Our Five Tips To Nail A Company Away Day
By Alex Dodds
5 minute read
It can be difficult to get excited about a company away day. The thought of spending any extended period of time with one’s colleagues doing mandatory activities is a tough sell. However fresh from the Manifesto away day, I feel inspired/required to write on a topic that is very difficult to get right and very easy to cock up.
Get it right, and you can breathe new life into the organisation, bring everyone closer together and motivate them for the upcoming months.
Get it wrong, and you can foster resentment even from the most loyal employees and cause irreparable damage to the organisation’s foundations.
‘We at [insert company] like to think we’re pretty hot on team building’ is a phrase uttered in interviews that justifiably can send shivers down anyone’s spine. The thought of being forced to spend your free time with people you’re paid to see on a daily basis can seem like an unfair burden.
However, (now please bear with me on this one) we at Manifesto like to think we’re pretty hot on team building. We have two away days a year, one in the summer and one in the winter, where as a team we leave our smog filled city, to fresher climes, most recently on the British south coast in the summer and the French Alps this winter. We also have regular events throughout the year where attendance is optional, from Sports Days to theatre visits, to do things as a team.
After experiencing several away days with varying degrees of success, both at Manifesto and with other companies outside of the consulting world, I feel there are 5 key tenets that make up any successful away day and accompanying quotes that you will want to avoid hearing.
Our 5 Tips:
1. Be clear on your purpose
“And remind me again why you’ve dropped me off in a carpark in the middle of nowhere with only a compass and a tenner to get back home”
This is true for both individual away days or trips and also the strategy of holding away days as a whole. You can have a few purposes, but make sure they are well communicated to the team. You should try and make the purpose as actionable as possible, so that the team can understand why they are doing the activities you are asking of them, and the importance of them to achieving the wider goal.
Our most recent away day had a strong central purpose: to unite our team around our strategy for the next phase of our growth. This helped to shape the agenda of everything from the working sessions we held, to the team building exercises in the beautiful surroundings of Chamonix.
2. Have inclusive activities
“Thanks for booking team paragliding, a nice inclusive activity for a man with a crippling fear of heights”
This is a big one. If your agenda for the away day is littered with exclusive activities that you know full well some people can’t or are unwilling to do, you risk creating divisions in your team. For longer trips you should definitely have periods of downtime, where employees feel free to take some time to do what they want. The key is ensuring even in those periods of time, you are attentive to everyone’s needs.
In the past, we as a company haven’t quite got this one right, which is why this trip we did our best to rectify the situation. For this trip every period of freetime was accompanied with optional activities such as a spa treatment, husky sledding and skiing/snowboarding, with no stigma attached to doing one activity instead of another.
Of course there will be mandatory activities, such as working sessions and designated team building exercises (we did our own take on the Winter Olympics), but if you truly want to make everyone feel included, understand the different needs of the team and try your best to accommodate them.
3. We mean team when we say team
“Do you actually work here?”
An away day is a chance for the whole team to come together and share the experience. Do everything in your power to ensure everyone’s attendance, as a team building exercise isn’t a team building exercise without the whole team.
At Manifesto we straddle two continents and our away days can be the only time we get to see our colleagues across the pond. Chamonix was great for many reasons, chief among them being the opportunity to bond with our colleagues overseas.
4. Plan like your life depends on it
“I feel like watching Iron Man 3 whilst we were waiting for the next speaker probably wasn’t the best use of our time”
Follows on from the point before, but make sure the agenda is watertight and is communicated to the whole team. Having the whole team in one place, working towards one goal rarely happens and can be a hugely motivating and inspiring experience. Don’t waste it - so do as the scouts do and always be prepared.
“Thank god no one got a picture of us breaking a fence just by sitting on it”
Pictures can tell a thousand words (which is why I put this one last so you wouldn’t just look at the pictures and not read the post). Capturing some of the best and worst moments of the trip can be conversation starters and meme generators for years to come. That shared memory can bring a team together in a way no slide deck or excel spreadsheet ever can. If you take enough good ones, they might just act as a marketing tool for your organisation one day.
On a completely unrelated note, here’s our highlights from our trip to Chamonix. Enjoy and give us a follow on Instagram @manifestogrowth!