Why Structured Play is the New Way to Team Build

Structured Play Benefits

The last stretch of summer is when teams shake things up with a company outing. And while we love baseball games, zoo trips, or even just lounging on a restaurant patio, these offsites don’t necessarily accomplish effective employee bonding.

So how do you combine the fun of a company outing with the effectiveness of team building? Structured play.

Structured play provides a fun, engaging environment paired with purpose. 

Staff retreats that utilize structured play will experience immediate benefits. Here’s three that we believe make the most impact:

1. Structured play puts people in a state of “flow”. 

Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that you lost all sense of time? This means you were in “flow.” There’s lots of research about this state of mind but the easiest way to explain it is to compare it to sports: let’s look at tennis. In a game of tennis, there are rules (hit ball inside lines), a goal (to win), and a challenge (someone is on the other side hitting the ball back).

All of these elements light up your brain more compared to if someone just gave you a racket and ball to whack around. The activity is more fun with rules and a challenge.

Let’s go back to the earlier example of a company outing at a baseball game. How can you add some “rules” to the experience so employees aren’t just passively watching the game?  Some team building ideas include creating a photo scavenger hunt or “people watching BINGO!” Gamify an element of the outing to get people “in the flow” and engaged more during the day!


2. Structured play actually forces you to be more creative. 

Structured play means exactly what it implies: there’s structure to the activity. And it seems counterintuitive but restraints actually make you more creative. I’m sure all the free-spirits out there instantly say, “yeah right” but studies show it’s true!

So why is creativity important during a team retreat? Walls come down. Conversations get deeper. Relationships are forged. Giving people prompts and rules for engaging in an activity shuts down the small talk and gets to the good stuff (which is why “team building icebreakers” are a thing).



3. Structured play creates a relaxed environment for all types of personalities.

Structured play creates a relaxed environment for all types of personalities. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert when it comes to structured play. With team building activities, people are given a mission to work towards along with rules so there’s less ambiguity in the atmosphere. This creates a safe, relaxed space for all types of people.

I’ll use a restaurant as the example: Suppose you host a large group dinner as your company’s summer outing. Introverts may feel too shy or overwhelmed to interact and extroverts may feel frustrated that not everyone is as engaged the conversation. Weaving in a structured play activity, such as an icebreaker or a game after dinner provides a welcome reprieve from forced interaction.

Convinced that structured play is a must-have for your next staff retreat? sparkspace now offers different types of team building experiences crafted specifically to achieve the bonding benefits you’re looking for! Check out our menu on our website to find the perfect fit for your team and budget.


Here you'll find ideas, tips, and techniques to help make your next offsite your best meeting yet.We've learned a lot during the 15,000+ meetings we've hosted, and we never stop learning (and sharing) because meetings and teams are always evolving. Be sure to leave comments and join the conversation!