March 11, 2022
By Kim Campbell

Team-building activities are used by many businesses, including hotels, to promote teamwork and improve the way staff members interact. While most of us are familiar with a team-building activity or two, they actually exist in several different forms: Team challenges, partner exercises, obstacle courses, puzzles, icebreakers, or even a coffee break. Team-building activities for hotel staff may look like outdoor games, puzzles, or office meetings, but they are designed to successfully engage employees, strengthen job skills, and help hotel staff members work better together.

In this post, we highlight a variety of team-building activities for hotel staff and discuss how each exercise benefits employees. Could your team benefit from improved communication skills, stronger team bonds, or a hearty morale boost? If so, consider using some of the following team-building activities to help achieve your goals.

Explore 13 of our favorite team-building activities for hotel staff

Every facet of hotel operations, from hotel revenue management to property maintenance, relies on teamwork. Incorporating team-building activities for hotel staff can benefit both hoteliers and employees by:

  • Building trust
  • Boosting morale
  • Improving communication
  • Enhancing problem-solving abilities
  • Strengthening change management skills
  • Empowering hotel staff
  • Encouraging employee bonding

Successful team-building activities are fun, engaging, and have a clear objective. Whether your goal is to energize hotel staff, increase productivity, kick off a meeting, or create a better work environment, choose a team-building activity that aligns with your core objective.

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“Team building enhances higher levels of trust and support," said Tinuke M. Fapohunda in Towards Effective Team Building in the Workplace. "With team building, diverse co-workers work well together and there are higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment."

Team-building activities that grow trust

Hotel employees must work together to solve complicated problems every day. In the most successful hotels, employees know that they can trust and rely on each other. Try these team-building activities to build trust amongst your hotel staff:

1. Perfect Square: 10-15 minutes

Perfect Square is a fun, simple team-building activity that can help build trust between hotel staff members. The objective of Perfect Square, also called Blind Square, is for team members to work together to form a perfect square. To play, you will need a long rope and blindfolds for each participant. You can use bandanas, eye masks, or other eye coverings.

Stary by arranging blindfolded hotel staff members into a circle holding a long rope. Without being able to see, participants will drop the rope and take 2-3 steps backward. Instruct the team to return to the rope, still blindfolded, and work together to form the rope into a perfect square. When the team agrees they have successfully formed the shape, they will lay the rope on the ground before removing their blindfolds to view the final product. Discuss the exercise as a group.

To successfully complete this challenge, team members must listen well and trust the instructions of their fellow teammates. Because each participant can only feel the tension of the rope in their hands, and the movements of the players next to them, achieving the common goal requires trusting the entire team.

Bonus challenge: To make this team-building activity more difficult, challenge the team to form a more complicated shape, such as a pentagon or hexagon.

2. Blind Snake: 5-10 minutes

Line hotel staff members up in groups of five or six with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Each participant will be blindfolded, except for the person at the very back of the line. This team member — the caboose — will guide the line around various obstacles by giving verbal instructions. Having only the eyes of the caboose to rely on, Blind Snake participants must have blind trust in the instructions they receive, as well as the movements of the person in front of them.

3. Winner or Loser: 15-20 minutes

This team-building activity can help build trust and strengthen bonds between hotel employees. In Winner or Loser, hotel employees will be partnered up in teams of two. Instruct pairs to find a quiet spot in the hotel where they can speak privately.

To begin, one employee will share a personal story about something negative that they have experienced in their life, going into as little or as much detail as they prefer. Once finished, the listener will then repeat the negative event while focusing only on the story’s positive outcomes. The pair will then switch roles, with the listener becoming the storyteller.

By sharing personal stories with each other, team members will have a unique opportunity to build trust with one another, bond, and look at a negative personal experience in a new way. The more empathy employees have for each other, the more positive and supportive the hotel environment can be.

The Center for Creative Leadership analyzed data from 6,731 managers across 38 countries to evaluate whether empathy in the workplace had an impact on employee job performance. Their reported findings concluded that “empathy in the workplace is positively related to job performance.” In addition, they found that managers are viewed more positively by their bosses when they practice empathetic leadership.

“Demonstrating empathy in the workplace — a key part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness — also improves human interactions in general and can lead to more effective communication and positive outcomes, in both work and home settings,” the Leading Effectively team concluded.

