Three steps to help your team reconnect
By Craig Bulow, Corporate Away Days
After the long months of lockdown restrictions getting back to the office and reconnecting face to face will be exciting for many of us when it finally happens.
The detachment and remote working caused by the pandemic could make some people feel a little apprehensive about returning to the office and meeting up with our teams again. Others, however, will be keen to reconnect and build up those relationships. Whether team members fall into the latter or former category, a fun, exciting and engaging experience, out of the office in a safe and social environment, can really help to break the ice and make that first step as enjoyable as possible.
We are getting close to the freedom date of 21st June and with sunnier days ahead, it’s a perfect time to be outdoors and experiencing an office Away Day that will benefit our wellbeing whilst having fun and at the same time providing a platform to reconnect with colleagues and rebuild confidence and communication across the workplace.
Employee wellbeing will be top of the business agenda after the global pandemic, with business leaders looking for ways to show their care and understanding of their teams’ and individuals’ wellbeing and mental health across all corners of the company. Being sensitive to employees’ feelings after lockdown and showing compassion will only strengthen trust, loyalty and confidence and help to get everyone off to a positive start on the return to a new normal.
Many businesses aim to restructure their workforce by having fewer days in the office and this may create a cultural shift in having less face-to-face connections. Clearly there are lots of positives to this, but there are some negatives, for example a lack of connection and social interaction, both of which are important aspects of people’s work life.
So, how can these potential downsides be mitigated? By implementing wellbeing initiatives which bring people together in a social environment.
Begin with these important steps:
One way to make those first steps have an impact is a Welcome Back Away Day. This builds excitement bringing everyone together with a fun and exciting non-work-related activity, chosen by the individuals. An event or adventure that they would happily choose to do themselves at the weekend is ideal. It can help rebuild connections, introduce new people to the team, help smooth the transition to new ways of working, changed work schedules and being apart from colleagues.
By specifically organising a day with a wellbeing theme, you can address many of the remote working/return to work concerns that people may have in a safe, relaxed environment.
Another benefit of a fun-focused away day is that the excitement can start to build long before the event itself. This also serves to bring people together over a common interest. Involve your staff in choosing the sort of Away Day they want and the activities they’d like to take part in. This will demonstrate that the day is about them, not the business.
Providing you choose activities that are fun, and not just ’let’s talk about work and how much more we can do’ then an Away Day can also be a great way to say thank you. Perhaps you could round the day off with an evening dinner where spouses are also invited.
An Away Day has multiple benefits for business; it reconnects people, it boosts wellbeing, it can act as part of a thank you and/or reward strategy, it introduces new employees to the team, and enhances engagement, which in turn boosts productivity, retention and the bottom line.
Relationships with co-workers are a leading contributor to employees’ well-being. Wellbeing in the Workplace, a three-year international study by Martin Boult, senior director of professional services and international training at The Myers-Briggs Company, found that relationships with co-workers were what matters most when it comes to employees’ happiness in the workplace. The report included data from 10,000 people in 131 countries.
Now is not the time to get complacent about the mental wellbeing of your staff. Indeed, you should be revisiting the concerns you had initially about keeping your team in touch and connected and, most importantly, retaining the sense of camaraderie that can be lost when people are working apart.
2) Introduce a comprehensive wellbeing plan
An effective wellbeing plan for any business should be a universally shared document of information, that everyone has read and has access to. It should reflect the ethos and culture of the company.
The wellbeing plan details how the company looks after its employees in addition to the traditional company benefits like gym memberships and holiday days.
For example, it could include a list of company organised and funded events that employees across the workplace can attend. Choosing activities that focus on wellbeing can have a hugely positive effect on the team, and the business. They build morale, embed the company culture, help develop and strengthen relationships, and ensure that employees are looked after, and know how to look after themselves and each other. These events work especially well if the experiences / activities are exciting, engaging and fun – rather than always about work.
A really effective Away Day is the type that we’d be willing to book for ourselves at the weekend. So, if you can choose an event, that staff will willing give their time to, then you’re on to a winner. These events help to inspire and engage. They create a collaborative and social atmosphere as the excitement starts to build in the office before the event.
Studies show 90% of people say a fun environment is a very or extremely motivating. (Source Psychology Today.)
A good wellbeing plan will boost morale, create a more engaged workforce, increase productivity and improve company performance. The added bonus is retaining and attracting the best talent, saving on recruitment costs and reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, stress and anxiety – especially after the impact of the pandemic.
Although wellbeing is very difficult to measure and some benefits are intangible, an effectively delivered wellbeing plan can improve many areas of the business, so keep a log of the improvements; some will be measurable, some anecdotal. But success is a motivator, being back together after 15 months or so is something worth celebrating.
As Suki Thompson recently wrote in the Sunday Times: “Successful businesses are fundamentally shifting from a time when process, tech and growth/EBIT at any cost were king, to, a culture with purpose, resilience and wellbeing at its heart, where people have become the drivers of sustainable growth and commercial outcomes.” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-wellbeing-needs-balance-sheet-suki-thompson/)
One-off events, like summer or Christmas parties, are great to look forward to but there is a long wait between the two! And although they great fun they have a different purpose behind them.
Bringing in regular, fun, wellbeing-themed Away Days, perhaps on a monthly basis, that the entire workforce can benefit from, can help keep communication alive, relationships fresh and engagement high. Over time, the boost to company morale and the improved company culture will have everyone on board and working towards the goals and visions of the company, making it not only more productive but an employer of choice.
The scheduled events can be worked to create cross-selling and information sharing within the business and between departments, whilst strengthening those internal relations around fun and social activities. Mixing fun and work creates a relaxed and open environment where ideas and creativity are more likely to flow and where they can be easily shared by individuals.
How about a dancing event? Divide everyone into teams to learn a new dance. Add a competition, photography, film, and of course, music. Any activity with some element of competition, plus lots of fun in a mixed group, brings people together, discussing other interests and topics as well as work issues.
Perhaps combine this with a work-themed music creation or corporate video made with fun ideas from the Away Day, which will help to sell or promote a product or service, and can be used on the corporate website. Make sure you include an additional videographer to film your team filming, to show new recruits and the whole company the fun you have with work.
With a wellbeing plan in place you can be sure of supporting your staff – and having plenty of interesting and fun events to look forward to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Craig Bulow is the founder of the Away Days Group. Corporate Away Days are a corporate wellbeing events company delivering engaging, inspiring and exciting events focussed on Mindfulness / Wellbeing and Reward / Recognition activities. Corporate Away Days also creates, designs and builds corporate wellbeing policies and provides leading experts for interactive workshops, seminars and talks on improving mental health and overall wellbeing.
Every Corporate Away Days event and activity is chosen with wellbeing as its focus, helping to encourage employee engagement, foster connections and build relationships within the business.