The Best Experiential Activities for a Physically (Socially) Distanced Workplace

A socially or physically distanced workplace need not be a barrier to experiential learning. In fact, physical distancing is something as facilitators we’ll need to embrace and incorporate into our workshops. As workplaces start cranking up, it’s vital for teams to rebuild and find new and effective ways of communicating and working. They’ll need to establish the ‘new normal‘, and explore what adaptions are required to work effectively. And they’ll need test and hone these adaptions.

At MTa we’ve been through all our activities and picked the activities that:

a) can be done while maintaining physical distancing, and

b) will help and support your participants adapt and flourish in the ‘new normal’

In anticipation of gradual return to normality or for environments where wearing PPE is the norm, we’ve also flagged the activities that can be done while maintaining physical distancing but require participants to share components.

For some activities the only adaption you need to make is spacing chairs. For other activities you may need limit team size and for others you’ll need to give participants their own set of components. If you’d like help deciding which would be the best activity for you, or learn more about how to adapt a specific activity call or email.

We’re also busy putting some of our activities online. The Culprit is already available (get in touch) with more to follow soon.

MTa activities that can be completed while physically distanced

Key ThemesActivityKitDescription
Accuracy in CommunicationGetting it RightMTa InsightsAccuracy in communication: the cost of errors, the importance of clear and unambiguous instructions, verbal vs. pictoral vs. written instructions.
Accurate and Efficient Verbal Communication
Blind StatuesMTa InsightsGroup members have to create simple structures that will enable them to move an object as far as possible. The task involves a planning and an implementation phase.
Angles and Geometry
AnglesMTa STEMTeams have to combine maths and technology to calculate angles and produce structures containing these angles.
Big Picture Communication
Back to BackMTa InsightsThis task involves effective communication at two levels, within and between pairs. To be successful individuals must work effectively giving and receiving clear instructions, whilst the pairs must work together to produce a single product.
Capitalising on the Diversity of the TeamMy SuccessMTa InsightsThere are three parts to the activity. In each part individuals work within groups to achieve the highest score they can for themselves (not the group) by building stacks. The rules for scoring are different in each part of the activity.
Capitalsing on ChangeWords, Names & NumbersMTa MINIInitially three teams work independently to produce a product. It’s easy. Later they come together as one big team, the brief combining their earlier briefs but additional constraints become the big issue. Teams fail to capitalise on the resources offered.
Coaching Skills for Line Managers
Coaching SkillsMTa Coaching SkillsMTa Coaching Skills – Complete experiential workshop in one package. Enable line managers to develop the skills and attitudes that will turn them into effective workplace coaches.
Compass Bearings and Geometry
Get OrientatedMTa STEMTeams have to create a structure that will point to specified points of the compass (you tell them which way is north).
Developing trust within teams
Everyone’s a Winner?MTa InsightsThe decisions involved in completing the task are complex. Teams develop their strategy and select a leader, but each team’s strategy has to be implemented by individuals working alongside their competitors, not their colleagues.
Effective Communication between Team MembersFeet Of ClayMTa PASSParticipants work together to develop and execute a strategy to pass a marble as far as possible.
Effective Team WorkingGroup NecklaceMTa InsightsTeams compete against each other to complete a task. It appears to be simple but teams that dive-in find out that planning and attention to detail pays dividends.
GeometryPythagoras’ TheoremMTa STEMStudents working in pairs have to draw a triangle that demonstrates Pythagoras’ theorem.
Geometry and Creative ThinkingTightly PackedMTa InsightsTeams arrange their components so that they cover the minimum surface area. Successful teams will spend time understanding the task, looking for creative solutions and revising their ideas as they work.
Individual versus Team Sucess
Our SuccessMTa InsightsThere are three parts to the activity. Pairs or threes work within a group to achieve the highest score they can for their pair or three (not the group). The rules for scoring are different in different parts of the activity.
Leadership Communication
Led StatuesMTa InsightsThe leader(s) have to work through their teams to complete the task which needs careful work. There are different constraints on leaders and team members which demand excellent verbal communication between the leader and the whole team as well as individuals.
Leadership for First Time Leaders
Roulette WheelMTa Team KITIn the task callers (leaders) have very different roles from other team members. However the whole team has to plan how they are to complete the task and solve problems together along the way.
Leading Remote Teams
Leading from AfarMTa InsightsThe activity is in two parts. The first five minutes is spent with leader and team members working in separate rooms. They then come together under the direction of their leader to complete a predefined model.
Learning About Others My ViewsMTa PASSParticipants explore and understand the views of others.
Managing Competeting Pressures and PrioritiesSpeedy StackMTa InsightsCompeting teams have to use all of their components to create the shortest stack they can. Teams work against the clock, but the task is complicated by constraints and time penalties for missing quality standards which create conflicting pressures.
NegotiationTowerMTa Team KITThis inter-team activity takes the concept of ‘prisoners dilemma’ (if I help you escape first, can I trust you to help me escape afterwards?) to a new level: no matter how hard teams try, one must win unless both settle for a very poor performance.
Personal Success Versus Group Success
Personal SuccessMTa PASSIndividuals are tasked with winning, but true success can only come through collaboration.
Planning as a Team
Successful PairsMTa InsightsSmall teams (pairs or threes) work to achieve the highest score they can for their team whilst working alongside competing teams. Co-operation between teams can increase their scores, but this will enable competitors to increase their scores as well. 
Problem Solving and Effective Communication
MinefieldMTa STEMTeams race against each other to complete a simple task. There are several ways to accomplish it, but mistakes are penalised severely. Time spent planning and the careful execution of these plans is essential.
Reframing Problems
GirdersMTa InsightsIndividuals or pairs work to solve a series of problems that involve arranging 6 similarly sized girders so that they have specified numbers of contact points. The initial problems are relatively easy, but they get more challenging as participants proceed.
Remote Teams – Effective Communication
The FrameMTa Team KITTwo halves of one team with different parts of the same task are separated by; a door, the knowledge that one team cannot divulge all its information, different work loads. Pressure and frustration build as effective communications diminish.
Setting Achievable Personal and Team Goals
Leading PairsMTa InsightsThe decisions involved in completing the task are complex. Pairs work to develop their strategies which have to be implemented by individuals whilst working alongside their competitors, not their colleagues.
Solving Problems in TeamsJigsawMTa InsightsThe activity is in two parts. During the first five minutes, team members prepare for the task on their own; they then come together to pool their resources to complete a jigsaw.
Team DynamicsThe CulpritMTa CulpritMTa The Culprit – Help your staff give better feedback. A cleverly designed exercise in which all team members receive feedback on their personal styles and give feedback to others.
Team Problem SolvingColourful NecklaceMTa InsightsTeams are competing against each other to complete a task that appears simple (making a necklace that will encircle the whole group). However team members soon find it needs creative problem solving, care in planning and quality checks when executing the task.
Team WorkingThreading Needles  CarefullyMTa PASSTeams complete a simple team task, that demands they apply basic team working skills.
Understanding success: personal drivers and attitudes
Disc RollMTa InsightsCompeting teams score points by setting themselves and achieving targets. Teams monitor their progress against the competition and revise their plans to help them achieve their goals.

