In Chinese companies, or foreign companies established in China, it is very common to organize an annual day out to do outdoor team building activities. If you work in a Chinese company, you will most probably have to sacrifice a day of your weekend to participate in the team building (Chinese companies don’t really understand the concept of “private life”); if your company is foreign, or a nice Chinese company, they will organize it on a working day. Because it is work, right?
In my first year in my previous company in Suzhou, the team building was to be done during the weekend. Two whole days. They were going to a village with an activity camp and sleeping there. I said I was not going to waste my weekend to do that and I didn’t go. Sorry! The second year they also organized it on a Saturday, but as it was only going to be in the morning I went (and C. also joined!). We played laser tag and I am not sure how that can help you to cooperate better with your colleagues during your daily work, but whatever. That day was very hot and humid. We sweated like pigs. Laser tag sucks. I would have preferred paintball.
This year, my first year in my current job in Shanghai, the team building activity was organized on a Monday a few weeks ago. We went to Century Park, a huge park in Pudong district, had a picnic lunch and then did the tasks, which basically consisted in finding several items that the organizer had hidden in the park.
The activity was basically a failure. We had like 10 teams and the organizer needed to send through WeChat to each team a picture of the location and the coordinates of the item they needed to find. The coordinates were not accurate, the apps that track your location didn’t refresh in real time while you moved around, some of the items were taken away… It was a mess, but at least it was fun.
My team found the first item very fast because in the hint picture there was a building in the background and that allowed us to locate the correct place. After finding the item (a plastic spider) we had to go back to the base camp, do a miniquest and receive the instructions for the next task. Our first miniquest was answering some weird questions like: “How many chairs are there in the big meeting room?” and “What is the sum of the birth years of everybody in the office?”.
The second task took us more than one hour; in the picture there were only trees (not a very good hint when you are in a park!) and it was basically impossible to find the correct place based on latitude and longitude. When we finally found the place, the item (a newspaper) was not there anymore!
Each team was supposed to finish 15 tasks. When half of the time had passed and most teams had only completed one, it was obvious that the activity was not working. So the organizer decided that we would all go back to the base camp and do only the miniquests.
In the end, it was a nice day out! It beats being in the office, for sure! The winners got some prizes (the first being a polaroid camera) but my team didn’t win. In fact, we were second to last… hahaha.
But the team building day out had unforeseeable consequences! The day after half of the office was sick! We suspect it was the salads that we had in the picnic, but we will never know for sure. I ate salad and I didn’t get sick…
Have you ever done a team building activity at work?