A valuable day away from the office to bond with your colleagues, or a school trip for grown-ups?

  • What’s it all about?
  • The organizers
  • The employers
  • The employees
  • How was it for you?

What’s it all about?

Tank-driving?! Quad racing? Playing with JCBs? Driving a Land Rover with the steering reversed?! Yes, you too could soon be ‘entering the arena’ in the name of fun, motivation, and that most corporate of terms, ‘team-building’. Your company could spend perfectly good Christmas party money on taking people away from their nice warm desk and releasing them into the care of someone who is hell-bent on making them do strange and unusual things. And what’s more, they’re going to enjoy it, or else!

The organizers

Over the last five years the increasing demand for corporate activities, from activity days to lavish parties, has undoubtedly increased. Len and Jan Bateman run Adventure Breaks offering a wide range of activities (both land and water based) and are quick to stress that no experience is necessary. ‘We aim to produce a better working relationship between management and staff and give individuals a fresher approach to their work. I suppose one of our principal goals is to achieve a team spirit between staff members,’ explains Len. ‘We put a lot of thought into dividing groups up. The idea is to spread teamwork between people of different abilities. We encourage people to come along so they can relax and enjoy themselves. If they can let the mood of the occasion find its own way, then a lot of people find something they never realized they never had: ability.’

Sulema works for Dynamos Days, another company which offers corporate services. She stresses that the advantages for companies are many and varied. ‘Dynamos Days offer team building and staff incentives to create better working environments, and we also do Party Nights to increase social interaction. On the business side, our Networking events encourage business relationships, and we also organise Client Entertainment to help companies increase their sales.’

The employers

But does all the time and effort that is put into these events achieve the desired effect on the people that go on them? Steve Lamba organises days out for the sales team in his company. He cites more contact: both between him and them, and within their own group, as the major reason for organising these exercises. He also believes there is an optimum number of events per year. ‘We try to do a big official day out every six months. We found anything more frequent than a biannual event lost its impact. We always do them on a weekday too because it pretty much guarantees everyone attends. As well as not having the stigma of a compulsory corporate event, it also means that people are doing something different on a workday.’

Stephen Montgomery recently had a day out to a major tourist attraction organised for him. The managers and the employees were split up into random groups and had to compete against each other. ‘We went around in our groups, filling out the answers to a set of questions we were given. It felt a bit like a school trip at times, but it was definitely a good chance to get to know people I don’t directly work with. The feedback I received was all positive; it seemed to make people feel more a part of the company as a whole.’

The employees

The people who really matter though (as they will always be happy to tell you!), are the employees themselves. When I raised the issue of compulsory activities, there was an enthusiastic response. Some companies, while not making events “technically” compulsory, frown upon unjustified absence from them. Most people agree this is reasonable, because it would be pointless organising an event that didn’t appeal to anyone.

Like many others, Amin Arnaz’ company Akibia has come up with a compromise. ‘There are very few events that are compulsory, but even those can be avoided if one provides a reasonable excuse. The events are usually in employee time, but the team-building days are in company time. I feel this is just the right balance.’ Joel, who works for a big American corporation agrees. ‘They’re usually compulsory, and usually in company time. If they hold one on a weekend, as they did recently when they sent us all to Paris and put us up in a big hotel, they gave us lieu time as compensation.’ Unsurprisingly, Joel is adamant that this is how it should be!

Rachel Weitman, who works with an international publishing house, is most definitely in favour of corporate events. ‘A couple of years ago we had an amazing Christmas party – free food of all varieties, and a whole building taken up by just our employees. There must have been over two thousand people there! I met loads of people from work I had never seen before, and now we keep in contact still.’

How was it for you?

Whatever you think about the whole ‘corporate entertainment concept’, these events happen for a reason. Colleagues get to know each other in a way that perhaps they didn’t before, and the events are usually in places most people have never been to. From an employee point of view, the more people you know in a company and the more you understand your team, the better you can all help each other.

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