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Team-building activities that improve employee communication

No two days are the same for hotel employees. Whether navigating a rush of early check-ins, dealing with an unexpected plumbing problem, or mitigating interpersonal conflict, effective employee communication is a critical component of daily hotel operations. Invite employees to participate in team-building activities for hotel staff communication, such as:

4. A rollaway race: 15-20 minutes

Room attendants use their voices to guide team members from other departments as they attempt to make guest-room-ready, inspection-passing rollaway beds. Set a time limit for task completion, and see which teams are the most successful.

Communication is the only tool for assistance in this challenge. Participants must identify how their partner best receives instructions and shift their communication style to fit their partner’s needs. This team-building activity also gives employees from other departments a glimpse into housekeeping by demonstrating just one of the detailed tasks room attendants perform each day.

Bonus challenge: Blindfold the bed-maker to make this activity more difficult.

5. Non-work conversations: 15-20 minutes 

Team-building activities for hotel staff aren't always game or challenge-based. A quick chat with team members over breakfast can fall in the team-building category. Non-work discussions are critical for building productive communication channels between hotel managers and employees.

Data consistently supports that how we communicate can be much more important than what we communicate. MIT’s Human Diagnostic Laboratory conducted a study with the purpose of observing and identifying the key differences between top-performing teams and those with average performance. Researchers found that the most successful teams could be identified amongst their counterparts by their communication patterns; that communication patterns are important enough that they can be used to identify the best of the best.

The MIT report concluded, “With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful teams. In fact, we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success. …The key to high performance lay not in the content of a team’s discussions but in the manner in which it was communicated.”

Encourage your team members to join you for a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza. Talk to your team about their hobbies, personal goals, favorite foods, and other non-work-related topics. In an informal setting, you may find that employees are more willing to share candidly, especially when accompanied by their peers. You may also discover that multiple employees are facing similar challenges or be able to identify staff members who would work well together on future hotel projects.

6. Back-to-back art projects: 20-30 minutes

To prepare for this activity, draw random geometric shapes on multiple notecards to create abstract images: no rhyme or reason required. Next, divide hotel staff members into teams of two, and instruct each pair to sit with their backs together. Provide each team with a whiteboard and two of the notecards you created with the images facedown.

One person from each team will select an image card and spend 5-10 minutes describing the geometric image to their partner. Without being able to see their instructor, the listener will try to recreate the image using only their partner's descriptions. When the time limit has expired, teams will compare the two images before switching roles in the activity.

Once both employees have had an opportunity to recreate an image, encourage a brief team discussion about the exercise: 

  • Did team recreations match the original images?
  • Did both partners communicate effectively?
  • Which instructions were the most helpful for each player? Why?
  • When and why did each participant shift their communication style?
  • Would any verbal adjustments have made it easier to recreate the image?

Ask each team to choose one or two key takeaways to share in a larger group discussion. Pinpoint recurring messaging and communication strategies, explore unique partner observations, and prompt each employee to identify one way they can improve their team communication skills in the future.

Problem-solving and decision-making team-building activities

Hotel employees need to feel empowered to make independent decisions effectively and with confidence. They should be able to provide excellent service and impress hotel guests while mitigating risks for the business at the same time. Incorporate team-building activities for hotel staff that are focused on decision-making and encourage teams to solve problems together.

7. Escape room: 60-90 minutes

Treat your hotel staff to a team-building outing to an escape room. Escape rooms are puzzle-themed activities that require participants to work together to uncover clues and solve complex riddles in order to escape a locked room.

Escape rooms and similar interactive group problem-solving experiences incorporate a variety of vital hotel team behaviors. In addition to requiring teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills to escape their environment, hotel staff members will need to stretch their creative muscles and concentrate to perform well in escape-based team-building activities.

8. Boat Float: 25-30 minutes

Divide the hotel staff into teams of 4-6, and provide them with the same materials: cardboard, scissors, and tape. Give each team a brief time limit, 15-20 minutes, during which their goal is to craft a functional boat using only the provided materials. While the clock is ticking, fill up the bathtub in a non-occupied guest room. At the end of the time limit, each team will get an opportunity to see if their boat holds up on the water.

Boat Float is a creative, interactive team activity that can inspire hotel staff to think out of the box, work together, and discuss the best way to make a functional cardboard boat. Pay attention as each team discusses their strategies and take note of their communication skills. Identify which team members take the lead, those who do not speak up as much, and how team members discuss, evaluate, and overcome conflicting strategies.