Physically distanced activities with shared components

In these MTa activities participants can remain physically distanced but share components.

Key ThemesActivityKitDescription
Building Trust and Relationships
My ViewsMTa InsightsIndividuals score as many points as they can by taking part in a relatively simple task. However, as the task proceeds they have to disclose information about themselves.
Communication between remote team members
MinefieldMTa InsightsEach team has members on either side of a minefield. Team members on both sides have to work together to complete a task but they have to remain on their own side throughout. There are several ways that the task can be accomplished, but mistakes are penalised.
Focusing on the Bottom Line
Getting AheadMTa InsightsCompeting teams make money by trading their components and selling products to the customer (you the facilitator). Each team has a similar store of raw materials, but different product ranges and therefore differing needs for raw materials. 
Innovation and Change
Domino TheoryMTa Team KITThe task is quick, simple and fun, with each team’s performance clear for all to see. Teams are given a chance to improve their performance. The challenge is to kerb enthusiasm for more action and to challenge basic assumptions, consider alternatives and decide how to improve.
Innovation, Collaboration and Cooperation
New DimensionsMTa New DimensionsMTa New Dimensions – 3 phase powerful & portable experiential tool to encourage inter-team cooperation and collaboration, promoting personal understanding, challenge individual thinking and raise discussion on important topics.
Leading Under Pressure
Leading the TeamMTa InsightsThe leaders of one or two teams are given a series of tasks that have to be completed by their teams, as well as a confidential task that must be done by them alone. The pay that team members and the leader receive is affected by the decisions the leader makes. 
Managing and Leading Remote Teams
Led JigsawMTa InsightsDuring the first five minutes the team members work individually on their own section of a task. Subsequently everyone works together under the direction of the leader to complete a ‘jigsaw’ which has a correct solution.
Process Improvement and Lean Working
Kando LeanMTa Kando LeanMTa KanDo Lean is an experiential table top activity for anyone in the office, factory or supply chain who needs to understand lean processing.
Team versus Individual SuccessDigital DisplayMTa Team KITEveryone has a task, so looking after yourself first is tempting, and personal achievement satisfying, but what if your short-term success prevents others (and therefore the team) from completing the overall task?