to the story game, players sit in a circle and each take a piece of blank paper. Everybody draws a head, of any sort – it could be a gentleman with a moustache and a hat, or it could be a 7-eyed octopus. Once done, players fold the paper over so that only the very bottom part of the head is showing.
These heads get passed to the left, and then each player draws a torso and arms (if indeed arms are required!). Again, this gets folded and passed.
Finally, each player draws legs. Unfold the creations to see what group creativity looks like!
27 – Paper Plane Competition
A paper plane competition is a great way to encourage creative thinking, while promoting careful planning and craftsmanship, and tying in a bit of healthy competitive spirit. With, of course, some fun ‘thrown’ in at the end.
You can give out numerous prizes for the planes your colleagues build – including the plane to fly the farthest, and the plane that stays in the air for longest.
28 – Scenario Jenga
Take a regular Jenga set, and divide all blocks between players. Ask employees to take a pen, and write down a different scenario on each block. For example, if you wanted to keep this game work-related, you could ask players to write down a situation that might happen in the workplace.
You can ask for serious scenarios (e.g. “you see a colleague enter the building site without a safety helmet”) or you can ask for silly scenarios (e.g. “a vampire walks into the reception area and asks for directions to the boss’s office”).
Then, set up the game as normal. When a player removes a block, they must read the scenario, and then describe to the rest of the room how they would deal with it.
Other ideas for games to play at work
Here are a few other fun games we like to play at work, which we don’t feel really fit into the other categories.
29 – Quiz Night
Or it could be a daytime quiz. It doesn’t have to be done in the evening.
We like the idea of hosting a quiz once a week, or once a month. You can run this for individuals or for teams. Pick an appropriate subject matter, and create a quiz with around 15-30 questions – that tends to be the ideal number.
You might want to provide snacks and drinks. And another great idea, is to let the winner of the most recent quiz, to create the next one – that way, you’ll get a good variety of questions… and the same person won’t be able to keep winning and winning!
30 – Secret Santa
Obviously, this is a fairly seasonal game… but actually, you can play this all year round. Just call it something else!
In a game of Secret Santa, all participants put their own name into a hat, and then draw a secret name back out. They will be buying a gift for this person, in secret. Everybody gets a gift, and this encourages your team to secretly find out more about their colleagues’ hobbies and interests.
It’s best to set a price limit on gifts, e.g. “all gifts should cost no more than $5”.
31 – Pumpkin Carving
Another seasonal little game, but one that can make your office look super spooky for Halloween – while providing lots of fun in the run up.
You can either set up a pumpkin carving station at the office, or even just ask employees to bring in their own creations from home.
Perhaps a panel of judges could review the entries and give out prizes for the winners?
What are your favorite games to play at work?
We’ve given you our 31 favorite games and activities for the workplace. Which ones did we miss?