“We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right - one after the other, no slipups, no goofs, everyone pitching in," said Atul Gawande in Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.

9. Team Puzzle: 10-20 minutes

Starting a meeting with a friendly, low-stakes puzzle competition can help employees loosen up as well as get their minds moving. Separate the hotel staff into teams that will race against each other to solve the puzzle first, or have the whole staff work together to solve a more complex puzzle. Team members will have to work together and communicate to complete the challenge, promoting employee engagement and teamwork.

Team-building activities that build bonds and boost morale

Employees who work in a supportive environment with high morale are more motivated, efficient, and engaged than employees who do not. According to the American Psychological Association, workers who enjoy their job are “twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall — reporting strong relationships, effective money management, good health and engagement in their communities — as those who are disengaged and unhappy at work.”

Boost team morale and encourage employee bonding through team-building activities for hotel staff, such as:

10. Three-eyed ball toss: 5-10 minutes

Draw three eyes on a beach ball. Each of the eyes represents a word beginning with the letter “I”: improvement, intention, and inspiration. Gather hotel staff in a circle for this fun team-building activity, introduce the three-eyed beach ball, and explain what each of the eyes represents.

To play the game, start by choosing one of the three themes, and asking a corresponding question:

  • “How does hospitality inspire you?”
  • “What inspires you personally?”
  • “What is your intention for today's meeting?
  • “What skills have you most improved this year?”
  • “What skill would you like most to improve?”

Use this activity as a meeting icebreaker or kick off your hotel huddle with a toss of the three-eyed beach ball for an injection of energy and positivity. Whether you need to help the hotel staff focus on the task at hand or help raise their spirits after a tough week, this team-building activity will do the trick.

11. Recognition competition: Long-term (1-6 months)

In this team-building activity, encourage team members to recognize each other for going above and beyond. Instruct hotel staff to complete comment cards and submit them to their department leader for counting. Place recognition cards in guest rooms and public areas of the hotel and instructions on where to turn them in so that guests can participate as well.

Group staff into teams and track recognition cards to tally the score. Regularly read comments aloud at team meetings and encourage staff members to be on the lookout for outstanding performances by their colleagues. Offer prizes for the team who receives the most recognition, the individual team member, the hotel department, or the employee who writes the most recognition cards.

Hosting a recognition competition can improve your hotel by:

  • Promoting teamwork and peer-to-peer recognition.
  • Promoting a positive employee culture.
  • Helping staff members connect with one another.
  • Encouraging hotel staff to communicate with guests.
  • Improving guest satisfaction and service scores.
  • Strengthening staff bonds and the desire to work as a team.

Each year, Hilton runs a similar brand-wide contest called “Catch Me at My Best.” Hotel team members, managers, and hotel guests are encouraged to “catch” each other at their best by filling out comment cards. Catch Me at My Best takes place from June through August, across all Hilton brands, and has for the last 25 years. Hilton created this program because they believe that “in order to provide a great guest experience, we have to recognize the individuals who make those experiences possible.”

12. Hotel scavenger hunt: 20-30 minutes

Get members of your hotel staff moving and working together with a hotel or brand-based scavenger hunt. Split hotel employees into small teams, preferably with members of different departments on the same team, to share skills and encourage cross-departmental communication. Instruct teams to solve riddles, find hidden objects, and figure out clues to complete the challenge.

By working together to solve clues and find hidden objects, hotel staff members have a unique opportunity to bond and create lasting memories with one another. In addition, mixing up day-to-day operations with fun, interactive team-building activities can help shake things up and prevent employee burnout.

13. Potluck: 60-90 minutes

Host a potluck and invite hotel staff members to bring a dish of their choice. Encourage employees to share personal favorites, family recipes, and dishes that represent their culture. Employees can mix, mingle, and bond with teammates as they try an assortment of tasty treats and discuss their individual dishes.

Potlucks are affordable team-building activities that require little planning. They can be used to help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

“The shared meal is no small thing," said Michael Pollan in Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. "It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending.”

Try a team-building activity at your next hotel staff meeting!

Always consider the impact team-building activities could have on hotel staff. Respect staff boundaries; never force employees to participate in group activities or share information that they are not comfortable with. Instead, discuss the importance of participating in team-building activities, explain the objectives for the exercise, what employees will get out of it, and encourage the team to have fun.

Building the right team all starts with finding the right team members. Up next, discover tips for hiring hotel staff and how to identify candidates with a heart for hospitality.

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Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list.

Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.

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